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Gryphon Gallery: Hamish Simpson

Hamish Ian Fisher Simpson was born on July 31, 1936. The son of Ian and Florence Simpson, he spent his years through grade 9 at his father’s school (which at that time only went to Grade 9) before going to University School. An outstanding athlete as a schoolboy, Hamish was also a keen tennis player and became a long-time member of the Victoria Golf Club. Then after a year at Victoria College—which was located in the Young Building of the now Camosun College Lansdowne site—Hamish transferred to UBC and graduated from there with a BA in History and Mathematics and finally obtained his Diploma of Education from Oxford University in 1960. He then joined the Glenlyon staff, and after four years as a teacher, took over the school from his father upon the Major’s retirement. 

Assuming full responsibility for Glenlyon at age 28 was no easy task. Although for the first few years he could turn to his father for counsel, he showed early on that he was determined to introduce new ideas, beginning with the first yearbook in his start-up year. At the same time, he retained those principles of truth and courage, character and service which were the hallmarks of a Glenlyon student. He took an assembly each morning with its bible reading, prayers and hymn, except on Thursdays which were used for school singing practice. He taught in the classroom until his last few years when the administrative tasks became too busy, yet his door was always open to staff, parents, and boys. In the early 1970s he spearheaded the transformation of the school from private ownership to a non-profit society with a Board of Governors, which then employed him. This enabled a strenuous building and upgrading programme to be completed. The Grade 10 class was added, and Grades 1 and 2 shortly afterwards.

During this time he also went through a personal transformation by marrying Tricia McNulty, a former PE teacher at Strathcona Lodge Girls School at Shawnigan Lake and who became very active with the Mother’s (later Parents’) Auxiliary.

In 1982, after eighteen years at the Glenlyon helm, Hamish accepted the post of Director of the Lester B. Pearson World College of the Pacific at Pedder Bay. He left Glenlyon having doubled the enrolment, supervised the building programme which provided excellent facilities for a broadening curriculum, and saw the school branch out in many directions with outstanding results in academic, artistic and sporting activities.

After four years at Pearson, he and his family moved to Toronto where he became Headmaster of Upper Canada College Preparatory School. During his fourteen years there, he was heavily involved with the multi-million dollar building programme. However, his heart was always at Glenlyon and Glenlyon Norfolk School and he remained in close contact with many governors, staff, and alumni. Speaking of buildings, in 1995 a second storey was added to the Math Block and was officially named the Simpson Building, in honour of the Simpson family and their long and close relationship with Glenlyon and their commitment to the amalgamation.

Apart from his educational activities, Hamish has always had a deep interest in community service. He is a Past President of the University of Victoria Alumni Association and served as a Trustee on the Committee for the Lewis Perinbam Award in International Development. When he lived in Victoria he was a regular attendee at the Oak Bay Rotary Club and served as its President. In later years he has spent much of his time on Salt Spring Island and while doing so he has been a member of the Development Committee for the Island Arts Centre, chaired the GNS Foundation Trustees and on many occasions attended functions to support the school. His family’s impact on the school has been unequalled and the Simpson name will always be an integral part of GNS history.