Memorial service for Academy teachers

The Forfar Academy school community gathered in the East and Old Parish Church on Wednesday to pay tribute to two highly respected senior members of staff who died recently.

Warm tributes were paid to Mrs Judy Wilson and Mr John Vannet at a Service of Thanksgiving conducted by the Rev. Dr. Karen Fenwick, Major Jim McCluskey of the Salvation Army and the Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin.

The service, which was attended by Mrs Wilson’s husband John and Mr Vannet’s wife and son, Val and Peter, included a reading by Victoria Millar, head girl, a poem by Robert Burns read by Daniel Baty, head boy, and a lament played by pipers Danielle Myles and Russell Walker.

Mr Melvyn Lynch, head teacher, told those who packed the church that the service was to celebrate the gift of life.

He said: “Today we embrace the warmest of memories of Mrs Wilson and Mr Vannet, not in death, but in life, as that is how they would wish us to remember them. They made us better people and they were the best of people. And we give thanks to them both for that.”

Warm tribute to Judy Wilson, principal teacher of science who died in December, was made by Mr K. Gillies who described his colleague as “simply the best.”

He said: “She cared deeply for the pupils she met and had a great gift of relating to people of all backgrounds. She encouraged them to do the best and to be the best. Her commitment went beyond the science room and her second year ski trips were legendary.”

Warm tribute to Mr Vannet was paid by Mrs Jane Esson, depute head teacher.

She said there were “so many good things” she could have said about her fellow depute head teacher, but singled out ‘gentleman’ to describe him.

She said: “He was a gentleman and a gentle man, well mannered and respectful. At the Christmas parties and school discos he was always the last to leave as he always wanted to help.”

She gave instances of where Mr Vannet had helped pupils and colleagues, way beyond the call of duty, adding: “Any time anyone needed support, Mr Vannet was always there.

“He was always respectful towards others and had a wicked sense of humour. He enjoyed teaching, especially the senior school, and his love of geography and teaching was infectious and inspirational. His kindness - what a legacy to leave behind and to be remembered for - a respectful, cheerful man.”

Judy Wilson lost her battle against cancer in December. Brought up in Yorkshire, she studied at Dundee University and went on to teacher training college in Dundee, spending much of her early career at Newtyle school, moving to the science department of Forfar Academy in 2009. She contributed enormously to the school and was a tireless supporter of school events.

John Vannet, who died in May, is a former pupil of the High School of Dundee where he was boys’ captain at the same time as his future wife, Val, was girls’ captain. He played an active role in the Former Pupils’ Association and was president of the group. He studied geography at Dundee University and began his teaching career in Devon. He held posts at Carnoustie High School, Glenwood High in Glenrothes, Morgan Academy in Dundee and was appointed depute rector at Forfar in June 1993. He has been described by one former pupil as “the backbone of the school”