31st October 2008 at 00:00

Alison Evans, a teacher, college lecturer and voluntary community worker in Edinburgh, has died of cancer at the age of 63.

Alison Wilson was born in 1945 into a drab post-war Britain. Her Scottish father, as a bank officer, was in a reserved occupation during the war and met her mother, a secretary, in London. Her parents took her and her older brother, John, briefly to Aberdeen before settling in Edinburgh.

Alison attended Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh and went on to qualify as a teacher at Moray House. She met her husband, Stuart, in Edinburgh and, after her marriage in 1968, continued teaching, initially at Balfour School, going part-time to look after their two children.

Stuart and Alison later separated, Stuart moving to Australia, where he died in 2004. Meanwhile, Alison moved on to Telford College, where she was integral to setting up the first youth training scheme, which was subsequently adopted nationally.

She took a lead in promoting support and awareness for students with special needs, especially those with learning difficulties. Many of her students kept in touch till the end of her life.

Alison became head of department and, on behalf of the college, developed international relations for European-funded projects. She enjoyed the challenges and contacts she made during these visits abroad to the Netherlands and France, especially to the fields of sunflowers around Toulouse.

Ill-health led to early retirement from college life, but opened up new avenues for her attention as a volunteer for the Disability Income Group, driving for Safeguarding Communities Reducing Offending (Sacro) and working in St Columba's Hospice shop in Leith.

Five years ago, she also joined the board of Women onto Work (WOW), an organisation dedicated to raising women's aspirations and supporting them in developing their careers and meeting all their family commitments. She left the board briefly to caretake the role of executive manager of the organisation during a few months of instability.

Alison always had an amazing capacity to give to others. Feisty, courageous, professional, witty and honest - these are the characteristics that sustained her and encouraged us all, even through her last illness.

Diagnosed with cancer in March 2006 to add to her constant struggle with emphysema, she was given a few months to live. Cheeky and defiant as ever, Alison survived more than two years, working for others until the last few days in hospital.

She was an articulate, intelligent woman. Open-minded, she related well to people of all ages. She was a fond and proud mother who encouraged Sarah and Euan to be happy in their chosen vocations and friendships.

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