Obituary: Patricia Doyle

Patricia Doyle, head teacher, educationist and columnist. Picture: contributed
Patricia Doyle, head teacher, educationist and columnist. Picture: contributed
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HEADTEACHER wrote columns for newspapers and organised charity fashion shows

Patricia Doyle, head teacher, educationist and columnist.

Born: 17 April, 1944, in Thornliebank, East Renfrewshire.

Died: 29 December, 2015, in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, aged 71.

Patricia Doyle was a primary school head teacher in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, and later a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Glasgow.

She also wrote humorous columns for newspapers and magazines and organised charity fashion shows during her distinguished career, which spanned half a century and included her own teacher training at Notre Dame College in Glasgow.

Mrs Doyle was widely known and liked in education circles throughout Scotland and made many friends, admirers and valuable contacts. This was reflected in the large congregation which filled St Mary’s Church, Cadzow Street, Hamilton, for her funeral Mass.

The Mass was concelebrated by five priests with two Catholic prelates, Bishop Joseph Toal, of Motherwell, and Bishop Emeritus Joseph Devine, present in the sanctuary.

During the Mass, her son, Andrew, with his brothers, Harry and Greg, and their father, Harry, thanked the congregation and clergy for participating in the service and for paying tribute to his mother, who was educated at St John’s Primary School, Barrhead, and Notre Dame High School for Girls in Glasgow.

He said: “Our mother was probably the most important influence in all of our lives. The glue that held the family together. The force that moved us forward, moulding and shaping us into the men we are today. She guided and taught us in all aspects of our lives.”

He said there were “countless men and women” who benefited from his mother’s influence.

After graduating from Notre Dame College 50 years ago, Mrs Doyle, then Patricia Watters, took up a post at St Roch’s Primary School in Glasgow’s Garngad district, but spent the vast majority of her teaching time thereafter in Hamilton. She taught at Our Lady and St Anne’s, eventually becoming a head teacher, and St Paul’s and then became head teacher of Our Lady and St Anne’s.

Even after she retired she remained involved in education, working for the bishops in the offices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Motherwell.

Andrew said: “She found a new lease of life when she joined Glasgow University’s Education Department where her wisdom and experience were passed on to future generations of teachers. She lectured in mathematics there for ten years.

“As always the effortlessness of her performance belied a mountain of effort behind the scenes and guided and encouraged every step of the way by my father. In fact, on more than one occasion she received standing ovation from the whole lecture hall.”

Presentation was Patricia Doyle’s great forte. Always glamorous, it was unusual to see her outside the classroom or lecture room without a pair of large Jackie Onassis sunglasses, even in the dreichest weather.

She told everyone that it was because her eyes were sensitive, but the truth was that she could not walk down the street in Hamilton without a former pupil, mother, granny or aunty coming over to say hello.

Andrew said: “She confided in me that she needed that split second of cover behind the sunglasses to process the wide eyes and blinking it required to remember just who it was after all these years.

“Her other trick was to smile at everyone she walked past. She said everyone must have thought she was demented as she walked along the road smiling with her sunglasses on in gale force winds in the middle of winter just to make sure she didn’t snub someone.”

Father Harry O’Brien, who was principal celebrant of the funeral Mass, said they had never met someone quite like Mrs Doyle at St Paul’s, but that the pupils loved her dearly and she loved them.

Initially her “harsh but fair” methods rubbed some pupils up the wrong way, but in time she won them over and Andrew remembered one occasion when he accompanied her to St Anne’s just after she retired.

He said: “Mum had barely got out of her car before she was mobbed. All of the pupils, even the tough nuts, flung their arms around her just like she was their mum. She told me later that this was her greatest joy of teaching. It was often those from the most deprived households, those who were constantly being sent to her office that she loved the most, they were the ones who needed her the most.”

Patricia Doyle used her journalistic and public relations skills not just to raise money for charity but to ensure the achievements at her schools were always recognised and to give pupils and their parents pride in themselves and their schools.

She was extremely proud of St Anne’s academic and sporting achievements, such as winning the Scottish Primary Schools Football Championships not once, but twice.

Mrs Doyle, who was also a member of Hamilton Civic Society and Saffronhall Art Club, organised a Charity Fashion Show in aid of the Third World around the time of the Ethiopian famine when Live Aid inspired people from all walks of life to help their fellow human beings.

At a packed Motherwell Civic Theatre, she and Lanarkshire fashion guru Kay Cassells – for whom she modelled clothes from time to time – gathered some of Scotland’s top models together to take part in an event which was compered Jon Pall Sigmarsson, who won the World’s Strongest Man title at least four times.

Her media savvy, borne from her occasional sideline as a columnist for a Glasgow newspaper, impressed editors. She often declared that modern superwomen were unrealistic role models and demonstrated her wit and insight on the plight of the modern, fashionable working mother.

Mrs Doyle met her husband, Harry, a teacher and college lecturer, at a dance in Strathclyde University Union in 1966 and two years later the couple were married in St Vincent de Paul parish church in Thornliebank, Glasgow. They were married for 48 years.

Patricia Doyle, who was one of three daughters born to Jim and Philomena Watters, is survived by her husband, Harry, sons Harry, Gregory and Andrew, daughters-in-law Lara and Rebecca, grandchildren Gabriel, Olivia, Patricia, Teddy, Max and Isabella, and her sister Margaret. Her funeral took place on Saturday to South Lanarkshire Crematorium in Blantyre.

BILL HEANEY