Alumni Services

Edinburgh Wartime Sweethearts Celebrate 70 Years Of Marriage

With the Second World War looming, Alistair MacLean and Mary Forrester were certainly not looking as far ahead as marriage when they met at a student dance at King's Buildings. On 10th July, however, they will celebrate 70 years as husband and wife.

The Macleans

Mary was born and raised in Edinburgh, having been educated at Boroughmuir Secondary School (where she was Head Girl), before arriving at the University of Edinburgh in 1936 to study Chemistry.

"In the 1930s it was the norm to go to your 'home university'", she says. "And I liked being able to walk everywhere in the city."

Alistair travelled a little further when he came to the University in the same year, also to study Chemistry. Originally from Beauly, near Inverness, he joined Mary on a PhD course after graduation - one which was reduced to only two years in duration due to wartime restrictions.

"I met Mary when we became dance partners at the King's Buildings Common Room dance, " he explains. "Neither of us was looking too far ahead at the time, due to the War, but we kept enjoying the various social events and activities together and were eventually married in 1943."


Despite 70 years having passed, the couple have vivid memories of their time at Edinburgh.

"I won a Shinty Blue for the University, " recalls Alistair, "and I remember travelling to places like Glasgow and Kintyre for games. One time the weather conditions were so cold that we were even given whiskey at half-time!"

Mary remembers some glamorous social occasions:

"We had what were known as "bop hops" in McEwan Hall. They were eventually moved to the Assembly Rooms in George Street before going to the New Cavendish ballroom in Tollcross - I believe it's still a popular nightclub."


After graduation, the couple moved to London before relocating to the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) where Alistair researched the effects of disease on that country's vital cocoa crops.

By the 1960s, they were back in Edinburgh, both working until retirement as teachers: Mary at South Morningside and Comiston Primary Schools, and Alistair at Mary's old school, Boroughmuir Secondary. They also had three children: David, Donald and Margaret - the latter two going on to also become Edinburgh graduates.

"The next generation also provided two graduates," says Mary. "Our grandsons Alastair in 1997 and Christopher in 2000."


And what advice would two 1943 graduates give to students in 2013? They both agree: "Have fun!"

Your story

Do you have a story you would like to share with your fellow alumni? If so, send us an email with the details:

email Brian Campbell