Obituary - Bill Gatherer

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

Bill Gatherer, a distinguished schools inspector and education adviser, died last month, aged 84.

Raised in Huntly, he was educated at The Gordon Schools and Aberdeen University, where he studied English.

In the course of his lengthy professional career he served as a teacher of English, a lecturer in English at Jordanhill College of Education in Glasgow, a member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools and, finally, chief education adviser for Lothian Regional Council, in which post he had responsibility for the provision of the entire range of advisory services to all Lothian schools.

His career describes a constant upward trajectory, as you would expect of a man blessed with such a formidable intellect, such a strong personality, such enormous drive and such huge enthusiasm for all that he did.

He had the knack of bringing people, especially young people, out of their shells, getting them to focus on the key issues, to tease out the pros and cons and move them in a gentle but firm way towards the goal he had in mind. Bill was a skilled and accomplished teacher, in didactic terms and in the educative sense.

Bill wore many hats. He was the consummate professional, he was an academic and scholar of repute, an avid reader, a clever wordsmith, he published widely, he was in great demand as a public speaker, he loved the cut and thrust of debate and he was very interested in, and supportive of, educational research.

In that latter connection, he was a stalwart member of the Scottish Educational Research Association, which used to hold its annual conference at St Andrews. Bill was always in the thick of things, sometimes taking part in a panel discussion, sometimes doing the after-dinner speech (at which time he could be very funny, especially if he switched into the Doric tongue) and, on one occasion at least, he gave the keynote address.

In his retirement, Bill devoted his still boundless energy largely to the activities of the Gordon Cook Foundation. He was a founding member of its Trust, which is dedicated to the promotion of values and citizenship education. In some ways, Bill was the Gordon Cook Foundation. He knew exactly what had been in the founder's mind, he knew every detail of the foundation's objectives and he knew the history of the organisation inside out. Above all, however, he was committed with a fierce passion to the foundation's work. At trustees' meetings, Bill could be forceful and even argumentative and, perhaps on occasion, a tad cantankerous, but he always knew precisely what he was doing. He was seeking to ensure that the agenda was not hijacked, that the focus of discussion was not lost and that the most appropriate decisions were made.

Bill is survived by his second wife Morag and sons Kell, James, Nigel and Andrew.

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