3: In Action
Jane Whitworth & Elizabeth Fleming
ExRannoch.com is delighted to have gained
the kind permission of the authors to reproduce their work on this site.
Editor's note: Not all photos from this book are included below.
Note: The prices shown are
as of 1959. £1000 at that time is worth £16,000 in 2006.
PREPARATIONS AND PANICS
of the plans for the School appeared in The Scotsman, Glasgow Herald,
Dundee Courier and Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, 31st March, 1959. Two days
later, over a hundred letters of enquiry were received by Dougal. Later,
articles appeared in The Times Educational Supplement, the Scots Magazine,
and the Scottish Field.
the spring and summer the three founders and Elizabeth, were helped by
many friends including a number of senior Altyre boys who came and worked
during their Easter holidays. From April Jane Dowding came as headmaster's
secretary and bursar.
Catering over that summer with numbers fluctuating between six and twenty has always been a mystery. Elizabeth believes that being the only wife she must have had something to do with it, but cannot remember either shopping or cooking with one or two exceptions. Mostly they lived on corned beef and tatties but one Saturday evening about fifteen sat down to a delicious meal of very fresh fried fish. A friend, Ian, who had caught it, was gutting and passing pieces to Elizabeth to fry and when all were sitting round the kitchen table tucking in, Ian said "Hope you enjoyed the pike". Enthusiasm seemed to evaporate surprisingly enough! On another occasion, when entertaining the Headmaster of Strathallan, a crisis arose in the kitchen when Jane's whippet daintily removed each small sausage arranged artistically among the pieces of cold chicken. Rolled up bacon was quickly substituted and no-one any the wiser.
The workforce (outside the Garden Classrooms).
is coming on fast - the builders really do move once they get going. The
beds and mattresses and blankets are all out in the dormitories and desks
in the classrooms, so it is beginning to look like a school. Parents most
days and four lots each on Sunday and Saturday, so we are kept busy
entertaining them - tea, coffee or sherry according to time of day and
even lunch for those who come up from London on the night train. It is
really unbelievable how news of the school has got about. We now have boys
from Kenya, Nigeria, Hong Kong, USA, Canada, Germany, Pakistan, and Persia
(The last three plus USA, natives, but others British). I think we will
start with 60-80 boys ages ranging from 12-15.
playing fields are flat now - bulldozer done its work and gone home! It
has been ploughed and all Valery's and John's school friends come up every
evening after school and collect stones off the field. The weather
yesterday was wonderful. I showed round a Herr Wendland [his
boy came in Sept 1959] who was much travelled all over the world. He
just stood and looked at the school with the loch beyond and said he had
seldom seen anyplace as beautiful.
master situation is good. Nine masters booked - Dougal, Pat, John, Tom
Riley, Michael Haines, John Fifer, Ronan Hutchison, Diarmid Cross, David
Watt. They have all been here and I like them all, especially Michael.
Ronan is a qualified sailing instructor and Geography master. Diarmid
Cross is Latin and French BA (Oxford) and is a rowing blue. David Watt
part-time Art master. John Fifer Music and Maths. The others you know.
Another 15ft. dinghy came the other day from Eton.
26th May 1959
here goes on fast. Three Prep School headmasters were here on Sunday, one
had just been to the Prep School Headmasters Association meeting where he
said the main topic for discussion was the new Public School and he had
been sent to inspect us and send back a report. Meanwhile we are packing
boys in as hard as we can. The more boys over a basic 60, the more profit
there will be for future building. I interviewed a cook also on Saturday
afternoon, but no use at all.
weather - we've all been bathing daily in Loch Rannoch - off the jetty
straight into water 3ft. deep and sandy bottom. We use the boat-house as a
dressing room. The chief job has been getting stones off the Rugger Pitch.
We bought an old tractor, a Fordson, like the Lettoch one for £15, so
I've been back at the old job - harrowing, etc.!! Rather fun to be back in
the old seat! The tractor is invaluable for such work and also for the
gang mowers which we have been using on the front lawn. The rhododendrons
are just about out, and soon will be really lovely.
headmaster came for lunch today - I'm taking it all in my stride now. We
have Jo Duguid now as houseman and it makes all the difference. He washes
up, sweeps and cleans windows, keeps the kitchen and bathrooms etc., so I
can be a lady of leisure (except for cooking when required). He is very
nice, 45 or so, with a stammer, very reliable and pleasant. We got him
through the labour exchange. We also have George, a 17year old who also
lives in and does scrubbing and outside labouring jobs.
parents round was very hard work, trying to make them "see"
buildings that certainly were nowhere like ready, many not started, and a
lot just ideas on John's drawing board. On one hot summer afternoon when
the six permanent residents at that time were all de-stoning the playing
fields, several prospective parents turned up at once. Jane, as secretary,
started showing the first one round, having passed the “gardener”
who hastily brushed the dust off his black suit and would appear at the
headmaster's door wearing another "hat". John would show the
next parents round, Elizabeth the next, and finally the last lot were
convinced by Valery and John aged 11 and 8, that the buildings would be in
existence and ready by September, and on the strength of this their son
the Headmaster of Gordonstoun and his wife round caused Elizabeth an
anxious moment. Mrs. Brereton proceeded to open the lid of one of a
newly-arrived lot of second-hand desks that were known to be full of
appalling graffiti, but lo and behold, without Elizabeth's knowledge,
Dougal and John had been up late the night before painting all the desks
inside with thick grey paint.
visit of the Fire Prevention Officer was a worrying time. He stood in the
front porch saying "wooden floor, panelled walls, lath and plaster
ceiling", and everyone knows that means a totally flammable area. He
carefully noted this down in his wee notebook. He repeated these words
verbatim when he entered the main hall, and again in each of the large
main rooms on the ground floor, each time writing it all down. Then came
the stairwell which as all Rannochians will know is beautifully panelled,
varnished, and flammable wood up to the heavens; and at that time there
was still the old wood-burning stove at the foot of the stairs - the note
taking went on and on and they became more and more depressed that they
would never get a certificate, but this was forthcoming after a few
were to be issued with reel escapes which were simplicity itself - all you
had to do was to jump out of the window with a small strap round your
waist. Thank goodness, all staff and pupils were brave, fearless or
possibly unimaginative! The Second Master who later demonstrated the
apparatus to the relevant dormitories remembers this as the most
hair-raising moment of his life, to leap from a second storey window and
have faith in a little red box.
Whitworth bought an old fire engine from the Inverness Fire Brigade which
he first had at Altyre, and that came down in July to become the start of
the Rannoch Fire Brigade.