Obituary: Felicity Anne MacGregor, teacher

Felicity Anne MacGregor, teacher. Picture: Contributed
Felicity Anne MacGregor, teacher. Picture: Contributed
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Edinburgh depute head teacher who embraced new technology and loved a challenge

Felicity Anne MacGregor, teacher.

Born: 18 April, 1941, in Glengoulandie, Perthshire.

Died: 6 January, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 73.

Felicity loved both teaching and learning, and had a voracious appetite for reading. She was depute head at Corstorphine Primary School, Edinburgh, and teacher at South Queensferry Primary and lived by a philosophy that can perhaps best be summed up by the words of Henry Longfellow (1807-1882): “The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.”

Felicity started her life in Perthshire, born during a period of intense tragedy for her family. Ten days before she was born her older brother died of a wasting disease aged one and a half, a year later her older sister died aged five, and the following year her younger sister was a “cot death”. In all, her parents Dr Harold and Mrs Elizabeth Grace Emslie had 11 children, eight of whom survived into adulthood.

Dr Harold Emslie, a medical doctor and a peace-loving man, was a conscientious objector to active service during the Second World War. It was common for the authorities to send conscientious objectors away from their home to work on a soldier’s wages to ensure “equality of service”, and in Dr Emslie’s case he was dispatched to Perthshire as a forestry worker. Felicity’s siblings remember it as a time of poverty but also a time of delighting in the freedom and nature of the Perthshire glens.

When she was six, the family settled in Glasgow and Felicity’s father established his medical practice. As one of the older daughters, she supported her parents by helping to raise her sisters and brother. This may have shaped her desire to become a teacher, however, she twice failed her French Higher and so wasn’t accepted onto the teaching course. She decided instead to become a laboratory technician, and then haematologist, in Raigmore hospital, Inverness.

In Inverness, she met and married John and was soon celebrating the birth of daughters Pamela, then Helen. The family moved to Bedford, England but when children Alison and James were due, Felicity would travel back to Scotland before each of their births, and stay with her own mother in Glasgow to ensure the babies would be born in Scotland.

The family moved back to Scotland permanently in 1972 and when her youngest child started at primary school, Felicity was finally able to fulfil her dream and she trained as a teacher at Craiglockhart College of Education.

For 28 eight years she taught, firstly at South Queensferry Primary School and latterly as depute head teacher at Corstorphine Primary School.

She is remembered as a “firm but fair” teacher who brooked no nonsense but rewarded hard work and she continued tutoring maths and English until very recently, specialising in helping children with dyslexia and learning difficulties.

She filled her days with teaching others, and her evenings with her own learning. She was at the forefront of computer technology and her son remembers that in the 1980s she would bring home the school BBC computer, which was no mean feat as it was enormous – filling her car, and she would practise on it, writing her own computer programmes over the weekend, and educating her colleagues on its use on Monday. Her love of technology continued throughout her life.

As well as understanding advancing technology, she loved learning new things. She took woodwork classes, taught herself Italian, and to play the guitar and piano.

She enjoyed playing bridge and played competitively in Edinburgh and at bridge events throughout Scotland. She was in her mid-60s when she discovered geocaching – an outdoor treasure hunting game – and this fulfilled her love of puzzles and of the great outdoors and allowed her to walk and discover new places both in this country and abroad.

Travel was another of her passions. As a child and young woman she had limited opportunities to go abroad and her first time on a plane aged 44 started a lifelong love of expeditions.

In fact, when she was diagnosed with cancer more than 11 years ago, one of the first things she did was to walk part of the Great Wall of China in aid of Maggie’s Centre – a charity that offers support to cancer sufferers.

Felicity’s faith was a major part of her life and she was an elder at Davidson’s Mains Church, supporting the minister and congregation. She also worked as a volunteer in the church office, enjoying the camaraderie of the church community.

Felicity loved life and its challenges and kept an amazing sense of humour and mischievousness right to the end. She will be lovingly remembered by family and friends.