Obituary: Andrew Blake; innovative headmaster who helped develop university exchanges
Born: 8 December, 1937, in Galashiels. Died: 28 August, 2012, in Lockerbie, aged 74.
Andrew Blake was the headmaster of Langholm and Lockerbie Academies and was a prominent member of the Church of Scotland, serving as the convenor of the education committee.
Andrew McCall Blake was born in Galashiels in 1937 and was educated at Kilmarnock Academy, going on to gain an Honours degree in Applied Physics at Strathclyde University, followed by teacher training at Jordanhill College.
He taught maths at Kilmarnock Academy, Rothesay Academy and Jordanhill College and was appointed as principal teacher to Oban High school in 1967. Further promotions followed as depute rector in 1971 to Douglas Ewart High School in Newton Stewart and to rector of Langholm Academy in 1975.
At 38, he was at that point the youngest headteacher in Scotland. He took the position as headmaster at Lockerbie Academy, where he served from 1980 until his retirement in 1998. He was appointed Elected AFIMA, 1974, FRSA, 1994 and was convener of the professional committee of the Headteachers’ Association of Scotland and was made an honorary member in 1996. He represented the association at many national and international events.
Drew, as he was widely known, was a thinker, an innovator and a great delegator. The day-to-day running of Lockerbie Academy was left to his management team, while he pursued initiatives to put the school on the educational map. He was instrumental in setting up a 16+ network between Langholm, Lockerbie and Moffat schools; an idea way before its time. The school was the second in Scotland to achieve Investors in People status and the only state school to teach the International Baccalaureate in the early Nineties.
His legacy is that the school retains its IIP status and the spin-off from the IB was linking with international schools for student exchanges, which continue today with students from Finland, Italy, Norway and Scotland coming together for a week-long student conference in one of the host countries. He managed to get these initiatives underway and, more importantly, got the funding for them.
Following the Lockerbie air disaster, Drew forged links with Syracuse University, New York state, which lost 35 students on board the plane, and the Syracuse scholarship was born where two students study for a year at the university, all expenses paid. Some 48 young people have benefited from this to date, with several choosing to stay and graduate from SU. The links with the university are stronger than ever as we approach the 25th anniversary of the disaster and many lasting friendships have been formed between staff and students over the years.
Drew’s close connections with the Church of Scotland began as a Sunday school teacher and then joint Sunday school superintendent in the Laigh Kirk, Kilmarnock. He was ordained into eldership in 1973 at Penninghame Church in Newton Stewart and as presbytery elder for Lockerbie Dryfesdale from 1984.
He took up positions as convener of presbytery parish re-appraisal, and business convener. Again, he was not afraid to innovate and challenge established thought with a view to progress and improvement. He was appointed to the education committee of the Church of Scotland – the first lay person to hold the post – in 1995. In 1996, an article was published in the Times about his work, with the appropriate headline of “The Kirk’s Man of Many Values”.
He was passionate about gardening. Starting from scratch, Drew and his beloved wife Marie created one of the most spectacular gardens with winding paths, water features, decking areas with stunning views over the local countryside and a blaze of colours from countless shrubs and flowers. They worked well together as a team – Drew doing the heavy work and Marie the planting and designing. This teamwork was so characteristic of their lives together.
He was a great listener and mediator and was always on hand to give advice and counselling when needed. Drew also had a great sense of humour; he was the life and soul of many a party or gathering throughout his life. His witty observations and sometimes provocative, dark and cutting humour resulted in much joviality and challenging debate on many occasions.
Towards the end of his life Drew, as always, met the difficult challenge of cancer with great dignity and rationality. His main objective was to ensure Marie was well looked after once he had gone. There were no dramatic outpourings of emotion; in fact right at the end there was an almost surreal peace and tranquillity about his demeanour. His faith helped greatly in that respect.
Drew made an impression on many people. The respect he showed us and lived by will be passed on through the generations to come.
He leaves behind his wife Marie and two sons Roger and Gavin.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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