Obituary: Ann Watters, MBE, teacher and councillor

Born: 23 September, 1926, in Surrey. Died: 5 January, 2013, in Belper, Derbyshire, aged 86.

Ann Watters (née Douglas) was a citizen of Kirkcaldy from 1953. She was well known as a teacher at Templehall secondary school (1958-1972), science adviser (1972-1991), a councillor for Dunnikier (1984-2007), and as chairman of the Kirkcaldy Civic Society (1988-2012).

She was born and brought up in Surrey, the daughter of Gordon and Elinor Douglas (née Marshall), both of whom originated from the Lothian and Borders region.

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During the Second World War, the family followed Gordon’s RAF posting to Fife, living in Aberdour. Ann completed her schooling at St Leonard’s in St Andrews (1941-44) before reading science at London University (Bedford Ladies College), graduating with a BSc in 1947. On a train journey to Scotland, she met Norman Watters a dentist, soon to be discharged from the RAF. They married in 1949 and went to Durban and Pine-town in South Africa for three years, before returning to Britain. Norman bought the house and practice of dentist Dr Henry, at 16 Wemyssfield, Kirkcaldy.

In the early 1950s, Ann was a wife, mother, and relief teacher, later taking up a permanent position in 1958 – teaching Science at Templehall secondary school. She completed her teaching diploma at Moray House Education College, Edinburgh (1965), and continued at Templehall until 1972, before being appointed deputy science adviser in Fife. She held this post until retiring in 1991, concentrating mostly on primary schools and also establishing the Wemyss Environmental Education Centre, which has been in operation since 1978.

She joined the Social Democratic Party when it formed under the “Gang of Four” in 1981, and in 1984, she was elected to Kirkcaldy District Council as the first SDP councillor representing the ward of Dunnikier. In 1996, after Fife Council was formed, she served another ten years.

As a councillor, she championed local issues, the environment, heritage, decency and common sense. She was never afraid to speak her mind, and represented ordinary citizens fearlessly and fairly.

As a Liberal Democrat, she supported the new party’s desire to challenge every seat in the general elections by agreeing to contest the safe labour seat of Ochil (Clackmannan) on three occasions, in 1987,1992 and 1997, and though she was not successful, she never lost her deposit.

She made a major contribution to the heritage of Kirkcaldy as chairperson of the Kirkcaldy Civic Society (KCS) for 24 years, a contribution for which she later received the MBE. There are some 40 plaques erected, and more than 20 booklets published by KCS, which she authored, illustrated, edited, or produced. She published her Dundee University historical dissertation in 1995 on The McIntosh Story: Furniture Manufacturer in Kirkcaldy from 1869 to Present Day. Her Guide to Kirkcaldy’s graveyards features prominently in any internet search under her name, as do her two books on Burns Life and Burns Suppers, based on the writings and speeches of her late husband, Norman.

She made a sustained contribution within the Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (SWACS), and for over a quarter of a century and was a regular lecturer, guide and advocate for their preservation. Following her husband’s death in 1996, she was elected an honorary vice-president of Bowhill People’s Burns Club. She taught a local history class in the University of the Third Age, and was an active member of the West End Congregational church for 58 years.

Ann Watters died peacefully in a nursing home in Belper, Derbyshire, where she had spent her final six months.

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Until June 2012 she was giving regular lectures on Kirkcaldy’s heritage and history. She faced her last illness with insight, and great courage. She is survived by her son, David, daughter, Fiona, six grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, and her first great-grandchild.