Former Rector of Madras College, St Andrews

Born: October 2, 1944;

Died: July 5, 2019.

Lindsay Sinclair Gunn Matheson, who has died at the age of 74, was the much-loved former rector of Madras College in St Andrews and the leader of a successful campaign for a modern new school to be built on land to the west of the town. Planning permission was granted in January for the site and a land exchange with St Andrews University was approved last month. Mary Jack, one of his colleagues on the campaign, described him as “an inspirational leader,” and said: “St Andrews is poorer for his passing.”

Matheson’s retirement in 2007 was marked with a fly-past by two Tornado F3 jets from RAF Leuchars – one of which had a Madras pupil, Joe Parker, in the navigator’s seat. The popular rector had previously been Head Teacher at Milnes High School in Fochabers where he campaigned to speed up the completion of the new school building, to save the pupils walking between two buildings.

Born in 1944 in Edinburgh to the Very Reverend James Matheson and his wife Janet, Matheson was the third of five children. He started his education at Blackhall Primary in Edinburgh, while his father – who would go on to become Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1975 – was the minister at Blackhall St Columba’s Parish Church. In September 1951, when Matheson’s father accepted the post of minister at Knox Church in Dunedin, the family left Scotland for New Zealand and remained there for a decade.

Back in Edinburgh from the age of 15, Lindsay Matheson attended George Watson’s College before going to St Andrews

University, and subsequently Oxford, to study Medieval History. He gained his teaching diploma at Moray House School of Education at Edinburgh University and, less than a month after marrying Katherine, began his teaching career in 1970 at Banff Academy.

While Head of History at Lochaber High School in the early 1970s, he campaigned to prevent the dumping of nuclear waste at Rannoch Moor, and he marched to protest against Torness Nuclear Power Station. He went on to work as Assistant Head at Inverurie Academy where his achievements included organising residential weeks for first year pupils.

Matheson took up his post as Rector at Madras College in 1997 and was extremely active in daily school life, supporting school sports teams, singing in the staff choir, acting in school plays and making a point of knowing every pupil’s name. At Madras it was the staff who had to travel between the two buildings and Matheson’s preferred mode of transport was bicycle. Upon his retirement, he was presented with a school-made bicycle, a song about him, a specially composed pipe tune and a fly-past.

He was very involved in the community as a Church member, latterly at Dunino Parish Church where he sang in the choir, and he was also a member of the East Fife Male Voice Choir. As a member of the committee for the St Andrews Partnership, he and his colleagues were responsible for the lighting of the Cathedral on St Andrew’s Day, 2018. His final project was working on the lighting of the Castle.

After chairing the Campaign for a New Madras College for the 21stCentury group, Matheson and two fellow Madras former teachers set up the St Andrews Environmental Protection Association Limited (STEPAL) to challenge the selection of a site in the Pipeland area for the new school building.

He warned that building the school at the chosen location would be a “weak and flawed” solution, and STEPAL’s challenge led to planning permission for the site being refused.

Paying tribute to Matheson, STEPAL chairwoman Mary Jack said: “We were privileged to work with a man of strong perception, integrity and vision. We shall miss him, his humanity and his sense of duty and humour.

“His leadership not only ensured that the new Madras College is sited in the most appropriate place and the South Street building will continue to be used for educational purposes, as was the wish of the founder Dr Bell, but St Andrews’ southern hillside green belt remains intact and the access to the community hospital remains uncompromised.”

He is survived by his wife Katherine, daughters Sarah and Fiona, and grandchildren Struan and Katrena.

Alison Kerr