Tom Devaney, a significant figure in the leadership that developed the EIS into a leading trade union in the 1970s to mid-1990s, died unexpectedly on 11 April at the age of 83 at his home in Dundee.
Born in 1937, Tom was a lifelong Dundonian with a passion for his native city. After his school education he entered St Andrews University where he graduated MA (Hons) in History and Political Economy. Education, in particular its history and philosophy, greatly interested him, so after a brief foray into the Civil Service he returned to his studies, gaining a Diploma in Education in 1961. His first teaching appointment was at St John’s Secondary School in Dundee, the start of a long and highly respected career in education.
Whilst at St John’s he completed a post graduate degree of Ed B (Hons) in 1964. He moved to Further Education in 1967, teaching History and Economic History at Kirkcaldy Technical College before returning to his home town as Principal Teacher of History at Lawside Academy in 1970. In 1978 a further promotion followed to Assistant Headteacher at Monifieth High School where he remained until he retired in September 1994.
Tom had joined the EIS at an early stage of his career in what was the start of an involvement which was to be a defining characteristic of his working life. A passion for social justice and for improving the quality of teaching through enhanced professional development drove him to be an activist in the EIS at school and local level. He was a member of Dundee LA’s Executive Committee for around 25 years becoming its President in1977. He served on Tayside EIS Regional Executive from its outset in 1976, including as President in 1980/81.
The qualities which made Tom an effective teacher: his communication skills, wit, intelligence, compassion and unfailing courtesy also served him well on a broader canvas. Tom was a strategic thinker, had an eye for detail as well as principle and was a fine debater, which made him an effective contributor on many platforms, including often at EIS AGMs.
Those very qualities contributed to him becoming a key figure in the leadership of the EIS commencing with election to National Council in 1979. That involvement included Executive Committee (1980-94) and Convener of Law and Tenure Committee (1987-94). He was honoured to be elected as National President in 1991-92 and completed a distinguished term in that office. His President’s address to the AGM, a powerful and cogent attack on managerialism in education, is still remembered by many colleagues of the time. His active EIS involvement concluded with the richly deserved award of FEIS in 1994.
Within the EIS Tom was widely respected across the political spectrum with the capacity to display a sense of solidarity across the union without diminishing ties with close allies. His seasoned judgment on strategic and tactical matters made a significant contribution to the EIS campaigns of that period, especially the historic salary campaign of the 80s, as he sought to see the EIS become a more pro-active agent for the teaching profession.
His engagement with education beyond the EIS was notable. At the Scottish Examination Board he was Secretary of the History Panel in the 1970s and a member of the Board itself in the 1990s. At local level he served as Teacher Representative on Tayside Regional Council Education Committee (1982-94) and as Chairman of the Board of Governors of Dundee Educational Trust.
In the late 1970s, through his local EIS involvement, he met Kirsty, also a teacher, and they went on to form a lifelong bond, marrying in 1979. They were joined by a daughter, Catherine, in 1981 to complete a family with John and Josie, Kirsty’s earlier children. Tom derived great pleasure from his family life and in supporting his children through successful careers of their own; a source of considerable pride to him. He was proud also to see Kirsty herself, through her career and EIS activity in FE, rise to become National President in 2007.
After his retirement Tom continued his contribution to civic life through being a member of the Employment Tribunals Service (1994-2007); as a member of the Board of Servite Housing Association and as a committee member of Dundee Civic Trust. At a personal level Tom took a keen interest in many sports but especially football and golf, in both of which he showed an aptitude himself, playing football at amateur level well into his thirties and still playing golf in the week before his sudden passing.
The EIS owes Tom Devaney a very considerable debt for the commitment, intellect and integrity he brought to its activities over such an extended period. It is a remarkable person who can be radical and measured, dispassionate and humane in a single breath. Tom Devaney was all these and much more. He will be sorely missed by all his dear friends in the EIS who relished his company.
Tom is survived by his sister, Liz, his wife, Kirsty, their children John, Josie, Catherine and grandchildren Truman, Jessica and Sylvie. The sincere condolences of all at the EIS are conveyed to them all