Dr David Gavine Teacher

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”)

David Myles Gavine was born in Dundee on the 9th May 1937.  Dave, as he is universally known, is the only child of Mary and Thomas Gavine but sadly his father tragically was killed as a result of an accident when Dave was only a year old.  He suffered rheumatic fever when he was young and frequent illness resulted in him resting and reading considerably – which helped towards his lifelong interest in astronomy as he was able to recognize the main stars and constellations by the time he was 12 years old.
Dave’s education didn’t really suffer because of his childhood illnesses and in secondary school he became interested in Science, this being particularly encouraged by one of his Science teachers, one William Dow, who was later to become the first President of Dundee Astronomical Society.
Dave Gavine gained a BSc from St Andrews University in 1960 and was awarded the J.F. Scott prize in Geology.  In 1969, Dave gained a further degree from Aberdeen University with a second class honours in geography.  Following this he taught at Grove Academy then was appointed a Master at Fort Augustus Abbey School where he taught geography, geology and science.  Dave had always been an aurora watcher from the early days of the Dundee Astronomical Society and, like a number of us, was encouraged by James Paton who was Director of the Balfour Stewart Auroral Laboratory in Edinburgh, Director of the British Astronomical Association’s (BAA) Aurora Section.

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.

In 1978 Dave became assistant Director of the BAA Aurora Section with Ron Livesey as Director and in 1979 was offered a lectureship at Leith Nautical College in Edinburgh, a post which involved teaching navigational astronomy and meteorology.  He was also in charge of the fine GOTO planetarium within the college. The college closed in 1987 but became a further education college where Dave continued to teach mathematics and science.  Dave retired in 1995 but continued to run evening classes in astronomy, geology and meteorology.
On arriving in Edinburgh he had joined the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh (ASE), served as President for three years and introduced a Journal which he edited for 20 years.  For his services, he was awarded the Lorimer Medal of the ASE and was invited to become Honorary President of DAS in 1979.
Dave is a member of the Society for the History of Astronomy, the Royal Meteorological Society, the British Sundial Society and the Geological Society of Edinburgh.  He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1963.
From joining the British Astronomical Association in 1955 Dave was primarily an observer of aurora and noctilucent clouds but contributed from time to time to the Meteor, Lunar, Variable Star and Historical Sections.  He was Assistant Director to Ron Livesey and Ken Kennedy of the Aurora Section for some 30 years and Director from 2005 to 2010.  He was awarded the Lydia Brown Medal in 2003.  In May 2012, asteroid 7120 was named Davidgavine by its discoverer Robert McNaught in recognition of Dave’s contribution to astronomy.
Dave has always had a long standing interest in the history of astronomy, in particular its history in Scotland.  He was encouraged to carry out serious research by his friend Professor Eric Forbes who became his supervisor.  Nine years of part-time research in archives all over Britain resulted in the award of Scotland’s first Open University PhD in 1982 on Astronomy in Scotland 1745 – 1900.
Dave Gavine continues to observe the aurora and noctilucent clouds from his Edinburgh home and contributes observations of variable stars to the Variable Star Section of the BAA.  He has given his Presidential Address to Dundee Astronomical Society almost every year since becoming Honorary President.
It was in 1956 that Dave met up with an old school friend, Harry Ford and suggested to him that, together and with a few other interested individuals, they could form a local astronomy club.  They requested that Dave’s teacher, Bill Dow, become their President as this gave the new society a certain stature and in August 1956, the first meeting of the Dundee Astronomical Society took place.
from http://dundeeastro.com/ (Dundee Astronomical Society)
Dave passed away peacefully at his home around 11:30 AM on Thursday 2nd January 2020. He was not in pain and had full medical support at the end after being cared for by his good friends Duncan and Janine, who allowed him to be comfortable and spend his remaining days at his home, which was his wish.
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