Obituary: Peter Cordiner, teacher and poet

Aberdeenshire teacher who was an accomplished writer of Doric verse

Peter Stephen Cordiner, teacher and poet.

Born: 5 October, 1942, in Aberdeen.

Died: 2 May, 2011, in Lossiemouth, aged 68.

Rolling a "tickler" beside Boddam harbour a couple of years ago, an old fisherman watched a stranger and his dog walk down the path towards the piers.

As they reached a level area of grass, the man appeared to stumble and fall to his knees; then knelt there, head bowed, for a few minutes.

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The fisherman was about to go over to help when the man rose up and, walking over, greeted him as an old acquaintance, a "Boddamer" like himself, and explained what had happened.

Fifty-five years ago, a large tent had been pitched on the grass and two pilgrims from the Faith Mission had conducted an evangelistic campaign there for a couple of weeks.

"I gave my heart to the Lord then, on that spot, and I came back today, to thank God for that night, and for all my life since," he told Zander Stephen, the fisherman.

The man was Peter Stephen Cordiner, Peter "Don" as his Boddam byename was, and given that he was then suffering from the prostate cancer that took his life on 2 May, that was an impressive testimony.

Brought up in Boddam of fisher stock, Peter served his time as an electrician, first in the "Oo mull" (the woollen mill) in Peterhead, completing it in the Euclid engineering factory there in the town.

Then the sea called, and he spent just over a year as an electrical officer in the Bank Line on the Corabank.

Again he changed course in his career and studied to enter Aberdeen University where he read medicine for a year before switching to child psychology and, on graduation, went to Queen's University in Belfast for a further qualification.

He had found his true vocation, and a teaching career followed; first at Summerhill Academy in Aberdeen and then for many years in the Elgin/Moray area as a "Support for Learning" teacher before his retirement.

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He had a real interest in his work and in the welfare of his pupils, and a hallmark of his whole life was his care and concern for the disadvantaged, in school as much as in the wider world.

At university part of his summer holidays were spent with the London Embankment Mission, seeking to help the "down and outs" who lived and slept rough there.

The "Don" family of Stephens from Boddam had, and still have, musical and poetic gifts. His uncle, Peter "Don" senior, was a fisherman and a poet of local note; each year he composed a memorable poem on the past year's events in Boddam, and recited it to great acclaim, at the village "Boatie Social", each January.

Peter himself won a national prize for a poem some years ago and published, not long before his death, Peter's Poems, a bestselling booklet of Doric poetry, the proceeds of which went to MacMillan Cancer Support. Peter's mother, brother and he himself were also accomplished organists.Though they lived in Lossiemouth, for many years Peter was organist at Elgin Baptist church, where he and his wife Rena, a former air hostess, were members.

His knowledge of the music of the Sankey hymns and redemption songs, so justly beloved by the fisherfolk of the east coast of Scotland, was legendary; his playing and interpretation of them sensitive and inspirational.

Both sons are talented musicians; the elder, Stephen, a professional violinist of some note; Jonathon, the younger, a primary teacher and, like his father and great uncle, a poet also.

The late Cuthbert Graham, of the Press and Journal, once said, in a collection of North East poetry he edited, that Doric poetry was not strong in love poems, though Tam I' the Kirk by Violet Jacob was a notable exception.

I believe that one of Peter's poems in his recent publication is also an exception to that rule. Entitled Tired, it is a remarkable yet simple love poem to his wife Rena, returning thanks for her love for him through the darker periods of his last illness.

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It is also one to which so many people can relate, who have passed or are passing through a similiar experience.


Tired o' aa the needles, tired o' aa the peels,

Tired o' padded footsteps, 'n clunk o' trolley wheels.

Tired o' aa the sufferin', tired o' aa the pain,

Tired o' chasin' prospects, o' gettin' weel again.

Tired o' a' watchin' sunsets, tired o' mornin' lecht,

Tired o' ayeways meevin', bit nivver feelin' recht,

Tired o' lapsin' consciousness, tired o' fadin' pooers,

Bit nivver tired o' waaknen up, ti find meh haan in youers.

Advised by the minister of Elgin Baptist that the church would be too small for his funeral service, it was held in St James's church in Lossiemouth, where his late brother George had been minister.

Whether they shared his faith or not, many people whose lives had been enriched by his friendship packed that church for a moving thanksgiving service for Peter's life.

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