Harry Dunion

ALTHOUGH he became, for almost 30 years, a popular senior lecturer and teacher of business studies at Fife-based Glenrothes College, highly regarded by colleagues and students alike, Harry Dunion was much more than that.

Soccer wing-half trialist with English league club West Bromwich Albion; winner of a Scottish higher geography student prize at evening classes; accomplished squash and badminton player; committed EIS teaching union stalwart and lifelong socialist battler for social justice as well as a devoted husband to his wife of 52 years, Mary, Harry was, in every sense, that justly celebrated Scottish archetype, the lad o’pairts.

Harry was born at the height of the economically deprived 1930s in Alloa in September 1930, the son of a miner. His early experience of toil and struggle forged his enduring belief in the value of service to those less fortunate in society.

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As a young man, the need to earn a living as soon as possible saw Harry leave school in the late 1940s and eventually work as a cost clerk with Alloa engineering firm Harland & Co. In 1950 Harry joined the Royal Air Force for his national service. But by this time, he had already developed into a good soccer wing-half. As he often quipped, his skills as a footballer meant he spent the bulk of his time in the air force propelling footballs through the air rather than aircraft.

Indeed, so good on the football pitch was Harry that then major English league club West Bromwich Albion was sufficiently impressed to give him a trial. Another big sporting passion which cemented the friendship between Harry and myself was boxing.

Harry had known Alloa’s greatest exponent of the noble art, 1930s Scottish lightweight champion Tommy Spiers, as a young man, and often regaled me with stories of this noted Scottish pugilistic worthy.

In our mutual retirement from the chalkface, he would share many fascinating reminiscences as we sweated over exercise machines in the gym.

Another bond came from our both attending Strathclyde University at the same time in the 1960s after following the same adult night school route towards varsity studies.

Meanwhile, in 1953, Harry met and married

Mary in their native Alloa, and the subsequent arrival of four children became a strong motivating factor, inspiring in him a desire to do well for them by taking his degree.

Subsequent to graduation, Harry spent a short spell in Alloa Technical College before moving to Glenrothes College.

There, he eventually gained promotion to senior lecturer in the business studies department.

It was there also, albeit in a different department, that I came to know Harry well. He illustrated the truth of Dr Samuel Johnson’s dictum that "a man sir, is never more honest than when he is at his pleasure".

Harry Dunion’s zeal in teaching his students and defending the professional rights of colleagues in the 1980s - a time of aggressive and not always benign management-led change throughout Scottish further education - spoke volumes for Harry’s social conscience and care for others.

But there was nothing dour or self-righteously thrawn about his commitment to the welfare of students or staff - a twinkling-eyed smile and a penchant for ironic humour were the constant collaterals to Harry’s passion for equity and justice.

Harry died on 26 March, but his passion for equity and social justice - that character-defining zeal to help the under-privileged - is one of his major legacies to his children.

His son Kevin was a leading light in Friends of the Earth before becoming Scotland’s first commissioner for the Freedom of Information Act; daughter Louise is assistant rector in a Fife secondary school; Claire is a Fife primary schoolteacher and his youngest son, Philip, works with the Apex group, which helps ex-prisoners.

In retrospect, there was also something symbolically character-defining in Harry’s choice of business studies in further education, for the conduct of his whole adult life was a form of highly individualised personal shorthand for integrity, joie de vivre and compassion and care for others.