Obituary - Bill Fordyce

21st August 2009 at 01:00

Bill Fordyce, who died suddenly at the age of 70 last month, will be sadly missed by all who knew him from his time in education, both in Grampian Region and in Dumfries and Galloway, where he was director from 1987 to 1993.

A larger-than-life character, he was born in Peterculter in Aberdeen, but spent much of his formative years in Sittingbourne in Kent where the family moved for his father's war work. Bill studied physics at Aberdeen University before setting out on his teaching career in Aberdeen. His talents were quickly recognised and he was appointed to join the directorate of the then Aberdeenshire Council.

He later moved to Dumfries to join the directorate, but after local government re- organisation returned to the north-east to join the Grampian team led by the late James AD Michie. Bill headed up the schools section and, under his leadership, Grampian schools gained a reputation for innovation.

Many will recall the Belmont Street "factory" where he attracted talented teachers to prepare for the introduction of Standard grade course materials. Although a secondary teacher, he had a great interest in and commitment to special needs.

Bill was a much sought-after member of national committees and it came as no surprise when he was appointed director of education in Dumfries and Galloway in 1987. He took innovation to unprecedented levels and the region was at the forefront of all the major national initiatives.

There were so many "pilot projects" that some cynics referred to Bill as Squadron Leader Fordyce - but not to his face. Among the many developments were school boards, inspection of education directorates and preparation for promotion, years before the Scottish Qualification for Headship was ever thought of.

Bill was outspoken at times, and many found his style difficult to handle. An early profile of Bill described him as "the Bombastic Charmer" and there was an element of truth in this. He was capable of great charm, and quite often his strident manner belied a quiet shyness.

He was possessed of unbelievable energy and tales of his early arrivals at schools, well before the staff and heidie had even set off, are many. The tell-tale whiff of cigar smoke told the unfortunate head that Mr Fordyce was already there, and as often as not whiling away the time doing the morning crossword. He set a frenetic pace, but his staff responded to his leadership from the front and he certainly encouraged initiative among his team.

After he retired from Dumfries and Galloway in 1994, Bill became involved in voluntary work with Abbeyfield Scotland, visiting sheltered houses and care homes run by local volunteer groups.

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