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Memories of
the Early Years
is in several parts

1: Plans
and Negotiations

2: Final
Preparations and Panics

3: In Action

4: Appendices
(various authors)


Design & Layout
© S-Print 2004/5/6/7


Rannoch School
The Early Years
1958 - 1965

Written by Jane Whitworth & Elizabeth Fleming
[copyright 1994]



Forres, 21 September 1958

Since I last wrote - I will try and tell you the most important things. Mrs. Whitworth and Peter, Pat's mother and younger brother, came for a few days. She was looking at the Barracks and decided to buy it for the School and live there herself till it was needed as a Boys House. It has accommodation for 50-60 boys plus four small flats for married masters and two or three bachelor masters' accommodation. Perfect order, so she plans to move in next March during Peter's vacation and will have the place in running order for visiting parents till we get Dall finally ready in April or May. She will be an enormous help to me.

The slaters are working - three or four men on the roof and they are doing all the roof, gutters, and roughcast of the outside walls. The joiner is renewing rotten window-sills and the painter is burning off old paint and the primer is going on. Already the place looks so much better, but the whitewash on the walls won't go on till next Spring in order to allow the lime roughcast to dry and also to be perfectly fresh in the summer for parents.

Now we are negotiating for buildings in the old saw mill just across the burn and will probably get a huge building for a gymnasium 120' x 40' -bigger than most schools gyms. Also another building and possibly the carpenter's shop which has a circular saw and lathe driven by a water wheel.


The Drying shed which became the Gym


John very much wants that obviously, but it is more doubtful as it is still in use by the PC. But Mr Mackie White, the PC head man in Edinburgh, is very keen on our whole thing and anxious to give us as much as he can, and is to meet us at Dall one Sunday soon to go over what buildings we need and so on. There is also Finnart and Crosscraigs Lodges which they want us to have when they come vacant in a few years time, so, by building classrooms, we can see our way up to two hundred or so boys. - All very ambitious, but if we only achieve half of it, it won't be too bad!

Mrs Mclnnes, a smallholder's wife, is a trained nurse and has agreed to be our nurse for the first year or two so that will save a full salary for only a few boys. She lives in a cottage near our back entrance. Also Mrs Edgar -retired from working with the owners of Dall all her life, is going to do the linen for us for the first two or three years, till the job gets too big for part time - she looks after a mother, aged 94. The other smallholder -McGibbon, is anxious to keep cows to supply our needs if he can just get over the problem of how to dispose of his holiday milk, and his wife wants hens. 

David Bain, a forestry worker living very near wants to rent the wall garden and greenhouses and grow the vegetables we want.

So you see, it seems as if it is turning into a community enterprise. We had all the Dall residents - about twenty in all - in for a ceilidh the evening before we left and the atmosphere was so friendly it was most inspiring. Mr. Mackie White is most impressed by the idea of the community. Pat and Dougal were staggered by the success of the evening and grateful to John and me for persisting in the idea against their indifference and almost opposition.

On Sunday Pat and John and I went to drinks after church with the Bishop of Portsmouth - Lancelot Fleming. He was most interested in the school - said it must be good to have a Fleming in it. I made myself known and your connection with him, he was most surprised and very nice. He sends you his love and hopes to see you sometime up at Dall. I think he is to be asked to be on our "Advisory Board".

So now we have to bide our time in Forres. We mean to go back to Dall for the whole of the Christmas holidays and do indoor jobs and go away for two or three days Christmas itself to Edinburgh. Dougal and Pat and Tom and Agnes Riley are doing the same.

This summer has been hard work but tremendous fun - much laughter and jokes and great interest. We are all much the better for it - though I feel tired now that the pace has slackened. 

Forres, 14 October 1958

We were down at Dall for Saturday night. The place is in an indescribable mess with builders' work going on - holes in the wall for louvre ventilators under the floors all round. One floor missing. One room stripped for making lavatory block, etc. And now we have a playing field problem. The land the Forestry Commission gave us floods - the water level is high just now we must have alternative accommodation for Rugger. John is going to Perth this afternoon to see the Land Agent for the Commission. We want the old cricket Geld adjacent to the house - six acres and all level, and ideal for two rugger pitches and a cricket square in the centre. We must get this or we will consider not signing the agreement for the house which is not yet finally through. The school's success depends on good playing fields and it is better to lose a little money on the alterations than to fail later on. But I don't think it will come to that - we have friends high up who will help us - a recently retired Under Secretary of Sate for Scotland for one. Also we want to have a reassurance from the Forestry Commission that they really want us and will recognise our need to expand to other lodges etc. They are very slow about the Barracks. We wonder if they are a bit sticky, but actually I think it is just Government Red Tape and general slowness. Anyway, it is a bit worrying just now, but we cannot expect it all to be easy and straightforward. 

Forres, 28th October 1958

We think the playing field problems are ironing out. We have heard indirectly that the F.C. are taking over No.4 Holding which is the one that ‘our' field is in, and they are going to re-allocate it - So we hope and presume they mean to give us that field and the smallholder something else. That is the "Cricket ground' - the field in the foreground of the postcard of Dall. Plenty of room for athletics and all so near the house and gates in the fence between house and field, and also the terrace for a grandstand. It couldn't be better. We may have to pay more, but anything is better than nothing. We would have had to back out if there had been no fields for us. Then we will have two more pitches and a cricket square at the Barracks for matches, Saturdays, etc. - so that will be plenty. 

Forres, 2nd November 1958

No news yet about the cricket field for certain, but we hear that we will be getting it and they are going to rearrange the smallholders to suit us.

Altyre closing has meant 30-40 boys promised places at Gordonstoun-Altyre will be disappointed and Mr. Chew has asked Dougal if he will take them. Also Strathallan is going to hand over its waiting list (that is better than just handing over rejects). This starting with big numbers is going to make even more work, but is a great opportunity for us. 

Forres, 23rd November 1958

Great anxiety over the Barracks. We were down at Rannoch on Sunday to see if we could hear anything about opposition and apparently there are two other interested parties. One is a Montrose hotel keeper who wants to start a fishing hotel there and if he decided he does want it he will probably put in a high bid. The other just wants a shooting lodge so probably we could top his bid - but not the other. John is going down again on Thursday to see the head forester who keeps the keys and who I think wants us to get it - he says the others don't know about us. Dougal is determined to get it by dipping into his bank balance, but how far to dip is what is difficult to know, offers are not opened till 5th December. Our one ray of hope is that the Barracks has only rights for one boat and the hotelier wants at least three - also he depends on being able to get a licence, which may be difficult.

The cricket pitch field which is nearly ours will be ample for a long time. Whether we get it depends on whether it is considered possible to reclaim satisfactorily the other field for the smallholder. He is a bit unhappy at being dispossessed of his best field, but Dougal and John had a chat with him and he became much friendlier esp. when we gave him the use of a small paddock in the walled garden and half a glass house with a peach tree! All is happy now, so I hope the report on the field is favourable. We should be able to get a grant for half the cost of reclamation and crop compensation is only £5per annum for two years.

Last Thursday I went to a huge Farm Displenishing sale. There must have been hundreds of farmers and cars there. I wanted trolleys and wheelbarrows but would have never caught the auctioneer's eye. But I ran into Bill and Ann Macaulay and Bill did my bidding for me. I went home with one wheelbarrow! - for £2 - the others were creosoted and went for £6-£8 and this one was every bit as good so I did well. He bought himself a tractor.
*[Bill and Ann were old friends where Elizabeth worked as a Land Girl]

Forres, 9th December 1958

We plan to make ourselves very comfortable in the Christmas holidays -we will use only one part of Dall and have plenty fires on - one in each room to start with. Also the Agamatic will provide hot water in the kitchenette etc. and two bathrooms.

10th - We've got the Barracks! - by a narrow margin. Now we can really go ahead and Dougal can make up the prospectus these holidays. I am also glad that it was only a narrow margin as that means we did not put in an unnecessarily high offer.

The Barracks

Now we can accommodate around 100 boys which means we will be able to pay decent masters, and it will be an economic concern. The flags are out! - everyone is so nice about it and seem genuinely pleased. All those trips down to Rannoch were not in vain. I was somehow sure we would get it and of course we are ha ving to pay a good deal for it - but not more than its valuation which is comforting. 

During the Christmas holidays, Pat, Dougal and the Fleming family ‘camped’ in a few of the rooms, stoked the ancient copper hot water boiler and kept warm with open fires. An ancient iron stove, a prehistoric wood burner at the foot of the main staircase was extinguished as soon as it was lit when flames were seen through chinks of the cracked chimney. They all went home to celebrate Christmas; Elizabeth and the children drove back after the break in a snowstorm to find "the whole place was a blaze of light" to quote Dochdo (Duncan Cameron), retired Dall estate joiner. Pat Whitworth had arrived an hour earlier and had started the Petter engine which gave Ikw of light -a great advance on candles. Dougal and John followed in the pantechnicon with three second-hand fire brigade ladders which became the first fire escapes from upstairs dormitories.


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