Tributes to Selkirk teacher Evelyn Raffery after death on Santa jog

Selkirk's Evelyn Rafferty.
Selkirk's Evelyn Rafferty.

Tributes have been paid to a Selkirk teacher following her death during a charity fun run at the weekend.

Evelyn Rafferty, 59, was taking part in the annual Santa Jog at the town’s Bowhill House country park on Saturday when she collapsed.

Despite the best efforts of three fellow runners and paramedics, she could not be saved and was pronounced dead at the scene.

A semi-retired primary school teacher, Ev, as she was known for short, taught generations of schoolchildren over more than 30 years at Selkirk’s Knowepark Primary School.

Ev’s passion for teaching remained undimmed throughout her life with her retirement from the profession only lasting a fortnight before she happily took up part-time supply duties at Yarrow Primary, St Margaret’s Primary in Galashiels and Kirkhope Primary in Ettrickbridge.

A devoted mother and grandmother, Ev met her husband Bennie while studing at Moray House in Edinburgh, where Bennie graduated the same year as Ev with a certificate in technical teaching.

The couple’s two daughters, Yvonne and Kirsten, were born in 1985 and 1987, and the birth earlier this year of Evelyn and Bennie’s first grandchild, Rosie, to Yvonne and her husband Neil, was a particularly proud moment for the family.

Tributes have poured in this week, with Ev’s employer, Scottish Borders Council, being one of the first to send its sympathies to Ev’s friends and family.

Donna Manson, its service director for children and young people, said: “We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic news.

“Ev was a dedicated and loyal teacher who will be sorely missed by her pupils and colleagues.

“We will be putting in place support for staff and pupils, and our condolences go to her husband and family during this difficult time.”

A spokesperson for Knowepark Primary said: “We were shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Ev Rafferty at the weekend.

“Ev was a teacher here for many years and touched the lives of the many children and families she worked with.

“She was also a well-respected colleague and friend to staff past and present.

“Our thoughts are with Ev’s family and friends.”

She was also well-known in Selkirk for her sporting abilities, in particular hockey and golfing.

A regular in Selkirk’s hockey team from an early age, she won district honours for the South at both schoolgirl and senior levels.

One of her proudest moments was playing for Selkirk alongside Yvonne and Kirsten during the three seasons leading up to her retiral. In recent years, she took up golf, captaining Selkirk Golf Club’s ladies section in 2004 and 2005.

Selkirk’s current ladies captain, Alison Rutherford said: “Ev always gave 100%, whether on the hockey pitch or golf course,” she said.

“Her commitment was an inspiration to others, and she was someone you could always rely on.

“Earlier this month she agreed to rejoin the ladies’ golf committee, which was typical of her can-do attitude. She is going to be a big miss.”

Other friends took to social media to share their shock and pay tribute, with one, Lianne Lyall, posting: “I still can’t believe it. It’s a huge loss for the Selkirk community.” Another, Sara Jamieson, said Ev’s death would be “a huge loss to Selkirk and beyond.”

A keen traveller, Evelyn enjoyed trips to such far-flung places as Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and on a recent holiday in America fulfilled long-held ambitions by running over New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and up Philadelphia’s ‘Rocky’ steps.

In July, she and Bennie combined family business with pleasure by attending daughter Kirsten’s wedding to Iain in Cyprus.

Ev’s other passions inculded gardening and walking and in 2012, she completed the Edinburgh MoonWalk and she had recently signed up for next year’s MoonWalk in London.

Ev joined more than 150 taking part in the annual charity fun run round Bowhill Estate, dressed in Santa suits to run or walk a three-mile route in aid of Cash For Kids.

Ed Morris, manager of the Bowhill Estate, said: “We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident, and our thoughts are with the family at this time.”

The Rafferty family expressed their gratitude to the three runners taking part in Saturday’s fun run, who did everything in their power to resuscitate Evelyn and also thanked the emergency services for their assistance and support.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police received a report of a woman who collapsed within the Bowhill Country Park in Selkirk on Saturday during a charity run.

“The 59-year-old was treated by ambulance staff but passed away at the scene.

“There appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding this death, and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.”

As a mark of respect, Selkirk Rugby Club, of which Bennie is senior vice-president, cancelled its 2016 sports dinner on Saturday night.