THE headmaster of Bearsden Academy, Mr Norman MacLeod, has died after a short illness.

The school made headlines one year ago when it emerged that 32-year-old Brian MacKinnon had returned to the school masquerading as a 17-year-old called Brandon Lee to obtain enough Highers to study medicine.

Some headteachers would have chosen to sweep it under the carpet but Mr MacLeod never believed in taking the easy option.

He did not enjoy the publicity which the school attracted but did his best to protect his pupils from it and made sure that those who knew Mr MacKinnon well were given the chance to tell their side of the story in The Herald.

Mr Keir Bloomer, Clackmannanshire Council's director of education, who knew Mr MacLeod professionally and personally for nearly 30 years, said yesterday: ``He was, in my view, one of the people who had sincerely the interests of young people at heart.

``Many of the things Norman was saying 10 or 15 years ago about challenging young people are now far more popular than they were then. He was his own man and that is what made him, in many respects, controversial. He was never one who felt he had to conform to educational convention.''

Mr MacLeod should have retired at Easter, when he was 65, but he asked to stay on until the end of the session in June to minimise disruption at the school during local government re-organisation.

The then Strathclyde region accepted his request but he was unable to return to the academy after Easter because of illness.

Deputy head Dr John Watt paid tribute to Mr MacLeod's 38 years of service to Scottish education. He said: ``He was always one for not following the rules and that was shown in his request to stay on.

``He used to say that rules were for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools. His views were sometimes controversial but he had two yardsticks against which he measured initiatives; the professional standing of teachers and what he perceived as the real needs of pupils, irrespective of their social background.

``If he thought they were going to be detrimental to these, he did not want anything to do with them. There was a very sound common sense about the man. I owe him a great debt.''

Mr MacLeod was active in the Educational Institute of Scotland throughout his teaching career.

Union general secretary Ronnie Smith said: ``He was singularly dedicated to the education of youngsters and was much less concerned with managerialism and making a good impression. He was a true educationalist to the tips of his toes.''

Mr MacLeod, a native of Springburn, graduated with a BSc in geography from Glasgow University and began his teaching career at Glenwood secondary in Castlemilk in 1958.

He was appointed deputy head of Govan High in 1973 and became head of Craigbank Secondary two years later. He left to become head of Bearsden Academy in 1981.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce, three children, and two grandchildren.