Tributes for a remarkable Kirkcaldy teacher with an amazing story

Edith on a tour of the new Viewforth High School
Edith on a tour of the new Viewforth High School

Former Viewforth High School pupils are mourning the death of one of the school’s most popular teachers.

Edith Forrester was the school’s very first lady superintendent, a position created to mark the esteem in which she was held at a time when all senior posts were held by men.

Edith (front) arriving at Waverley station as part of the Kindertransport programme

Edith (front) arriving at Waverley station as part of the Kindertransport programme

She passed away at Cameron Hospital last Friday at the age of 87.

Miss Forrester went on to become depute head teacher, a post she held for 20 years.

Miss Forrester, affectionately known to her charges as Batwoman because of the black teacher’s gown she wore, taught French and German at the school from 1957 until 1989.

And the fact that she was held in such regard by her fellow professionals was all the more remarkable given the traumatic start in life she experienced as a Jewish girl growing up in Germany at the start of the Nazi regime.

Edith was born Edith Twelkemeyer in Nordhausen am Harz, Germany in 1931 and came to live in Scotland through the Kindertransport scheme at the age of just seven, torn apart from her family of a Jewish mother and non Jewish father who wanted to protect their daughter.

She never saw her mother again after she was sent to work in a munitions factory and died from pneumonia, after forcing her husband to divorce her to protect himself.

She was fostered by Kirkcaldy bank manager Gavin Forrester and his wife, and always considered herself very fortunate to have been sent to Scotland.

Her incredible story was told in a book, ‘Darling Mutti,’ after she had to take early retirement from teaching because of problems with her hearing.

Edith Forrester (centre left) at Kirkcaldy High School circa 1944

Edith Forrester (centre left) at Kirkcaldy High School circa 1944

She went on to share her remarkable life story to schoolchildren and other groups and she also took part in the ‘Gathering the Voices’ programme which recorded the testimonies of men and women who sought sanctuary in Scotland to escape the Nazi regime.

Edith enjoyed a busy social life and loved to travel.

She sang with the Kirkcaldy Choral Union as well as being a member of the Kirkcaldy Soroptimists and a Deacon at Whytescauseway Baptist Church where her funeral will be held on Tuesday, April 24 at 11.00am. and thereafter to Kirkcaldy Crematorium for 12.45 pm.

Adrian Watt, Viewforth rector: “She had a rare ability to bring out the best in people and always saw the potential in her pupils.

Adrian Watt, current rector of Viewforth High School with a copy of Dear Mutti which tells the story of Edith's arrival in the UK

Adrian Watt, current rector of Viewforth High School with a copy of Dear Mutti which tells the story of Edith's arrival in the UK

‘‘Hardly a day passes without a parent telling me of some form of kindness shown by Miss Forrester.

‘‘ I met her 10 years ago just after I was appointed and was immediately struck by her gentle Christian character and her love for all things Viewforth. She assured me she prayed for the school every day.

“In October 2015 she addressed a school assembly and spoke of her experiences and the way the people of Kirkcaldy had taken her in after her evacuation following Kristallnacht.

“I will never forget the way she spoke so movingly about the need for forgiveness and tolerance.”

Sharon Armstrong, former pupil now a language teacher in Newcastle: “She was my first languages teacher.

‘‘For the first month she wouldn’t let us open a text book, it was all about learning to speak and pronounce the words, and I still use some of her teaching methods today.

“She always said we should go out and experience life. When I was studying languages at Stirling I took her advice and studied Spanish in Spain and extended my time to study there.

Julie Dickson, community development team leader with Fife Council: “By the time I got to S3 things could have gone one of two ways for me, as I was a bit cheeky and outspoken, but she saw leadership potential in me and nominated me for a Rotary Youth Leadership scheme.

“She also pushed me to volunteer with Kirkcaldy YWCA and I went on to become their world vice president.

“Both of these things helped me into the career I am now in.’’”

Susan Leslie, former Burntisland and Kinghorn councillor, Susan Leslie: “She was a truly remarkable woman who was dedicated to her pupils and also gave unconditional love to her close circle of friends.

‘‘She didn’t talk of her early life until after she retired and it made what she achieved in life so much more amazing.”