Scotsman Obituaries: Duncan Alexander, teacher, church elder and stalwart of the Scouting Movement

Duncan Kennedy Alexande​r, teacher and scoutmaster. Born: 15 March 1938 in Banchory, Kincardineshire. Died: 16 February 2024 in Aberdeen, aged 85
Duncan Alexander was proud to wear his kilt to events around the worldDuncan Alexander was proud to wear his kilt to events around the world
Duncan Alexander was proud to wear his kilt to events around the world

Duncan Alexander was born in Banchory in 1938 to John, a bank accountant, and Isabella. He was a much welcomed child – his father had two unmarried sisters and a brother who had died in the First World War. Duncan was later joined by sisters Liz and Rosemary.

A quiet, clever child, he was Dux at Banchory Academy, and from a young age he started teaching, giving Latin lessons to his younger sisters. Duncan went on to study Chemistry at Aberdeen University and then trained as a teacher, starting his career at Mackie Academy, Stonehaven in 1961 before moving to Lochaber High School, Fort William, as Principal Teacher of Science. In 1966 he moved back to Mackie Academy as Principal Teacher of Chemistry.

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In 1973 he was appointed Assistant Rector in Elgin Academy and was then Depute Rector until his retirement. Long after retirement he kept up with science, particularly the latest developments in chemistry, regularly attending science talks in Aberdeen and across the UK, and recently by Zoom. Duncan enjoyed organising and going to meetings of the various organisations he was involved with, such as Aberdeen University, the Association for Science Education and the National Trust for Scotland.

When he was 16 his much-travelled teacher aunts, Mary Ann and Alexandra, took him to Paris on his first visit abroad. This was the start of his love of travel and he had hundreds of photos from all over the world – from Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. In later years he thoroughly enjoyed cruises with long-term friends. He travelled to New Zealand for his nephew’s wedding in Wellington, proudly sporting his trademark red kilt. He wore it, too, to drive his sister Liz, as Mother of the Bride, and the bridesmaid to his niece Jenny’s wedding in Inverness. He enjoyed family gatherings with cousins, often with a family history connection. The last family occasion was a birthday dinner in Edinburgh in December and he was in good form to see his nephew Michael and his family for the first time in four years because of Covid.

Duncan served the Church in Elgin for 45 years. He was Clerk to the Board and then Session Clerk at the South Church and brought his extensive knowledge of church law when it amalgamated in the late 1990s to form the then St Giles and St Columba’s South Church of Scotland. He was a devoted Elder, visiting those who needed a listening ear, and perhaps a wise word from a respected teacher. He grew to know the church, from its buildings to its congregation to its valuable silverware.

His passion for saving the planet meant that he was a member of the Eco Congregation, active in promoting recycling within the congregation. Duncan would be at the door welcoming people and taking their contributions, later helping with the raffle. He was a keen supporter of the Church’s contacts in the Middle East, helping children caught up in the various wars over the years and now, supporting Embrace. He organised the annual Souper Sundays, raising funds for HIV/Aids sufferers, and was a collector for Christian Aid. In addition to the many activities in the church, he was generous in supporting many national charities, always helping others, and he was respected by so many people in Elgin.

Helping others was also the theme of his lifelong service to Scouting, which started in 1947 when he enrolled as a Wolf Cub in Banchory before moving up to become a Scout, then Scoutmaster, in Banchory and later in Stonehaven. After moving to Lochaber, he became Group Scoutmaster, as well as County International Adviser for both Kincardineshire and Inverness-shire. In 1982 he was appointed International Commissioner for Scotland and in 1997 Assistant Chief Commissioner for Scotland.

Duncan was passionate about reinforcing Baden Powell’s dream of a worldwide brotherhood which would encourage peace and understanding in young people and he attended many International Jamborees.

Wanting to help Scouting in poorer countries, he enthusiastically promoted projects in Uganda and Ghana, which helped young people here to be more aware of the difficulties faced by others. He led an Explorer Belt Expedition for Venture Scouts to the Black Forest in Germany, having previously run two ScotsTrek events for them.

For many years Duncan was heavily involved in organising the Blair Atholl International Patrol Jamborettes every two years, attended by 600 Scouts, half from Scotland and half from overseas, and he made many lifelong friends through this, with Scouting mementoes from all over the world on display in his flat. On a more local level, he was a great supporter of the adventurous water-based Cally Rally, which took place near Loch Ness.

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Duncan received many Scouting awards, including the highest adult award, the Silver Wolf, presented by the Chief Scout in 1991. A large contingent of former colleagues from Scout headquarters attended Duncan’s funeral and Dorothy Kinloch OBE, Vice President and former Chief Commissioner of Scouts Scotland, gave a comprehensive address about Duncan’s contribution of more than 60 years to Scouting.

Duncan was a gentleman, always ready to speak to people he met in the street, and he has been fondly remembered by former pupils as a fair and helpful teacher. He was generous with his time and energy to a whole range of people, in the many organisations he was involved in. A modest man, he wasn’t quick to talk about everything he did unless someone asked, but would have a tie or a lapel badge or other accessory to proudly support one of his passions.

Although very fit, Duncan died on 16 February after a short illness caused by an infection which gradually spread through his body. He is survived by Liz and Rosemary, brother-in-law Neil, nephew Michael and nieces, Jenny and Suzanne, as well as several cousins and wider family members.


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