Appreciation: Alison Craddock, primary head teacher

Alison Craddock, primary school teacher and beloved family matriach. Picture: Contributed
Alison Craddock, primary school teacher and beloved family matriach. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 22 September, 1931, in Edinburgh. Died: 13 November, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 84.

Alison Mary Craddock was born in 1931 into a close, loving family. Her father Randall Philip, was an advocate at the Scots Bar. Her mother, Ella, had studied French in Glasgow and Grenoble, and love of all things French was a constant in Alison’s life. She had an older brother, Gordon, four years her senior. Many family holidays were spent on Speyside at Boat of Garten, in the company of cousins and aunts and uncles. It was a childhood rooted in the Scots Presbyterian church. When Gordon was 15, he sustained a fatal head injury while playing rugby. Alison felt the dreadful loss of her adored big brother keenly throughout her life.

She became a boarder at St Leonard’s School in St Andrews and threw herself into school life. Her little sister, Rosemary, was born, which brought great joy to the family after the tragedy of Gordon’s death.

Alison did well at school and was Head Girl in her last year. She found this role hard as she was naturally shy and did not enjoy the limelight. A degree in French and German at Oxford followed. Alison made many close friends at Lady Margaret Hall. During her university career, there was time spent at Heidelberg University and a year at the Sorbonne in Paris.

On her return to Edinburgh in 1955, Alison worked for the Lord Lyon and the National Library. She met Ian Craddock from whom she was inseparable for the next 60 years. They married in July 1956, and set up home together in a flat at 22 India Street. Into their domestic bliss arrived, first Jane, in November 1957 and then the double shock of the twins, Fiona and Richard, in January 1961.

Even for someone of Alison’s enormous energy, hauling two babies, with a three-year old-in tow, up to a second-floor flat was really too much and, in September 1962, the family moved to a house at 8 Wardie Road.

Soon, Alison was involved in voluntary work, becoming Treasurer of a playgroup association, teaching at Sunday School, and becoming involved in the Trefoil Centre at Gogarburn, which cared for children affected by thalidomide.

Alison’s children recall adventurous camping holidays, firstly in their VW Beetle in Scotland, England and Norway and then to other parts of Scandinavia. Typically, Alison and Ian taught themselves Norwegian using Linguaphone recordings. Later holidays were to France, especially Provence and Burgundy.

At home, there was a menagerie of pets, including the family’s faithful little poodle Bramble and many guinea pigs. A great deal of ping-pong was played – Alison was easily the best in the family. She was later to impress her grandchildren with similar prowess playing tennis on the Wii! On family outings, everything Alison saw had “potential”, and the car would be filled with stones, sticks and anything else which had the potential to be used creatively.

In 1971, Alison embarked on a new phase for which, with hindsight, she always seems to have been destined. She trained as a primary teacher at Moray House College, joining the primary staff at St George’s School in 1972 teaching primary 6. She was absolutely in her element.

Memories of her teaching abound, recalling her endless enthusiasm, creativity and fun, teaching each child in her care to realise their maximum potential. Alison went on to become head of the primary, until her retirement in 1992. She welcomed the Queen to St George’s, with a pageant of pupils.

For her retirement party, Alison was thrilled that the Singing Kettle gave a special performance for her.

As well as allowing for more time with Ian, retirement brought new interests into which Alison channelled her boundless energy and enthusiasm. She became a guide at the Georgian House, helped with children’s groups at the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and travelled around Scotland with the Pictish Arts Society. Alison and Ian became very early, enthusiastic Fair Traders, setting up a Traidcraft stall at Inverleith Church. They continued to travel widely until recently to Richard and Claire’s family in Brussels, to France, Norway, Italy, New Zealand, the US and Japan.

A passion of Alison’s was gardening and her gardens were cornucopias of colour. Although always a talented artist, it was after she retired that Alison really concentrated on her watercolour landscapes.

Alison was always so interested in each one of her eight grandchildren and provided a very happy place for them all to come over the years. Alison was unfailingly courteous and kind to other people. In her final illness, she endeared herself to the wonderful staff of Ward 26 at the Western, who cared for her beautifully. She is survived by Ian, her three children, eight grandchildren and her sister.