Tributes to much-loved former Kirkcaldy teacher

David Ritchie, former depute rector of Balwearie High School
David Ritchie, former depute rector of Balwearie High School

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved former depute head of Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy who passed away recently.

David Ritchie, who helped lead the school as depute from the early 70s until he retired in 1984, died peacefully at Chapel Level Care Home, aged 91.

‘Big Dave’ as he was affectionately known, was remembered by former pupils as a “true gentleman” and a “firm but fair teacher.”

A gifted student, he attended Edinburgh University on a scholarship at just 17 years-old before going on to London’s City and Guilds College in 1943. In December that year he joined the RAF and was posted to the Signals section of the Operational Training Unit of Coastal Command.

He was sent on a special course in signals deception at the Air Ministry in London where, after a spell at Bletchley Park learning about the German Enigma machine and briefings on state secrets from MI6, he was sent to the Far East to work on signals deception for the invasion of Malaya.

He demobbed in 1947 and returned to study, gaining an Honours degree in Science from Edinburgh then doing teacher training at Moray House.

Mr Ritchie began his teaching career at Viewforth High where he met his wife Ivy, a domestic science teacher, and they married in 1952, going on to have son Rennie and daughter Gillian.

He led the science and maths department at Kirkcaldy Secondary School then Balwearie when it was completed, becoming principal teacher of physics at the growing school. He then became depute head until his retiral.

Mr Ritchie was a rugby player with Kirkcaldy’s 1st 15, and was the first to get a hole in one at Dunnikier’s Golf Club’s 14th. He played piano and double bass at the school and with Kirkcaldy Orchestra, helped with the 5th Fife Scouts and was a member of Raith Probus Club.

At his funeral Rev. Bryan Tomlinson, former chaplain at Balwearie, spoke of “a man who never lost the love of learning, imparting the same love, just teaching, teaching life and its living to his nearest and dearest and all who encountered him.”

Dr James More, current rector of Balwearie, said: “Mr Ritchie was a wonderful teacher, innovative, creative, interesting, humorous and able to command instant respect. He had a huge impact on me and when I look at current educational thinking on what makes a good teacher, he would be recognised as one of the finest practitioners of any age. His influence was such that I chose to become a science teacher myself.”