Obituary

15th January 2010 at 00:00

Michael Mavor, aged 62, was probably the most talented all-round head- teacher of his generation. At the three schools he led, he is remembered for his oratorical ability, attention to detail and dedication to high academic standards.

Born in Malaya in 1947, he moved to Edinburgh aged three. His parents sent him to nearby Loretto School where he displayed a breadth of talent that would stay with him all his life. He studied English at St John's College, Cambridge, where he met Elizabeth, his future wife; they went on to have two children, Alexander and Veronica.

After a three-year teaching fellowship at Northwestern University, in Illinois, he returned to Britain in 1972 to teach at Tonbridge School, in Kent.

He was only 31 when the headship of Gordonstoun became vacant. The governors who interviewed him described his CV as "too good to be true": surely, they thought, there must be a catch. But there was none, and the youthful Mavor became head of the school in 1979. His pupils included Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

His first priority was to raise the school's slipping academic standards. But he also maintained the legacy of practical idealism established by Gordonstoun's founder, Kurt Hahn, enhancing the school's Outward Bound activities and its tradition of service to the community. He coached the rugby first XV, and spent early mornings salmon-fishing on nearby rivers.

In 1990, he was appointed head of Rugby School. The Warwickshire boarding school's reputation was in decline, and Mr Mavor tackled this by moving to a fully co-educational intake. As at Gordonstoun, he established a reputation for attention to detail: he proof-read every letter and document that was sent to parents. He was noted for his ability to speak, and write, in grammatically-perfect English. Always an engaging speaker, he regularly used props - a remote-controlled car, a fishing rod or a cricket bat - to help convey his message. On one occasion, he skateboarded down the aisle during a chapel service.

In 2000, he returned to Edinburgh, taking up the headship of his alma mater, Loretto School. Deciding that the school needed something to distinguish it from its rivals, he established Loretto as the first-ever British golf academy, offering intensive tuition to promising young golfers.

Pupils recall their headteacher driving a plastic golf ball from the chapel altar into the organ loft, and he regularly presented injured or troubled pupils with bags of Maltesers: "the best medication".

He retired in 2008, and was visiting family in Peru when he died suddenly of a heart attack on December 8.

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