A man’s a man for a’ that… in memory of Charles Gibb

A tribute from Aicha Reid.

Charles Gibb died peacefully in June 2021, after a period of illness. Robert Burns writes in his poem, “For a’ that and a' that”, how a person's worth comes from honesty rather than superficial status or wealth.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

Their dignities, an’ a’ that,
The pith o’ Sense an’ pride o’ Worth
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Charles was a man with honesty and utility at the heart of his words and actions. This happened regardless of how this reflected on him, or how well received it was likely to be. As a psychologist, Charles was known to many in Scotland for his unique character and contribution to the profession. As a person, he provoked intense reactions in others. I found him to be authentic, intelligent and skilled at making things better for children. 

Latterly, Charles' career saw him move from Fife Council to become Falkirk Council Educational Psychology Service Principal Educational Psychologist. Following Falkirk, he established the independent Educational Psychology Practice where he was much sought after for advice, casework, and expert witness services. He was a peer-reviewed published author on Fragile X syndrome, who gave expert advice to the Fragile X Society UK. Three themes come to mind from working with Charles: communication, the role of the educational psychologist, and humour.

Communication

Charles favoured terse, powerful communication and is remembered for curating and composing sharp reports and memos. He frequently wrote sentences such as, “Some people think that x is true. It is not”. A school colleague wrote that Charles “…[brought] so much to bear in helping young people with difficulties, including huge amounts of blunt common sense, often so much more important for all concerned than technical jargon.”

The role of the educational psychologist

Charles embodied evidence-based practice before it was a popular saying. He stressed the need to form an opinion based on the available evidence and, crucially, the importance of changing your mind should new information to the contrary come to light. He cultivated strong role clarity and confidence in his psychologists. We learned to apply psychology as we saw fit as psychologists, rather than as others would like us to.

Humour

Under Charles' leadership, problems in Falkirk were solved, depending on their complexity, during either fag break walks round the block, trips to the local café, or chip suppers. Charles is described as “[leading] with expertise, humour and charisma”, “always, always snortingly laughing at work” and having a “calm, somewhat dry, wit.” 

Countless children and families’ lives were improved by Charles’ application of psychology and sense. His legacy continues to benefit both educational systems and our profession across Scotland. Charles Gibb:

“That crazy but smart guy, 

That buy it in Leckie’s guy,

That chips for your lunch guy,

That 'say what you think' guy,

The one and the only Charles Gibb.” 

 

Aicha Reid C.Psychol.

Depute Principal Educational Psychologist, City of Edinburgh Council 

[email protected]

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