Obituary: Michael Barratt, former headmaster of Rannoch School who built its profile around the world
Born: 31 December, 1940, in Edinburgh. Died: 19 March, 2012, in Leven, aged 71
Michael Barratt was an inspiring headmaster of Rannoch School for 15 years and, under his leadership, the school built on its reputation for outdoor pursuits and embraced the demands of education in the technological age.
Barratt remained true to the aspirations of the three founders of the school in 1959, who had taught at Gordonstoun and modelled Rannoch on Kurt Hahn’s principles. Barratt had a vision for Rannoch that reflected his own enthusiastic nature. The school had the highest proportion of Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards of any school in the UK and Barratt increased the entries to Oxford and Cambridge and the Scottish universities.
Barratt was renowned for maintaining a watchful, but never obtrusive, eye on his pupils. He knew everyone’s name and checked in with new arrivals after their first week.
“Michael and Valerie were an ideal couple. They often had supper parties which were very relaxed,” recalled Kirsty Walker, a former pupil. “They had the ability to put everyone at their ease and he was widely respected – never feared. Michael had a commanding presence but helped all pupils to fulfil and realise their potential.”
Michael Barratt was brought up by his mother as his father had died during the war when Michael was just one year old. He attended George Watson’s and then Merchiston Castle (1954-59) where he demonstrated a keen interest in sport. He read English at St Andrews University and played rugby for the 1st XV. After serving in Royal Naval Reserve (HMS Unicorn), Tay Division Barratt did a diploma of education at St Edmunds Hall, Oxford and his first posting was at Epsom College (1964 –‘74)
For a decade Barratt was a housemaster at Strathallan in Perthshire and directed many of the school plays – notably RC Sherriff’s Journey’s End.
In 1982, he was appointed headmaster of Rannoch School, where he set about improving all aspects of the school; an early decision was to go co-educational.
School numbers improved, as did academic standards and the pupils’ imaginative use of the nearby hills, lochs and moors. Barratt encouraged such activities as the Buachaille Dash across Rannoch Moor and up the Buachaille Etive Mor mountain, the expansion of the school fire service (manned by the pupils) and local community service.
In the early years the boys had built the chapel and throughout his years Barratt built on such enterprise: improving the infrastructure, societies (from electronics to filmmaking) were encouraged as was Scottish country dancing and the school choir. Barratt particularly enjoyed their visits to sing at St Giles’ Cathedral.
The Rev Ladd Fagerson was chaplain at Rannoch for 25 years and recalls Barratt’s headmastership with pleasure. “Mike was a strong and enthusiastic leader.
He encouraged staff and pupils to work as a team for the good of the school. Exchanges were arranged with other pupils from Round Square schools throughout the world; funds were raised to build classrooms in India and Kenya. Mike was warm, enthusiastic and great fun.”
Rannoch’s reputation grew under his management and he had a knack of making himself available – his booming voice echoed round the school but it was never used out of malice.
Barratt was a low handicap golfer and much enjoyed playing the eight-hole course with pupils and staff.
The Barratts were showered with compliments and gifts when they left in 1992. A treasured present was a painting of the Dall Burn that runs through the school’s grounds. Many recall the warmth and respect that surrounded the Barratts as they left. “He was,” said one former pupil, “a renowned and highly esteemed headmaster.”
The Barratts retired to Elie, Fife, in 1997. Their house overlooked the Charleton course, and Barratt had been a member of Elie Golf Course for 35 years. He created a beautiful rock garden but his mobility and golfing days were much impaired after a serious stroke.
Nothing typified Barratt’s resolve and love of his family more than his determination to walk up the aisle to give his daughter Susannah away at her marriage in 2007.
He had not walked so far for a year but by escorting Susannah that day he exemplified the courage and dedication that he had taught his pupils throughout his career.
Generations of former pupils remember Barratt as the teacher who galvanised and motivated them to achieve the best for themselves. As the Rev Fagerson said in conclusion: “Mike was a man amongst men.”
Michael Barratt is survived by his wife Valerie, whom he married in 1970, and their son Chris and daughter Susannah.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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