This week’s memories are provided by Keith Rowe who attended Daniel Stewart’s College and left in 1956. Keith says:
“Returning to my time in the junior school, we progressed through the classes and most of us were savvy enough to avoid getting the strap. One lad in my class went home with a bruise on his hand. His father saw this and gave him a second dose of the belt. He must have thought the teacher probably didn’t make a good job of it! I am glad this form of character building no longer takes place. In class 7, I believe, we began to study Latin with Mr Stewart whose nickname derived from the fact that he had very little hair. I think we began this subject early because a qualification in Latin was necessary to get into Scottish universities. Most of us had no idea of becoming a Roman Catholic priest, so we found Latin a bit irrelevant. Mr Stewart was however a good teacher and I have been glad in later life to have some help with spelling when I have been learning modern Latin languages.
There was no 11 plus or similar test in those days and we entered the senior school, finding that we had a Form Master, Mr Hector McKinnon. He was an FP of Royal High School and and played for them at rugby. I remember him giving me “lines” for a late essay . I had to do a 2 page essay on ‘The effect of the Elysian lyric on Walter Scott’s later poetry’. I had to expand on the theme but failed miserably. I explained to the teacher that I had searched all the Encyclopaedias and failed to find what the lyric was. I suspect my teacher did not know either!
We in the “C” classical form studied Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, English, French and some also did other Languages. The Headmaster Dr Robbie introduced Russian as a subject which might be useful and this was taught by Madame Someonov, a White Russian Lady. I don’t know if any of the boys used Russian later in life but the 50’s onwards were times of the Cold War. When I was in Form 2, I joined the Literary and Debating society and this was a great benefit in later life. Friday night was literary night and I remember my first speech, just as my voice was breaking! ‘Mr Chairman’ I squeaked, ‘I should like to say……..’ but that was my first time on my feet and I never worried about speaking in public again.
Another thing I am grateful to Daniel Stewarts for – Scottish education was at that time the best in the world. Probably modern methods today are a lot different but the teachers we had, many approaching retirement having been at Stewart’s all through the war, together with the younger men who had come back from the war, were outstanding and pushed us hard. Mr Hardy and Mr Baird, in Mathematics, Dr Thomson in History, Mr Gould in Geography, Dr Milligan in Physics along with others whom, forgive me, at my age I forget. I do remember especially Mr Eric Read, the Music teacher, who took me into the choir having ascertained that I was not tone deaf. This was great because at a certain time of year, the Headmaster insisted we all learn the Founders Day Hymn. In the choir we were not visible in the organ loft (above the current Library) so we were unlikely to be called on to recite a verse in chapel. I am not sure what the penalty was if one failed, but the teasing of one’s class-mates would have been enough. I did have the honour of singing a solo in the Usher Hall at the annual concert and prize-giving. Later in life I began singing with Birmingham Bach Society. I must admit that, although I had a good voice, I was not a gifted musician, so I just scraped through the audition each year! I also sang in a church choir in Birmingham and probably I remained in demand because high tenors were in short supply. Although I did not realise it at the time Mr Reid had introduced me to a life-time hobby.”