Born in Musselburgh on 22nd May 1932, where he had a happy childhood, he attended Musselburgh Grammar School, then Edinburgh University where he graduated MA Honours in English. Following teacher training at Moray House College of Education he did six weeks primary teaching before, in 1956, starting his national service as an officer in the Education Branch of the Royal Air Force.
He returned to primary teaching for two years before joining the staff of Dalkeith High School as a teacher of English. Shortly afterwards, he was promoted to Special Assistant and in 1965 became Principal Teacher of English in the new Greenhall High School. Six years later he moved to another new school, Craigshill High School in Livingston as Deputy to Head teacher Sandy Pirie with whom he formed an excellent working relationship.
In 1978 he was appointed the first rector of Charleston Academy in Inverness where he proceeded to build up a full secondary school. A man of high principles, total honesty, reliability and deep religious faith, he expected the same high standards from his staff and pupils, resulting in establishing within the community a school which not only achieved high academic standards, but was a place where pupils were treated with care, understanding and fairness. Sadly for all concerned, he retired in 1990 due to ill health.
As a youngster, Ronald was encouraged to develop an interest in railways by his father, who was a controller in Waverley Station in Edinburgh. This interest became not just a passion – more an obsession - as the years went by and he travelled throughout Britain and abroad – by train! His special love was for steam trains – his knowledge of engines, lines, routes, liveries etc. being phenomenal!
With his parents, Arthur and Alice, he attended Northesk Church where as a young man he was the motivating and successful leader of the Junior Section of the Boys’ Brigade there.
He loved music and drama and was a “Friend of Scottish Opera” and of Eden Court. Poetry and good books were also his passion. He was involved in the organisation of the Inverness Music Festival and served as adjudicator for poetry and speech classes at the Badenoch & Strathspey Festival.
His volunteering work was immense. He was responsible for setting up the Abbeyfield House in Inverness and was also involved in the Nairn house. For many years he was North Area Secretary of the Abbeyfield Society and a member of the National Executive Committee. The training he devised for house staff was accepted nationally and he travelled to various venues throughout the country to deliver this. The Christmas parties which he ran for both Inverness and Nairn Abbeyfield residents, in his own home, were looked forward to with anticipation and enjoyed greatly. In recognition of his work for Abbeyfield he received the Royal Patron’s Award from the Prince of Wales at St James’ Palace in 2001.
For many years he was involved in the work of Action for Medical Research (a charity originally set up to alleviate suffering of children suffering from polio). Now in its 60th year, it has done outstanding work. Ronald was on the Inverness committee for many years and was secretary until this year.
Two years ago he passed his advanced motorists driving test – partly as another personal challenge and partly to show that drivers over 70 could be highly proficient!
He had a great sense of humour, was an excellent mimic and had a vast repertoire of stories, all contributing to his reputation as an outstanding raconteur – much in demand at a variety of events and meetings.
He was always involved in the life, work and witness of his church and in Nairn Old Parish was a member of the choir, the Men’s Fellowship, Organiser for Halls – all carried out with his characteristic meticulous preparation and execution.
After he returned home from hospital in July, following a major cancer operation, he demonstrated his usual determination and courage by overcoming many personal difficulties; going on holiday, entertaining friends in his customary generous fashion, and in fact, managed to travel to Aviemore for a trip on his beloved Strathspey Steam Railway with afternoon tea in a first class carriage - of course! Sadly, he suddenly became ill again on 31st August, was admitted to Nairn County Hospital, and died peacefully early the following morning.
His death has left a huge void in the lives of so many.
He was not married but will be missed by his four surviving cousins, his goddaughter and godson, his many close friends and not least, by his “adopted” nieces and nephews to whom he was very special.