Alexander Robertson


Alexander Robertson, M.A.
Obituary from Transactions, Series III, Vol. LXXIII, p.237

Alexander Robertson, who died on 12th June last, had been a member of the Society since 1957, serving as a member of Council, Secretary 1959–1961, and President 1977–1980. His Presidential Address in 1980 was entitled Aegean Atlantis a title so typical of the scholar.

Sadly, those who could match his classical erudition are becoming ever fewer.

Alex was born in Perth on 16 June 1920 and attended Perth Academy where in 1938 he was awarded the Dux, Classical and Mathematics Medals and English Prize, and in the same year won a bursary Competition to Edinburgh University, first place in the John Welsh Classical Bursary, third place in the general list and a Cowan House Scholarship. His Honours Classics course was interrupted by 5 years' war service with the Royal Armoured Corps (22nd Dragoons) in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Alex returned to Edinburgh University graduating in 1947 with First Class Honours in Classics and was. awarded the Vans Dunlop Scholarship in Classics, the Scott and Dunbar Prize in Greek, the Society of Writers to the Signet Prize in Latin and the first Hardie Prize in Latin Prose Composition. Concurrently he then took his Diploma in Education and Moray House Training College Teacher's Certificate in Classics.

Teaching posts followed at Falkirk High School (1948–1951) and Aberdeen Grammar School (1951–1956) before Alex became Principal Teacher of Classics at Dumfries Academy in 1956. During his last 10 years before retiral he was Assistant Rector (1972–1982). From 1967–1973 he was also a setter and examiner in Greek and Latin with the SCE Examination Board.

These are fine academic achievements — but what of the man? Alex carried his learning lightly: he was unassuming, caring, thoughtful, punctual, punctilious. To generations of pupils, colleagues, friends and family 'wee Eck' was a gentleman in every sense of the word, commanding affection and respect. His disposition was to assume that other folk were helpful, charming, had the most altruistic of motives, and a fascination to know how Hannibal crossed the Alps! Never a disciplinarian, his manner of achieving class control was through kindliness, humour and positive expectations. He never lost his rapport with the young. The story is told that a certain minister was surprised when his 3-year old son, recently in Alex's company, declared that he now knew Latin - proving it by appropriately reciting Nec tamen consumebatur. The lad could also explain both meaning and origin.

In retirement Alex and Mary Robertson enjoyed many holidays abroad. Visits to Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, or wherever they went, were preceded by careful preparation and study of the language. They would travel light, touring out-of-the-way places (and of course, the classical sites) using local transport, staying in tavernas, enjoying conversation with the local people and giving full rein to Alex's fascination with linguistics and etymology. Much of Alex's leisure time was spent hill-walking with family and friends, a pleasure curtailed in recent years by failing health, yet to the end he kept an observant eye and eager interest in weather changes and the flora and fauna of the countryside. A life-long Christian, Alex Robertson was ordained an elder in 1953 in Aberdeen and served on the Kirk Session at Maxwelltown West Church from 1956, during which time he also held several posts in Presbytery.

It was a privilege to call him friend.

Vale, Alexander.

M. Aitken

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