TRIBUTES have been paid to the late Dr Ian Gilroy, who spent a decade as rector of Madras College, St Andrews, during which time it became recognised as one of Scotland’s leading secondary schools.
Hundreds of people attended a service of thanksgiving at the weekend for Dr Gilroy, who passed away peacefully at the age of 88.
A lifelong scholar, he gave loyal service to education and town and gown, an achievement which was recognised by his alma mater, St Andrews University, who conferred on him an honorary law doctorate in 1994 - and for a man whose red undergraduate gown still hangs behind his study door, it was a fitting accolade.
Born in Dundee, he was educated at Harris Academy and matriculated at University College, Dundee, then part of St Andrews University. Already a member of the Naval Reserve at the outbreak of war, he was called up in 1942 for what became a near five-year stint in the Royal Navy where he formed enduring friendships and retained vivid memories of his experiences.
On his return to civilian life he resumed his university studies and graduated MA Hons in English and History in 1948.
Following teacher training, he taught English at Morgan Academy, Dundee, where he was to remain for 15 years before taking up an appointment as a lecturer in English at Dundee College of Education. In 1969 he became rector of Mackie Academy, Stonehaven, where he oversaw the move into a new school.
However, St Andrews was most definitely Dr Gilroy’s spiritual home and the town exerted its pull in 1975 when the rectorship became available at Madras and he did not hesitate to apply for what he considered the plum job in Scotland, succeeding Dr John Thompson, with whom he formed a lasting friendship.
Dr Gilroy took pride in maintaining and extending the school’s high standards and deputy rector Lindsey Hodge described his time there as “years…of great happiness and harmony.”
Retirement in 1985 afforded Dr Gilroy more time to explore a multitude of interests and to remain actively involved in community and university affairs in which he took an great interest.
As a member of St Andrews University Court, he served on many committees and was General Council assessor from 1986-94.
He was an avid reader who, until very recently, had three books on the go simultaneously, many on a Scottish or naval theme. Local and Scottish history and literature fascinated him, as well as the Scottish language, and he had an enviable encyclopaedic knowledge.
His other pursuits included making beautifully crafted model ships he built from kits, often requiring magnification and tiny tweezers to put up the rigging, gardening, golf, painting, photography and angling.
He even attended evening classes at Mackie Academy to learn how to make a split-cane fishing rod, with which he then fished.
Dr Gilroy was a member of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in St Andrews where he served as elder, as he had also done at St Mary’s Church, Dundee, and Stonehaven’s Dunnottar Church.
He was also an active member of St Andrews Preservation Trust, the St Andrews Investment Club, St Andrews Rotary Club, the town’s Probus Club, St Andrews Art Club, the local Sailing Club, and the St Andrews University After Many Days Club.
A dedicated family man, Dr Gilroy was married to Isobel and the couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last year.
She made an enormous contribution to his life, whether spending summers in the pre-computer age poring over drawing boards trying to piece together a workable school timetable, offering advice and support throughout his working life, as a travel companion and, above all, as a life partner.
Dr Gilroy was recognised as a man of dignity, integrity and fairness. He was always friendly and made time for others and earned widespread respect and admiration.
Predeceased by a daughter, Griselda, he is survived by his wife, daughters Barbara and Sarah and grandsons Iain and Neill.
Former rector Lindsay Matheson said: ”I had the highest possible regard for Ian Gilroy who gave me every support during my time as rector of Madras.
‘‘He possessed a deep wisdom and broad humanity that sprang from his intuitive desire to provide the best for the pupils and staff of the school and for the wider community.”
There was a poignant moment at the thanksgiving service when lone piper Jamie Gillan, who is pipe sergeant of the Madras College Pipe Band and a fourth year pupil, played the popular Highland Cathedral.