Obituary: Michael Barclay Mavor

I AM sure I am not alone in wishing that the excellent factual obituaries in memory of Michael Mavor might have included some cameos of his kindness and legendary attention to detail in his selfless service of others, not least of other people's children.

May I offer three such cameos which I am sure will stir many happy and grateful memories amongst former pupils and colleagues in three of the world's greatest and most respected schools.

Upon my appointment as headmaster of Loretto – as Michael was quick to point out, some months earlier than his equally early and unexpected appointment to Gordonstoun – the first letter which I received was from Michael in which he warmly invited Elizabeth and me to Gordonstoun to meet with him and his Elizabeth so that they could "tell us of all the mistakes they had made as a young headmaster and wife and then we could go on to make different ones!"

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

For that visit, we were assuredly most grateful and subsequently pleased to call Michael and Elizabeth friends, whom we readily consulted not many years later when our eldest son Andrew was very suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with diabetes. Michael, as those who knew him well will remember, made light of his own diabetes but was never too busy to offer advice and encouragement to fellow diabetes sufferers and their families.

Andrew was due to begin his first term at Loretto the same day upon which Michael was due to assume the onerous and challenging responsibilities as headmaster of Rugby.

He must have had a whole day ahead of him of meetings with staff, parents, senior pupils and members of the school, yet the night before such an important day in his headmastership, Michael took the time and trouble to write a long and encouraging letter in his characteristic own hand to young Andrew, who, like his parents, will never forget this particular "Mavoresque" cameo of kindness.

It is a story which will live long in our family and into future generations.

One further reflection of a "Mavoresque" cameo of kindness was that, whatever difficulties, problems and challenges both personally and professionally there might have been in his own life, Michael Mavor always endeavoured to think beyond the present moment to longer lasting and more important priorities.

As evidence of this, every headmaster or headmistress whose school had the pleasure of coming into contact, sometimes literally, with Gordonstoun, Rugby and Loretto will testify to a series of immaculate hand-written notes or letters following various encounters, sporting, academic, dramatic and cultural, with always a cheery word of encouragement and camaraderie.

It was Winston Churchill on a return visit to Harrow who said that not even he as prime minister carried more authority nor responsibility than the headmaster of a school. Perhaps it is only current and past heads who can most closely and readily identify with the latter part of such a timeless Churchillian statement.

What energy and understanding and compassion and courtesy Michael Mavor brought to each and every responsibility and task of his life as a celebrated and much admired educator and inspirer of other people's children.

Indeed from what I have been able to gather, his last mission in this life was to go to the support of his sister-in-law – another example of his selfless courage and loving kindness.