Obituary for David H Eaglesham

David H Eaglesham

David H Eaglesham

It is with deep regret that the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association announces the death of former General Secretary, David Eaglesham.  David, aged 63, died peacefully in St Columba’s Hospice on Friday 31 January 2014 after a year long illness.

David Eaglesham was the remarkable, ebullient and indefatigable General Secretary of the SSTA for a period of twelve years from 1996 until 2008.  A true “north side of the river” Glaswegian, David was educated at Victoria Drive Senior Secondary School and claimed allegiance to Partick Thistle football club.

David started his career teaching history and modern studies in Govan High School in Glasgow, before moving to Mearns Castle High School. Thereafter he was promoted to Principal Teacher of Modern Studies in Cathkin High School.  As a teacher, he always gave of his time freely, taking rugby teams on a Saturday morning and organising exchange trips for pupils to Holland and Germany, through which he made lasting friendships with teachers abroad.  He was a keen singer and musician and in each of his schools became heavily involved in staff and pupils’ musical productions.  His sense of fun and sense of humour made him popular with staff and pupils alike.

It was during his time at Cathkin that David’s keen sense of fairness and justice led him to become involved in the work of the teaching union, the SSTA.  In the 1980s he became District Secretary of Glasgow Division and later Convener and driving force of Strathclyde Executive, looking after the interests of members across Strathclyde, almost half of the SSTA membership in Scotland.  David was always a fair negotiator, keen to listen and to contribute to discussion with the sole aim of achieving the best outcome for teachers.  In doing so, he sparred ably with senior education officials such as Frank Pignatelli and Keir Bloomer and gained their respect.  His forward-thinking approach and love of technology led directly to the Association (somewhat reluctantly) adopting computers for all District Secretaries.

In 1994 David became Assistant General Secretary and in 1996 was elected General Secretary, steering the Association through a period of constant educational change with his usual drive and enthusiasm.  At this time he was one of the chief negotiators of the McCrone Agreement, which despite some flaws, made a significant positive step forward for teachers’ pay and conditions.

David had particular skills in obtaining the best from the lay officials of the Association particularly the Presidents who came and went during his time.  The challenge of “managing” Presidents is considerable but David exercised a combination of charm and empowerment that did the trick.  Those of us who served the Association in this way alongside David always felt we were in control whereas David skilfully controlled us.

The SSTA beyond Scotland was an area that David developed tirelessly.  He was convinced that our small Association should “punch above its weight”.  Those of us who accompanied him on foreign trips were aware of this as he secured status for the SSTA in the international context.  Well I remember grappling with the niceties of single transferrable voting when the SSTA was given the responsibility for administering an ETUCE election in Brussels.

However, lighter moments abound and David in characteristic full Highland dress in tropical Thailand at an EI dinner was a sight to behold.  My own memory of David abroad, however, involved a visit with to the downtown bar area in the fleshpot of Thailand Pattaya.  It all ended in the usual singing with most of us doing our tuneless raucous party pieces.  When David’s turn came he silenced an entire bar full of international revellers with a fantastic rendition of the Irish Ballad “She Moved Through the Fair”, Here truly, was a “lad of pairts”.

David’s contribution to the development of the SSTA was huge. As was his determination to modernise our practices and achieved this with remarkably little ruffling of feathers.  Outstanding was his management and direction of our move from Dundas St to Dalry.  All of us on the Property Sub-Committee will recall trudging around countless premises under David’s military style direction, hard-hatted and exhausted until suitable premises were found.  Without David this would never have happened!  I used to joke with David that we should apply the Louis XVth tag to his post-retirement - “après moi le deluge”.  Though not entirely true, David was a hard act to follow.

David retired from his work with the SSTA in 2008 and was able to spend more time with his family.  He is survived by his wife, Doreen, his three children and his four grandchildren, all of whom he was very proud.