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Obituary - HAROLD WILKINSON, born Dundee, 15.09.1931 - Died Inverness 27.02.2017.

12th March 2017

Harold Wilkinson, who died of a rare type of leukaemia on 27th February, 2017, in Raigmore Hospital, in his adopted home-town of Inverness, established the first Geography department in Wick High during the early 1960s.

The geography graduate of Edinburgh University in 1960 went on to have a full career mainly in senior education management . He then held Director-level posts, firstly with Inverness-shire and then with the Highland Region, also based in Inverness, in wider fields, until his retirement in 1995.

Harold, a Dundee native, was a day-pupil at the city's Morgan Academy, which was temporarily evacuated to Banchory during part of World War II.

The enthusiast for vintage motor-cars' appointment as Geography master to Wick High in 1961 was his first post after completing teaching training at Moray House College in Edinburgh. There he had done class-room 'practice' at Edinburgh's famous Royal High School.

In Caithness, he made his home with his newly-wed wife Audrey in Auckengill, the crofting community in between John O'Groats and Wick.

As the first honours geography graduate on Wick High's payroll, he set about establishing a new department there and preparing senior pupils for the Highers in the subject for the first time. Previously it not been taught to that level at Wick, although senior pupils could sit the Higher exam after lightly-supervised book-based self-study at school.

The keen sportsman and musician ... a competitive swimmer and hockey-player in his younger days plus an enthusiastic violinist ... left Wick for a post with the education directorate at Perthshire County Council.

From there, Harold came back North again, as Assistant ... and latterly ... Director ... of Education with Inverness-shire in the late 1960s.

As a youth, he had worked in two of Dundee's main employers; firstly in the jute industry and then with publishers DC Thomson.

He initially planned an engineering career and spent two years at St Andrew's University, before being called up for National Service in the British Army with REME.

He had entered Edinburgh University as a 'mature student' and was active in undergraduate 'politics' there, as elected hon. secretary to the Students Representative Council (SRC). Whilst at Edinburgh, he earned extra money as a chauffeur.

Although his family were Methodists, Harold found that the nearest church of that denomination to Caithness was in Inverness, so he joined the (then) Wick Central Church of Scotland.

In Inverness, the Ness Bank Church was his congregation and he was appointed an Elder in 1977. He also served as a long-term Session Clerk to Ness Bank where Rev Fiona Smith .... who conducted his well-attended funeral service on Friday 10th March, 2017 immediately prior to his cremation ... was the city's first woman Kirk minister.

Harold had a deep interest in the 'wild outdoors' and took his young family of four on caravanning holidays, with England's Lake District and Yorkshire being favourite destinations.

When the Highland Regional was formed in 1974, Harold became its first Director of Leisure and Recreation, later re-named The Leisure & Libraries Services' department, after the latter function was transferred from the Council's Education administration.

He established an archaeology section and set up a 'Countryside Ranger' service throughout the Highlands.

Mr Wilkinson agreed with Councillors' views that access to many beauty spots in the Highlands for visitors and locals alike was unsatisfactory.

He oversaw a great improvement in this regard; in Caithness the public car-park at the 'End of the Road' , John O'Groats, is one example of his legacy, while he oversaw an upgrading of facilities at Dunnet Bay caravan park.

Another was the provision of a modern-standard all-weather footpath to the Stacks of Duncansby from an enhanced coach and car-park at Duncansby Head lighthouse, as well as associated 'interpretation panels' there and widely all over the Region.

He showed his geography background by co-operating with the late SNP Councillor Sandy Lindsay, a former WWII RAF Spitfire pilot, in having interpretation boards erected at the roadside at Dulnain Bridge, in Speyside, with the site tidied up and kept weeded.

The boards mark and explain the fine examples of 'sheep-shaped' lumps of rounded rocks, known as 'roche moutonnees', that have resulted from erosion and abrasion by the massive ice-sheets that covered the Cairngorms over 10,000 years ago during the 'last' ice Age.

He encouraged the charity Seagull Trust to establish free boat cruises for disabled persons in Loch Ness and even oversaw the registration of an official Highland tartan by Wick designer Ms Trudi Mann.

The latter was in conjunction with then Convener Councillor Peter Peacock. later a Labour Scottish Education Minister (2003-2008)..

After his retirement in 1995, Harold was appointed Chair of the 100-member Inverness Civic Trust, which seeks to preserve the best of the city's historic architecture and amenity, whilst opposing what it considers as unsuitable building developments at the Planning Application stage.

He enjoyed good health until struck by a serious illness in 2015 from which he never fully recovered.

Mr Wilkinson leaves a grown-up family of four and five grand-children.

Bill Mowat.

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