John travelled from Selkirk to the furthest corners of the planet

A lifelong adventurer who spent his formative years in Selkirk and was educated at St Mary’s School in Melrose, has died, aged 80.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10th December 2020, 10:00 am
John Duff.
John Duff.

John Duff, who was Rector of Kelvinside Academy from 1980 until his retirement in 1998, passed away last month after a short illness, at the Erskine Home in Glasgow.

Born in Edinburgh in 1940, he moved from the family home in Selkirk to Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, as an infant while his father, a doctor, was on secondment there during the war.

Returning to Selkirk, he was educated at St Mary’s in Melrose, and the Edinburgh Academy, before going on to gain degrees in Economics at Cambridge and History at Edinburgh.

Entering the teaching profession as a house tutor at Kelly College, Tavistock, in 1967, he later became a house master there.

A teacher of history, he was always an enthusiastic outdoorsman, taking part in Ten Tors training and being a founder member of the Dartmoor Rescue Group.

In 1969 he was commissioned in the T.A.V.R. and served in the Royal Marine Section of the combined cadet force.

In 1980, he moved to Glasgow to take up the Rectorship at Kelvinside Academy in the city’s West End. He would remain there until his retirement.

At Kelvinside, he was held in high esteem by teachers and pupils alike, and would take groups of youngsters to a cottage near Aviemore every weekend during term time – a practice that also made him very popular with the parents of children at the school.

Aside from rugby and squash, he loved nothing better than introducing young people to the joys of the great outdoors.

Ever the ambitious traveller, retirement enabled John to indulge his passion for globetrotting more than ever before. He would often be among the first Westerners to explore far-flung corners of the planet, pioneering new routes to little-known countries.

With the FCO’s advice not to visit a given territory, due to the dangers it posed, often serving as a red rag to John, by 2014 he had visited a total of 189 countries, with only a dozen or so remaining, securing himself a place in the ranks of the world’s most well-travelled people.

In that year, John suffered a stroke while on one of his customary skiing trips – this time to Canada. Following his return to Glasgow, he resided at the Erskine Care Home, where he was looked after by the committed staff and a wide circle of devoted friends.

His legacy endures in the John Duff Lodge, a ‘wilderness campus’ in the Cairngorms, which his generous 2018 donation to Kelvinside Academy helped to fund.