Oban bids last farewell to Rockfield Primary stalwart

David Simpson and mum Dorothy pay their respects to Rockfield primary School deputy headteacher Margaret Cain.

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Oban lined the streets to pay respects to Rockfield Primary School deputy head and ‘Miller Road lassie’ Margaret Cain.

The  well-loved teacher who nurtured generations of pupils in the town over 25 years died after a long battle with cancer.

Oban born and bred, and proud of it, Mrs Cain, 56, fulfilled a lifetime ambition when she returned as a teacher to the old Rockfield campus where she had been a pupil.

During her illness Mrs Cain, who leaves a husband, son and daughter, had managed to return to school a number of times working as hard as ever and much to the admiration of her colleagues.

Pupils past and present, families, friends and acquaintances – many  holding flowers and tribute placards – lined the route of Mrs Cain’s funeral courtege on Thursday as it wound its way from her home in Pulpit Drive to Pennyfuir.

Hazel Kelso and Charles Spreadbury watched on, joined by daughters Alyssa, 10, Aimee, nine, Lucie, eight, Macy, six and Eve, five. Hazel said: ‘Margaret was a teacher when I was at school and she has been a great teacher and a great support to the family. We just wanted to pay our respects to her and her family. She’s a big loss to the school.’

Dorothy Simpson who is a teacher at the school was also there. She  said: ‘She took me under her wing when I joined in 2009 and was just the most amazing, compassionate, warm-hearted person I have ever met and we all loved her so much.’

Mrs Cain’s former boss and retired Rockfield Primary School headteacher Jack Degnan, who lives on Mull, also paid tribute and said: ‘I know  Margaret’s family were moved by the sight of the great number of people who lined the streets. Many of the schoolchildren dressed in their school uniform, as the funeral cortege passed on its way to Pennyfuir cemetery. manThey are also greatly touched by the floral tribute on the fence at the pre-5 end of the school and by the many, many messages of sympathy they have received.’

Even as an Oban High School pupil on work experience at Rockfield primary, it was clear she had the makings of an excellent teacher, said Mr Degnan who first met Margaret in 1997.

Returning to Rockfield after a stint teaching at Kirn Primary School in Dunoon, she fulfilled a dream coming back to Oban and ‘delighted in being the youngest member of the teaching staff’ where, despite her youth, she was soon promoted to principal teacher.

Mrs Cain, who went on to become deputy, was passionate about treating every child as an individual, encouraging their unique abilities to grow, added Mr Degnan.

She immersed herself in the whole-school experience, the curriculum and all the activities of the academic calendar year – as well as fundraising.

From the annual pupils versus teachers’ netball  in the playground of old Rockfield, to class trips and residential excursions, Mrs Cain who called herself ‘old Oban’ and a ‘Miller Road lassie’ threw herself ‘wholeheartedly’ into school life and all its various physical activities, remembered Mr Degnan.

‘She was serious about her work and about the children in her charge but Margaret had a great sense of fun and mischief about her too. She loved a good night out. ‘Nobody’s Child’ was her song of choice at many a party, including staff leaving dos. This was often sung loudly and lustily, but not
often in tune!

‘The move to the new primary campus was one that demanded a great deal of planning and logistics and, as part of the school management team, Margaret was indispensable in this.

‘Margaret was one of those folk who could rightly be described as being like a stick of rock with Rockfield printed all the way through. I feel blessed to have known and worked beside her and to have called her my friend,’ said Mr Degnan.

A memorial at Rockfield Primary School in celebration of Mrs Cain will be planned later in the year.