I would probably say that Craft and Design and Art were my favourite 2 subjects. I found myself spending as much time as I could in the Art Room.
When you were at school, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do when you left? Did any of your teachers help to shape or inspire your plans?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left, but I felt it would be something creative. I never had the drawing skills of others but I loved coming up with ideas of what I wanted to say in my art. My art teacher, Mrs Douglas was incredible. She was always encouraging us with whatever we wanted to explore and she made the art class feel like one big family.
Did you go onto further education after you left school? If so, what did you study and where did you hope it would lead?
After leaving school I went to to study at Edinburgh College of Art. I had originally hoped to specialise in graphic design, but after experiencing the magic of photography, I changed direction. This was long before digital, and just seeing an image appear on what was seconds earlier just a blank sheet of paper, was just incredible. After leaving art school I had hoped to become a commercial photographer. However, my degree was more of a fine art course and therefore I left without the knowledge of how to transfer my skills into the commercial side of photography.
What was your first job after studying and what were your plans for career development at that time?
My first job after leaving was as a photographer in The Edinburgh Dungeons. It was a great team and I enjoyed it, but I never saw it as a career move. Taking photos of tourists all day was not what I had studied for 4 years to become. So when an opportunity to get into film and tv came along, I grabbed it with both hands. My dad had seen an advert in his local paper up in the Highlands, where the hit tv show Monarch of the Glen was looking for a trainee edit assistant. I had done a little bit of film editing at art school so I knew it was something that I could be very interested in. I think there was only 2 applicants, so I didn’t have much competition.
You’ve worked on some amazing projects from Monarch of the Glen to Shameless to Chewing Gum and now you’re working with Marvel in LA. What has been your favourite project to work on and why?
Without a doubt, my favourite has been Loki for Marvel. I think just about every kid dreams of being a superhero one day, but although I’m certainly not that, I feel it’s the next best thing. Marvel are like one big family and when you walk onto the Disney Studio Lot, here in LA, you feel like you are part of something huge. The costumes are displayed in glass cabinets all around the building, and occasionally you see some of the actors who once wore them.
What do you like most about your job?
My job involves a huge amount of creativity and I love that aspect the most. I get the previous day’s footage delivered to me first thing, and then it’s my job to start putting it together as I feel best tells the story, with the director’s vision in mind. With working on Marvel shows, it’s key that you work closely with the visual effects department and that’s also a very fun part of the job. Coming up with what can be added to shots, is an exciting part of the job.
What has been the most challenging part of your career so far?
I have worked on a lot of comedy tv shows, and I’d say they are the hardest to edit, the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. It’s really hard to make someone laugh as you need every part, the writing, performing, directing, and editing to be perfect before you get the laughs. It’s always a challenge to balance the right project, with the need to earn money. I’m very fortunate to have worked on a lot of projects that I really wanted to be part of.
What advice would you give to current pupils at Stewart’s Melville when they are thinking about their future?
I’d probably say that they shouldn’t put extra pressure on themselves to know exactly what they want to do when they leave school. I definitely never saw myself as an editor when I left school.
What is your fondest memory of your time at school?
I was actually in the boarding house when I attended Stewart’s Melville. I really enjoyed that side of things as it felt like I had a load of brothers to hang out with. My favourite memory of school life was probably spending time in the Art class where I was fortunate enough to have some great class friends whom I am still in touch with today.
This takes place on Friday 17 March at the Caledonian Club, 9 Halkin Street, London , SW1X 7DR. Dress for the dinner is formal – black tie/highland dress/cocktail dress but a lounge suit is a perfectly suitable alternative.
Tickets are £80 (under 30s are welcome at a special price of £40) and include an excellent meal, wines and a glass of port.
The guest speaker will be Alasdair Seale, recently appointed Chair of the ESMS Governing Council. Alasdair started his firm, Trinity Factors, whilst still at school and over the years, it has grown into a most successful Edinburgh business, currently managing over 10,000 properties and employing 65 staff.
The new Principal of ESMS, Anthony Simpson, will also be attending along with Frances McCrudden, recently appointed Head of Stewart’s Melville College. School Captain Thomas Russell will also speak briefly about the schools today.
Bookings can be made via Tom Scrimgeour, Club Secretary, by emailing email@example.com. Bookings close on Friday 10 March, so contact Tom now if you wish to attend!
What were your favourite subjects when you were at school? My absolute favourite subject was History and I also enjoyed English.
When you left school, did you have a career path in mind? Yes, I left school at the end of fifth year and went to Edinburgh College of Art (at that time affiliated with Heriot Watt University) to study Architecture.
Has your career progressed as you planned or have you had to retrain or go in a directionyou hadn’t anticipated? Not at all! I studied Architecture for a year (at that time the course was seven years long) and had chosen it as a good balance between arts and science but it wasn’t really for me. I went to see a career counsellor at the university who very wisely said that if I did not have any burning vocation I should study I subject that I loved and think about careers at the end of the course. Naturally, I chose History and went to the University of Edinburgh to do an MA in History. I graduated in 1982 and was interested in pursuing a career in journalism but at that time of economic crisis, thousands of graduates were pursuing a handful of traineeships with newspapers and the BBC so I went to America (Boston University) to do an MSc in Mass Communication, which I reasoned would give me additional skills to make me more employable. I studied everything from TV production to advertising, journalism to public relations.
I came back and started applying for jobs in advertising and public relations as those were the subjects that interested me most. I was offered a job with a consultancy in London called Profile Public Relations and off I went. I worked for another two agencies and then was headhunted to become the first Marketing Communications Manager of the largest law firm in the world at that time, Clifford Chance. It was a marvellous job enabling me to travel to most European capitals as well as New York on a regular basis. There wasn’t really any career progression in prospect though so I came back to Edinburgh and established my own consultancy offering marketing communications advice to professional firms and small businesses.
What helped to guide you to your current role? It is a little sad but my husband died aged 47 when our daughter was four years old. I felt that public relations and marketing for businesses was rather unimportant after that, so I used my skills as the Press Officer for a charity called WAY which supported men and women widowed before they were 50. This lead to a position with a small charity called the Jaskomal Foundation and a seat on the board of another charity in Edinburgh. The chairman of the board also ran a social enterprise to train young people in retail skills and asked me to join and give the benefit of my marketing expertise. The social enterprise ran a shop in St James Centre to help train the youngsters, which was a showcase for Scottish art and crafts.
What inspired you to set up the Edinburgh Art and Craft Collective? The shop in the St James Centre closed and the man who ran the social enterprise moved on to another area. I had very much enjoyed the combination of the retail side and using my marketing skills. I learned a lot about retail so when the opportunity to open my own business arose, I grasped it with both hands, utilising the lessons from the previous shop. Art & Craft Collective opened five years ago and offers emerging and established artists a showcase for their work.
Tell us about your job and what it involves day-to-day? My job involves a bit of everything! In the run up to Christmas we are open seven days a week and I am here six of those days, serving customers, arranging window displays, talking to artists and prospective artists and advising on marketing, promotion and pricing. I run our social media accounts and organise inventory, finance and advertising.
What do you like most about your job? I like the variety, I love helping new artists to start their artistic career and I very much enjoy helping customers to find the perfect painting or gift. We are in a fairly residential part of the city (Causewayside on the South side of Edinburgh) and have many returning customers and it is lovely that they keep coming back and we all wave to each other in the street and so forth. My husband and I are now on a quiz team with two of our customers so friendship often results.
What has been the most challenging part of your career so far? Not surprisingly and probably in common with many people in business today, the pandemic gave us many challenges and the ongoing uncertainty means that things are still challenging but I believe it is important to remain positive and change and adapt to circumstances with creative solutions.
Do you have any advice for pupils at ESMS who might wish to follow a similar career path and launch their own creative business? I would say work for others in a similar area to learn the skills and perhaps the things not to do! Being an artist yourself is not as important, in my opinion, as having a good ‘eye’ for original and unusual work and a commercial understanding. Be adaptable.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I have extended the lease on the premises for five years, by which time I will be 67 so probably thinking of retiring or taking a more advisory/backseat role. Having said that, I am something of a control freak so possibly not well suited to not making all the decisions!
What’s your fondest memory from your schooldays? Probably the friends I made. I joined the school in S2 when my family moved up to Edinburgh from London, so I was coming in to a lot of established friendships but I quickly made three or four great friends and three of us are still in touch.
You can find the Art & Craft Collective at 93 Causewayside, Edinburgh, EH9 1QG
Friday 11 November saw over 200 former pupils, retired staff and friends of the Schools attend the Wreath Laying Ceremony at Stewart’s Melville College. It was lovely to see so many of the School’s wider community attending to commemorate those fallen in wars over the years.
The ESMS Community Spring Lunch will take place on Friday 31 March at the Clubhouse at Inverleith. Tickets are £16 for 2 courses and £18 for 3 courses and include tea, coffee and mints after the meal. The bar opens from 12pm and lunch is served from 1pm.
Details of the menu available and how to book can be found below.
Friday 31 March
Starter: French onion soup served with a warm bread roll & butter OR Goats cheese tartlet served with a red onion jam served with side salad
Mains: Beef olives served with yorkshire pudding and a rich gravy, seasonal veg and potatoes OR Vegetarian Spaghetti Crudo
Sending a cheque payable to Stewart’s Melville College Club to Suzi Squires, ESMS, Queensferry Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3EZ along with a note of your menu choices from the above menu.
Transferring your payment to the bank account (Stewart’s Melville College Club, Bank of Scotland, Sort Code 80-31-20, Account 00873438) and emailing your name, menu choices and bank reference to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What were your favourite subjects when you were at school? I absolutely loved history and theatre, thanks mostly to Dr Scott who was such an inspiring teacher.
When you were at school, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do when you left? Not at all, I thought that maybe I would work in theatre but I really didn’t know.
Did you go onto Further education after you left school? If so, what did you study and where did you hope it would lead? What was your first job after studying and what were your plans for career development at that time? I went to University College London to study History of Eastern Europe. Again, this was inspired by Dr Scott. At the time, I thought it might lead to something in the Diplomatic Service. Doing CCF at school had somewhat introduced me to this idea.
How did you come to work in your father’s famous bookshop? Were you involved in it throughout your life, e.g. during school holidays or was it something you came to later in life? I came to visit my father after university partly because I was a bit lost and was looking for inspiration for my next chapter. He was also 88 years old and I really wanted to spend time with him. I quickly fell in love with his eccentric character, the bookshop and Paris itself.
How did you feel about taking on responsibility for managing and developing such a Parisian Institution? Naturally, I was quite daunted as I had no experience with something like this. However, I didn’t have much time to think about it because there was a lot of tidying up to do. For starters, we had to clean the bookshop. George had spent years glueing carpet down with pancake batter and repairing the electrical system with sticky tape. There was just so much to be done!
Did you have immediate plans for change or were you happy to continue on with the traditions established by your father? I started making some changes immediately, through sheer necessity (see above). This meant I was in a constant tug-of-war with George. These tussles often ended up in fits of giggles, because neither of us took it too seriously. I was always very conscious to never alter the spirit of the bookshop, as it means so much to many people. I tried to maintain a careful balance in protecting the heart of the shop while making it a safe place for people to visit, as well as attempting to keep up with the times.
When you first took over, what was your biggest challenge for the business? And what do you perceive is the current biggest threat? The biggest challenge was trying to make it safe and appealing to current visitors, while George was around. For example. in my first year, the police said they would close us down because the staircase to the reading room was practically a ladder and needed to be changed for safety reasons. When I went away for a weekend after having the stairs installed, George came down at midnight and tore them down with a hammer!
I think the current biggest threat is climate change and the fact that tourism is quite a precarious industry as a result. The pandemic made me realise how affected we are by tourism, being opposite one of the most famous monuments in Paris, the most visited city in the world.
How do you compete with online booksellers? What is unique about what you do? It was really revealing during the pandemic when we were only able to process online sales and the bookshop transformed into a kind of packing warehouse. The team really missed the human contact around books. We all struggled with the lack of personal connections books provide. In Lewis Buzbee’s book about independent bookshops he wrote they “are a charming combination of solitude and gathering”. We missed the gathering.
We always try to make it clear in our communication that we can’t compete with online giants. We make the hidden costs clear and remind customers that we are humans working at a normal pace, happy to recommend books and provide books, but not at miracle speeds.
What advice would you give to current pupils at Mary Erskine when they are thinking about their future? I think I’d choose a quote from James Baldwin that invites everyone to read: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me to all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
What is your fondest memory of your time at school? I loved the organised pyjama party where we were allowed to sleep in the actual school. I think it was called the “Big 24”, or something like that. It was such fun! I loved the open-air spaces and sports that were available, CCF, theatre, music and going up to the Highlands for a bothy weekend. It was so exciting to spend time in wild nature.
What is a book you would recommend to anyone you meet? It changes daily! Right now I’d say Fight Night by Miriam Toews or The Climate Book by Greta Thunburg but most often it’s Circe by Madeline Miller, Alice in Wonderland or poems by Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver or Carol Ann Duffy.
What are your hopes for the future of Shakespeare and Company? There are always a million projects going on, which makes the shop such a dynamic space. This, and the fact that we are in the shadow of Notre Dame, along the River Seine and next to the oldest tree in Paris, means the house is so full of stories. There are so many things that have taken place here, and many tales we are unaware of. We are always in the midst of something! Right now, we are in the middle of huge building works, opening up the fiction room by adding a glass verriere . We are publishing our own edition of Alice in Wonderland and our own editions of some of Shakespeare’s works. We are also working on our writer’s residences here and in the countryside. There are many things to come!
The following was presented at the Stewart’s Melville College Remembrance Service in November 2022.
Every November, we gather here to remember our fallen- we acknowledge our freedom by reflecting on the terrible price paid for it in two world wars by people we never met. And every November, we gather at the memorial in front of Old College.
But why? It’s rather odd isn’t it- because no-one is buried there. None of our lads who fell in the First World War ever set eyes on it- it was only unveiled in 1922.
More prosaically, we imagine that some sort of exchange took place- one of our living lads swapped for a dead one under a headstone in some ‘foreign field’. We assume that we could, should we care to, go and visit that grave. But that simply doesn’t obtain- it just isn’t the case. Nearly half of our lads from both world wars are, well- nowhere. For some, their graves were destroyed in subsequent fighting; for others they were killed behind enemy lines, or they were bodily obliterated by the sheer violence of the industrial slaughter of twentieth century conflict.
Others, like Archie Todd of Stewart’s, who was sent on an anti-submarine patrol in August 1943 simply disappeared. To this day, nobody has any idea what fate befell him or his Sunderland aircraft- he just… vanished.
So, what to do with these men, who are simply- missing? How do we remember them? After the war, the name of every lost serviceman was inscribed on a memorial, it having been decided that they should each be remembered on a permanent monument. The most famous is the Menin Gate in the town of Ypres in Belgium, which the war poet Siegfied Sassoon reviled as being engraved with 54,000 ‘intolerably nameless names’. One of those names is James White of Melville College, who in 1915, saved the lives of eight men under incessant artillery fire by digging them out of a collapsed trench with his bare hands.
Sassoon hadn’t met John Hannah from Daniel Stewart’s, a veteran of the Boer War who journeyed from Canada to fight. So, to remember our missing, to appreciate their sacrifice, they must be more than just names to us. We must know them as men and we start that journey to understanding in our archives here at school, which is a like a beach on which other people’s memories are washed up. If we take the time to care, just to be bothered, we realise that our missing lads are quietly still all around us, preserved like fingerprints in paint. We in turn apprehend then that it is impossible to die if we live on in the memories of those that remember us.
It is the evening of the 31st of October 1914- Halloween. Britain is a few hours away from losing the First World War. Since the conflict began just bare weeks before, our tiny professional army has been shot to pieces, and now the Germans are attacking en masse. The situation is desperate- the enemy is five miles away from the strategic town of Ypres. If it falls, our army will be cut off from supplies and surrounded. The situation is beyond desperate.
Everything we have is being hurled at the line of higher ground between the hamlets of Messines and Wytshaete in a last-ditch defence. In Inferno Wood, directly in the path of the advancing German hordes, the kilted men of the London Scottish are lying on the wet Autumn ground because they are simply too exhausted to stand. Amongst them is 26-year-old Wattie Black, a pharmacist from Edinburgh.
He is recording his thoughts in a small pocket diary- fully expecting that this will probably be his last day on earth. He knows that if the worst comes to the worst, his scribbled thoughts and feelings are all that will survive him- all he will be remembered by. His words might outlive his death- and that gives him some small comfort. What day is it, anyway? Yes, a Saturday- was meant to be a match day, today. In another world, another life, he was a forward in the first team of the famous London Saracens- and Wattie, known as ‘the lump o’ beef’ had been instrumental in the side’s nine wins of the season. He had honed his game at Inverleith and had trained many times in the gym at Daniel Stewart’s College- the gym that is now this assembly hall. Let that sink in for a moment- Lance Corporal Wattie Black has stood where we are now. He has walked through that door there (gesture to old front doors ahead). He joined up on the first day of the war and then, after just three weeks of very basic training, was deployed to France- amongst the first thousand men of the eventual millions who will volunteer to fight.
His day has been nightmarish. Hustled south in a forced march along the hard paved roads of the Belgian countryside, some of the London Scottish now hobble on with feet wrapped in bloodied rags, having not yet been issued with army boots. Streaming north are thousands of refugees from the German advance, which are being deliberately and mercilessly shelled to delay the British. The straight Flemish roads are in gridlock- the battalion machine guns lost in the logjam of traffic. Logistical chaos means the Jocks have also been supplied with the wrong ammunition, which will jam their outdated rifles after a few shots. Without shovels, they are unable to dig trenches, and now the whole battalion, Wattie amongst them, has been ordered to lie down in a turnip field, under heavy artillery fire, and await the enemy.
In a lull, he scribbles in his diary “I write this under most peculiar circumstances. Shells are shrieking over our heads while rifle and maxim fire is continuous in front of us. It is simply hellish. It is the only word I can get for it… My head aches with the concussion of the earth… I feel every thud”.
At 9pm, the Germans attack in overwhelming force, advancing shoulder to shoulder with rifles at the trail, regimental bands cheering them on. The fire of the London Jocks tears the opening waves of the assault to pieces- bodies heaped three and four deep before their line. But one by one, the rifles begin to backfire. There is nothing for it- the order to fix bayonets is given, and as one man, the kilted Scots launch a desperate hand to hand attack on the enemy shock troops- half trained Scottish volunteers pitted against the pick of the German army. The Bavarians troops are good- but not good enough. Incredibly the London Scottish blunt the attack, save Ypres- and keep Britain in the war. Half of the Jocks are killed- but not Wattie.
He writes after the battle ‘I had to stop to help a fellow who was wounded in both legs and the back by shrapnel…I have been one of the lucky ones and have got through without a scratch, but it was an awful experience, while it lasted.” On Christmas Eve 1914, the adjutant of the London Scottish wraps the treasured diary in an official envelope, and with a dog tag, posts the small parcel to Wattie’s family in Bangholm Terrace, Edinburgh. 2-1-6-4 Lance Corporal Walter Cairns Black had died instantly the evening before, after being shot through the head by a sniper. Buried in a shallow grave behind the British lines, his resting place was soon obliterated by the churning artillery fire of later battles and his name is now listed on the Le Touret Memorial. But some small part of him cheated death due to his diary and his letters- his voice is clear and strong and thus he still lives today when we he speaks to us over the great gulf of eternity.
The school is now the custodian of many other mute fragments of the lives of our missing lads. Recently, a faded and crumpled Melville College cap turned up on eBay, and enfolded lovingly within it, two medals from the Second World War- unmounted, unworn.
Unusually for a piece of school uniform, (!) it was named- G.M. Fairbairn. In 1941, Garry MacKenzie Fairbairn, aged 21, found himself in the Mediterranean, flying anti-shipping strikes with 82 Squadron. Just like Wattie Black and the defence of Ypres in 1914, the defence of Malta thirty years later was no less vital to the British war effort, and no less desperate. Garry must have known that he was performing one of the most dangerous jobs of the war- attacking heavily protected enemy merchant boats in broad daylight. His chance of surviving thirty such operations? Somewhere between two and six per cent. On the 27th of May 1941, his unit took off to attack an enemy convoy out at sea. One section of twin engine Blenheim bombers would come low in the hope of drawing the fire off another flight that would bomb the convoy from above- Garry drew the short straw. He would be one of the ones attacking the ships at a height no greater than the balcony there. (Points to balcony) Sweeping into attack and under heavy anti-aircraft fire, disaster struck.
Garry, his crew and aircraft were smashed out of existence, but, terribly, not by German shells. One bomber crew had mistimed their attack and Garry was killed when his aircraft was hit by a 500-pound bomb dropped from above by one of his own friends. He is remembered with his navigator and gunner on the Malta Memorial. And missing he might have stayed- unless for that chance eBay find- a young lad’s life, all that survived him, auctioned for a paltry £75. But that cap is something magically tangible- Garry wore it, left it in the changing rooms at Ferryfield on games day, doffed it to the War Memorial at the foot of the stairs in the old school in Melville Street- and after the war, his mother wrapped his two service medals in it as her memorial. Thus, Flight Lieutenant Garry Fairbairn has come back home to us- closer now, suddenly less absent.
There are many of our boys who are now on memorials to the missing owing to grimly similar circumstances. In 1916, Stewartonian William Brown was asked to join a new, secret branch of the services that was simply and mysteriously known only as ‘Heavy Section’. He was warned the job would be incredibly dangerous- and it was- so much so, that the Tank Corps (as Heavy Section was later renamed) was known as ‘The Suicide Club’ and the early tanks dubbed ‘Tommy cookers’. After taking part in the first tank attack in history in the Battle of Flers-Courcellette in 1916, his machine sustained a direct hit from artillery fire on the 22nd of November the year after. He and his crew are honoured on the Cambrai Memorial. In a second calamitous war three decades later, Charles Graham, who would have stood outside at our memorial on Armistice Day as you will on Friday, who would have read William Brown’s name on the bronze panels there, was himself killed as an anti-tank gunner fighting German armour a few weeks after D-Day. He and the men of his gun detachment are remembered on the Bayeux Memorial.
Unlike the battlefield cemeteries that often contain men from one regiment, killed in one fight on one day, memorials to the missing often bring together soldiers and sailors who were lost in vastly different times and places. But in some cases, they reunite classmates and old friends. On the Thiepval Memorial in France, we see the name of George Russell of the Royal Scots, killed on the 1st of July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
George was detailed to lead a party of men in the assault on the German positions in the village of Contalmaison. It was his first day in battle. That morning, 60,000 of our soldiers were killed or wounded, many being shot down in sight of their own trenches. What happened to 2nd Lieutenant Russell is unknown, as is the location of his grave- none of his platoon survived. However, we do know that George reached his objective, two miles behind enemy lines, becoming the British officer who advanced the furthest into the German positions that day, an astonishing achievement. Twenty of our FPs are on the Thiepval Memorial, many in the 16th Royal Scots like George Russell. One of his comrades was John Jolly, a librarian from Dalkeith Road, who was shot in the head clearing an enemy trench with hand grenades.
Of course, John has never really left us. He was awarded the Daniel Stewart’s Dux Prize in 1911- his name is up there on the honour boards. You’ve trooped out of that door every Monday for years and have never probably never, ever read his name. There are twenty-one of our former pupils on the Helles Memorial in Turkey, thirteen of them killed on the same day, 28th June, all of them in the Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles.
The names on the memorial, when read alphabetically, could be one of our school class registers, one of our team sheets. But far from being annihilated and scattered to the winds, on these memorials to the missing our boys are not lost, but found- back together, back amongst friends.
As much as memorials collect friends, they reunite family. The Reverend and Mrs Pryde laid a terrible price on the altar of freedom in the Second World War, losing all three of their Stewartonian sons, George, David and William, in RAF service.
Incredibly, David and George are remembered in the same place, on the Runnymede Memorial, along with eighteen other men from Stewart’s and Melville. David skippered a ‘barn door’ as the lumbering Whitley bomber was nicknamed. Twice in once week he managed to save the lives of his crew by nursing a damaged and burning aircraft back to base on one engine, making perfect forced landings both times. Awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, he modestly recalled his exploits for an enthralled radio audience on the BBC World Service, giving hope and courage to both our service personnel and civilians trapped under Nazi occupation. George, who also won a Distinguished Flying Cross, was lost over the Mediterranean in a Blenheim bomber. Like so many men on the Runnymede Memorial, what happened to him on 21st June 1940 is unknown- it is presumed a mechanical failure caused him to crash into the sea.
So, by knowing the story behind the names, we remember the men, and we thank them for their sacrifice. But how will we be remembered? The men on our memorial lived in a world of papers, records- actual things. Their lives were handwritten- typed onto physical documents. Their photographs were printed and pasted into durable albums. Their medals were bronze and silver- and framed. What do we leave behind? None of our disposable plastic possessions are made to last. Fashion changes- much of what we have we thoughtlessly throw away when we are bored of it. We live in an internet age- if we drop our ‘phone, if we break our laptop, if our digital ‘cloud’ bursts- so disappears our past, our story, all our photos- in sum, much of what makes us, us.
Ultimately, the most important things to survive us aren’t things at all. Our good deeds, the actions we take knowing that they will positively influence others, our contributions to the community and the greater whole- these are paramount. It is said that they best way to remember someone is to emulate in your life the thing you admired most in the person who has gone- you can all, in your own way, emulate their selflessness and cheerfulness in the face of your own struggles. Whatever you do, live a life worthy of the sacrifice of our former pupils, for their example is the backbone, the very fibre of the school, its soul. And remember most of all- the lads on our memorials are not missing- they are here. Treasure them.
What were your favourite subjects when you were at school? I expressed my creative side through different means during my ESMS days and was very involved in the musical life of the school. I also particularly enjoyed product design as it presented the opportunity to exercise my imagination in sometimes more unconventional ways.
When you left school, did you have a career path in mind? Not particularly. I decided to study geography at Edinburgh University but I must admit to not really having an ultimate goal in mind. The career path that I took prior to establishing Ingrained Moments was eclectic to say the least, but I have always loved being creative and having a connection with the natural world in some capacity.
How did you develop your business idea for Ingrained Moments? I have enjoyed woodworking as a hobby since my teenage years but I didn’t even comprehend that there may be potential for this to grow into a business. About five years ago I was lucky enough to acquire a scroll saw which enables the cutting of very intricate shapes and I really loved the opportunity this presented for becoming more intricate and artistic in my creations. From this point, my unusual style of artwork gradually emerged and the incredibly positive response that it began to receive when I showed what I was doing to others was just the push I needed to start Ingrained Moments.
Tell us about your job and what it involves day-to-day? My workshop time is split between working on customer commissions and creating my own original artwork to sell on my website shop. The process involved in creating each piece has numerous steps and depending on the complexity, each one can take many days to create. Outside of the workshop I do a lot of research and design work on my computer to ensure that I achieve the precision needed for the initial cutting stages. I also love any opportunity to visit my wood supplier in Fife as there is always an incredibly tempting array of stunning locally and sustainably sourced wood species to browse!
All that being said, ‘typical’ working days are currently a thing of the past for me as a lot of my time is taken up with looking after our toddler (who has yet to be trained up in the art of woodwork!).
We have heard you have an exhibition of your work coming up, can you tell us more? Yes! I am very excited to currently have an exhibition that is running at the Art & Craft Collective, Edinburgh until 5 November. ‘Wild Wood: a sculptural exploration of the wildlife and trees of Scotland’ consists of ten one-off wildlife artworks which have of course all been handcrafted entirely from Scottish sustainably sourced wood species. I am very proud of this collection and hope that it gives plenty of people the opportunity to see in person the depth and tactility that wood as a medium allows. You can find out more about the exhibition on the Art & Craft Collective website here: https://www.artcraftcollective.co.uk/product/wild-wood-a-sculptural-exploration-of-the-wildlife-and-trees-of-scotland/.
Do you have any advice for pupils at ESMS who might wish to follow a similar career path and launch their own creative business? Try to develop a style that is unique to you. It is very easy to get entirely caught up in the creative side of your work (spoken from experience!) but take every opportunity to also learn about the promotional side of running this sort of business.
What’s your fondest memory from your schooldays? Singing in Mrs Mitchell’s madrigal group during my final few years of school was always pretty special!
When did you start teaching and what subject did you teach? I started teaching in 1980 at DSMC teaching English. I was a teaching student at DSMC in the English department and I was extremely lucky to be offered a job afterwards. The English department was wonderful. Tom Fraser, who recently died, was my Head of Department. I ended my career as Housemaster of Beauly house when I left DSMC. John Rintoul and Jock Richardson were part of the department too and I have very fond memories of working together.
Tell us one of your favourite memories of the school Like many pupils, one of my favourite memories is the annual trip to Carbisdale, despite not particularly enjoying outdoor education. The weeks away with the third year were wonderful and the memories are lovely to re-visit.
You went on to teach at Heriot’s and became Principal, what were the biggest challenges of taking on such a role? I worked in two schools, Stewart’s Melville College for 11 years and Heriot’s for 27 years. The balance is that I taught English at Heriot’s for 11 years before getting promoted into management after becoming head of the Senior School at Heriot’s. I loved being in the classroom and I’ve always been very pupil-centric so it was all about the young people. People should go into teaching if they both really like supporting young people and they really like their subject. I’ve made hundreds of friends out of that process. I’m still in touch with pupils I taught 40 years ago. For example, today is the birthday of a very favourite former pupil who I think is turning 53 today. We have stayed in contact since they left school.
You retired in 2017, what have you been doing with your retirement? I wrote a book! I blog about a wide range of subjects, including my three-weekly articles from the Scotsman and all sorts of other subjects such as travel, the bin strike and I share a lot of personal anecdotes. My blog can be found at www.ahouseinjoppa.wordpress.com. The blog is approaching it’s 100,000th visit!
You mentioned a book, tell us about it. What was your inspiration, what’s the focus and do you feature any anecdotes about your time at Stewart’s Melville College? It was a book about my career in teaching. It’s not intended as a teaching manual or a focus on education. The purpose is to make people laugh and for me to reflect on my career. I deal with a lot that’s quite difficult about teaching. I was very lucky to have a significant publisher in Scotland (Birlinn) who was interested in publishing the book and their support has been fantastic. The book is called ‘Is there a Pigeon in the Room? My Life in Schools’ and I think it’s quite widely available. I have tried to make it an easy, light book to read. And yes, there are plenty of stories of my time at Stewart’s Melville College!