Obituary: Dr Dave Gavine (“wee Dave”)
Born: 9th May 1937
Died: 2nd January 2020
Dr David Gavine MA BSc PhD FRAS FRMetSoc (known as Dave or “Wee Dave”)
Charlie Niven (an OB from the 70s) writes about Dave
From my school days, 1972-78, I knew Dave as a Geography (and Geology) teacher, astronomer and guide. He was, for a short time, Housemaster of the Junior House when the monk who normally held that position was temporarily in Australia.
He made the subjects he taught interesting for us to hear about; Colin Bryce tells me that he only once experienced Dave get angry with the whole class; however he did occasionally leave critical remarks on submitted work and did not hold back from using a phrase, according to his world view, when I made the mistake of using ‘schoolboy terminology’ for an Israeli youth. For me he was much more than just a teacher; he was an inspiration as he taught me Geology at O-Grade in the one year it was offered, 1978. I went on to study Geology at University and have worked professionally in that field until recently.
As a member of the School’s Astronomy Club I and a few others regularly attended meetings in the Geography Room; apart from the knowledge we gained about stars what was particularly attractive was that we had access to coffee and toast during the meetings. I remember being responsible for fetching a kettle from Fr Benedict who would jokingly ask if it was going to be used for cloud experiments. We also spent time outside observing astronomical phenomena on clear and therefore cold nights using one of Dave’s reflecting telescopes. Sometimes this was on the church roof or outside Dave’s house when he provided the coffee and toast. He had also made, with the help of some older students, a planetarium in part of the Biology lab. This was a dome on the inside of which was projected a celestial display which he used to demonstrate the positions of constellations as they appeared in the night sky. He also specialised in observing aurorae (Northern Lights) and I remember one night when I was in sixth year being disturbed by noises outside my study bedroom while I was trying to read a book in French. Apart from the cats outside the kitchens there was also talking when he and Fr Francis were out on the roof of the East Wing obviously watching an aurora; I wish I had gone to join them.
After leaving Fort Augustus Abbey School he went to teach navigational astronomy at Leith Nautical College and later in he taught Maths and Science there when it became a Further Education College. He had also turned is mind to the history of Astronomy in Scotland and gained his Doctorate from the Open University.
He always made an effort to keep in touch with the O.B.s he had taught during his time at Fort Augustus. He showed me photos of various groups and often mentioned people I had also known.
Whenever I met him subsequently he referred to my being a geologist and joked that I had gone bad for not keeping up with Astronomy. I had met him a few times in Edinburgh sometimes at coffee houses or in the National Library of Scotland where he often met people and seemed to be busy with showing groups of people around the city. During 2019 he told me that he had written a book about his schooldays in Dundee. He was clearly disappointed, to say the least, that a well-known local publisher had declined (maybe refused is a more accurate term) to publish it as they considered it to be outside their range of books; evidently it was too gritty or rough for their “Oor Wullie” image.
I always found him to be helpful especially as he was a scientist himself and therefore he was much more grounded (if that is possible for an astronomer) than most of the other teachers at the school. In later times he was a useful contact through whom one could keep up with other O.B.s news.