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Ian Malcolm

Ian Malcolm swapped a radio station for university lecture halls when he decided to become a teacher. Now retired, he has spent much of his time revisiting his Merchant Navy past in his published writings.


Ian Malcolm

Degree  MA Ordinary 
Year of Graduation 1960

Your time at the University

Left : Ian Malcolm in his graduation robes in 1960, right: Ian in recent times reading a French dictionary
Left: Ian Malcolm on his graduation day (photo by Yerbury on 8 July 1960). Right: Ian in more recent times.

After being a radio officer/purser in the Merchant Navy (1943/1951), I was working at Portishead Radio Station, in Somerset, when it came to my attention that the Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers (SCTT) was seeking recruits. I applied, was interviewed in Edinburgh, and accepted into the scheme.

The Scottish Universities Entrance Board stipulated that they required me to obtain Higher/University Prelim. passes in English, Geography and French, and, because I had left school at 14, this was a major task for me. Oddly enough, although French was the stumbling block for most students, it was the lack of Geography that led me to enter Edinburgh University as a non-matriculating student. However, during my 1st year, when the SCTT withheld my meagre grant, I passed 1st Ordinary Geography, the University Prelim. in Geography, and 1st Ordinary French which over 30% of the class failed. This signified the end of the long struggle for me. And, now a matriculated student, my grant was restored with the whole of the 1st year paid retrospectively.

The obtaining of a degree has had a significant bearing on the education and lives of my children and grandchildren, and it gave me great pleasure when my grandson, Aaron Malcolm, graduated in the McEwan Hall in 2018 with a Bachelor of Music degree (with Honours) while wearing the same gown I had worn at my graduation 58 years earlier. 

The obtaining of a degree has had a significant bearing on the education and lives of my children and grandchildren...

Ian MalcolmRetired Principal Teacher of Modern Studies
Ian Malcolm being capped by then-Principal Sir Edward Appleton at the graduation ceremony on 8 July 1960 in McEwan Hall.
Ian's brother Eric took this photo of Ian being capped by then-Principal Sir Edward Appleton.

Your experiences since leaving the University

The year following graduation was spent studying for the Diploma in Education at the University, and for the Certificate in Education at Moray House. I then became a teacher at Viewforth Secondary School in Kirkcaldy where I was to spend 26 years; 22 as Principal Teacher of Modern Studies. I retired at the age of 62, and, now 94, I’ve been retired for 32 years. Incidentally, I ran the School’s Amateur Radio Station and took pupils on educational trips to France and London.

Much of my retirement has been spent in writing. For the 20 years before its demise, I wrote for The Nautical Magazine of Glasgow, and have had several books published; almost all about the Merchant Navy, and particularly my own memoirs. Here, too, the knowledge gained at the University has proved useful, as it has allowed me to describe places and their history in a more interesting way. Incidentally, one of my digital books, called Mature Student, describes my experiences, both academic and social, when studying in Edinburgh.

Finally, I don’t want to give the impression that all my pursuits were of an academic nature.

I played golf for over 40 years and won a few cups. When teaching, I gained the Preliminary Certificate to teach swimming and the silver award in personal survival. In retirement, and when living on my own, I used to go abroad for three or four weeks over Christmas and New Year: mostly to Spain, but also to Tunisia, Cyprus and Portugal. And only infirmity stops me from continuing to do so.

Alumni wisdom

Study hard, but don’t overdo it.

Related links

Moray House School of Education

Ian Malcolm's website (external link)