Obituary: Sqn Ldr John Dunlop, RAF education officer and teacher

Sqn Ldr John Dunlop. Picture: Contributed
Sqn Ldr John Dunlop. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 11 August, 1927, in Croydon. Died: 3 June, 2013 in Edinburgh aged 85

Growing up in London during the Second World War it was perhaps not surprising that John Dunlop developed a keen sense of history.

His education at University College School precisely spanned the war years of 1939-45 when the capital was bombarded by the Luftwaffe, leaving more than a million homes damaged and 80,000 Londoners dead.

Unlike many other youngsters, who were evacuated to safer areas, he remained in the city throughout the conflict, experiencing that harrowing era first hand.

Perhaps because of this, and his passion for history, he decided on a career in the RAF.

After rising to the rank of squadron leader as an education officer, he returned to civvy street and a post at the prestigious Edinburgh boys’ school Merchiston Castle where he became the respected head of history and economics, school librarian, archivist and cricket coach.

The eldest son of Hugh Dunlop, a consultant physician at London’s Charing Cross Hospital, he was born in Croydon and developed a talent for cricket at University College School where he took his best ever bowling figures – 9 for 27.

He went up to Oxford to read history and, after graduating, worked in the long-established booksellers Trustlove & Hanson for a couple of years.

Then, determined to join the RAF, he signed up in 1952 as an education officer.

The following year he married St Bart’s Hospital nursing sister Marjorie Mirams whom he had first met when he arrived early at her house to escort her sister to a party.

The pair hit it off as he waited for her sister and the couple married at Hammersmith in July 1953. Their son Hugh arrived in 1954. The itinerant nature of his air force service saw the family posted to at least seven RAF stations across the UK, including Kinloss in Moray, Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Cosford in Shropshire and Hednesford in Staffordshire.

In 1961-62 he also spent a solo posting on Christmas Island which, a few years earlier, had been the base for British nuclear weapons testing.

On retiring from the RAF in 1968 he immediately found a new post as assistant master at Merchiston Castle School in Colinton. The move gave the family a permanent base, a home in nearby Elliot Park, and he enjoyed a settled working life for the next 24 years.

Affectionately nicknamed Lurch by his pupils – on account of his towering frame – he was well liked and well regarded and had a knack of encouraging the boys to achieve excellent results.

He also displayed a warm and generous spirit, along with a wicked sense of humour, and was always interested in others. He retired, in 1992, as head of the history and economics department, having also been the school librarian and archivist and passed on his legendary cricket skills as coach.

He retained a passion for history, reading and poetry throughout his life, and was a Burns aficionado, able to recall long, intricate passages of the Bard’s work at will.

Cricket also continued to feature large, with Test Matches always vital viewing.

In retirement he cared patiently for his wife when her health deteriorated and was widowed, after 52 years of marriage, in 2005.

A man of quiet faith and loyal friendship, always dedicated to what he believed was right, he retained a belief that life was to be lived to the full, to Christian principles and with an appreciation of the good things he had been given.

He is survived by his son Hugh and grandchildren Julia and James.