Obituary: Charles Melville, teacher

Charles Melville obit
Charles Melville obit
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Charles Melville, educator. Born: 1928 in Cellardyke, Fife. Died: 13 January 2017 in Edinburgh, aged 88.

Charles Melville, who has died at the age of 88, was an educator all his working life; as a practitioner at the chalk face and an administrator in Scottish and English education authorities.

Born in Cellardyke, Fife, he went to the local primary school. A bright, hard worker, he transferred a year earlier than usual to Waid Academy Anstruther, where he won the DuxMix Medal and English Medal. He later graduated from St Andrew University with second class honours and in 1951 with First Class honours as Master of Education.

In his national service in the RAF he was commissioned in the Education Branch and posted to a jet fighter station in Germany.

While growing up in Fife he witnessed a bombing raid in 1939, His own family home was later destroyed by a bomb. Whether it was these experiences or his RAF service, he retained a lifelong interest in matters aeronautical.

After demobilisation Charles was assistant teacher of French and German at Galashiels Academy and was later appointed to the directorate of Fife County by the Council Education Authority, where he would remain for four years. In 1961 he joined Edinburgh Corporation’s Education Department at a time when an expanding school population and a major rebuilding and reorganisation programme imposed an especially heavy workload.

From 1968-75 he was Director of Education in Roxburghshire, and on the reorganisation of local government in Scotland in 1975 he was appointed Director of Education in the London Borough of Sutton, where he remained until his retirement in 1989.

Throughout his life, Charles Melville was steeped in and committed to the best practice in education. His workload was large, and the standards he set himself and expected of others were of the very highest.

In 1969, he was invited by the Secretary of State of Scotland to chair the committee to examine and report on the training of staff for centres for the education of children with special needs. Many children had until then been categorised as ineducable.

The main recommendation of the report, published in 1973, was that “it is no longer appropriate to describe any child as ineducable’’. Legislation followed ensuring that trained teachers were made available for all children, no matter how challenged they were.

Work at senior level in any field, but perhaps especially in public bodies such as local authorities, requires an ability to balance, on occasion, professional opinion with policy and political objective. Charles was well equipped in dealing with this challenge.

Whilst Director of Education in Roxburghshire, he felt so strongly about the possible prejudice to Higher Examination candidates’ work progress resulting from industrial action that he resigned his membership of the EIS.

Committed as he was to comprehensive secondary education, which was by then gathering momentum throughout the UK, Charles nonetheless approached his job in Sutton – which had a selective system with Grammar Schools – in a thoroughly professional manner. He was able to retire in 1989 with the satisfaction of a job well done.

He and Myra, whom he had married in 1954, then retired to Edinburgh. This was no retirement of inactivity – they continued to pursue their interest in the arts in all its forms and as collectors.

They loved their home in Edinburgh, with the access it gave to galleries, theatre and cinema. They continued their lifetime interest in international travel in Europe, North America and beyond.

Charles was able to express his enthusiasm for gardening in the Dean Gallery allotments, which he chaired for several years. He was also Secretary of the Douglas Crescent Gardens Association, and took a keen interest in wildlife in the Water of Leith and beyond. Most of all, he was a loving husband to Myra; a loving and supportive father to his three children Kathryn, Anne and Colin, their spouses and five grandchildren, of whom he was proud.

Charles and Myra had a wide circle of friends in different countries and entertained frequently. He was a cultured man and a loyal friend, with a strong work ethic, always assured of what was right.

His life ended, as he wished it, in his much-loved home surrounded by Myra and members of his family.