Doug Marr, a highly respected and long-standing columnist for The Herald, has died at the age of 76 after a short illness.

He took on the mantle of commentator and analyst for the newspaper with aplomb after a distinguished career in education, his outstanding contribution being recognised with the award of a CBE in 2001 for services to the secondary school sector in Scotland.

He told The Herald two years ago that he suspected he was, by some distance, the newspaper's oldest columnist but he took on the varied subjects he chose to write about with verve, energy and a fresh, incisive eye.

These included education (of course), politics, class, inequality, sport, social affairs and, with wry humour, the sundry challenges that accompany the burdens imposed by the passing years. He continued to write for The Herald until some three weeks ago.

Barclay McBain, a former Herald education correspondent who was later deputy editor of the title, said: “Doug was the voice of sanity and reason at a time in the 1990s when education was used as a political football to score party points. He was unfailingly generous with his time and took pleasure in patiently sharing his expertise with this reporter who knew so much less than him."

Aberdeen born and bred, he attended the city’s grammar school and the University of Aberdeen. He began his career as a history teacher in Hilton Academy and returned as headteacher, overseeing the merger of the school with Powis Academy to form St Machar Academy.

Its catchment had seven designated areas of deprivation in Aberdeen but, by the time he left to become headteacher of Banchory Academy in Aberdeenshire, the school had become such a success that it was unable to meet the demand for placing requests. Academic performance had improved, there were rising standards of achievement and, most importantly, pupils and the community had a sense of pride in their school.

After Banchory Academy, he took on numerous roles in education including with Curriculum for Excellence as an advisor, Aberdeen University as a senior teaching fellow and HMIE as a school inspector.

Tim McKay, a close friend and former colleague and headteacher, said: “Doug relished a challenge. He was an inspirational leader to all who knew him.”

Herald deputy editor Garry Scott, who oversees the opinion and comment pages, said: "Doug was a popular columnist and a delight to work with. On a personal level, we took the time to get in touch with me to share some kind words when my father was ill. He will be missed by all at The Herald as well as by readers."

Doug Marr is survived by his wife Alison, daughter Pamela, son-in-law Gary and granddaughter Lucy.

An obituary will be published by The Herald next week.

READ ONE OF DOUG'S LAST COLUMNS: If you want something done right, do it yourself – perhaps