Ron Beasley

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
On November 28 Ron Beasley died. Although he was 83, he was of undimmed intellect and wit.

Having been a conscientious objector in the Second World War, with a lifelong commitment to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ron trained in youth leadership and Christian education at Selly Oak in Birmingham.

He arrived in Edinburgh in 1959 and worked for the Church of Scotland, co-ordinating its youth work across much of the country. From this emerged his tireless efforts supporting vulnerable young people, and training volunteer adults to help them.

Aware of the lack of any central weekend social facilities for young people in Edinburgh, other than pubs, he helped found the Cornerstone Coffee House in the vaults of St John's Church in the west end.

In 1979, Ron took up the exciting challenge of being the first head of community affairs at Wester Hailes Education Centre, where he pioneered open access, an informal approach and an outreach route to adult learning.

In the meantime, he was first chairman of the Edinburgh Children's Hearings and vice-chairman of the visitors' committee of the Young Offenders'

Institute at Polmont, for which service he was awarded an MBE.

At the age of 65 Ron was retired, against his will, from his Wester Hailes post by Lothian Regional Council. He stated that, if Nelson Mandela could lead South Africa to freedom at his age, he could continue to lead community affairs at Wester Hailes.

He moved to Queen Margaret University College as student counsellor (he was a Fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) and worked there until he was 71 when, again, despite his keen desire to continue, he was retired. Therafter, he contributed his experience to Couple Counselling.

I had the pleasure, just weeks before he died, of hearing Ron lecture on "Learning for Life - This Life!" He roamed widely but started from the assumption that we live in a civilisation racing towards chaos.

Although competition was said to secure the best, he suggested co-operation, inter-personal living and the power of the imagination were far more facilitating.

He lamented the obsession with examinations, themselves a competitive means of separating learners and of pitting school against school. He criticised the Blair government's commercially backed academies as an opportunity for the financially powerful to determine educational priorities. He wanted practical crafts and skills for life to be given new recognition within education.

In spite of being a Kirk elder, he insisted religion had torn communities apart and believed that schools "would benefit from the freedom of not having to teach religion".

It was a privilege and inspiration to hear such a bravura performance - courageous, irreverent and challenging. It was a triumph of the will over increasing frailty that Ron not only wrote and delivered his lecture at Wester Hailes but also completed a book, soon to be published, entitled Letters to God.

Ron is survived by his adored wife Pam, his daughters Gail and Joy, and his son Scott.

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