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The man who made, and taught, history: Tributes for Falklands veteran, Para Arthur Petrie, who became Elgin and Inverness teacher

The 74-year-old died suddenly at home, after a life of military service and dedication to his family.

Military man through and through, Arthur Petrie.
Military man through and through, Arthur Petrie.

Former Inverness and Elgin teacher, soldier, paratrooper, army cadet leader and member of the Territorial Army, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Petrie has died aged 74.

The history and modern studies teacher, who taught at Elgin High School and Inverness Royal Academy, served in Northern Ireland and the Falklands with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and Parachute Regiment.

Latterly living in Nairn, the dad-of-three was born in Aberdeen.

Granite City upbringing

Arthur was born in Aberdeen on May 22, 1949 to stonemason Arthur Petrie and his wife, Jessie, a school cleaner. He had one younger sister, Carol, to whom he remained very close.

As a youngster Arthur attended Inchgarth Primary then Aberdeen Academy, before moving on to Aberdeen University. The first person in his family to do so, he studied history, politics and international relations.

He soon joined Aberdeen University Officers’ Training Corps as an undergraduate and on graduating completed teacher training.

He always loved the military

From childhood, Arthur was fascinated with all things military, and after university began officer training at Sandhurst.

He furthered his teaching and education qualifications, served with Royal Army Education Corp, then joined the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, also serving with the Second and Third Paras, completing over 100 jumps.

Arthur completed multiple military tours in Northern Ireland, and served in the Falklands War as the Brigade Major of the Fifth Brigade. He was only one of three fusiliers to be awarded the Falklands Medal.

Highly decorated Falklands veteran Arthur Petrie.

He’d eventually complete half a century of service and would venture into teaching, where Arthur’s adage was that he not only taught history, he also made it.

Near death experience in the Rockies

After leaving the “regulars” in the early 1990s, he joined the Territorial Army, serving in Bosnia and Iraq. And, in the final act of his military career, he became a Lieutenant Colonel in the cadets, an organisation he was extremely proud to be part of.

Retired Colonel James Denny MBE paid tribute to his friend and comrade.

Referring to him as a great company commander with a fun character and a dry sense of humour, he added that Arthur was a great example to “inexperienced subalterns and young officers” like himself.

The Lord Lieutenant of Moray presenting Arthur Petrie, left, with a scroll on his retirement for outstanding services to the Army Cadet Force.

It was perhaps his vast – and often tumultuous – experience that led to this ability for coaching and mentoring.

Aside from active duty, in 1979 when he was on a selection exercise in Alberta, Canada, the four-seater Havilland Beaver plane that Arthur, the pilot and two other soldiers were in, crashed.

It is believed the pilot was killed and the rest sustained serious injuries, but were spared death because the tall trees of the Rockies broke their fall.

Love in the Officer’s Mess

The only rival to Arthur’s passion for the military was his fierce loyalty to, and love of, his family.

It was in finding Jane Hillier from South Wales, in 1980, that both came together.

Arthur was first introduced to the woman who would become his wife in the Officer’s Mess. She was a serving officer with the Royal Army Educational Corps.

“He was still recovering from kidney damage due to the plane crash,” said Jane, “which was why we were both in the same place at the same time.”

Arthur and Jane on their wedding day in London.

Romance soon blossomed. However, Arthur was initially stationed in the UK and Jane in Germany. Meeting as often as they could in Belgium, they knew they wanted to marry.

On receiving a special dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to marry in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, the pair tied the knot in the Tower of London on October 24, 1981.

Back from the Falklands just in time

The reality of normal life returned soon after the big day with Jane and Arthur returning to their respective regiments.

When they received the happy news that their first child was on the way Jane left the army.

“I remember waving Arthur off to the Falklands, on the QE2, hoping he’d be back in time for the baby coming. Thankfully he did get back to Aldershot in time,” Jane said.

Arriving a week before her birth, daughter Carys arrived in September 1982.

Son Owain came along during their time in Berlin in 1984. The family was completed with the birth of Rory, back in Aldershot, in 1987.

Making – and teaching – history

A hands-on dad, he was heavily involved in the lives of all his children. Championing their sporting pursuits, investing in each of them and always proud of their achievements. To that end he left the army in the early 90s and the family relocated to Inverness in the hope he’d achieve a better work-life balance.

Employed as chief financial officer for a company building nursing homes, when he was made redundant he decided to follow his passion for educating and mentoring the younger generations, by going into teaching.

“Mr Petrie” taught History and Modern Studies in multiple schools in the Highlands and Moray including Inverness Royal Academy and Elgin High School.

Jane and Arthur in more recent times.

Specialising in supporting pupils with additional needs and challenging behaviour, Arthur had a tried and tested method of dispersing trouble in the classroom.

“His secret tool was offering a choice of either detention or a Fisherman’s Friend and almost all opted for the latter,” Jane explained. “The lozenge worked wonders and often instantly defused the challenging situations.”

Beloved dad and grandfather

At 68 Arthur retired from teaching, and from cadets.

As the family grew, Arthur embraced his children’s partners Jana and Sarah, but admittedly “bumped everyone down the pecking order” when his beloved grandchildren came along.

The Petrie family. Back row from left: Jana Petrie, Arthur Petrie, Owain Petrie, Rory Petrie and his bride-to-be Sara. Jane Petrie front with daughter Carys, and grandkids Isla and Douglas.

Owain’s children, Douglas and Isla, had “the best grandfather anyone could wish for.”

Fully committed to teaching them new things, Arthur took “more than a little bit” of credit” for Douglas’ maths abilities and had no doubt his love of the outdoors rubbed off on Isla.

A move to Nairn

Over the years Jane and Arthur lived in Culloden and Dyke, but more recently moved to Nairn. While active he enjoyed gardening, and Arthur and Jane shared a lifelong passion for ballroom dancing together, latterly in Forres.

Combining his love of knowledge and history with nature, Arthur considered himself an unofficial tour guide of Brodie Castle.

Brodie Castle. where Arthur took his final walk.

“He always looked out for tourists so he could tell them the history of the place.

“It’s a comfort to us to know that on his last day on earth he managed one more walk around Grant Park and Brodie Castle,” added Jane.

Unexpected death at home

Arthur passed away on Tuesday, May 14 while Jane was in the US visiting their daughter.

A celebration of his life took place on Monday, June 3.

“It was very sudden. Entirely unexpected,” said Jane. “Although he suffered from COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] we believe he may also have had a cardiac issue on the day.

“He had been out walking, and even sent us pictures. Then came home and passed away.”

At the funeral, Arthur’s brother-in-law Bill Morgan, who was also a reserve in the Parachute Regiment, read the Airborne Prayer.

Written by Padre John Hodgins, it’s for those who wore the “red beret”.

A prayer included in the funeral service of Arthur Petrie

Arthur will be remembered for his service to Queen and country, as an educator, raconteur and mentor of young people.

First and foremost, however, he was a husband, dad, brother, father-in-law, and grandfather.

“He was a remarkable man,” said Jane. “It’s very hard to fathom that my life is now without him.”