Obituary: FInlay McLachlan

15th October 2010 at 01:00
Finlay McLachlan, a PE teacher who pioneered new approaches to his subject and a renowned sportsman, has died at the age of 85.

Finlay McLachlan, a PE teacher who pioneered new approaches to his subject and a renowned sportsman, has died at the age of 85.

The son of a headmaster, Finlay lived in Airdrie, Annathill and Stonehouse before settling in Edinburgh. With Britain already at war, he entered Glasgow University to study languages and humanities, but was called up at 18 after completing only one year of his studies.

He joined the Parachute Regiment where he became an Army Physical Training Corps instructor. By the end of the war, he had new ambitions - perhaps because he had realised he had a natural talent for teaching and could combine this with his lifelong mission to realise and understand physical excellence.

After teacher training at Dunfermline College of Physical Education in Aberdeen, he worked briefly as a peripatetic teacher and then took up a full-time post at Ainslie Park Secondary in Edinburgh. He went on to become principal teacher of PE in 1956, a role he retained until retirement in 1988, aged 63.

In the early 1970s he pioneered the introduction of co-education in PE. He saw PE as an aesthetic subject with the important purpose of contributing significantly to personal development. Finlay never dismissed the obvious goal of improved physical performance, but he valued and wanted to promote other dimensions of learning in PE.

Some of Finlay's pioneering work has had a lasting impact. Co-education in PE has now been commonplace for many years in schools throughout the country. The work that Finlay started more than 40 years ago, to recognise attainment in PE, is also now fully recognised in the national qualifications that are available to all young people in Scotland.

While at Ainslie Park, Finlay married art teacher Cecile Johnston. They had a lot in common - they were artists and ahead of their time in many ways. Finlay and Cecile were a stunningly beautiful couple who, throughout their lives together, took great care of their appearance and physical fitness.

Finlay was a multi-talented athlete with significant accomplishments. First and foremost, he was a gifted rugby player who, because of his immense fitness and strength, was widely feared and respected as a prop forward.

For a period, he combined rugby with studies in classical ballet, and he was also a member of the Scottish Elite Gymnastic Team. In 1949, he was invited to represent Britain at the Ling Gymnastics Festival in Sweden.

Finlay loved fencing and ran the hugely successful Ainslie Park Fencing Club, which enjoyed success in both school and open competitions. Significantly, at the Commonwealth event in 1986, Finlay was recognised as having started three of the five weapon team captains on their fencing careers. In recognition of his coaching achievement, he was awarded the prestigious Roger Crosnier Memorial Trophy in 1986. Finlay also enjoyed other sports long into his retirement.

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