Obituary: Iain Brown, sports teacher

Iain Brown. Picture: Contributed
Iain Brown. Picture: Contributed
Share this article
Have your say

BORN: 27 January, 1958, in Edinburgh. Died: 7 September, 2013, in London, aged 55.

Colleagues and friends have in recent days been remembering “one of the nicest guys you could ever meet” and a “father figure” after George Watson’s College director of sport Iain Brown passed away suddenly.

Iain attended the Royal High School in Edinburgh and his love of rugby was formed there, playing stand-off for the school and then going on to turn out for the Royal High senior club. He was also a good basketball player.

He then studied at Jordanhill College in Glasgow before joining the PE staff at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh 33 years ago when Donald Scott was the head of the department.

Roy Mack, who went on to become a long-term colleague and close friend of Iain’s over the years, was already a member of the PE department at that time.

He said: “I remember Iain arriving at the school and bedding in quickly to his role. He was still young at that time and coming into a large school such as George Watson’s College could be quite daunting, but he had a presence about him without ever being blasé and what shone through most of all was his love of teaching and his love of sport.”

A couple of years into his time at the school he married Shona and his stock within the department started to rise as his coaching qualities began to shine through with various rugby teams lower down the school.

Mack continued: “He just loved being out there on the side of the pitch coaching the kids. Of course rugby was his main sport, but his enthusiasm meant that he could turn his hand to anything and he wanted to pass on his love of sport to the pupils, whether they were going to go on to great things or not. It was simply about enjoyment.”

Outwith the PE department Iain’s stature as a key figure within the school began to grow, and he became involved in third-year projects with great vigour. He also became a guidance teacher to a number of different age groups.

He ran the boarding house within the school grounds for a while and in 1997 became the director of sport, taking over from Roy Mack.

“He really embraced all parts of school life and wanted the children to make the most of what they were being offered at George Watson’s.

“And as well as helping the pupils out he also used his experience over the years to help bring through young and up-and-coming teachers. When Iain spoke people listened because he was a man who very rarely wasted words, but gave great advice and was just a great guy to be around and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” Mack added.

In 2001 Welshman Gareth Edwards joined the school as head teacher and the duo instantly bonded over rugby.

“Certainly being rugby daft meant that Iain and myself hit it off straight away, but more importantly I will never forget the welcome he afforded me. He made me feel at home straight away.

“He was so proud at that time to tell me all about George Watson’s College and its history and over the last 12 years I greatly enjoyed working with him and he acted like a father figure to many of the younger staff members. His loss leaves a huge hole in the George Watson’s family,” Edwards said.

Perhaps Iain’s lasting legacy at George Watson’s College in the years to come will be the new centre for sport which opened last year, a project within which he was a driving force.

Three of his proudest moments came when he helped lead the George Watson’s College under-15 and under-16 teams to glory at Murrayfield in the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup.

In 2006/07 and 2008/08 the under-15s won the trophy back-to-back, defeating Edinburgh Academy and George Heriot’s 12-5 and 7-5 respectively in the finals. In 2011/12 the under-16s then won the final 38-0 against Dollar Academy.

Over his time at George Watson’s College he worked with some superb rugby players who have gone on to great things, such as Jason White, Marcus Di Rollo, Andrew Turnbull, Stuart McInally and current Edinburgh Rugby youngster Neil Irvine-Hess, who only left the school in the summer.

Indeed, many players have passed from his tutelage into senior rugby and on the day Iain passed away a number of players he had helped along the way – including first XV captain Ben Di Rollo, Ramsay Young, Jack Ferguson, Irvine-Hess, Ali Ross and Mike Ker – were turning out for Watsonians at Myreside against Biggar.

Former British & Irish Lion Jason White said: “Broon, as we knew him affectionately, was a PE teacher and a key man within Scottish Schools rugby but, above all, he was a great bloke who gave a lot of his time over a great many years to rugby at Watson’s and within schools and in general.”

Scotland A cap Stuart McInally added: “I admired him a heck of a lot. He was an absolute gentleman with a great sense of humour and everyone who knew him will have their own fond memories of this great man.

“The school will never be the same again, but he will always be remembered in our hearts.”

Over and above his work at George Watson’s he was a pivotal figure in the Scottish Schools Rugby Union, becoming the schools representative on the SRU general committee in season 2000/01, a post he held until season 2004/2005.

However, of more importance than anything else, Iain was a family man who was married to Shona for 31 years and was very proud of his two daughters Laura and Lisa, and loved spending time with them.

Quite simply Iain Brown was a gentle and enthusiastic man who enriched many lives both on and off the sports field and will be sadly missed.