Dugald Blue: popular and inspiring teacher at two Glasgow schools

head a shoulders black and white portrait of man in an army uniform
Photo of Captain Dugald Blue in The Hutchesonian, 1915. Reproduced courtesy of Hutchesons’ Educational Trust Archive

Dugald (or Dougall) Blue was a popular classics teacher, who was remembered with fondness and respect by staff and students at two Glasgow schools.

He was born on 10th June 1878, the third son of Dugald and Mary Blue of 143 London Street. His father was a tailor and clothier.

In the 1891 census the family was still at 143 London Street:

  • Dugald, 47
  • Mary, 41
  • William, 18
  • Walter, 14
  • Dugald, 12
  • John, 7

According to the Glasgow University Story, in 1897 Dugald went to the University of Glasgow to study Arts – Education, English, Greek, Latin, Law, Logic, Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Political Economy. He graduated with an MA on 17th April 1900.

In the 1901 census, when Dugald was 22, he was still living with his mother and father and his profession was teaching. His brothers John, 17, who was now a clerk, was also still at home along a new addition to the family – seven-year-old James Cameron Blue – who was the family’s fifth son.

By this time his older brother Walter was a journeyman tailor living at 133 London Street with his wife Margaret and their four-year-old son, another Dugald!

Dugald’s military interests

According to his obituary in the Evening Times, “Captain Blue had been connected with military affairs from early in life. He first qualified as a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps Volunteers in Glasgow.”

Three years after he graduated from University, Dugald took up a post teaching in Rhodesia, (now Zimbabwe). He came back to Glasgow in 1910 and became a a teacher in the High School of Glasgow in the west end. Throughout his teaching career he continued his involvement in military affairs.

“There he organised a cadet corps, and acted as its commander. He also held a commission in the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers. He returned to Glasgow in 1910, having obtained a position on the classical staff of the High School. He joined the High School contingent of the O.T.C. [Officer Training Corps] as a Lieutenant, and proved himself a capable and enthusiastic officer.”

High School of Glasgow Book of Service and Remembrance

He then moved to Hutchesons’ Grammar School on the south side of Glasgow to teach classics. Here his military interests resulted in his promotion to captain.

“In 1913, after Mr King Gillies’s appointment as Rector of Hutchesons’ Grammar School, he accepted a position as Classical Master in that school, and organised and commanded its first cadet corps.When the corps was affiliated to the 7th Cameronians, he received a Captain’s commission.”

High School of Glasgow Book of Service and Remembrance

At the Arlington Baths

Dugald Blue joined the Arlington Baths on 4 September 1911 when he was still a teacher at the High School of Glasgow. His address was 407 St Vincent Street.

In March 1914 he proposed an 11-year-old-boy named Ian King Gillies for membership. This was the son of his headmaster, W King Gillies.

As far as we’re aware Dugald didn’t take part in swimming galas or join the water polo team but apparently he was interested in chess and billiards, both of which were on offer at the Club so perhaps he spent a lot of time playing these games instead of swimming!

Captain Blue in the First World War

The High School of Glasgow Book of Service and Remembrance explained that “When war broke out he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Cameronians . He was stationed for some months with his regiment at Nigg, in Ross-shire, and early in March, 1915, went out to the front.”

All those years of organising cadets’ corps had obviously paid off because, in an obituary in the school magazine The Hutchesonian, headmaster W King Gillies wrote: “Captain Blue was a great favourite with his men at Nigg, and his Colonel wrote of the ‘grand work” he had done there. His brilliant qualities as an officer were speedily recognised on the field when he was promoted from D Company to A Company.”

On 6 January 1915 Dugald married Katherine Armit Swan, 41, in Airdrie. Katherine – or Kate – was born in St Andrew’s but lived in Airdrie with her family. In 1891, at the age of 17, she was a Public School Pupil Teacher and by 1901 was a qualified school mistress. She was a teacher when they got married.

In March 1915 Dugald was sent to the Western Front.

“But his services were not to be for long. When we hear of him for the last time he was leading a charge beyond the first line of the German trenches, cheering forward his men, faithful unto death.”

The Hutchesonian, courtesy of Hutchesons’ Educational Trust Archive

He was wounded near Armentières in France on 9 May and died of his wounds on 11th May 1915.

On 14th May 1915 the Evening Times reported: “Yesterday his wife got a letter stating that her husband was wounded and the intimation of the fatal termination came today to her father.”

Kate, who had been his wife for fewer than six months, was now a widow.

Remembering a kind and inspiring teacher

A memorial service was held at Anderston Parish Church and at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, where the students were very upset to hear the news of his death.

“The sad news of Captain Blue’s death intimated to the scholars of Hutcheson’s School by the headmaster, Mr King Gillies, caused great grief as the captain was very popular. The members of the Cadet Corps have been invited to a memorial service, which is to take place on Sunday in Anderston Parish Church, with which Captain Blue was connected, and there will be memorial service in the school next week.

Evening Times, 14 May 1915

His death was keenly felt by W King Gillies, the headmaster at Hutchesons’, who wrote a heartfelt tribute for the school magazine, The Huchesonian.

“The School mourns a well-beloved master and a gallant officer in Captain Blue. Although he had been little over a year with us, he had endeared himself to masters and pupils alike, and the news of his death o the field of battle came as a greta shock to all. We had hardly realised, most of us,  that Britain was engaged in a struggle  that would cost her the lives of thousands of her best and bravest sones; now we know what the great war means. Our sorrow for the loss of so good a friend is profound, for we feel his place cannot be filled.”

He also remembered Dugald Blue’s character and teaching skills.

“In the classroom Captain Blue had a most fascinating way with his boys. He captivated them by the sheet goodness of his character and the sweetness of his disposition. No angry word ever escaped his lips; he never raised his voice to command attention, and yet no boy was ever idle when he was teaching. He knew, with a rare instinct, how far he could slacken the reigns of discipline and still keep his team under control. No boy ever dared do a mean action in the presence of Captain Blue – such was the force of his personality… The charm of his manner and the courtesy that never failed, won the whole-hearted devotion of his cadets to their work…

“Captain Blue was a man of broad sympathies and manifold activities. Golf and chess, botany and billiards were his favourite pastimes; the study of classical or French masterpieces was his chief delight; he had an extensive knowledge of painting, and was passionately fond of music. No wonder he could appeal to the interest of every boy.”

The Hutchesonian, 1915. Courtesy of Hutchesons’ Educational Trust Archive.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Dugald is buried in Merville Communal Cemetery. The epitaph on his gravestone is, appropriately for a classics teacher, in Latin. It says ‘honor vita carior,’ which translates as ‘honour is dearer.’ It may be a shortened version of a quote from the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: “My honor is dearer to me than my life”.

His name is listed, not only on the Arlington Baths Club war memorial, but also the memorials for the High School of Glasgow, Hutcheson’s Grammar School and the University of Glasgow.

As well as the tribute in The Hutchesonian, the High School of Glasgow also remembered him in the school’s Book of Service and Remembrance.

Captain Dugald Blue, 2 Scottish Rifles, 9th May 1915 Captain Blue died on 9th May 1915, of wounds received near Armentières. Keenly interested in military affairs, captain Blue had along connection with soldiering. As a youth he joined the R.A.M.C (Volunteers) in Glasgow, and attained the rank of sergeant. Having chosen the profession of teacher, he completed his degree of MA at Glasgow University in 1900, and three years later accepted a scholastic appointment in Rhodesia. There he organised a cadet corps, and acted as its commander. He also held a commission in the Southern Rhodesia Volunteers. He returned to Glasgow in 1910, having obtained a position on the classical staff of the High School. He joined the High School contingent of the O.T.C. as a Lieutenant, and proved himself a capable and enthusiastic officer. In 1913, after Mr King Gillies’s appointment as Rector of Hutchesons’ Grammar School, he accepted a position as Classical Master in that school, and organised and commanded its first cadet corps. When the corps was affiliated to the 7th Cameronians, he received a Captain’s commission. When war broke out he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Cameronians . He was stationed for some months with his regiment at Nigg, in Ross-shire, and early in March, 1915, went out to the front.
Extract from High School of Glasgow Book of Service and Remembrance.

Dugald left £498 6s and 2d in his will. His address was 407 St Vincent Street but it’s likely that Kate was living with her family when he died;  in August 1915 she was residing at her father’s address of Springhill House, Airdrie. By 1918 she moved to back to Glasgow and in the 1920s she lived at 30 Montgomerie Street in Kelvinside. She died on 22 February 1937, at the age of 61 or 62, and is buried in New Monkland Cemetery in Airdrie.

Dugald’s father died on 1 March 1922. His death was confirmed by his youngest son, James Cameron Blue, 28, whose profession was the same as his dead brother’s – he was a school teacher.

Blue, Dugald, Tailor and Clothier, retired, 24 St Vincent Street Crescent, Glasgow, died 1 March 1922 at Glasgow, testate. Confirmation Glasgow, 11 April, to James Cameron Blue, School teacher, 413 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, his son, Executor. Will dated 8 April 1920 recorded Glasgow 27 March 1922. Value of estate £1982:16:3.
Record of Dugald Blue Senior’s death in the Scotland, National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936

Researchers: Lucy, Lindsay, Colin.

Sources

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