Obituary: Logie Bruce-Lockhart, headmaster and Scotland rugby player

Logie Bruce-Lockhart, soldier, rugby player, headmaster, artist and writer. Born: 12 October 1921 in Rugby, Warwickshire: Died: 7 September 2020 in Holt, Norfolk, aged 98

Friday, 2nd October 2020, 7:30 am
Logie Bruce-Lockhart
Logie Bruce-Lockhart

Logie Bruce-Lockhart, who has died, aged 98, after a short illness, was a distinguished member of a great Anglo-Scottish family.

His grandfather relocated from Beith, North Ayrshire, to England and Logie followed his father John and elder brother Rab – a future Headmaster at Loretto – into teaching, and playing rugby for Scotland. Another brother, John Junior, was a distinguished soldier, diplomat, spy and businessman, while his other brother, Patrick, was a distinguished obstetrician, who also fenced for Scotland.

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Logie was born in Rugby, while his father was a master at that school, then, when his father obtained the Headship at Sedbergh, Logie was Head Boy at that institution when war broke out in 1939.

He spent six months working on a farm, before going to Cambridge, St John’s College, to read Modern Languages. He joined up on his 18th birthday and headed to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters, before transferring to the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry. While returning to his regiment in 1944, he got on a train at Oxenholme, where he found himself sitting opposite Josephine Agnew. It was love at first sight, based on a shared admiration for the works of Rupert Brooke. They were married within weeks and would go on to enjoy 64 years of married bliss, before Jo’s death in 2009.

As the Allied pushed out from Normandy towards Germany, Logie frequently found the armoured unit he led in the forefront of the advance. He was one of the first soldiers into the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, so had first-hand knowledge of the Nazi’s “Final Solution”. He was also, for a time, commandant of a refugee camp, right on what would become the Iron Curtain – 5000 desperate refugees in a camp designed for 600.

There were brighter moments, such as his decision, taken in Hamburg on VE Night, to requisition a Dutch barge moored in the harbour. The cargo of Pomerol wine and apricot brandy allowed Logie’s troops to suitably celebrate the end of hostilities.

On demob, he turned to education, obtaining a choral scholarship to study French and German at St John’s College, Cambridge. Here he won the Graham Prize for Modern Languages, the Larmor Award for his all-round contribution to college life, obtained a double first – later upgraded to an MA– and won his Blue in rugby and squash.

There was no doubt, he would go into the family business of teaching, his first post as an assistant master and rugby coach at Tonbridge School, where his first unbeaten XV included future England and British Lions lock David Marques, and the future Lord Colin Cowdrey of cricket fame, who played fly half. He took Cowdrey’s wicket in the 1948 Masters v Pupils match.

He had joined London Scottish and would go on to captain the club, on coming down from Cambridge and had a victorious introduction to the Scotland team, when capped at centre for the 1948 Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, where Scotland’s 6-3 win saw them capture the trophy for the first time since “Wilson Shaw’s Match” a decade previously. It is argued that Bruce-Lockhart was Scotland’s outstanding stand-off of the immediate post-war period, however, he was branded “inconsistent,” mixing brilliant breaks with sloppy handling. He had to wait until 1950 to be rid of the “One Cap Wonder” tag, via another victory, over France, at Murrayfield. He scored his only points for Scotland, a conversion, in this match. After an inconsistent display against Wales in the next international, in Swansea, he was cast into the international wilderness until recalled for the Irish and English games at the 1953 Five Nations. These were games 10 and 11 of the notorious run of 17 straight defeats, so, with the selectors in full panic mode by this time, and Bruce-Lockhart in his thirties, they marked the end of his international career. At his death, he was Scotland’s oldest internationalist.

Aged just 33, he took on the Headship of Gresham’s School in Norfolk. The alma mater of WH Auden and Benjamin Britten was in serious need of a young and progressive Head. In 27 years at the helm, he brought about major changes, overseeing the building of a new science block and introducing girls as he turned Gresham’s into a co-educational school. The initial intake of 20 girls included 19 who would go onto obtain university degrees, five of them from Oxbridge. Bruce-Lockhart was an educational visionary, placing the production of well-rounded individuals above examination success.

His pupils went on to win Olympic gold medals, international rugby caps and have successful careers in finance, industry and the Arts.

He was active in Headmasters Conference affairs, being Chairman of its East Region, where he instigated closer ties with the Girls Schools Association. He also enabled future inventor James Dyson to remain at the school after his father died suddenly. This decision paid off, when the now multi-millionaire Dyson funded a new science block.

Throughout his active career, and on into retirement, although notoriously absent-minded, he was a prolific part-time journalist, writing on education, fishing and general sports and wildlife. He contributed regularly to Country Life and Rugby World.

He also played piano and was an accomplished artist, illustrating his book on bird watching, which was mainly intended for his grandchildren, with his own watercolours of the various birds. He and Jo also enjoyed summers in their cabin in Provence.

He wrote seven books: Trois Aveugles et Autres Contes (1954); The Pleasures of Fishing (1981); Stuff and Nonsense: Observations of a Norfolk Scot (1981); Dick Bagnall-Oakeley, a Tribute to a Norfolk Naturalist; Now We Are Very Old (2012); Now and Then, This and That (his autobiography) (2013); and British Bird Watching for Beginners & Enthusiasts (2018).

He and Jo had five children – Jenny, Rhuaridh, Fiona and Duncan, known as Bede, who followed the Bruce-Lockhart tradition by winning Scotland B honours at rugby. They survive him; their other child, Kirsty, was killed in a car accident aged seven.

Writing about Kirsty’s death years later, Bruce-Lockhart said it made him realise: “I had not left enough time for the things that really matter, having a happy home, being with the children, sharing outside interests with my wife.”

Paying tribute to him, current headmaster Douglas Robb said: “Logie was Gresham’s longest-serving headmaster of the modern era and he clearly had a huge impact on rebuilding the school after the Second World War. A polymath who clearly excelled personally in everything that he did. Logie had that real passion for young people which is the sign of a true ‘schoolmaster’. Soldier, sportsman, botanist, musician, linguist, author, but more than anything a schoolmaster, family man and friend.”

MATTHEW VALLANCE

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