Obituary: Dr Rodney Mallinson, deputy school principal

Born: 26 June, 1947, in Yorkshire. Died: 14 May, 2013, in Edinburgh, aged 65

Rodney Mallinson

Towards the end of April, Rodney and his wife Jane gave a lunch party, a jolly affair with many laughs and good food. Rodney described how he had seared aubergines, artichokes and peppers on the barbecue before serving them cold as a starter; we drank Malbec wine and I teased him because half his cheeses came from Yorkshire. Less than a month later he was dead, suddenly felled one morning by a massive heart attack. His family and friends were devastated. At his funeral there was standing room only.

Rodney was born in Yorkshire on 26 June, 1947. He attended Elland Grammar School, Halifax, before coming north to Edinburgh. At Edinburgh University he graduated with first-class honours in chemical physics then went on to a PhD in the same subject.

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His first teaching job was at George Watson’s College, where he was to spend his working life. After managing to make physics a lot more entertaining than usual, he became involved in guidance. He retired in June 2011, deputy principal in charge of exams, guidance and careers, with a reputation extending well beyond Watson’s.

Rodney as a man was bigger than his career. I first met him on the touchline, cheering for our rugby-playing sons, then in primary school. He was enthusiastic and encouraging without being aggressive.

Over the years we shared many touchlines and dinner tables with Rodney and Jane, and we had much fun and great experiences going with them on the Watson’s rugby team tour of Hong Kong and Singapore in 1994.

Rodney wore his intelligence lightly; he did not use it to dazzle. He was an enthusiast with a wide range of interests. He was agreeable without being bland, stimulating without being opinionated.

He loved technology and gadgets. He had a well-tuned appreciation of excellent food and drink and an appetite to see the world.

He was interested in sport and, even as a non-golfer, was fascinated by the memorabilia in the Royal and Ancient.

He had a gift for getting on with people, particularly teenagers – with the right word at the right time, said in the right way, he could reach a troubled teenager temporarily out of reach of worried parents.

Many Edinburgh families have cause to be grateful for his calm, unfussy wisdom. He remained available to counsel young people, sometimes years after they had left Watson’s.

His generosity of spirit was the antithesis of the caricature Yorkshireman.

Popular with staff, pupils and parents, Rodney retired in 2011, well regarded by the Watson’s community and celebrated for his sense of fun, never more evident than when dressing as a pantomime dame for a review, as Roy Mack described in his eulogy.

It was typical of Rodney to volunteer to serve coffee in the Eric Liddell Centre and unsurprising that he was invited to chair a committee on careers and guidance for independent schools.

The core of Rodney’s existence was his family. His mother Cynthia and his brother Stephen survive him. He married Jane in 1972 and they had nearly 41 years together.

He was a loving and proud father to Daniel and Matthew and better at complimenting their wives, Sarah and Lisa, than they were, as Matthew said in his moving remarks at the funeral. He doted on his four little granddaughters.

He was a rock, totally reliable during times of difficulty, good fun the rest of the time. Rodney is badly missed by many, and his early death leaves a gaping hole in the family.

But Rodney was a very positive man; he would want people to think of him and smile.