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Dougal Greig

Headmaster and an inspiration for a generation of pupils at Rannoch School;

Born: February 12, 1922; Died: January 14, 2013.

DOUGAL Greig, who has died aged 90, was the idiosyncratic co-founder and first headmaster of Rannoch School. Largely as a result of his vision, charm and enthusiasm, it became one of the most successful private boarding schools in Scotland.

Situated on the remote south shore of Loch Rannoch in Perthshire, it was established within the fabric of Dall House, originally the seat of the Robertson clan chief. When Mr Greig arrived there in the late 1950s the building was in a dilapidated state. Having purchased the property from the Forestry Commission for £1500, he and his co-founders, Pat Whitworth and John Fleming, began the massive task of refurbishment, carrying out much of the practical work themselves.

They advertised for boarders in the Daily Telegraph, uncertain exactly what kind of response they might receive. They need not have worried. There were more than 150 applications for the school's first intake.

The school's ethos was enshrined in the principle of "in pursuit of all- round excellence" and based on the philosophies of Kurt Hahn, the German-born founder of Gordonstoun School. Like the Moray school, outdoor adventure would play an important role at Rannoch.

Alexander John Smart Greig, known throughout his adult life as "Dougal", was born in Leith. His mother, Margaret, was the daughter of a successful haulier, and his father, Russell, a distinguished veterinary surgeon who was director of the Moredun Research Foundation in Edinburgh. He had one brother, William, who followed in his father's footsteps and became a vet. The family moved to Liberton in Edinburgh when the brothers were young.

Dougal Greig was educated at Edinburgh Academy. After leaving school he was called up for war service. He enlisted in the RAF and served in its Air Fleet Rescue arm. This being before the days of helicopters, he became a coxswain on a rescue boat, sailing in the North Atlantic and picking up airmen whose planes had ended up in the sea. Later, having been transferred to carry out the same job off the coast of West Africa, his characteristic bravado came into play when he caught a crocodile. Legend has it that part of it later became his mother's handbag.

It was while in the RAF that he adopted the name Dougal. He had previously been known as "Jack" but discovered to his dismay that in the Armed Services every Scotsman was called Jock. Having used Dougal as a pen name when writing poetry, he decided that henceforth it would be the name by which he would be known.

After the war he went to Lincoln College Oxford, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics. Graduating in 1949, he returned to Edinburgh and gained a teaching qualification at Moray House. He then taught history at Strathallan School in Perthshire, where he was a house master, before moving to a similar post at Gordonstoun.

Dougal Greig was a popular and successful educator at Gordonstoun, teaching at its independent annex Altyre House. However, in 1957 the young teacher, together with his Altyre colleagues, Messrs Whitworth and Fleming, came up with the idea to start their own school, eventually buying Dall House and its 25 acres of land.

It opened for business in September 1959, with Mr Greig as headmaster. The first intake numbered 82 boys, many more than the 30 or 40 they had expected. Word spread rapidly and by its second year the school roll stood at 138. At the height of its popularity it had 300 pupils.

During his time as headmaster, Mr Greig had a profound influence on the lives of the boys who attended the school. Rannoch, which eventually became co-educational, had an enviable academic record. It closed in 2002 but by then Mr Greig had long retired due to ill health and returned to live in the family home in Edinburgh.

During his time in charge he made sure the school was not just a place of learning, it was also part of the community. It helped with mountain rescue operations and had its own ambulance and a lifeboat, serving Loch Rannoch. The lifeboat, however, was not entirely successful. Purchased second-hand in Edinburgh, its engine and hull were carefully restored at the school. However, at its official "launch" ceremony – and with Mr Greig at the helm – it gracefully entered the water....and promptly sank. The former coxswain had to be rescued by the Loch Patrol.

Dougal Greig, who never married, was a lifelong poet. However, his self-deprecating manner ensured that his work was never published. There are now plans by his family to publish the poetry posthumously.

He is survived by his three nieces, Anne Margaret, Fiona and Patricia.

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