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Francis Pearson

Teacher;

Born: July 31, 1935; Died: September 24, 2012.

AN Appreciation

All of us who had the good fortune to know Francis Pearson would agree he perfectly fitted Newman's definition of a gentleman: "His great concern is to make every one at ease and at home. He is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd."

His early career was remarkable. At Fettes in Edinburgh, he was head of house, captain of athletics and boxing, rugby, debating and choral societies. Then, during his national service, he was an officer in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, serving in Korea.

By the time he came up to Oxford, he was already a majestic figure. Unusually tall for his generation, he strode through life, erect and masterful. He had one thing – perhaps only one thing – in common with Boris Johnson: they were both members of the Bullingdon Club.

For Francis, the pursuit of elegance and fine living went together with an active life in rugby, athletics and rowing. He was, as a colleague observed, John Buchan in the style of the 1950s. It has to be admitted, all the same, that he was not in every respect a Buchan hero.

His sense of direction would certainly have been a handicap for a Buchan hero at Le Cateau, Mons or Mesopotamia. In Korea, he took a platoon of Highlanders on a route march. After an hour, his Company Commander drove up in a state of alarm to tell him he was marching straight into the demilitarized zone. He had misread his compass bearing by 180 degrees.

After four years at Oxford, he went to teach at Harrow where, as a colleague wrote of him: "It almost seemed he taught in his spare time." As well as teaching Latin, Greek, history, English and economics, he coached rugby, athletics and rowing.

Rather surprisingly, very soon after going to Harrow, he returned to Edinburgh to make a brief sortie into the law of Scotland – in search perhaps of his family roots. He began by winning the gold medal in Roman Law, but he found the life and activities of the Scots Bar rather pedestrian. So he went back to Harrow where they welcomed him with open arms. His gifts were in any case those of a teacher rather than an advocate.

After six years at Harrow, he was appointed headmaster of Truro Cathedral School. Perhaps it was a mistake on his part to become a headmaster for it eventually broke his health and, to some extent, his spirit. But his effect on what was then a failing school was immediate and dramatic.

He threw himself into every aspect of school life to raise standards. As head, he coached rugby, promoted the arts and took a personal interest in every boy's future, acquainting himself with their families and their difficulties. No achievement, however small, would go unnoticed or fail to win a word of encouragement. Boys who were finding life difficult were driven at weekends to swim on the north coast or to visit local historic houses, depending on their interests. All in his Triumph Herald, with top down, his dog on his lap and bagpipe music playing on his cassette player.

He loved literature and art but his chief love was nature in all its forms – above all, the open spaces of the Scottish Borders. He loved to walk up the green valley that leads from Drumelzier to the bare heights of Pykestone Hill. From there, he had a wide view – west and south to Broad Law and the pure mountains – north and east to the sheltered places and green silent pastures of the gentle Tweed.

Having left Truro School, he took up painting. He received many commissions from friends and exhibited in galleries. One of his paintings of Hopetoun House was presented to The Prince of Wales, to be hung in Holyrood Palace.

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