Emily Lewis (2009), Owner, Ingrained Moments Woodcraft

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!

Interview with Mr Cameron Wyllie, author and former teacher at DSMC and retired Principal of George Heriot’s School

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!

Mark Leckie (2016), Insect Farming Technician at Better Origin

What were your favourite subjects when you were at school? 
My favourite subjects were definitely the sciences, specifically Biology and Chemistry but I also really enjoyed PE and would look forward to the days we had that and rugby training too. 

When you left school, did you have a career path in mind? 
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, aside from not wanting to be stuck working in an office and wanting to make a positive impact on the world. I know lots of people at that age feel that way and end up working in an office and enjoy it, but I still feel like that now. 

Did you find it tough getting your first role after graduating or was the pathway quite straightforward? 
I did find it tough, probably in part because I didn’t have a set career path in mind and partly due to the nature of graduating in a pandemic economy with not as many job roles in the fields I would be interested in.  

What helped to guide you to your role today?  
An interest in insects from a young age, care for the environment and some great teachers who nurtured my interest in biology through School – Mrs Lim, Mr Millar and Dr Turnbull.  

What inspired you to pursue a career in sustainability? 
I have always been fascinated by the natural world. From a young age I loved nature documentaries and learning about different species and habitats, and I grew up in a time when the threats to global biodiversity have always been known. So that coupled with wanting to make a positive impact made me jump at the opportunity to start a career in sustainability. 

Can you tell us about Better Origin and what their aims are? 
Better Origin are a biotechnology company based in Cambridge that produce decentralised insect mini farms. The farms take food waste and use it to feed black soldier fly larvae which in turn are fed to laying hens. This helps us achieve our aims of fixing a broken part of the food chain. The planet wastes 1/3 of all the food it produces. We fix this by diverting waste back into the food chain and using the insects grown on this to replace soy as the high protein component of the hen’s diet. This also reduces use of soy which often comes from deforested land in South America. Finally, the laying hens benefit from feed that is closer to their natural history – they have better feather coverage, lay fewer eggs on the floor and have lower mortality.  

What is your role at Better Origin and what does it involve day-to-day? 
I am an Insect Farming Technician and team leader for one our R & D squads, focused on optimising the rearing and breeding processes at our production site. Day-to-day I am mainly designing and running experiments and conducting data analysis.  

What do you like most about your job? 
I like that each day is different because I am working on different things. I enjoy collaborating with my colleagues for ideas and the sense that we are all working for a clear common goal.  

What has been the most challenging part of your career so far? 
I have only been working here 7 months, but the most challenging part was making the decision to move across the country after a few interviews with a company. 

Do you have any advice for pupils at ESMS who might wish to follow a similar career path? 
If you can’t get into your desired field immediately keep looking, even if you have to start something else in the interim. 

Where do you see yourself in five years? 
I am really enjoying my work at Better Origin and would like to continue to progress and develop here. In the future I would love to work with some rewilding projects, focusing on habitat restoration or species introduction.  

What’s your fondest memory from your schooldays? 
I really enjoyed the outdoor pursuits we were able to do, the trip to Carbisdale and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions particularly come to mind. 

About Alasdair Seale, Chair of Governing Council, ESMS

Alasdair started his education as a pupil at Daniel Stewart’s College in 1963 with Miss Burt as his teacher from P1-P3.  He was at School when it merged with Melville College in 1973, enjoying the RAF Section of the Combined Cadet Force, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and chairing the Charities Committee in sixth year. He loved the extra-curricular activities but nonetheless left School with five Highers.  Later, when he became an Assistant on the Master’s Court at the Merchant Company of Edinburgh he was appointed a Governor for a three year term.  He was invited to return in 2017 as Governor by Mike Sims as he was always ready ‘to ask the tough questions’ and his business background enabled him to bring a different perspective to the discussions. 

At the time when Alasdair left School, everyone joined the FP Club and the subscriptions were minimal.  In the first 20 years after school he wasn’t particularly active in the Club as he focused on his career and family, however his business has an office in Aberdeen and he started to attend the FP Club Dinner there as a good way to network and catch up with old friends.  It gave an extra dimension to his visits to the city outwith the Dinner as he established a network of contacts to meet in the evenings after work.   He then started to attend the Glasgow Dinner and the Parent Club Dinner in Edinburgh.  Alasdair says that the Branch Clubs are all very different from each other.  Glasgow is about the School and the staff at the time the FPs were there and all the pranks they were involved in.  The Parent Club dinner tends to be more formal. The Aberdeen Dinner strikes a balance – there are more guests than FPs and School memories are therefore less relevant. The main speaker was often David Gray but rather than talk about ESMS specifically, he used to select a topic in the education sphere. On one occasion he spoke about matching similar sized pupils to make rugby safer, rather than similar ages and shortly afterwards this became the norm.  

At the age of 16 Alasdair started his company, Trinity Factors, with the assistance of his parents and before he left school.  He began to manage rental flats, garages and blocks of flats with every expectation that his career would be in the property sector.  Alasdair studied at Napier College as he felt the BA course suited him; as did their flexibility with attendance providing he passed the examinations, as he was growing the business whilst studying.   In his year at Napier, he learnt about the most important aspects of running a business: contract law and Scots law in general, accounting, marketing, economics and general business practice. However, at the end of his first year, Napier tightened up on attendance requirements so, after much thought, he cease his studies to concentrate on the business.  Alasdair’s business progressed over the years and when he was around 24, it was able to support him in married life.  The business has grown significantly and now manages over 10,000 properties employing over 65 staff.  In recent years Alasdair has increasingly focused strategy and policy; leaving his capable team to deal with the day-to-day aspects.

Outwith work, Alasdair became a Special Constable and a Squadron Commander in the Air Training Corps . Apart from the Royal Company of Merchants, and his involvement with ESMS, Alasdair is a member of the Rotary Club of Braids.  Rotary aims to make things better, not just locally but around the world. Through Rotary he volunteers in Tanzania, on a small island called Ukerewe in Lake Victoria which is always a challenging yet hugely satisfying experience. Rotary undertakes a variety of projects there which have a significant impact on the quality of life for the local population, with lots of infrastructure work being undertaking, including renovation of hospital wards and repairs and improvements to the water supply to ensure that all schools have piped water.  There is an issue with safe water on the island as there is little rainfall so most water is taken out of the lake which sadly contains Bilharzia flukes. Life expectancy on the island is very low at 45-50, partially due to the water quality.

Alasdair sees the role of the Governing Council as supporting the Senior Leadership Team of the Schools in every aspect of school life.  He believes the Schools provide an unrivalled quality of education, as evidenced again in the recent examination results, and that they produce young people who are not only educated but well-rounded, kind and who have a wide range of interests. He says “The size of the school gives it a breadth of resources for staff to provide so many extra curricular activities.  The hard work and attitude of the staff is fantastic and this shows in the pupils who often go on to higher education; arriving on the world stage in politics, medicine , engineering and a wide range of other professions hoping to make a difference.”

“It is an interesting time to be taking over the Chair of the Council as we welcome the dynamic new Principal of ESMS, the excellent interim Head of Stewart’s Melville College and of course we already have the very capable Kirsty Nicholson as Head of The Mary Erskine School.  My predecessor as Chair of the Governing Council had to support the schools through lots of change, including staffing at leadership levels and all the logistical issues created by the pandemic, so this will be a time to stabilise and focus on the future.  Our new Principal is settling into his role and will be focusing on developing excellence at the Schools which I will wholeheartedly support, with an ever-stronger Governing Council providing breadth of experience. We will support the Senior Leadership Team and staff to help them in the challenging role of delivering an ever-improving educational experience.  I would especially like to see  an increase in the size of funding that is Access to Excellence.  It is an outstanding way of assisting children who would not otherwise benefit from the quality of our education.”.

Interview with Anthony Simpson, Principal, ESMS

Over the summer break, we caught up with Anthony Simpson, new Principal of ESMS, and asked him to tell us more about his career before moving to ESMS and his plans for the future.

Tell us a little about your career before you moved to ESMS, what subject did you teach before you moved into management and how did you find it moving from private to state then back to private sector education.

I started my career teaching maths at Giggleswick, a boarding school in North Yorkshire.  I was there for nine years in a variety of roles, from Mathematic teacher to Assistant Director of studies, living in the boarding house and ending my tenure there as Head of Mathematics.  I felt I was a strong teacher and I wanted to see if this was true in different environments, so I moved to become an Assistant Principal in an inner-city school in Liverpool; in one of the most deprived areas in the UK.  I was living there during the week and travelling home at weekends, so whilst I had success with my role, after some time I wanted to spend more time with my family.  I applied to a school in Keighley that was about to go into special measures for the role of Vice Principal.  The aim was to turn the school around and make a big impact, which my management team and I managed to achieve.  After this challenge I then wanted to focus more on the pastoral side of school leadership, so I moved back to the boarding school at Giggleswick as the Senior Deputy Head.

Tell us about your life outside of school. I’ve heard you’re a triathlete, how do you find time for the training required and how often do you get to compete in tournaments?

Prior to moving to Edinburgh, I used to compete in triathlons in various competitions in North Yorkshire, the Lakes and Scotland.  I find if I train I work more effectively, so I have to make time for some form of exercise.  I’m very goal orientated so I need something to work towards.  I’ve only raced once this year but I do have the European Championships in Bilbao in a couple of months.  I also do a lot of walking with my black Labrador over the hills in Edinburgh and on the beach.

What do you see as the main area of development for ESMS as a whole in the coming years?  What is your vision for the future of the schools?

The vision will be developed with the Senior Leadership Team, incorporating the views of our staff and School community.  We need to stick close to the values, but we also need to invest time developing our educational offer so that we set ourselves apart from other schools in Edinburgh.  The most immediate challenge is steadying the ship after Covid and steering the School safely through the upcoming political and economic climate.

You spent a year as Head of Stewart’s Melville College before taking the step up to Principal.  What did you learn during that year that has helped to shape your vision?

I learned an awful lot about the Scottish education system, the staff and how much the school means to them personally and I got to know the children very well, all of which I have really enjoyed. Working closely alongside The Mary Erskine School and ESMS Junior School gave me a good feel for what the staff, parents and pupils across ESMS want from the Schools. 

What has been the most challenging part of working at ESMS so far?

Gaining an understanding of all three Schools and their different traditions is a challenge when you first arrive and of course getting to know people in a short space of time can be a challenge too but it’s actually a challenge I really enjoy. I am really looking forward to getting to know my colleagues in other parts of the schools over the course of this year and exploring how I can best support them to move forward. 

Bex Jones (MES 2015), Design Consultant at Shore Group

What were your favourite subjects when you were at school?

Maths, Physics and Product Design!

When you left school, did you have a career path in mind?

I would say taking my time selecting a university course really helped me have clarity on my career path so, all going well, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do. However, it wasn’t until I was immersed in my course and had experience with various projects that I knew I would like to pursue the medical industry.

Did you find it tough getting your first role after graduating or was the pathway quite straightforward?

I unfortunately graduated during the first year of the pandemic, which meant there was a lot of uncertainty with the market. I found it quite tough initially as there weren’t many opportunities I was interested in, which caused a bit of anxiety. However, I worked in hospitality to keep me ticking over while applying, and after a few months I found a great opportunity in Edinburgh with an exciting start-up. Looking back, I’m glad I was patient and applied for jobs that were applicable, rather than rushing and potentially ending up in a less relevant role purely to succumb to the pressure of getting a job straight out of university. There’s no rush!

What helped to guide you to your role today?

In school I always enjoyed, and knew my strengths lay with, Maths and Physics. I was intrigued with how things worked and therefore knew engineering would favour these skills. However, I also had a very keen interest in the creative aspect of Product Design and the relationship between people and products, which is what made my university course so ideal, as I was able to combine these passions. Over the five years of the PDE course, the huge variety projects and opportunities helped guide me towards my career today.

What inspired you to pursue a career in product design in the medical sector?

I was always drawn to medical based projects at university and completed a few throughout my five years. On the back of my fourth-year project, I was fortunate enough to be selected for an internship in New Zealand, where I spent 7 weeks working for a Telecare company designing assistive devices. I believe this solidified my desire to work in the medical industry as I got to see first-hand the positive impact you can make on people’s lives through great innovation. It was no shock then that my final year project, where you can choose whatever topic you please, was medical related. I was able to speak to some incredible medical professionals and users in the hospital throughout the project, which was an invaluable experience and one I won’t forget.  I also followed Shore’s work during university, even applying to intern some summers, and was always interested in their amazing projects. So, I think a combination of these various experiences and research within the medical industry are what inspired me to pursue this area. 

Can you tell us about a project that you have worked on that is live in the sector?

In my previous job I worked on a product called BackHug, which is a robotic physiotherapy bed that is designed to mobilise the joints around the spine to help people with chronic back pain and conditions like Multiple Sclerosis. This is currently the only project I have worked on that is live in the sector, which is amazing as I’ve been able to see how user’s day-to-day pain has been reduced drastically, and their lives improved with it. 

An exciting project that will be live in the future that I have been working on since joining Shore is a novel, reusable drug delivery system designed for self-administration. We are designing this for a large pharmaceutical company, which has been an amazing experience to work so closely with the clients. I’m very excited to see how the project comes out as I think it’s an incredible concept for the future of drug delivery systems. 

What is your role at Shore and what does it involve day-to-day?

I am a Design Consultant / Mechanical Design Engineer. The great thing about working at a consultancy like Shore is that my day-to-day tasks can vary greatly depending on the phase of the project we are in. I was very fortunate to join my project from the early stages, so I have had a diverse range of tasks since joining in December. For example, in initial concept generation, I spent a lot of time on CAD, 3D printing prototypes, and then testing these before making iterations. Then further along the process I have been involved in human factor studies, testing out a shortlist of concepts to be taken forward for development.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety of tasks I do is one of my favourite things about my job as it allows to me continue developing my skills over a wide range of areas. However, my favourite thing is knowing I’m contributing to designing and creating products that are helping people and improving their lives in some way.

What has been the most challenging part of your career so far?

Probably moving jobs from my previous one to Shore, as there was a lot of anxiety when handing in my notice, worrying about letting people down or moving on too early. However, if you’re sure of something you want then you have to put yourself first and take your chances while you can.

Do you have any advice for pupils at ESMS who might wish to follow a similar career path?

It’s really beneficial to take your time looking into your university course and what it can offer you. The projects and extracurricular clubs are extremely valuable in helping you decide what you enjoy and are passionate about. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions or to question something! I think if you’re curious about things, creative or even just enthusiastic, then engineering is a career that I highly recommend. Having a job that provides you with such a diverse range of skills and a variety of projects to work on and learn from is extremely rare, in my opinion, so go for it! You never know, your blue-sky ideas could change people’s lives. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still designing and innovating medical devices with hopefully some projects that are live in the sector and doing well! Shore have previously won The Red Dot Design Award, an international competition, for their designs so I would love to have been on a project that is nominated or successful in this in five years.

What’s your fondest memory from your schooldays?

I think it has to be the Christmas Panto. It was always such a fun time of year, everyone was in the best of spirits, and the teachers always put on a good show.

Melville College Reunion

An informal reunion for all Melville College former pupils will take place on Friday 4 November at the Clubhouse at Inverleith starting at 2.00pm. As part of the reunion, the downstairs function room will be renamed the Dougie Morgan Room. There will be a display of Melville College memorabilia during the afternoon.

The invitation is extended to all Melville College former pupils and for those who wish to bring their partner. The cost is £18 per person.  Anyone who wishes to attend please contact David Dunsire, Clerk/Treasurer, Melville College Trust via email : daviddunsire@outlook.com.

Rescheduled Burns Supper in Australia

The annual Burns Supper of the Watsonians NSW Australia Club will take place on Saturday 23 July, at the Fairmont Restaurant in the Occidental Hotel where the party will have exclusive use of the bar and restaurant.  Doors will open at 6.45pm for a 7pm start.  A three-course meal with haggis entrée and a nip of whisky, with a choice of options for the main course, is included in the ticket price of £93. 

The evening will begin with a piper and the traditional haggis ceremony and will also include entertainment during the evening by Harry, our professional Watsonian poet. His repertoire is legendary! For those who haven’t had the pleasure, check out his website for a sneak preview….http://harrylaing.com.au/workshops/.

To secure your booking please deposit payment to the Watsonian Club account including your name in the field at deposit transfer so that we can identify your payment:
BSB : 032 184
Account : 276971
Account Name: Watsonian Club of NSW

Please also email Pat Stevenson at nswwatsonians@gmail.com with your name and school.

Resumption of FP Club Monthly Lunches

The FP Club would like to invite former pupils of the Club and Guild as well as former staff from both schools to join them for their first monthly lunch since early 2020!  This will take place on Friday 28 October, at the Clubhouse, at Inverleith.  The lunch will start at 1pm but doors will open at 12pm for those who would like to meet up for a drink and chat ahead of the meal.  The price will be £16 for two courses and £18 for three courses with menu options being selected on booking.  Coffee or tea and mints after the meal is included in all tickets. 

To book your place, please visit Trybooking

The following lunch will take place on Friday 25 November and bookings will open in early September.  The Christmas lunch will take place on Friday 16 December – further details will be released in mid-September.  The Christmas lunch in particular is always well attended and often sells out so please book early to avoid disappointment. 

The Season of Change

We are pleased to welcome Anthony Simpson as our new Principal as of 1 August and are looking forward to recruiting a new Director of Development later this year.  We have been planning for the return of the monthly lunches, run by the FP Club and supported by the Development Office along with the return of the former staff lunches, now being hosted by Norma Rolls and Bryan Lewis, both in the autumn term.

We are grateful to everyone who was able to contribute to our Access to Excellence appeal during the summer term and whose gifts have helped to offer an ESMS education to those without the means.  We are pleased to announce there will be at least 25 pupils being supported by Access to Excellence from the start of term in August and applications are still being submitted and means tested throughout the summer break. 

In the meantime, we are working on a replacement for our ESMS Connect platform, which gives pupils and young alumni the opportunity to search for parents and established alumni who can offer careers guidance and support, as well as mentoring opportunities.  We hope to have this up and running and going through final tests in September, with a formal launch later in the term. 

And finally, we have been enjoying speaking to some of our young alumni about their career development. We had a lovely chat with Christina and Maxwell, which you will read elsewhere in this newsletter, about their steps after school and how they are pushing their careers forward in different ways.  We have also enjoyed reading the Collegian and Merchant Maiden and learning about all the many activities that have taken place across the schools this year.  

Suzi and Tania