This week’s memories are being shared by Tom McGowran, a 1966 Daniel Stewart’s College leaver. Tom says:
The library was another of my favourite places in the school. One could immerse oneself in there undisturbed, listening to my Sinclair portable transistor radio. I recall one year an old boy had bequeathed his library to the school but many of the books were not required so were offered to us at token prices. I bought a number of them and still have them today. This reminds me of the end of term book sales where tables were set up and everyone had a booklist in hand rushed around trying to buy next year’s list at bargain prices whilst at the same time trying to offload this year’s used books.
That reminds me of the pens. No felt tips or roller ball pens in those days. The pens we used at first were nibs you dipped in the inkwell. Really messy, at least for me. Then came the recommended fountain pen, the ‘Conway Stewart’. For some reason we had to have the italic nib. About the best I could do with it was to blot the paper as I scraped the scratchy nib over the paper. The dip pens were often used as darts – firing them with elastic bands into the ceiling. We used to roll a piece of paper up into a small ball and dip it in the ink and then use a ruler to propel it at one of our classmates.
Punishment for being found out was usually two of the belt! And if really naughty we were to the Headmaster – Dr Robbie!
One Master, I’ll not name him here, always started his English class by calling me to the front and administering two of the belt. I can’t recall what I did to incur his wrath. He did not stay long at the school.
These character-building days came to a sudden end on my sixteenth birthday which coincided with the start of the autumn term. My dad woke me up and told me I was not going back to school – I was to start work at the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald next week as a press photographer. I protested that I knew little about photography. No problem, he said, you will have two weeks training from the Chief Photographer from the Falkirk Herald.
So I started a career in publishing that encompassed being involved in the launch of twenty two newspapers, selling and installing newspaper composition systems, then joining a family-owned newspaper group and building the group up from five newspapers to over 120 titles and becoming Chief Executive Officer. After retiring I launched my own consultancy specialising in managing change in publishing, advising media companies both in the UK and overseas.
Now in retirement I spend my time with my French wife touring France and Scotland in our Motorhome – well that was up until recently! I also like tinkering with old cars and looking after our grandchildren in our home on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.
My grandfather once told me there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition! I have always followed his good advice!