Born: March 26, 1950;

Died: October 9, 2021.

KATE Durie’s choice of the Victorian novelist, Charlotte M. Yonge (1823–1901), as the subject of her MPhil dissertation was not only an indicator of her interest in, and understanding of, English literature, but also an appreciation of how authors draw their inspiration from the society in which they live.

A prolific writer of fiction, Yonge was one of the powerful voices who pushed for much-needed improvements in public health and sanitation. Although less well-read today, she was admired and commented on by peers such as George Eliot and CS Lewis.

Later, as it happened, in Durie’s own academic career, CS Lewis became the focal point of a lecture tour she undertook in the United States.

She was raised in Barnsley, Yorkshire, the daughter of James Ernest Green, a history teacher who had served in the infantry in the Second World War, and his wife Margaret, who taught English and biology. She excelled at school, first at Wilthrope Primary then at Barnsley High School, and took English at Kent University.

She achieved a first-class honours degree then worked towards a Masters in philosophy at Oxford University’s Somerville College.

But she was no fan of ivory towers and relished the opportunity, in 1979, to begin working as a lecturer at Aberdeen University, with students from a wide range of backgrounds.

It was in Aberdeen that she met and married Dr Alistair J Durie, a noted Edinburgh-born academic, and a lecturer in economic history. She displayed her comic and creative talents by writing dramatic sketches which were staged in the city’s Crown Terrace Baptist church, where she and Alistair were deacons. Particularly memorable was a sleazy Del-Boy character, performed by a deacon who was one of the church’s most upstanding members.

The flexibility of home-based tutoring with the Open University held her in good stead when, in 1989, Alistair took up a post at Glasgow University, and they went to live in Stirling.

Kate was able to continue teaching a range of units in what became an association with the Open University that spanned more than 30 years. She taught Shakespeare and Victorian literature and also took on art history, tutoring in Byzantine art and the Northern and Italian Renaissance.

She was renowned for her inclusive approach to education and the encouragement she gave to students from previously non-academic backgrounds. As one student said: “She never told me I wrote badly: she always showed me how to write better.”

Kate embraced literature and writing in many aspects of her life. Teaching her two children, Ruth and Alex, how to cook, her recipes read like poems. She loved animals and shared her home with a succession of cats, and was often known to quote the famous poem, My Cat Jeoffry, by the 18th century writer Christopher Smart: “For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry/ For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him...”

While living in Stirling Kate turned her natural attributes of empathy, and the ability to listen, to being a counsellor for a local bereavement service.

She had, however, her own difficulties. The couple had to cope with Alistair’s diagnosis of prostate cancer. They eventually parted company and in 2013 Kate moved to Edinburgh. But she maintained a friendship with Alistair and talked with him on a near-daily basis on the phone until his death in 2017 at the age of 71.

Kate relished the cultural offerings Edinburgh had to offer in the visual arts, drama and built heritage. On one particular Open Day she visited no fewer than 16 places of interest as she displayed her knowledge of the personal lives – and scandals – of artists, poets and architects.

She was never dogmatic about her Christian faith; rather, she explored its meaning, valuing the opportunities that churches provided to form friendships and explore mutual interests. In Aberdeen she and Alistair had been both deacons and preachers with the Baptist Church. Later, in Stirling, she joined the Church of Scotland and, when in Edinburgh, she joined a Scottish Episcopalian Church.

When she first settled in Morningside, Edinburgh, it was in a top-floor flat but she fell ill and was eventually diagnosed with motor neurone disease, which necessitated a move to a nearby ground-floor flat. A motorised wheelchair returned some of her mobility and she was still able to attend book groups and other activities in local centres.

Given her depth of knowledge and expertise, book groups appreciated having her as a member. Right up to a couple of weeks before her death, in Edinburgh’s Marie Curie Hospice, Kate was a leading light in Christ Church Morningside’s book group, where interests and enthusiasms were, in these pandemic times, shared online.

In her final days Kate read lines by Denise Levertov, the British-born American poet, who wrote “Suspended I had grasped God’s garment in the void, but my hand slipped on the rich silk of it. For though I claw at empty air and feel nothing, no embrace, I have not plummeted.”

Kate is survived by daughter Ruth, a software engineer, son Alex, a senior in Public Health for the NHS, and her brother, Rick.