Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

84-year-old graduate gets his PhD at Edinburgh Napier University

David Dick
Image caption David Dick left school at 14 and worked as a telegram boy, engineer and lecuturer

An Edinburgh man who is believed to be one of Scotland's oldest graduates has received his PhD at the age of 84.

David Dick, who left school at 14, received his award at Edinburgh Napier University's graduation ceremony at the Usher Hall.

Dr Dick, who trained to be an engineer before embarking on a career in education, described his student experience as "wonderful".

Born in 1929, Dr Dick grew up in Edinburgh's Meadowbank.

The great-grandfather said: "At first I think my fellow students were a bit surprised to see this funny, old guy sitting in their lectures.

"They were very kind to me though, even when in one lecture this TV show called the X Factor came up - I'd never even heard of it.

"Of course, apparently it is very popular so that made the rest of the class erupt in fits of laughter."

Fear the worst

Dr Dick went to Boroughmuir Senior Secondary until "excruciating pain" caused by an acute ear infection forced him to leave.

With antibiotics still not widely available, his family were told to fear the worst.

However, he recovered and took a job as a telegram boy delivering notices from the War Office.

Dr Dick said: "It was a terrible job. I would deliver news to loved ones telling them that their sons, husbands and brothers had either been killed, captured as prisoners of war or had been terribly wounded.

"As a wee laddie watching mothers and wives break down on their doorstep, it really made you grow up fast."

The father-of-five went on to complete an apprenticeship and worked as a hydro-power engineer before moving in to a career in education, firstly as a lecturer.

He was appointed Napier College's first ever vice-principal in 1965 and later spent 17 years as principal of Stevenson College.

Ill-educated

In 1982 he was awarded an OBE for services to education and the fire service, he was chairman of the Fire Services Examination Board in Scotland for 17 years.

His PhD is his fifth university qualification. He also has a masters in history and has written and published six books, most of which focus on the origins of Edinburgh's street names.

"Because I missed out on so much school as a boy, I have always thought of myself as ill-educated," Dr Dick said.

He added: "Now I think I can forget about that.

"My wife Muriel must be the only octogenarian lady in the country to have to proof-read her husband's PhD thesis.

"She was a marvellous support throughout as were my wonderful and encouraging supervisors."

Professor Dame Joan Stringer, principal and vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, said: "It is a great pleasure to see David collect his PhD today, a significant achievement proving you are never too old to learn.

"David has lived a remarkable life and his passion for research and history is truly inspiring.

"I know his lecturers and fellow students hold him in huge esteem."

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