Dr Farquhar Macintosh

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Teacher and educationist

Born: 27 October, 1923, at Elgol, Skye.

Died: 18 November, 2007, in Edinburgh, aged 84.

FARQUHAR Macintosh, CBE, was a crofter's son from Elgol, in the Isle of Skye, who over the past 50 years, became one of the great public servants in Scotland. He had a wide range of interests and his contribution to various public causes was significant.

A former pupil of Portree High School, Macintosh was a graduate of both Edinburgh and Glasgow universities. After completing his teacher training at Jordanhill College, he began his professional life as a history teacher at Greenfield Junior Secondary School, Hamilton and then Glasgow Academy, before becoming head of history at Inverness Royal Academy.

It was in school education that Macintosh first made an impression on Scottish public life. He was the rector of three schools in Scotland - Portree High School, Oban High School and, latterly, the Royal High School of Edinburgh, where he was rector from 1972-89.

From early on it was apparent that he would not be the kind of rector who would spend his life sitting behind his desk. He was very much involved in a wider educational world and many of us who worked with him gained much from his extensive knowledge of Scottish and international education.

Many public appointments in education followed. In particular, chairmanship of the Scottish Examination Board (SEB) in 1977. It was not an easy time as industrial problems threatened to disrupt the examination system. He skilfully chaired the board through that period and was appointed to an unprecedented third term.

Macintosh was a visionary and man of ideas. In Portree and Oban, he introduced the concept of leisure activities into the curriculum. Former pupils still talk fondly of its effect on their lives. He was the first of a new kind of school leader in Scotland who wanted to change the experience of pupils and was not afraid of curricular reform.

As rector of the Royal High School in Edinburgh, he introduced the International Baccalaureate, believing this would help solve the curricular challenges of the Scottish senior school. As chairman of the SEB he managed the introduction of Standard Grade examinations throughout secondary schools in Scotland.

His honorary doctorate from Heriot Watt University was, in part, a recognition of his attempt to revolutionise the upper school curriculum, but it was also an acknowledgement of his fresh thinking on Scottish education. When he retired as rector of the Royal High School in 1989 and as chairman of the Scottish Examination Board in 1990, he was probably one of the best known educationists in Scotland.

Macintosh was always aware of his roots in Skye, in the Gaelic language and in the culture and the life of the Highlands and Islands. For 17 years (1965-82) he served on the Highlands and Islands Development Consultative Council and was convener of its education sub-committee.

In 1973, when Inverness lost to Stirling in respect of a new Scottish University, it was Macintosh who articulated the idea of a university based on a federal model founded on the existing further education colleges. It was that inspired idea that Sir Graham Hills adopted when he developed the idea into what is now known as the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute. It was fitting that Macintosh became chairman of its forum from 1999-2003.

Macintosh's interest in higher education and the Gaelic language came together in his chairing of the board of trustees of Sbhal Mr Ostaig (SMO), the Gaelic College in Skye. SMO became his great interest over the past 16 years and he takes great credit for the educational revolution that has been effected from the south of Skye.

Over the past 20 years, Macintosh has been regarded quite rightly as the elder statesman of the Gaelic world .

He believed survival of the language relied heavily on the progress of Gaelic medium education. He was convinced Gaelic schools would have to appear in the traditional heartlands and especially in the islands.

He gave a leadership and a vision to the Gaelic world which will be seriously and sorely missed.

Farquhar never entered the official political arena, yet he was intimately involved in politics and in the political system. He knew how the system worked and he was a tough negotiator when it came to soliciting funds. Many civil servants and ministers found themselves over the years agreeing to allocations of money they had not expected to spend.

Politically, he was an avid European and a committed devolutionist. The advent of a Scottish Parliament was made all the sweeter for him by the fact that his son Kenneth became, and remains, an MSP.

Macintosh's public service was recognised by the award of a CBE in 1982, honorary doctorates from Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities and fellowships from the Educational Institute of Scotland, SCOTVEC, SQA and the UHIMI. These awards simply reflected the commitment of a man of genuine public stature. He became, variously, chairman of the board of governors of the Royal Blind School, a member of the board of governors of St Margaret's School in Edinburgh and chairman of the Scottish European Movement and the Highlands and of the Islands Educational Trust. He also found time to serve the University of Edinburgh, he was an active rotarian, an elder of St Giles' Cathedral and a faithful supporter of the former pupils' club of the Royal High School in Edinburgh.

Macintosh was a man of immense personal charm and was hugely gregarious. He was full of fun with a mischievous sense of humour and a distinctive laugh. He was never more at ease than when he was surrounded by people. For many of us he was a mentor, guide, counsellor and friend. Scotland has lost a man who gave unsparingly to his country and culture and had a profound influence on Scottish public life.

He was a learned man who had a meticulous attention to detail and argued that the key to success was always to do your homework.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, his four children and 12 grandchildren.