Scotsman Obituaries: Dr Marie Weir, PE teacher and hockey coach

Dr Marie Weir, PE teacher and hockey coach. Born: 3 June 1926 in Chapelbank, Findo Gask, Perthshire. Died: 27 February 2022 in Kinross, aged 95

Dr Marie Weir was one of life's 'doers'
Dr Marie Weir was one of life's 'doers'

Dr Marie Weir sought to make every day meaningful. The saying goes “you get back what you give” and if true, her generosity and love meant she saw both returned in abundance.

In her company, family, friends and students always felt listened to and that she was their personal cheerleader, encouraging each one to believe in themselves. Marie’s family members always had the surety that whatever they did, she would be a secure, loving, safe presence, a loyal confidante and friend.

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Marie was a “doer”. She had abilities in abundance. Imagination, courage, drive and determination which, together with her resilience, meant that whatever she put her mind to, she would strive to succeed. These abilities were encouraged by her husband Douglas Weir, whom she married in 1951. They were a great team, bringing out the best in each other.

Marie broke new ground following her passions. She was appointed the first International Coach for the Scottish Women’s Hockey Squad in 1971.

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A keen Dunfermline football supporter, Marie then revolutionised Scottish Women’s Hockey by pioneering the application of football tactics to the hockey field. She demanded 100 per cent of her Scottish Women and Schoolgirl squads. Her fair but tough approach, not always popular with the hockey Establishment, was vindicated with a historic first Scottish win in more than 39 years over the home side at Wembley in March 1972.

Always seeking social improvements, she became the first Vice Chair of Fife’s Children’s Panel, later being amongst the first to deliver the new Marriage Guidance Service. Next, she became the first salaried Student Counsellor in a Scottish Higher Education institution. Her philosophy, to keep learning and to do your best to make a positive difference in in the world, were cornerstones of her life.

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Marie was christened Lilias Mary Watson Smith, born to Joseph Smart Smith, a farmer, and Lilias Jaffrey Walker, a PE teacher. Marie’s brother Andrew was born three years later, and the family was complete. After an idyllic farming life her father secured a job with Sutton Seeds in Reading and the family was uprooted.

A chequered schooling followed, starting and ending at Morrisons Academy, Crieff, when her father returned to work for SAI.

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In Reading, Marie started at Malvern House School but quickly moved to the Abbey School for Girls where she excelled at hockey, playing for the school team and the Scarlet Runners aged 13.

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Returning to Crieff she was very disappointed to be put back a year because it was decided that the English education system was inferior to that of Scotland. Hockey and friendships provided a stable thread of support through these times.

There became no question that she would become a PE teacher. She trained at Bedford College where she became known as Marie Jaffrey-Smith to distinguish her from another student. She would be known as this through her hockey playing years and for the Scottish team.

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An early Scottish success was the reward of a bronze medal at the first post-war IFWH World Conference in Holland in 1948, followed by a three-month tour to South Africa travelling by ship and train in 1950.

Marie’s first teaching job was at St Leonards School in St Andrews. She was required to undertake a written list of daily tasks, many of which were outside, whatever the weather.

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A lecturing post at Dunfermline College of Physical Education quickly followed and it was here that she met Douglas.

Marie was a talented and published author including books on hockey (Women’s Hockey For The ‘70s and Hockey Coaching: A Psychological Approach to the Women’s Game) and history (Ferries in Scotland).

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She also wrote short stories for the People’s Friend magazine and for ten years wrote a weekly Hockey column for The Scotsman.

Following a stroke she documented her life in a final book, The Times of my Life, which gives a unique insight into her experiences from childhood to the age of 90. Despite becoming registered blind Marie always had a pen in her hand and the “next story” project in her head. Her favourite places to write were St Andrews, the Isle of Arran and her haven, the study. She balanced raising a family of five with charity activities including Barnardo’s and the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, work as a teacher and lecturer, as a writer and with academic study. Marie achieved her MPhil (Counselling) then PhD (History), graduating in 1988, aged 62, from the University of Edinburgh, in the shortest time permitted by the University.

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Marie inspired self confidence in others. Her mantra of “you can, and you will” was repeated often in numerous family and coaching situations. As a committed Christian, she was compassionate and kind.

Marie made lifelong friends beginning on her first day at primary school and added new ones all the way to her final weeks. Joy Tiley ensured ongoing support to all her academic activities and was a steadfast friend.

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Marie is survived by Sally, Lindsay, Shona, Jaffrey, her nephew Grant and their families

Always forward-looking it was fitting that the hymn Marie chose as her last was “One More Step along the Way we go”.

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Marie wrote: “There is time for much more in your life than you think possible. When one door shuts another door really does open. Just embrace it.”

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