Lews Castle College UHI said a fond farewell last week to outgoing Principal Iain Macmillan as he started his retirement after over 16 years of service at “the castle.”

A Chartered Accountant to trade, Iain had previously worked in local government, both on the mainland as the Head of Exchequer Services at East Ayrshire Council and in the islands, with 15 years of service at Western Isles Council, now Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Born and raised in South Uist, Iain and his family moved back to Lewis in the spring of 2002, initially with a weekly commute back to Kilmarnock for work. He took up post as Director of Finance and Corporate Services at the College in April 2004, and was appointed Principal and Chief Executive in January 2012.

During his time at the College, Iain has taken forward much of the ‘behind the scenes’ work to develop new approaches to funding, infrastructure, and IT to help deliver the unique model of tertiary education that is offered in the Highlands and Islands, allowing people to study both further and higher education in their own communities.

This includes the blended model of teaching and learning that has opened up opportunities for so many people to study without needing to go away – a model that is perhaps more relevant than ever at the time of Covid-19.

Reflecting on his departure at a time of so much global uncertainty Iain said: “The period of lockdown has been unsettling for so many of us. I found that I missed the people at work in a way I hadn’t anticipated – the casual conversations, the interactions in the corridors, the smiles, the noise of activity – they all play such a big part in our working lives.”

“I’m really proud though of the way that staff developed new ways of working to support our students through the last few months of the academic year, which was reflected in the high levels of performance and achievement which we saw.”

“We’ve also put plans in place that will ensure the vast majority of our full time courses will be available for students for the new academic year. That includes work to get our buildings ready for staff and students to return. I would like to thank everyone who’s worked so hard over the summer to get us ready to get back as soon as the national road map allows us to do so.”

Although the demands of social distancing made it impossible for staff to organise a farewell in the usual way, a suitably socially distanced presentation was made at the end of last week, providing colleagues with the chance to pass on their appreciation and best wishes. The Chair of the Board, Archie Macdonald, also expressed his thanks to Iain for his contribution to College activities, and wished him well for the future.

Iain’s final day in post was 9th August 2020. Sue Macfarlane is taking over as Interim Principal and Chief Executive from Monday 10th August; she has previously been working with the College as Director of Transformational Change.

And last month, Lews Castle College UHI said additional farewells to two more long-serving members of staff as they began their retirement.

Dr. Ann Murray and Sheila Maclennan, both Assistant Principals, retired on July 31st. “We reflect and congratulate them on their careers, achievements, and contributions to the College over the years,” said Iain at the time. “They have both contributed significantly and their dedication and hard work is reflected in the continuing success of the College. Through the challenges of a period of austerity the College has continued to deliver the learning opportunities that so significantly benefit our communities.”

Ann began her career at Lews Castle College as a Supply Lecturer in 1998, when she returned to Lewis with her family and was offered a temporary contract for two days a week. With a degree in Business, she taught both computing and business subjects, and was appointed UHI Programme Leader for the Master of Education in 2007, before becoming Assistant Principal in 2013. Ann also achieved her Doctor of Education in September 2014.

In her farewell message on her retirement, Ann encouraged her colleagues to “Slow down, enjoy the journey, don’t take yourself too seriously and be kind. Remember that the work you are doing is important and that you are changing the lives and fortunes of many of your students. Be proud of it!”

Sheila Maclennan first started at the College in 1989 teaching groups of auxiliary nurses, and was part of the small team that developed Care courses in what was initially called the Community Learning Services Department. Sheila became Programme Leader for Health Studies, and later in 2006, Head of the Health, Education and Social Studies Department, before appointed Assistant Principal in 2013.

From the late 1990s, the department she led played a significant role in the development of degree programmes as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. “It is my firm belief that education and training change lives and families’ fortunes and over the years have been privileged to see this first hand,” said Sheila. “Working with students, the highs and the lows, seeing them develop and then find employment is very fulfilling.”

“Ann and Sheila will be greatly missed by colleagues and students alike,” said Iain. “We wish them both all the very best and a long, happy, and healthy retirement.”