View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Old teachers

Learned that the headmaster of my secondary school died a few days ago at the age of 83. Yes, I left school that long ago. He was a nice man, whom I met a number of times in recent years during my Christmas visits to Holland. Not the last few years, as he was in a nursing home. I'm a little sad. 

I also remember my maths teacher, who passed away a year after I left school. He was a formidable north country man, who was dedicated to his final year-students. Although very ill with stomach cancer (I later learned) he came in specially for us. He gave me the insight in the world of algebra, differential and integral calculus as well as trigonometry that had eluded me for so long. I remember him with respect.

Then there was the religious education teacher who did not read the Bible with us, but insisted on showing us videos about real life. About sex. About what goes on inside the oven of a crematorium during the incineration of a body. I had to write an essay about Mahatma Gandhi (at the age of 17), for which I was granted 10/10, as it was 20 pages long. But he did wonder whether I had actually learned something from him. Not at the time. I have now.

Not all my teachers were wonderful. Some smoked in class - this was the late 70s, early 80s. Two got into a fight with a pupil. That is unforgivable, and unspeakable. I don't think either of them are still alive, and I quite frankly don't really care. Neither do I care much about the bearded geography teacher who got pissed off with the know-all that was me who knew all the answers to his questions, and finally shut me up by saying "would you like to take my position in front of this class?" 

Tragedy struck at least once, when a fellow pupil was cycling along a road and a car driver opened his door into his path. The lad was knocked off his bike and promptly run over by a car coming in the opposite direction. He died later that night. I sometimes think about him, he had a whacky sense of humour.

Hilarity was also not far off, particularly when we went on a schooltrip at age 12. We went to the Ardennes (a very hilly area in eastern Belgium) and were made to walk the Hautes Fagnes. That translates as the High Bogs. We slept in youth hostels, and the one at Bevercé (near Malmédy) was less than clean. But, horror upon horror, whispered the boys and girls, there was a boy and a girl who had snogged. And had S. E. X. Just as well we had to do more walking the next day. The journey home was punctuated by the radio on board the coach playing "Dancing Queen" by ABBA. And that's where I'll end this trip down memory lane.