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He wanted people to know he gave a damn: emotional tribute to Inverness lecturer, Anthony Luke, who lost his life on Glencoe

Dr Anthony Luke who inspired his students with his love of science.
Dr Anthony Luke who inspired his students with his love of science.

Just weeks ago he was nominated for a coveted ‘Most Inspiring Lecturer’ award.

But this week, instead of celebrating Dr Anthony Luke’s Highly Commended prize, his students, friends and family were grieving the loss of the man they say brought science to life.

Dr Luke’s wife Helen, and daughter Charlotte, shared their heartfelt thoughts about the teacher and researcher ‘who changed lives for the better.’

North-east born

Anthony Luke died on July 7, aged 55.

Known for his deep love of the highlands and walking on the hills, a tribute penned by his brother shared the devastating news that Anthony died following a fall on Glencoe.

But while Inverness and roaming the Highlands was embraced as his second home, Anthony was born in Middlesbrough.

Son of Rita and Adrian Luke he was the second of five children, and grew up in a lively home with brothers Nick, Phil, Julien, and sister Catherine.

Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge near to where Dr Luke grew up in Teesside.

Anthony regularly reminisced about his childhood, painting a picture of a house full of books, games, and the sound of music. He was never bored.

Memories of cramming five children and two parents into a car bound for holidays, and visits to nearby grandparents for potted salmon ‘sangwiches’ in front of the snooker, were often fondly evoked.

Bright colours, loud noises and peculiar smells

In his youth Anthony expressed interest in lorry driving and journalism but eventually settled on a degree in chemistry from Newcastle University, going on to do a PhD at Durham.

He often remarked how lucky he was to have spent his university days ‘making bright colours, loud noises and peculiar smells’.

Dr Anthony Luke of the University of Highlands and Islands’ Inverness College, who has tragically died.

After his PhD, Anthony worked in Environmental Health for Middlesbrough Borough Council, specialising in environmental protection.

With a focus on air quality, he made good use of his brilliant scientific brain.

Love on the moors

It was during his time working in England’s North-east that he met Helen.

The couple married four years later after beginning their romance on a walking trip to the North Yorkshire Moors.

Always a shared interest for the couple, they went on to have three children: Charlotte, Hannah and James, and an eclectic assortment of cats.

Inverness calling

In 2008, Anthony moved up to Inverness to work for Highland Council as a Contaminated Land Officer and his family followed in 2009.

He remained at the Council until he secured a job as a chemistry lecturer at Inverness College University of Highlands and Islands, in August 2015.

“There Anthony truly found his niche and absolutely adored teaching the students.”

Dressed the part

“’I want to go to work looking as though I give a damn’, he would say.”

He was well-known throughout the college for his impeccable dress, and considered anything other than a shirt, tie, trousers and braces to be unsuitable work attire.

When he took part in the 2019 Etape Loch Ness challenge, a 66-mile bike ride around the loch, Dr Luke was still in his work clothes, braces and all.

His philosophy on dressing for the job even extended to online learning.

“Each morning, before he was due to appear on his students’ screens for an online lecture, he would dress just as smartly as he would in an in-person lecture. He even applied his favourite aftershave as a finishing touch.”

College tributes

A hugely popular member of staff at the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Inverness College,  tributes said he will be remembered with great fondness for his fierce intellect, wicked sense of humour and passion for science, which shone through in his teaching.

Highly commended in the 2021 Highlands and Islands Students’ Association Awards in the category of ‘Most Engaging Online Lecturer’, he also had nominations for Over and Above and Most Inspiring.

Happiest at work with his students, Dr Anthony Luke.

One student wrote: “Anthony knows his stuff and has a way of sharing his knowledge of science with us – he appreciates good science which inspires us to be greater… I wish everyone had the chance to have Anthony as a chemistry teacher because he is the best one there is!”

Science for life

A regular contributor to Inverness Science Festival he also recently took part in the Salters’ Institute Festivals of Chemistry, where he used his talents behind the camera to inspire the younger generation by showing them how science can be fun.

His brilliant mind was also used to inspire his own children.

“Anthony’s capacity for general knowledge and learning was a wonder to behold; when the children were little, he would repeatedly encourage them to “have fun finding things out”.

Love of learning

“The immeasurable joy he took in learning and reading, especially history books, was infectious, and he was a real asset if you were in his team for a quiz.”

Which was indeed the case when he won the Inverness College UHI Christmas Quiz in 2017 with some of his fellow staff. The trophy still sits proudly in the house.

A love of hillwalking meant the Highland mountains were quickly adopted as Dr Luke’s second home.

As a family they would regularly go for long hikes during weekends and holidays.

Music man

He was also a music lover including emotional romantic symphonies and operas in a collection that also featured heavy metal.

“He delighted in the fact that he was ultimately responsible for all three of his children’s music tastes. He attended classical recitals with his oldest daughter Charlotte, and was a very proud dad at her university orchestra’s concerts.”

During the first Covid lockdown, a “Luke family band” was formed, with Anthony on vocals or piano.

“The last concert Anthony attended was a performance of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra and Mahler’s Das Lied Von Der Erde by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; two stirring pieces by two of his favourite composers.”

Family first

The family tribute concluded by saying that Anthony was a proud husband and father, for whom family was the most important thing in life.

“His vibrancy, energy and humour will be very sorely missed. Despite the sadness of his passing, he will be remembered affectionately by the many he has left behind, and whose lives he changed for the better.”

His funeral service will take place at Inverness Crematorium on July 28.

Donations to Glencoe Mountain Rescue.

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