Glasgow Academy Chronicle obituary

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It is always difficult to realise the situation when a new term is begun without the presence in the school of a long-remembered character: still more difficult when the well-known voice and form are removed, not in the normal process of retirement, but after the inscrutable decrees of Providence, by the sudden visitation of death. Yet this was the sad fact which formed the subject of the first public pronouncement of the term. It was a great shock to learn that Mr Moffat had died very suddenly on the last Sunday of the Easter holidays, which he had been spending at Helensburgh. 0n Friday, 20th April, the school's last tribute was paid to his memory at a Service held in Lansdowne Church, where Mr Moffat had long worshipped. The Service was conducted by the minister, the Rev. J Gray, an appreciation of Mr Moffat's work in the Academy being appropriately given by an Academical, the Rev. R M Minto, and a special prayer offered by the Rev. J H Bolton.

George Lowe Moffat was educated at George Watson's College and Edinburgh University. After graduation in 1893 he taught for a time in Dumfries Academy, but in 1897 took up what was afterwards to prove his chosen life work, and a continuous source of happiness to himself and of pleasure and profit to all who came under his influence in Glasgow Academy. Appointed assistant master towards the close of Dr Morrison's Rectorship, he served in that capacity until in December 1912 he was appointed to the charge of the Mathematical Department. It is a curious coincidence that his predecessor, Mr James Wood, was denied the scholarly leisure of retirement through the advent of a passing equally strange and swift.

There were many facets to Mr Moffat's character and intellect. Those who sat under him in the classroom will mainly remember how successfully they played Meno to his Socrates; but along with his lucidity of exposition they will remember a certain acidity of humour, a source of delight to his audience and not without solace to the offending victim. This characteristic he revealed more extensively still in his intercourse with colleagues: there was never story which he could not cap, rarely a human frailty which he could not pillory with mild and curative satire. He was the last man to make a parade of scholarship. His hospitality to a comparative stranger was charming: but it was not till the stage of light badinage was well past that he admitted one to the deeper recesses of his mind. Then he disclosed interests of great variety and wide range. The somewhat disorderly appearance of his large library, and his habit of collecting books at a faster pace than he could read them, would suggest the dilettante, but in fact he read with absorption in many fields outside his special mathematical studies, and history, theology, philosophy afforded him continual and congenial occupation. Latterly, he had readily lent a helping hand in the reconstruction of the school Library. He would have been much in demand as an after-dinner speaker at School Dinners, had it not been for a certain disinclination; oddly enough he had recently been persuaded to relent, and that for the first time.

To speculate on the quality of work he might later have undertaken in retirement is painful, but in the case of a man of his stamp almost inevitable. It seems likely that some literary work or research might have claimed him. But the prospect of such fruition is denied: instead, his intimates must mourn the loss of a good friend and lovable personality, and his school that of a master who has rendered it notable service. It would be impertinent to speak here at length of those still closer to him: but all readers of the Chronicle will unite sincerely and respectfully in recording here their very deep sympathy for Mrs Moffat.

This article appeared in The Glasgow Academy Chronicle No. CXL Vol. XVIII (June 1934), 128-130.