I was one of a small party from Mary Erskine who went on a ground-breaking eight-week exchange visit to the Lycee Victor Duruy in Paris in 1948. There were seven of us from Third Year and five from Sixth Year, accompanied by Miss Laurenson who was the head of the French department. We stayed in the homes of our French counterparts, in my case the Marcouly family, with whom I have kept in touch and exchanged visits over the years. Indeed, Jeannine and I (now nearer 90 than 80) still write each other an annual letter every Christmas though it has to be admitted in our native tongues.
The visit did my French a power of good, so much so that for the remaining three years of my schooling, teachers from other departments would taunt me with the wish that they would like me to apply myself to their subject as much as I did to my French. If only they knew! In those eight weeks, followed by a month’s visit during the school holidays a year later, I learned what sounded right and applied it to good use in my Highers and subsequently.
Over forty odd years later, having enrolled in an ‘Intermediate French’ evening class at the local school, I was politely asked to leave because I was demoralising my classmates! Rather than refund my course fees, but with some trepidation, the tutor told me that if I really felt up for it there was an advanced class in Swindon which I decided to try. The first evening’s lesson concerned the use of the subjunctive which to my astonishment I found to be ‘a doddle’ and made me realise just why Mary Erskine’s had a name for being ‘good for languages’!
Brenda Bruce (Smith) (MES 1951)
I was a pupil at Stewart’s from 1954 to 1965, and when I was in Form IV of the Senior School, in Easter 1963, I went on the trip to Provence led by Gilbert Innes. He was our Form Master so many of us knew him quite well.
It was a privilege to meet Gilbert again in 2005, at my classmate John Bryden’s house, when Brian Skinner organised our first reunion. He was an unforgettable character.
Ken Brodie (DSC 1965)
I came back into school 3 years ago for the first time since leaving in 1978, and Bryan Lewis walked me round the ‘old place’. We had a chuckle about ‘Lewis Tours’ as we walked round and that set me thinking of my own memories of my visits overseas with the school.
My first school trip was to Soulliac in the Dordogne with Gilbert Innes in about 1973. I do not have too many memories of this trip except the challenging meals in the hostel including rabbit and cuttlefish, and visits to the underground cave systems.
My second one was the very first Lewis Tour to Italy in 1975. Memories include the disco in Minori, visits to Pompeii and Herculaneum, the Colosseum in Rome and Hadrian’s Villa. I remember that the village next to the Villa featured shops selling various weaponry including all sizes of switch blades, attracting the attention of some of my mates and resulting in a threat by Bryan to search our suitcases.
My third trip was another early Lewis Tour, this time to Greece. No joke, but I can still remember the amazing smell and taste of the lamb kebabs from the open fire in an Athens taverna; being vegetarian Bryan sent me back to get him a ‘salad’, but the language barrier kicked in and I ended up with 2 tomatoes in a brown paper bag. Visits to Delphi, the Corinth canal, Epidaurus and Mycenae were all particular highlights of this trip.
And, last but not least, I was lucky enough to take part in one of the regular USS Uganda cruises to Vigo, Bordeaux, Gibraltar and Tangier. Highlights included eating ‘meals’ off tin trays with different shapes to hold all three (largely inedible) courses, and Bay City Rollers songs playing in the disco, with us sporting white shirts emblazoned with tartan.
Scott Sanders (SMC 1979)
I very much enjoyed the latest chapter of your magnum opus, especially the pieces on Lewis Tours. I went with you on the school trips to Italy in 1987 (the year of the dreadful storms) when we visited Rome, Naples, Pompei and the Amalfi coast, swimming around the bay after breakfast! I also went on the Lewis Tour to Greece in 1988 where we stayed in Athens and on the Saronic Gulf at Tolon, accompanied by Jock and Nancy Richardson and again swimming around the bay after breakfast on a regular basis. Great trips they were too. Your rules were simple – ‘Yes, you can make a noise but don’t wake me up!’
There was a memorable occasion when we stood outside the gates of ancient Rome and you and Iain Crosbie started declaiming in Latin before getting back on the bus and going to our hotel.
Ewan Lee (SMC 1992)
No doubt some of these tales will have reached you already – two are all about Gilbert Innes and involved travel (although on one occasion only as far as Glasgow!)
My year (DSC 1961) was fascinated by Gilbert Innes and one of my friends, Alan Hamilton, resolved to find out where he went at the weekend, trailing him to Glasgow and his parents’ home. This was an early indication of Alan’s bent for news: he subsequently became the Royal Correspondent for The Times.
In the Easter holidays of 1961 I went to the Dordogne with a group led by Mr Innes. He was clearly determined to emphasise his mastery of the correct pronunciation of French and was somewhat taken aback when a local citizen responded in English. En route to Souillac we had a meal followed by a coach tour of Paris before taking the overnight train south. We were joined on the coach by Johnny Baird, the Maths master, known familiarly as Jab, and his wife who were on holiday in Paris at the time. Mr Innes pointed out Les Tuilleries, prompting Jab to turn to me and say ‘I suppose he means The Twilleries’.
One excursion was to the Château des Milandes where we were surprised to be met by the elegant chatelaine, Josephine Baker. She was delighted to meet a group of Scottish schoolboys. Mr Innes was however somewhat embarrassed as he was not sure how to tell parents that their sons had met such a notorious character.
Robin Forrest (DSC 1961)
One of the unsung heroes of my schooldays was Mr Gilbert Innes, organiser of two trips abroad that I was lucky enough to go on. One was to Souillac and the other to Oberammergau, both life-enhancing experiences for us ungrateful little tykes and both masterpieces of organisation (about 40 of us travelling overland). The trade-off for having a great time with our friends was an endless procession of famous Byzantine churches. When the fifth or sixth of the day was found to be securely padlocked and would admit none, a spontaneous cheer went up from all the boys!
Richard Bunney (DSC 1969)
I was fortunate to take part in the school tour to Oberammergau when I was in Fifth Year which was led by Gilbert Innes. Gilbert had organised every detail of the tour down to the last comma but was very confused when our hosts, and also our bus driver, seemed unable to understand his German. I recall that what hurt him most was the fact that everyone to whom the pupils spoke understood perfectly their schoolboy attempts at German! I’m afraid that Gilbert hadn’t realised that his much-copied manner of speaking rendered his grammatically faultless German pretty well unintelligible to native speakers.
John Archer (SMC 1969)