The Rev Dr William Hannah

9th March 2012 at 00:00
The committed advocate for specialists in RE teaching has died at the age of 70

The Reverend Dr William Hannah, a former adviser in religious education and passionate advocate of the role of specialist RE teachers, has died at the age of 70.

Graduating with an MA from Glasgow University in 1962, followed by teacher training at Jordanhill College, Bill Hannah started his professional career as a teacher of modern languages in Springburn Academy, Glasgow.

Having always had a keen interest in both religious education and the ministry, he gave up his teaching post after much deliberation to embark on a Bachelor of Divinity degree at New College, University of Edinburgh.

On completion of his BD studies in 1969, Bill was invited to become acting assistant minister at Glasgow Cathedral. Although he only worked at the cathedral briefly, his experience triggered a lifelong association with, and love for, the cathedral, which culminated in his funeral service there last month.

Bill was in no doubt that his next steps had to be about making the best of his joint passions of teaching and religious education and so he pursued his career as a teacher of RE, first in the Royal High in Edinburgh and then as principal teacher of RE in Kirkwall Grammar and Stromness Academy in Orkney.

He went on to extend his own learning and career as an education adviser in RE, initially in Dumbarton division and thereafter in the City of Glasgow. In 1997, he had to retire early from his post due to ill health, but his influence and impact are still apparent in schools today.

Bill passionately believed that RE was in every way equal to, and should be treated in the same way as, all other curriculum areas. He had a vision for RE and the determination to bring it about. He campaigned for the appointment of specialist teachers of RE, the production of developmentally-based syllabuses and the establishment of RE departments.

He was well known in education circles at local and national level, with a sound reputation as a gentle and passionate, but inspirational and indeed much sought-after mentor to fellow colleagues.

Education, and making a difference to young people, their depth of knowledge and understanding, and ultimately their life chances, was the central tenet of Bill's life. He believed fiercely in the importance and power of learning and modelled this throughout his career, graduating with an M.Ed in 1987 from the University of Glasgow.

Following retirement and, in spite of regular periods of illness, he signed up for a PhD at the University of Strathclyde. His thesis was dedicated to his conviction that RE in schools should be understood as an essentially educational, as distinct from religious, enterprise. He graduated with his doctorate in 2007.

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