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Tribute to Betty Paterson, former Tain Royal Academy maths teacher and community activist

By Hector MacKenzie

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Elizabeth (Betty) Paterson, who died on May 13, was a mathematics teacher in Tain Royal Academy from the 1960s until her retiral in 1985. Through her teaching, and in her many civic roles in the burgh, she was a highly respected pillar of the Tain community.

She was born in Manchester in 1928, where her parents, John and Margaret Marchbank, had gone for work. They returned to Glasgow when Betty was aged two. She and her brother Ian and sister Margaret attended school in Glasgow, interrupted by evacuation to Dumfries during the war. Betty studied geography and mathematics at Glasgow University, and qualified as a teacher of these subjects.

Her first permanent post was at Dalziel High School in Motherwell, where she met Jack Paterson, who taught English. They married in 1955, and their children, Lindsay, Alysoun and Donald, were born between 1956 and 1961. The family moved to Tain in that year, when Jack became principal teacher of English at the Academy.

Betty and Jack entered fully into the life of the town. In the late 1960s, Betty returned to teaching geography, then mathematics. She also became principal teacher of guidance, which suited her inclination to encourage pupils’ talents wherever these lay.

Betty contributed in numerous other ways to the Tain community. She ran the Tain branch of the Girl Guides from the 1960s until the 1980s, becoming District Commissioner for the Guides in the Highlands. She was active in Tain Choral Society, and was a founder member of the Garrick Singers. She was a member of the Parish Church’s mothers and toddlers group in the 1960s. Later, she was on the committee of Tain and District Arts Society, helping to organise concerts by touring companies sponsored by the Scottish Arts Council.

Betty retired from teaching in 1985, following Jack’s retiral a year previously. They were both as active as ever. Betty took on leading roles in the local branch of the Red Cross, receiving a commendation for her work from the national organisation in 1996.

She was treasurer of the Tain Arthritis Support Group. She was appointed as the first child protection officer of Tain Church of Scotland.

Jack’s death in 1996 marked the end of a loving and happy partnership. While continuing with her many community activities – and sustaining Jack’s work in Tain museum – Betty continued to travel widely for more than a decade. These voyages were with friends from Tain and from her university days. She also was very happy in the company of her children and their families.

In her last years, Betty lived in Innis Mhor home in Tain, where she enjoyed the unfailing kindness of the staff.

Betty’s funeral service on May 19 was conducted at St Duthus New Cemetery by Rev. Douglas Horne, lately of Tain Parish Church. The funeral had to be confined to immediate family, but respect was shown to Betty by her friends in the town when the funeral cortege proceeded with great dignity through the burgh’s streets.

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