Archie Hendry

12th April 2013 at 01:00
The inspirational languages teacher and mountaineer has died at the age of 93

Archie Hendry, who has died aged 93, was a respected languages teacher whose shy and self-effacing exterior masked a bold and inspirational mountaineer.

Undaunted by a fall that left him minus a kneecap, he became an accomplished alpine climber and mentor to one of Scotland's brightest young climbing stars.

In the classroom, he was a traditional teacher of the old style, ensuring his students left George Watson's College in Edinburgh with an excellent grounding in French and German.

He was born in Morningside just a few months after the end of the First World War. Young Archie spent the majority of his childhood in Trinity, and in 1938 went to the University of Edinburgh to study French and German.

The following April, while climbing in Glencoe, he had a bad fall on Buachaille Etive Mor. His leg was badly broken and he had to have his kneecap removed. Although the injury did not put a stop to his climbing career, it rendered him unfit for military duties when the Second World War broke out later that year.

As a result, he was able to complete his studies, graduating with an MA in the early 1940s. He began his teaching career at Stirling High in 1943.

In September 1945 he married his wife Elizabeth, a fellow student. They settled in Edinburgh, where she was a primary teacher, and by 1948 he had moved to George Watson's College, where he would remain for the rest of his teaching career.

He became principal teacher of German within the modern languages department and was a mainstay of the school's foreign exchange programme with the prestigious Lycee Henri-IV in Paris, which educated luminaries including French prime minister Leon Blum and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

A most thorough traditional teacher, with superb discipline, though he was strict and could be caustic, he was also kindly to his students. He was not, however, particularly ambitious and his climbing interests ran in tandem with his professional duties.

He also mentored talented young climbers including the audacious Robin Smith, whose first adventure with Hendry was climbing - then illegally - on Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags. Smith, a George Watson's pupil, was regarded as one of Scotland's strongest climbers. He died at the age of 23 during an Anglo-Soviet expedition to Asia's Pamir Mountains in 1962. Hendry mourned his loss for the rest of his life.

In the mid-1970s, George Watson's amalgamated with George Watson's Ladies' College. Hendry viewed the move to co-education with a little trepidation, but was pleasantly surprised to find they were much better at - and much more interested in - French and German than the boys.

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