Tributes flood in for Academy ‘music man’ Malcolm Dowie

Malcolm Dowie.
Malcolm Dowie.

The funeral of Malcolm Dowie, former music teacher and principal teacher of expressive arts at Forfar Academy, will be held this Friday (December 30).

Mr Dowie (53), who lived in Monifieth, died peacefully at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee in the early hours of last Tuesday.

The announcement of his death prompted a flood of tributes on Facebook, with many colleagues, pupils and former pupils posting messages.

In leading the tributes Mr Melvyn Lynch, headteacher, described Mr Dowie as “an institution.” He said: “The school community was deeply saddened on hearing that Malcolm had passed away. As recently as the previous Wednesday evening, he had enjoyed attending the 24th Festival of Lessons and Carols at St. Margaret’s Church - one of the many traditions he introduced to the school. Forfar Academy was also the school Malcolm attended as a pupil and where his love of music was nurtured and encouraged, just as he, in turn, has nurtured and encouraged five generations of pupils over the past three decades. Malcolm was a big man in every respect, with an extraordinary capacity for relishing the work he so greatly enjoyed.

“Malcolm always referred to his pupils as, “the Bairns”. They all mattered to him and no one enjoyed seeing them develop their musical talent more than Malcolm. Although Malcolm’s health had been deteriorating over the past wee while his passing took us by surprise and came as a great shock to us all.”

Mr Dowie’s life was celebrated at the school’s Christmas service on Wednesday. The musical contributions were particularly poignant as staff and pupils said farewell to the old school, and to Malcolm - described by Mr Lynch as “an institution” and “the music man”.

Mr Lynch continued: “Our hearts are heavy today as we bid farewell to Mr Dowie, who brought our school to life and so inspired the music in all of us. The thoughts and prayers of all in the Forfar school community and beyond, including our partner school in Ebern, are with Malcolm’s family at this saddest of times. The school intends organising a Service of Remembrance for Malcolm in the New Year, to celebrate and remember one of our own bairns, who gave us the gifts of music and song.”

Born in Bathgate, Malcolm moved with his family to Armadale and latterly Forfar, where his father, the late Rev. Malcolm Dowie, was minister at the Lowson Memorial.

He attended Forfar Academy and went on to study music at Dundee College. He began his teaching career at Harris Academy and Craigie High School in Dundee, before taking up his post at Forfar 23 years ago.

He wrote his own music and sang and acted with many local theatre companies; he was a member of Dundee Operatic for more than 20 years and played double bass in a number of bands and orchestras, in addition to singing in several choirs. His latest project was his play, “Crimson Ribbon”, which he wrote and directed. It was performed last year at the Gardyne Theatre and The Little Theatre in Dundee.

In September 2013 he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and last month we reported how he had taken part in a unique research project run by the Anne Rowling Clinic in Edinburgh, Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research and the University of Edinburgh Centre for Speech Technology Research aimed at repairing voices and reclaiming identity for those who may lose the ability to communicate through speech. He was aware he could lose his ability to talk - MND had claimed the life of both his father, who died aged 59 in 1993, and his grandfather.

Malcolm, was filmed by the BBC as they followed his progress.

Paying tribute to her father, his daughter Laura said: “He was so strong. He never let it get him down, never let it stop him. We have been taking comfort from all the tributes. We have not acknowledged them on Facebook yet because of the volume - we will in due course. It’s been so heartwarming and so touching to hear how many lives he touched and what legacy he left in all these pupils. It is wonderful.”

Malcolm is survived by his wife Kirsty, daughter Laura, son Scott, as well as his mother Marion, sister Marion and brother Mark who live in Forfar. His funeral will be held on Friday at 11 am in the Lowson Memorial Church, interment thereafter at Forfar Cemetery. A donation, if desired, can be made for M.N.D. Scotland.