23rd July 2010 at 01:00
Teacher and lecturer Jan Malcolm, who died this year just four days before her 80th birthday, was a woman of indefatigable spirit who refused to let tragedy taint her enthusiasm for life.

Despite the death of her legendary mountaineering son, Mal Duff, and a near-fatal crash that left her partially paralysed, she continued to embrace the world with mirth and a can-do approach.

Jan was born at Blinkbonny Farm, Brodie, in Moray, where her parents Sandy and Margaret McCallum ran a raspberry farm. She experienced loss as a child when her little sister Margo died of meningitis at 18 months.

She was educated at Auldearn Primary and Rose's Academical Institution in Nairn, leaving school as a stunning 17-year-old redhead to go to Aberdeen University. She graduated with an MA in English and geography.

An administration course followed in London, before she took up a job as a PA with Ferranti in Edinburgh.

Jan married her first husband in 1952, but the marriage lasted less than eight years. During that time, the couple lived in Kenya, at Nakuru outside Nairobi, where she worked in administration and learnt how to shoot. She lived near the mother of The Flame Trees of Thika author Elspeth Huxley and socialised with the writer.

Her son, Mal, was born in 1953 and her daughter, Jan, in 1955, just after the family returned to Surrey. They then moved to the Lennoxtown area and divorced in 1960.

As a single mother, she took herself and the children off to Surrey's Melbreck Boarding School for a year, where she taught primary pupils before returning to Scotland and teacher training at Moray House in Edinburgh. She taught at West Calder High and lectured at Stevenson College, in Edinburgh, and Reid Kerr College, in Paisley.

She married Jim Malcolm in 1975 and continued lecturing on business studies. During a sabbatical year in 1981, on their way to a funeral, the couple were involved in a horrific accident with a tractor.

Jan, then 50, was partially paralysed and spent six months in hospital. But, with customary determination, she set herself a series of goals from brushing her own hair to walking with canes. She travelled the world and retired to Gleneagles with her husband, before eventually moving back to Nairn.

In 1997 she lost her son Mal, of whom she was hugely proud, when he died suddenly at base camp while leading an Everest expedition. In 2001 she was widowed after a 26-year marriage filled with mirth and fun.

Unbowed by loss, she simply carried on, took up painting, yoga and computing and helped establish a panel in Nairn that engineered the movement of lampposts to allow better wheelchair access. She was also involved in fundraising for stem-cell research to cure a degenerative eye disease affecting both her grandsons.

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