Strathnaver Museum sponsored an environmental awareness project funded By Scottish Natural Heritage and Awards for All for the young people of Sutherland to honour the memory of the Late Alan E Joyce, the charismatic former biology teacher at Golspie and Farr schools. Alan Joyce died on the 22nd September 2007 after a long, but hard fought, illness. Through the Sutherland schools and Countryside Ranger activities participants were asked to express their thoughts and ideas that the biodiversity on their doorsteps inspires in them.
The Sutherland team of countryside rangers oversaw efforts with the local primary schools in their four areas (mid/east Sutherland, Assynt, North West Sutherland and North Sutherland) producing digital images focussing on freshwater in four categories environment, landscape play and work.
Alan Joyce graduated in the sciences in 1949 at Reading University. After he married in 1953 he and his wife took numerous camping holidays to Sutherland until, the couple to decide to move up to Sutherland permanently and Alan took up a post in Golspie High School teaching biology. His work at a Fisheries Laboratory had already given him some expertise in freshwater biology so he quickly devised some projects for his pupils. With 32,000 lochs in Scotland – and a great many of them in Sutherland – he had plenty of scope. When the British Association for the Advancement of Science held their annual meeting in Dundee in 1968 the Headmaster suggested Alan and his pupils exhibit their work on ‘Food for Fish and Men’. For three days three pupils and their teacher manned their display until they were told they had been selected to enter the Scottish round of the Young Scientist of the Year. In November they discovered they had won and went on to take the National Award the following January. In his teaching career Alan visited most of the schools in Sutherland and along with his own scientific research he encouraged an understanding of the Sutherland environment especially the lochs.
Mrs. Joyce still lives on the beautiful north coast of Sutherland, a little remote Alan’s wife admits ‘but then the best things are always hard to find’. Alan once said ‘I am quite happy in my crazy pastime’, ‘and my wife has been very tolerant.’ The overall winner was Willaim Saywell from Stoer with his picture of a frog in camouflage amongst colourful stones in freshwater. William received a framed image of his picture and a digital camera. Mrs. Joyce said ‘Stoer was one of his first field trips when he began teaching in Golspie so it is very appropriate that the first winner of the award comes from this school. He would have loved to see the interest that the children have in their environment and that they are being encouraged by the school’. The Joyce Family have had a beautiful oak salver commissioned for the winning schools each time the competition is held. The competition is to be held every 4 years
Head teacher Angela Macleod, a former pupil of Mr Joyce said ‘Mr Joyce was before his time, he was promoting the Curriculum for Excellence 40 years ago. Our school does a lot of work to ensure the children appreciate the natural world. We are very pleased to be the first school to receive this new award’. An exhibition of the artwork is being planned during 2013.