TRIBUTES have been paid to an educationalist and mathematician from Troon.

Dr Pat Hiddleston was born May 9, 1933 and sadly passed away on December 8, 2017. She was known as an inspiring lifelong adventurer and full-time mother. She rarely took time out of work, continuing at an international level into her final year of life. And she loved every second of it.

She was the only and eldest daughter of Harry and Jessie Wallace, proprietors of the popular Ardneil hotel in Troon. Harry was an infamous local character, generous with his time for friends and with a fondness for the drink, devoted to his daughter and adored unquestioningly by her. 

She was Dux of the ‘wee’ school and then of the ‘big’ school, Marr College, and often commented how lucky she was to have been to a pupil there.

She was accepted to read Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University in 1952 graduating in 1956 with a double first-class honours degree. 

She was the first woman to be awarded the coveted Napier medal for mathematics by the University in 1956 despite the prejudice of some of those who taught her. 

She was a brilliant scholar and could have continued on to Cambridge had it not been for her choosing to accompany the man she loved to Africa.

In Pat’s final year at school she had met a young teacher from Kirkcudbright, George Hiddleston. They fell in love and married within a month of her graduation. 

They applied to the Colonial Office for a posting abroad and were to be sent to Sarawak when, at the last minute, plans changed and after a long cruise to Cape Town and a four-day train journey to the centre of the continent, they finally arrived in Northern Rhodesia. There they remained for the next 14 years, staying well after Independence, developing a deep love for the country and giving birth to their four children, Julie, Trish, Lesley and Adam. 

Pat set about completing her Doctorate through the University of South Africa, graduating just three weeks after her fourth child was born. 
She was appointed as the first academic in the maths department of the new University of Zambia. Her contribution was marked with respect by the university when she celebrated her 18th year. That “there’s nothing I can’t do” attitude was to characterise her life.

Pat and George returned to Scotland in 1970 and remained there, raising their family of four, until 1984 when they returned to the continent they loved so much. 

For most of those years, Pat was the proud, relentlessly hard working and extremely popular Headmistress of St Margaret’s School in Edinburgh.

It was said that there was not a single pupil whose name she did not know, and it is likely that there is not a single former pupil who does not hold a special story of this unusual and unique headmistress. 

On leaving a decade later, Pat organised a day trip for the whole school by hiring two trains to transport all staff and students to the city of York. More than 850 green uniformed girls of all ages flooded the city, clambering over its ancient city walls, picnicking in its parks and visiting its museums.

In 1984 Pat accepted an offer to become Principal of Durban Girls College in South Africa. The school had committed to admitting all races and Pat would be the Headmistress who would introduce and oversee that gradual transition. 

Her commitment to shaping education in developing countries drew her back to central Africa in 1988 when Pat was offered a position in maths education at the University of Malawi.

There she pursued her passions of encouraging girls into maths and sciences and re-energising teacher training. There she remained until some months after George died in 1995. 

Though shaken by his loss, she had a close, loving family and many friends together with an equally strong love of her work to fall back on. Both, for the rest of her life, were to provide her with the support and determination to strive for what became achievement after achievement.

Over the next 20 years, she developed a demanding and successful international consulting career advising governments amongst others on encouraging girls into science subjects, teacher training and the development of their education curricula. 

Her geographical impact expanded from her beloved Africa to Asia and to Central and Eastern Europe igniting a fascination for their histories and cultures. Today, millions of children across the globe learn from textbooks she helped write or edit and from the thousands of teachers she helped train and inspire. 

Throughout Nepal, Namibia, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cambodia and Vietnam, amongst others, she would sit with her local counterparts on the ground and she loved her work, the countries she served, and the people she met and worked with, and that, for her, was all that mattered. 

Pat was still working at the age of 82 in Bangladesh, when she became ill in early 2016 with what was to be later diagnosed as ovarian cancer. 

Continuing with her work despite medical, she confronted the illness with the same dogged and steely determination that had served her throughout her career and refused to allow it to hold her back.

She was hugely appreciative of the care she received from the many doctors, nurses and ancillary staff and constantly sang the praises of our NHS, remarking how very proud and lucky she was to have been born into and live in a country that committed to such an extraordinary service for all its citizens regardless of age, background or race, a privilege not afforded to so many in the countries she had worked in. 

Pat died surrounded by her family, in her own bed in the home she had moved to after her husband died, stating how very lucky she felt she had been and what a great life she had had. 

A memorial for Pat Hiddleston will be held at the Mansfield Traquair Church in Edinburgh at 3pm on Friday, January 26 to which all who wish to attend are welcome to join.