Published 6 May 2010 10:06 0 Comments
I am a morning person. It was not always so! If it hadn't been for the exciting new voice of Radio 1, Tony Blackburn, I would have been late for school many a morning!
The year was 1967, the school, Netherthird Primary and the class I would have kept waiting, was primary 5! My very first real class!
I can't remember the phrase I would have used to get your attention...Probably, "Quiet now Billy!" But if you are out there p.5 - Pay attention children!
You might all be racking your brains to think who I could be! I'd be a bit put out if you've forgotten me... but it HAS been 43 years.
We were together for just one year! In July 1968 I married and moved away. For the past 40 years I've lived in the north- east where I have spent most of my teaching life in the East End schools of Aberdeen. It was such a wrench to leave you all behind and had I stayed on at Netherthird I'd have begged Mr. McInnes to let me take my wee class on to p6.
My teaching life is over now and I have time for everything I enjoy! Poetry is a passion and a friend of mine sent me a copy of a collection of poems 'chiefly in the Scots language', ACCENT O THE MIND by Rab Wilson. It is QUITE wonderful and his beautifully observed and crafted poetry is powerful! I commend it to you!
He writes passionately of the effects of the strikes on the mining communities of Ayrshire and for humour, his poem "The Pied Piper O Auchinleck" is great fun!
Anyway, he inscribed the book for me: 'Fir Fiona and Tom, Tae help ye'ze keep a guid Scots Tung in yer heid!'
I guess it was Rab's imagery and language that propelled me back to the time I taught you all.
It's always a bit risky to ask former pupils about how they enjoyed/endured our time together! I'm much more comfortable telling you how I enjoyed my time with you! There was a lot of laughter in our room! That's my first abiding memory!
For this we have to thank the lively Billy Gorman! His 'cheeky chappie' persona entertained us all most days and there was enormous affection for him from us all! He could disarm me if I was cross and his humour was never unkind, often self-deprecating! I hope THAT stood him in good stead for the highs and lows of life.
Who remembers Archie and Mahitabelle? These two white mice must still have descendants running around cages in Netherthird to this day! They were responsible for a great number of progeny and would have been a great starting point for lessons in reproduction...but that was still ten years away!
I can still see little Andrew's smile when he spotted some 'wee piglets' in the straw! When they were ready to leave their parents we carefully vetted the p7s who came to get a pet mouse. Eventually we had to house Archie in a separate cage! We were running out of customers!
Talking of winning smiles, I wonder how life treated the handsome Alistair! He and Andrew were mates and a nicer couple of lads you couldn't find! The 'Ant & Dec' of p5! You can see that there are more questions than answers! And I think it must be said that you all taught me far more than I could have taught you!
Netherthird had already a very prestigious reputation at the Ayrshire Drama Festival in Troon. So no pressure then, when I was asked to source a play, cast it and rehearse it for the school's entry in the summer of 1968. The play was set in a pastoral location; a village with a 'mercat cross' was the focal point of the action!
I have to say that our set was outstanding and much appreciated by the judges in Troon. Pat Rennie, our lovely janitor (I was to learn during my long career that the words 'lovely and janitor' are seldom written together!) and my husband to be Tom engineered it so that we could assemble it on stage quickly, when our turn came to perform. Pat was the best Jannie I ever had, a lovely man, and Tom turned out to be a pretty good husband!
I have to say that I remember little of the story of the play, its title etc. What is memorable were the wonderful costumes that little Angela's mum made for us and of the outstanding performance of one of our own p5 pupils, June.
June's passion and enthusiasm for her character was awesome! Her stage presence, for such a young child, was commented on by two of the judges.
June had fiery auburn hair and deep, dark eyes. Her character was complex and she was acutely sensitive to any injustice! She had a lion heart! A lovely heart! I hope her feisty and strong personality helped her with the life she chose and I would love to hear about what happened next!
We took the first prize home with us! The judges confirmed that we were one of the best productions ever to grace the stage at Troon and Rab Wilson would have appreciated our victory over 'better' schools in the competition!
Can I say sorry to whoever loaned us the big swan prop to swim on our 'village pond'...we left it behind in Troon Town Hall and no trace of it was ever found! You see, how these little things can worry you after 40 years!!
As the summer term ended and we said our goodbyes I extended an invitation to the children to come to my Show of Presents (is that still a tradition?) at my home in Mauchline. I suppose it was the kind of throwaway invite you extend; never thinking anyone would take it up!
Imagine my surprise to open the door on that lovely summers afternoon to find Thomas had made the effort! As I said earlier this group taught me far more than I could have imagined. ANOTHER child had taken it upon herself to make the journey, catch the bus, walk quite a distance to find my house and knock on my door! It was Diane!
The little quite girl of the class with that sweet, knowing smile when you caught her eye! Never ever underestimate the quiet ones! She was a plucky, independent little soul and I was absolutely flabbergasted to see her standing on the step! She came in and along with Thomas enjoyed our tea party, talking with the friends and neighbours gathered there!
I hope my little class of '67 have weathered life's vagaries and that they will recognise within these words just how important they were in giving a young, inexperienced teacher an opportunity to practise her craft and have a really good time! If I taught you all anything, then I thank God!
I'm sorry Christopher, that I nagged you for daydreaming out the window! Netherthird School has lots of big windows and I now know, that that's what windows are for! I've tried not to say, "It's only snow!" when the first flakes of winter fell, or 'It's only a wasp!" when our classroom was invaded on a hot summer afternoon!
Children (and grown ups) need time to gaze and reflect in order to make sense of their experiences. Perhaps that's why I've written this wee piece now!
God bless you all! You were a JOY!