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Tributes for Popular Ellon Academy teacher Deryck Renton, 67

The much-loved former foreign language and cookery teacher died just days before his 68th birthday.

Ellon Academy's popular languages and cookery teacher, Deryck Renton.
Ellon Academy's popular languages and cookery teacher, Deryck Renton.

Friends of popular retired Ellon Academy teacher Deryck Renton have paid tribute to the “exuberant” and “wonderful” foreign language and cookery teacher on what would have been his 68th birthday.

Born in the Broch

Arriving on July 21 1955, Deryck was one of two sons for Fraserburgh couple Stella and Bill Renton.

While he was at school in the Broch, his mum worked in the town’s Murison’s store and his dad was an insurance agent with Prudential.

A young Deryck who grew up in Fraserburgh.

Deryck always showed aptitude for learning languages. French and German were the subjects he performed best in and, on leaving secondary school, he enrolled at Aberdeen University.

Travelling in Europe

As part of his MA course in foreign languages he spent time abroad.

Between September and October 1975 he went Inter-railing in Europe before starting a placement as an English language assistant in Klagenfurt, Austria, for the 1975-76 academic year.

Classic images capture Deryck as a young man ahead of his teaching career.

It was during his time in Austria that he attended an education conference. There he met Nancy Rae, who would later teach in Inverurie, who was also working there.

The pair became lifelong friends even sharing a home in Aberdeen, enjoying a meal together each week, for many years.


In 1977 Deryck graduated from university. A passion for teaching spurred him on to the city’s College of Education where he completed his teacher training qualification in June 1979.

Despite his best efforts to secure work, no teaching jobs became available. Instead he took on a role at the chamberlain’s office at the Town House.

Friends:  Deryck Renton and Nancy Rae.

While there, the headteacher of Gordon Schools in Huntly heard of his predicament and invited him to join the staff of the school.

Utilising the daily train commute to prepare lessons and complete marking, Deryck found his vocation.

Ellon Academy

In the early 1990s an opportunity came up closer to his Aberdeen city centre home.

He joined the staff team of Ellon Academy, where he remained for the rest of his career until he retired in 2018 with an Aberdeenshire Council long service award.

Known for his wicked sense of humour, Deryck Renton as a young man.

During his tenure at Ellon, Deryck became one of the school’s best-loved teachers. Known affectionately as DJ Renton, when he wasn’t nurturing the youngsters’ language abilities he also served in the wider-achievement programme teaching pupils how to cook.

He led annual trips to Paris and Berlin, and was known for his all-black attire that forever came paired with multi-coloured, “so loud they could deafen you”, ties.

Heartfelt tribute

Emma Mathers is a former pupil of Deryck’s who now leads the department he was once part of.

She said: “I have a stand out memory  – and it’s one that sums up the value he placed on the kids and also how much they thought of him.

“Aside from his infamous tours of Europe, it was during his time teaching s5 pupils to cook. His classes, by the way, were far and away the most popular wider-achievement courses we ran. On one occasion he showed the class how to cook a full Christmas meal.

“One pupil came up to him and said ‘Mister Renton, that’s the first time I’ve ever had a proper home cooked Christmas dinner’.”

The ‘loud’ tie collection he sported daily at Ellon Academy.

Commenting on his trademark brightly coloured ties she added: “He had a tie for every occasion. French exam… he wore a French tie. German lesson… a tie for that.

“When his last cohort of students left he gave them each of them a tie.

“He was incredibly popular and probably the best colleague I will have have the privilege of working with. He was inspirational in every way.”

‘Host with the most’

Outside of school Deryck’s passion for food extended to his “legendary” dinner parties.

Deryck maintained all of his friendship over extended periods of time.

A friend for more than 30 years, Euan Thompson, explained.

“To describe him as hospitable or sociable, probably doesn’t go far enough. He was a host like no other. I met him through friends but it was after an invitation to a dinner that we formed a lasting friendship ourselves.

“I feel very privileged to have been his friend.”

The library of movies in Deryck’s Aberdeen home.

Known for his boozy ham cooked in cider and glazed with cranberries and port, Deryck’s flat in Gordon Street was his oasis where he welcomed friends and indulged his passion for films and good books.

“He had floor to ceiling book shelves that once held VHS videos that he later systematically replaced and catalogued with DVDs.

“His other obsession was books on the royals. He loved genealogy and researching his own family, but he especially liked to dig into the lineage of the royal family too.”

Challenges in retirement

Deryck retired almost five years ago but his plans to travel were thwarted by the pandemic.

In March 2022 the first of ongoing health struggles began when he suffered a stroke. Determined to bounce back he made sure he kept up his daily steps target with regular trips to the Inversnecky Cafe for breakfast, on foot.

Nancy Rae and her lifelong friend Deryck Renton, in happier times.

“He worked so hard to reverse the paralysis he had sustained. Sadly, however, a year on from that – after many months of trying to see a doctor and get the appropriate care – he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer on April 25 this year.

“They more or less sent him home to die. He shielded those close to him from his emotions but this wasn’t the end to his life he wanted or deserved.”

‘Incredibly missed’

Supported by friends – that he often referred to as his “chosen family” and local cousins, he received no hospital treatment after diagnosis. His final few weeks were spent at home – as were his wishes – looked after by Euan and his team of district nurses.

Deryck passed away on Friday July 14, just a week before his 68th birthday. He is survived by his brother, sister-in-law and niece in Edinburgh.

Deryck and his niece Katie, the daughter of his brother.

A celebration of his life will take place on Friday August 4 at 1.15pm in Aberdeen Crematorium’s West Chapel. Some of Deryck’s favourite classical music will be included.

Emma added: “I’ve been getting calls from former pupils saying ‘say it’s not true’ when they’ve heard the news of Mr Renton passing away.

“To know him – and be known by him – is to have experienced what true – go the extra mile – friendship feels like. All those that have known him will miss him incredibly,” said Euan.

You can read the announcement of his death here.