Born: March 3, 1929;

Died: April 25, 2021.

JAMES (Jim) Carson OBE, who has died aged 92, was a man of exceptional energy and enthusiasm, who played a leading role in the field of geographical education in Scotland.

His exceptional impact may be encapsulated as the “Carson Catalytic Factor”, which was characterised by his innovative mind, tremendous enthusiasm, dedication and resourcefulness. His untiring drive for excellence in the promotion of geography was nowhere better epitomised than in his own phrase, “Geography is Joy”.

His impact was first felt in the early to mid-1960s, when he was principal teacher of geography at Hillhead High School, Glasgow. His department had the most successful pass rates in any Scottish secondary school in consecutive years at that time.

He became, successively, a member of the Scottish Secretary of State’s Certificate of Sixth Year Studies Geography Working Party; principal examiner and setter of Scottish Certificate of Education geography examinations; first adviser in geography in Glasgow, and examiner in CSYS geography.

His success in these roles led to him becoming chairman of the Association of Educational Advisers in Scotland. He was chairman of the Advisory Support Group in Glasgow, and was appointed as the Scottish Secretary of State’s first adviser representative on the Scottish Examination Board.

He played a major role in the foundation and development of two voluntary bodies which became hugely influential in the progress of education in Scotland – the Glasgow Geography Panel, which was established in 1963, and, seven years later, the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers (SAGT).

The panel, which focused on key issues affecting the teaching of geography in Scotland, became possibly the largest active research group in the subject in the UK. Under his leadership it developed working parties covering everything from syllabus and exams to mixed ability teaching and curriculum development.

There were numerous publications, in-service courses for staff, collaborative school courses with allied disciplines, and the introduction of urban and rural field studies for pupils in a major initiative to take geography teaching into the local community.

It also set up field study centres further afield for senior pupils. Jim inaugurated – and ran, for many years – CSYS fieldwork courses for staff and senior pupils at Kindrogan outdoor centre at Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

Audio-visual aids were widely used and some outstanding closed-circuit TV programmes were transmitted by Glasgow’s educational TV team. A huge quantity of high-quality teaching and learning materials was produced over 40 years, putting the panel at the forefront of developments in geography. Its influence has been profound and far reaching.

Jim was also a founder member and first president of SAGT, which enhanced the teaching of geography throughout Scotland via an ever-increasing volume of superb curricular resources, a prestigious academic journal, conferences, field study excursions at home and abroad, and representation on national and international bodies such as the Council of British Geography.

SAGT owes a great deal to the panel, both for the involvement of Glasgow geographers in its creation, and for the contributions since to its many committees and working groups. As with the panel, this multitude of activities is a tribute to Carson’s innovative mind and ability to gain the wholehearted support of his peers.

James Rawson Carson was born to Scottish parents in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. He was educated at King James’s Grammar School, Almondbury, Huddersfield, and his geographical career began at the University of Leeds, where he graduated with a BA(Hons) in Geography in 1952.

After National Service as a sergeant/instructor in the Royal Army Education Corps, he studied at Glasgow’s Jordanhill College of Education before embarking on his remarkable teaching career. He was an active member of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) for more than 40 years, serving as convener of its education committee (2002/09). He helped to initiate the society’s schools conferences and established the RSGS John Bartholomew Schools Essay Competition.

He founded the Younger Members’ Group of the RSGS, trying to bring young people at school and university level into the wider geographical community. He was presented with the RSGS’s Diploma of Fellowship in 1999, and awarded its inaugural Joy Tivy Education Medal in 2008.

Jim was appointed educational co-ordinator of the Glasgow Garden Festival Project (1986/88). The festival proved to be an outstanding environmental resource for geography teachers and saw more than 200,000 pupils and teaching staff visit it.

He served, often as chairman or secretary, on a huge number of bodies, including the Glasgow East Area Redevelopment Education Working Party. He was a committee member of many other organisations, and was a church elder and member of the Christian Education Committee, Jordanhill Parish Church. All of this he combined with work as author or co-author of numerous geographical texts and atlases, and as a speaker, broadcaster, filmmaker and book reviewer.

Worthy of note was the publication, in 2003, of Geography Is Joy. The First 40 Years of the Glasgow Geography Panel: A History of Achievement in Scottish Geographical Education.

In 2010, he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to geography education in Scotland.

For relaxation, Jim enjoyed music, especially opera, and gardening.

Jim was a great friend – generous and selfless to a high degree, and always full of encouragement and interest in everything he was involved in.

A quiet and modest man, with an unobtrusive sense of humour, he was unfailingly courteous.

He had many wide interests, earnest faith, an energetic and passionate dedication to geographical education, and was devoted to his family.

Jim is survived by his wife, Sheila, whom he married in 1956, and by their son Iain, daughter-in-law Sarah, and grandchildren Sophie, Ionic and Corinthian.