27th June 2008 at 01:00
Grant MacKenzie, PE teacher and rugby coach, has died in Edinburgh aged 39
Grant MacKenzie, PE teacher and rugby coach, has died in Edinburgh aged 39.

As a school rugby coach, he helped produce a string of players who went on to represent their country. Born in Malawi, he moved to England at the age of seven, but had his education at Dollar Academy which was to have a profound effect on him. From an early age, Grant excelled on the sports ground, particularly in rugby and cricket.

Although his sporting prowess over-shadowed his academic abilities, he became a PE student at the then Moray House College at Cramond in 1987. It was there he met the woman who was to become his wife.

After graduation, he joined the PE staff at Hawick High where he quickly blossomed into a very popular member of staff. In Galashiels, Grant joined Gala YM Rugby Football Club where he was elected captain after just one season. He was the players' choice, although the fact that he scored 24 tries in his first season probably helped sway the decision.

After a spell working in Abu Dhabi, he and Sian returned to Scotland in 1995 and took up teaching posts. The following year, Grant got what he regarded as the dream ticket, a job in the PE department at Stewart's Melville College in Edinburgh. Eventually, he took on the role of coach to Stewart's Melville's 2nd XV. In his first season, the side was promoted to the 2nd XV first division.

His natural ability to coach became apparent very quickly and, within two years, he was invited to coach the 1st XV as backs coach; by December, he had become head coach, a job he was to do for the rest of his life.

He coached many young Stewart's Melville players to international success, with 18 of his charges playing for Scotland at under-19 level, and 10 going on to play at under-20. Four turned professional and one, Ross Rennie, went on to win his first full cap this year.

In parallel with these achievements, Grant rose to become a middle-school form master, assistant head of house, head of Lochaber house and, finally in 2005, personal and social education co-ordinator.

He was not a complicated man. Willie Allan, who is head of PE at Buckhaven High in Fife, said of him: "Grant was a classless man. He judged no one; all he asked for was mutual respect."

Grant, who died of a brain tumour, doubtless had many future honours ahead of him. But he was a man who seized every day, and that was an attitude he maintained until the last. He is survived by his wife, son Murray and daughter Ellie.

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