27th August 2010 at 01:00

There was a time when poor unfortunates driven from their own countries by miserable circumstances were given a cold welcome by Scotland's learning system. Access to post-school provision was denied until a three-year residency criterion had been met.

"So," Scotland said, "just sit and wait and then we will help you develop your talents and then you can contribute fully to your new home." That was nonsense and needed to be changed. But it needed parliamentary action. So passion was fermented, evidence collected, forces marshalled and action directed. And the change was made.

People made that change, and prominent among them was Flick (Felicity) Thorpe. She remembered that day in the Scottish Parliament vividly when Scotland's learning system became more welcoming and humane. She was proud of what she had helped achieve, many were proud of her and many more had cause to be thankful for her leadership.

Flick died on August 6, 2010. As she might have put it in her blog, her travels with cancer had come to an end. She was 56.

She was born into a church family in South Africa and was always drawn back there in many ways. She came to the UK to study social sciences at Brunel University and often reflected with a chuckle on the gender balance at an institution renowned for engineering provision.

She arrived in Edinburgh in the early 1980s and worked in areas which fitted her democratic values and which engaged those who could benefit most from learning. Her specialist area was English as a second language, in which she became an expert, making a number of national contributions. Stevenson College in Edinburgh recognised and nurtured her talents. Stevenson and Flick were a good match.

She grew into an inspirational leader as associate principal with responsibility for languages. Her contribution across the institution was extensive, and it honoured her with a fellowship when she left to continue her journey with cancer and find new life in her family, her writing and her travels.

As a friend, she will be irreplaceable. She held strong views on most things and these were grounded in firm, unshakeable values of social justice. Conversations with Flick were always rich, engaging and challenging; she was able to draw upon an astonishing and growing reservoir of knowledge and experience. The strength of her views occasionally found her using expletives, and she had an endearing habit of adding these into words rather than preceding them - the word "absolutely" was frequently extended in this way.

She made a wonderful family with Henry (H) and their two sons, James and Thomas. To see them together brought such joy.

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