Sunday, 19 August 2007

more teaching and family

School starts tomorrow (Monday 20th August) for teachers and on Tuesday for the pupils, including my own, so a hurried finish to the story. I will hopefully add photos soon but the scanner isn't functioning just now.

I returned to Scotland and taught at Kirkton High School in Dundee for 5 years before getting married, moving to Aberdeenshire and we now have two boys who are great! I have returned to teaching after a break when the children were born, and still enjoy the buzz of school life, with all the challenges of the 21st Century.

It certainly does not feel like 50 years since I was born!

Saturday, 18 August 2007


Students at the Teachers college on an outing to the sugar factory.

I still had a strong desire to live and work abroad so applied to VSO to work as a teacher. The Caribbean sounds far too easy a place to be sent to but that's where I ended up. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a relatively unknown group of islands near Barbados but recently 'Pirates of the Caribbean' was filmed there and Mustique, one of the Grenadines, has houses on it owned by celebrities. The main island of St Vincent, 18miles long and 11 miles wide. is a beautiful place which relied on bananas for exports. Tourism was limited.

A banana packing station

My two years with VSO were spent teaching primary teachers in St. Vincent Teachers College, a daunting prospect for someone with so little teaching experience. My main task was to teach maths skills to help the students reach a competent level. They would then have more confidence in the classroom. I was then required to visit various schools on the island and assist the students while on teaching practice (and grade them). This had to be the best part of the job and I was priveliged to see the schools and the great work the students did with few resources and large classes.

Eager pupils at one of the primary schools

Living and working there gave me a very different outlook on life. I stiill have very strong memories of the way folk struggled to educate their children. The children would emerge from their wee shacks, smart in ironed uniforms, with books and pencils somehow paid for by scrimping and saving. Great people who lived a much simpler, laid-back life than ourselves.

A typical wooden shack

My contract with VSO ended after two years but I then taught maths for three years at St.Vincent Girls High School before leaving this paradise to return to Scotland.

Boat to Bequia

Layou on the Windward Coast

Friday, 17 August 2007

University and first job

After leaving school I followed the prescribed path and had a good time for four years at Edinburgh University. Much to my surprise I gained a B.Sc. in Maths and Statistics. Actually, I had to work very hard after realising that being 'good' at school didn't qualify me to reach the upper echelons of Maths students. At an early stage I found my level and managed to get the balance right between study and and social life.

So what to do next? My French teacher at school, Mrs Ferguson, one day pointed at me and said, "you're going to be a teacher." Yes, it happened. I went to Dundee Teacher's College and enjoyed the year there.

I had been a student for 5 years so it was time to find a job. At that time, 1980, you could very easily find a job teaching maths but I suddenly had cold feet and felt the need to escape from education. During the long university holidays I had travelled to the USA, Turkey and Singapore and I had a desire to work abroad rather than just go on holiday.

A schoolfriend and I set off for France to pick grapes and our first stop was Paris. The story nearly ended there when I was hit by a car as we crossed a busy road. I was thrown on to the windscreen and over the back of the car so am really lucky to be alive. My scalp was sewn up and with no other obvious injuries I was allowed out. I had small pieces of windscreen appearing out of my scalp for months afterwards! A rather funny result of this was that I got a letter from the car driver's insurance company trying to get me to pay for damage to the windscreen! I nearly died, for goodness sake!

Next day we headed south to the grapes which were not ready and ended up picking Golden Delicious apples. Great fun but after carrying many tons from tree to box, camping in the woods and sampling the local plonk we decide to head back to Scotland.

Back to reality, an interview and a job at Dalkeith High School which had 1500 pupils. I can only describe this as terrifying for the first few months but by the end of the session I had actually begun to enjoy it and felt I had served at least a bit of my time.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Zero to seventeen

I was born on 28th October 1957 at Dumfries Royal Infirmary, the fourth child of a family of six. My father was a farmer at Rainton Farm in Galloway and we were brought up in, what some might consider to be, idyllic conditions. Everybody had to help on the farm but there was plenty of time for play with many children whose parents lived on the farm. Relatives lived close by so we saw a lot of cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents.

I went to Gatehouse Primary school and enjoyed my years there, but one memory includes being belted for swinging on the desks! We travelled the five miles by bus.
After 1st year at the attached secondary school I went to Kirkcudbright Academy which was ten miles away. I remember the miner's strike in 1972/1973 when I was studying for O grades and we only went to school for three days a week because of problems heating and lighting the school. This seemed like great idea and we got through the work just the same, as the teachers set it for homework. (A suggestion for modern education?) At night we would have candles and lamps if the electricity was not on. I seem to recall that the electricity was off on a rota basis in different districts.

Kirkcudbright Academy was a comprehensive school and served a large rural area, many pupils travelling by bus. Memories include lots of hockey matches and school choir. We performed Gilbert and Sullivan operas and were invited to sing at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, definitely a highlight.

Ponies were a big part of our lives and we started by wintering ponies from a holiday farm where the ponies were used for trekking. Later we had our own ponies and went to pony club and shows, mum being a great support with all the driving and back-up. Living on a farm made the finances easier as vets bills, blacksmith bills and all the rest make it an expensive hobby.

Socially, living in a rural area had problems and you had to rely on lifts to buses to get to the cinema or parties or stay with friends. Nothing has changed there! I joined the Young Farmer's Club and this had a great social aspect to it as well as events ranging from stock-judging to debating competitions.

Early family holidays were spent in a 'hut' at the local beach, Sandgreen. We would go with our cousins so there were ten children altogether and the two mums. The dads, both farmers would join us for meals as they would be working. We certainly had unlimited hours playing on the beach and many good memories. Fantastic holidays. As we grew older we had various touring holidays in Scotland and France, widening our horizons.

I think that the upbringing I had could not be beaten, and having the secure but fun environment made me thirst for adventures further afield.

Saturday, 28 July 2007


The reason that I was contacted to be involved with this project, is because I had the double credentials of being born on the 28th October 1957 and Iwas a volunteer with VSO which is reaching it's 50th year.

Working abroad with VSO was a great experience and I will be hopefully be able to share some of these memories - in fact you may not get much of life before or after! Not quite sure how it will all work out.

Thursday, 5 July 2007


This is my blog for the Today Generation project from the BBC.