Obituary: Evelyn Rafferty, schoolteacher

Evelyn Rafferty, Selkirk school teacher. Born October 2, 1957. Died November 26, 2016.

Evelyn Rafferty obit
Evelyn Rafferty obit

The outpouring of love following the sudden death of Selkirk schoolteacher Evelyn Rafferty during a charity fun run at Bowhill on Saturday bears testimony to the high regard in which the 59-year-old mother and grandmother was held in the Borders community.

Born in Hawick, the daughter of Bill and Mamie Murdie, Evelyn began her education in her home village at Ashkirk Primary School, before moving up to Selkirk High School.

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She then studied at Moray House in Edinburgh, graduating in 1978 with a primary teaching certificate. It was here that she met her husband Bennie, who graduated that same year with a certificate in technical teaching.

After a two-year probationary spell at Jedburgh’s Parkside Primary School, Evelyn returned to Selkirk in 1980 to take up a teaching post at Knowepark Primary – the same year she and Bennie married in Ashkirk Parish Church. The couple’s two daughters, Yvonne and Kirsten, were born in 1985 and 1987.

Evelyn’s passion for teaching remained undimmed throughout her life. It was a vocation she cherished, and she would go out of her way to help, support and encourage her pupils at every stage of their development. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Evelyn’s retirement from the profession only lasted a fortnight, before she happily agreed to take up part-time supply teacher duties at three local schools – Yarrow Primary, St Margaret’s Primary in Galashiels, and Kirkhope Primary in Ettrickbridge.

Sport was another passion, in particular hockey. A regular in Selkirk’s hockey team from an early age, she won district honours for the South at both schoolgirl and senior levels. One of her proudest moments was playing for Selkirk alongside daughters Yvonne and Kirsten during the three seasons leading up to her retiral.

In recent years she took up golf, captaining Selkirk Golf Club’s ladies section in 2004 and 2005. Selkirk’s current ladies captain, Alison Rutherford, remembers how Evelyn would be ready to meet any challenge that came her way.

“Ev always gave 100 per cent, whether on the hockey pitch or golf course. Her commitment was an inspiration to others, and she was someone you could always rely on. Earlier this month she agreed to rejoin the ladies golf committee, which was typical of her ‘can do’ attitude. She is going to be a big miss.”

Blessed with a lively sense of humour, Evelyn would invariably see the funny side of any given situation. Once, having misheard a fellow teacher discussing an Anthony Nolan Trust fundraiser in the staffroom, she immediately put her name down for the event. Some weeks later she turned up at the Peniel Heugh monument, near Jedburgh, expecting to undertake a sponsored walk… only to discover it actually involved a 150ft-abseil down the side of the tower. Despite her fear of heights, she completed the task with the minimum of fuss.

The birth earlier this year of Evelyn and Bennie’s first grandchild, Rosie, to Yvonne and her husband Neil was a particularly proud moment, and she loved her new title of “Granny Ev”.

A keen traveller, Evelyn enjoyed trips to such far-flung places as Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and on a recent holiday in America fulfilled long-held ambitions by running over New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and up Philadelphia’s “Rocky” steps. In July she and Bennie combined family business with pleasure by attending daughter Kirsten’s wedding to Iain in Cyprus.

Gardening and walking were other prized pursuits. In 2012 she completed the Edinburgh MoonWalk, raising money and awareness for breast cancer causes in Scotland, and had recently signed up for next year’s MoonWalk in London.

As a mark of respect, Selkirk Rugby Club – of which Evelyn’s husband Bennie is senior vice-president – cancelled its 2016 Sports Dinner on Saturday night.

Selkirk has lost a much-loved and respected member of the community, whose legacy will live on in the generations of local schoolchildren lucky enough to have come under Evelyn Rafferty’s tutelage.

The funeral will take place at the Borders Crematorium, Melrose, on Friday 9 December, at 3pm. All are welcome.