David Letham

6th April 2007 at 01:00
David Letham's career in Scottish football, as player and administrator, has been widely acknowledged since his death on March 17. Less has been said about his work for his school, John Street Secondary, for which he shared the same passion he had for football and Queen's Park FC.

From 1934 until 1999, David was associated almost continuously with the Bridgeton school in Glasgow, as pupil, teacher and trustee.

After his Highers, he completed his teacher training at Jordanhill College in 1942 before enlisting as a navigator in the RAF until the end of the Second World War.

His first appointment in physical education was to his old school. He was promoted to principal teacher in 1969 and retired in 1982, having taught continuously in John Street for 37 years, apart from a few years' service in Bernard Street and Albert Secondary.

Although a gifted teacher, David's special contribution to his pupils'

welfare centred on his extra-curricular work with and for them. Not only did he encourage boys to follow in his footballing footsteps by "taking"

school teams, he organised sell-out school dances, which became the social highlight of each term.

Also, using his extensive contacts and friendships cultivated through his football career, he started off many youngsters in their working lives: a service that became more and more appreciated by these young adults as employment opportunities diminished throughout the 1970s.

During his teaching career, David's most significant and memorable contribution to school ethos was the two-week summer camp he organised every July for 14 years from the late 1950s. Assisted by his wife Nessie and other teachers, at locations from Galloway to Golspie, Oban to Oldmeldrum, 40 to 90 teenage girls and boys enjoyed energetic and healthy outdoor-activity holidays in environments quite different from their inner-city communities.

It was because David took such a genuine interest in his charges as young, developing adults that he gained not only their admiration but life-long affection.

After retirement in 1982, David remained involved in the life of John Street. He drove the school minibus for the football teams and served as a much respected trustee until the school's closure in 1998. During this period, he excelled in promoting the social life of the school through his membership of the former pupils' committee. Several times a year, soirees and concerts - which showcased the talents of pupils - drew hundreds to the school hall. These were evenings to remember and supplied an enormous boost to school morale in difficult times.

As resident impresario, David persuaded people such as folk singer Adam MacNaughton to add to the fun, and his multitude of friends to donate generously. Many favours were done for David because he did many more for others.

During the last, turbulent half-century of the school's 115-year existence, when he gave such loyal service in so many ways, David was "Mr John Street School". So, in 1999, when the school staged its final act - a six-week exhibition of its history in the People's Palace - it was right and proper that the honour of declaring the event open was afforded David Letham.

Stewart McLachlan, former pupil and headteacher (1983-1998), John Street Secondary

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now