Obituary: Dr David Dick, Scot who went from telegram boy to college principal

Dr David Dick OBE, DIC, BA (Hons), MLitt, PhD, CEng, FIET, college principal. Born: March 20 1929 in Edinburgh. Died: January 25 2021 in Edinburgh, aged 91.

Dr David Dick
Dr David Dick

David Dick was born in Edinburgh in 1929 and at 14, after just one year of secondary school, due to ill health, he was employed as a telegraph messenger for the General Post office in Edinburgh during the Second World War.

In 1946 he gained an apprenticeship as a Telecommunications Draughtsman and attended Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt College as an evening/full-time student.

After gaining Ordinary and Higher National Certificates, the latter with an additional year of endorsements in electrical engineering, he was elected a Graduate of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

On completion of a graduate traineeship with the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NSHEB) he was recommended and supported by the Faskally College Director of Studies, Professor Parker Smith, for postgraduate studies in hydro-electric power design at Imperial College, London in 1952 and gained the post-graduate Diploma of the Imperial College.

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Before leaving Dundee he met Muriel Buchanan in Craigiebank Parish Church in 1951. They shared a hymn book and met afterwards, the start of a strong friendship from which love soon blossomed.

During his one-year course of study in London they courted by correspondence and Muriel took on the enormous task of typing his dissertation (81,474 words with mathematical equations). The couple wed at Craigiebank Church Dundee on September 11 1954 and honeymooned in Paris.

On successful completion of the DIC he returned to the Highlands, to the new Gaur Power Station, as an operational engineer involved in the commissioning of electrical power plant.

After a year, and wishing to live nearer Muriel’s parents, David resigned his post with the NSHEB and was appointed Assistant to the Chief Engineer of the National Coal Board in Fife in 1953.

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In 1954 David applied for and was appointed to a lectureship in electrical engineering at Dundee College of Science and Technology and was promoted to senior lecturer in 1958. In 1960 he was appointed Head of a new department of electrical engineering at Coatbridge Technical College.

In 1964 David was appointed the first Vice Principal of Napier College of Science and Technology in 1964 aged 35 – the youngest vice Principal in Scotland. In 1970 he was admitted as a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and in the same year he was appointed the first Principal of the newly built Stevenson College, Edinburgh, from which he retired in 1988.

He was awarded Fellowship of Stevenson College in 2009 for exceptional service.

After his retirement in 1988 he and Muriel embarked on a world tour, after which he took up studies of his first love – biographical history.

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He published three dozen journal articles and several books including: Capital Walks in Edinburgh, The New Town (1994); Street Biographies of the Royal Burgh of Haddington (1997); Who was Who in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh (1997); Who was Who in Durban Street Names (1998); A Millennium of Fame of East Lothian (2000); and edited A Scottish Electrical Enlightenment, 1899-1999 (2000) for The Institution of Electrical Engineers.

He graduated BA Hons (2003) at The Open University, MLitt (2006) at the University of Dundee and PhD at Edinburgh Napier University (2013) in his 85th year. It was reported at the time that David was the oldest PhD graduate in Scotland.

David was elected a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, a Fellow of the Institution of Radio and Electronic Engineers, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and was appointed Officer of the British Empire in 1982 for his services to education and to the Fire Service of Scotland, of which he served as chairman of its examination Board from 1969 to 1986 and as the Lay Inspector of Fire Services (Scotland) from 1995 to 1999.

David collected his OBE in February 1983, with Muriel and their five daughters attending Buckingham Palace for the investiture.

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He served as chairman and member of various committees of the Scottish Council for Technical Education and the Scottish Business Education Council between 1960 and 1987.

In 2007 David was invited to membership of the committee of the South East Scotland Retired Members Section of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) and was elected its chairman in 2009.

In June 2019, at the age of 90, he received the international IET Volunteer Core Values Award in the category "Excellence”.

He and Muriel celebrated their diamond wedding in 2014. As well as their five daughters, David had 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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