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From Hogmanay hardship to academic excellence: Sons’ tribute to former Lossiemouth rector and lifelong sailor Archie Boag

The 92-year-old educator overcame childhood adversity to build a life he was proud of.

Archie Boag, former rector of Lossiemouth High School.
Archie Boag, former rector of Lossiemouth High School.

Three things made Archie Boag, the former rector of Lossiemouth High School, happy: his family, boats and being on the water.

For the father-of-two, who was a maths and science graduate, was raised “doon the watter” opposite a boatyard and completed his final sail age 84.

Hogmanay hardship

Born on July 1 1931 at Ardnadam farm, near Dunoon, Archibald Boag – known as Archie – was the youngest of three children for Meg and Tom Boag.

Working on the rented farm with his wife and father-in-law, Tom and his family faced incredible hardship. On Hogmanay 1931 – when Archie was just shy of seven months old, they were all evicted into the snow.

Initially living with a grandparent while Meg and Tom looked for work, the Boag children would eventually settle at Oakcrag, Sandbank.

Archie, right, with his siblings Tommy and Maggie.

Tom secured labouring work with Robertson’s Boatyard, across the road from the family home, which became an inspirational playground for a young Archie.

Mixing with the “very best” mast builders, keel layers, paint finishers and joiners “in the business” Archie gained a set of role models that cultivated an early determination to one day become an expert boat builder.

Academic success

Archie attended Sandbank Primary then Dunoon Grammar, however, his future plans were nearly thwarted when, during Easter 1939, an outdoor swim in the loch near his home resulted in a serious bout of pleurisy.

His slow recovery meant missing school, only briefly returning to collect a gas mask at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Nevertheless his academic promise did not go unnoticed. Transferred almost immediately from a practical to a more academic stream, Archie became joint Dux of the school in 1949.

He then embarked on a combined mathematics and science honours degree at Glasgow University.

Sailing, by doctor’s orders

By his early 20s Archie was still feeling the effects of illness on his lungs, so on medical advice upped his exercise and fresh air intake.

His increasing fitness was put to good use in 1951 when he jumped at the chance to become a deckhand on a yacht.

A speedy learner he spent several summers as a professional sailor on the west coast and the Solent. By 1954 he was crewing Fife-build vessel, Flica 11, then known as the fastest yacht in the UK.

Taking part in a race around the Isle of Wight in 1955, they were the first boat home, winning a good purse for the crew.

Romance at the pier

On returning home, a week after the race, Archie’s sister Maggie married Evan Mackenzie from Burghead.

Fiona, the younger sister of his future brother-in-law, was bridesmaid.

“When I saw her for the first time,” said Archie, “my heart gave a loup”.

Archie Boag and late wife Fiona, whose family hail from Burghead.

Following the wedding he and Fiona Mackenzie – daughter of Burghead postmaster and registrar – went for a bus run round Glendaruel before saying goodbye at Dunoon Pier “with a kiss that sealed our romance forever”.

Archie graduated and completed teacher training in 1955.

He and Fiona married in Burghead in March 1956. She worked as a nurse while Archie completed National Service.

In 1957 son Colin was born and around the same time Archie began teaching at his former school, Dunoon Grammar.

“As ‘teacher of mathematics’… never just maths teacher,” said Colin.

Second son Hamish arrived in 1959 and not long after Archie was appointed head of mathematics at Bankhead Academy, Bucksburn.

Lossiemouth High School

Moving to Aberdeen, Archie and Fiona created a loving family home for their children. Teaching his sons chess was a favourite pastime, as was completing the Wee Stinker crossword in The Herald – which he won multiple times.

By 1973 he secured the role of rector of the yet-to-be-completed Lossiemouth High School.

The former Lossiemouth High School building where Archie taught from its opening in the early 70s.

Not only would it mean a move back to Fiona’s home area, as incoming rector his immediate priority was to get the building completed and operational.

“Dad worked hard at this and achieved his target within a year,” added Hamish.

During his tenure at Lossiemouth, Archie co-authored a textbook for pupils who found maths a challenge, and he oversaw the transition from O Grades to Standard Grades.

Archie also organised the nationwide interim public examinations, recruiting Fiona to be an exam invigilator.

World travel

He presided over Lossiemouth High School for 18 years, retiring in 1991 where he and Fiona “used their passports with abandon”.

Travelling to Canada, New Zealand’s South Island, embarking on a Norwegian cruise and visiting Jersey, the couple also enjoyed a round-the-world trip. Including South Africa, Australia and Los Angeles, much to the glee of their children they also visited Las Vegas.

With young children at home, and then again with the arrival of grandchildren Neale, Duncan and Kirsty, Archie’s hopes of being a shipbuilder were realised afresh.

Starting with the creation of Cloch Light, a model Clyde puffer, many more working vessels would follow as their “Lossie granda” got to work in Archie’s Yard.

Sailing enthusiast

Almost 50 years after their first meeting, Fiona passed away on December 27 2003 following health issues.

Though at a loss without his wife, he remained present as a dad and grandfather. He loved watching his grandsons take part in sailing events, but still hankered for the keelboat himself.

Archie, during his final time at the helm.

He surprised everyone by embarking on a cruise from Genoa to Port Elizabeth. In doing so fulfilled two of his dreams: sailing the Suez Canal and crossing the equator. Then, in 2006 he joined Bill Crockett aboard Gemini for a race from Lossiemouth to Kirkwall, Orkney.

Joined by his grandson Duncan, the rest of the family’s worries were eased, especially when he reported back that his granda’s drink of choice was a pint of milk.

Companionship once more

In 2005 Archie was reunited with his former secretary Bunty. What started as a friendship developed into something more and they were companions for the final 18 years of Archie’s life.

“It was lovely for us to see dad happy again, and to know he had love and friendship in his life,” said Colin.

Archie Boag and his partner of recent years, Bunty Lumsden.

Bunty introduced Archie to St Gerardine’s Church of Scotland where he enjoyed lockdown Zoom Bible studies among other activities. A lover of board and card games, for decades he was also a stalwart of Lossiemouth Bridge Club.

One final sail

In 2015, aged 84, Archie completed one final west coast sail from Appin to Banavie.

“It was a return leg, following his grandson and granddaughter-in-law’s honeymoon cruise on Claire Louise.

Archie Boag, centre, with his extended family.

“It was an adventure that left the whole family smiling for weeks,” said Hamish.

In June Archie moved into Abbeyvale Care Home in Elgin. He passed away on November 19.

“It was sudden but he never suffered,” said Colin.

“He was a remarkable man, who lived a full life, loved and respected by all who knew him.”