Administrative errors (2 of 2)

October 18, 2012

My late colleague John (Jackie) McKie hit the headlines "toasting" the Queen during the latter's visit to Stirling in 1972, yet it would be a pity if that incident were to constitute his sole epitaph. Jackie, whose family name is less rhymingly memorable than supposed - starting with the same patronymic signifier as this writer's and ending with a homophone of "key" - went on to pursue a successful career as a sociology lecturer.

McKie left school at 15, having lost both parents, and worked as an apprentice mechanic and later as a roofer. He also had a spell in the Merchant Navy, where in long periods at sea he read prodigiously and developed an appetite for what today we refer to as lifelong learning. In entering higher education as a mature student, the first in his family to do so, he epitomises the type of student whom Les Ebdon's fair access role exists to champion and to whom we, as McKie's successors at Edinburgh Napier University and across the sector, are proud to be able to offer life-changing opportunities.

What happened at Stirling was misguided, but benevolent commentators might well compare such antics with those of members of the infamous Bullingdon Club, who periodically cause indignation and outrage yet whose misdemeanours are often indulged and excused as the exuberance of youth (and which rarely follow them to their graves).

Perhaps the greatest pity of the Stirling affair was the inevitable stress caused to Tom Cottrell, the vice-chancellor concerned, and his subsequent untimely demise.

McKie also died too soon, only a few years after his retirement. He was unable fully to enjoy the heather-clad hills to which Sir Richard J. Evans' article refers and which McKie climbed with enthusiasm, having swapped them for the rooftops of his youth. However, in the intervening years this erstwhile "red-bearded rowdie" widened the horizons of succeeding cohorts of students, many of whom were destined for the caring professions. They were all the better for having encountered such an academically inspiring and intellectually rigorous tutor.

Alison McCleery, Professor of social and cultural geography, Edinburgh Napier University

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