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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]

ExRannoch.com is delighted to have gained the kind permission of the authors to reproduce their work on this site.
Please note that this work is their copyright and should not be reproduced without permission.

Editor's note: Not all photos from this book are included below.



The ideas behind the founding of Rannoch, can be seen by referring to the introductory statement written early in 1959, (see appendix) and in particular to the paragraphs headed General Aims, School Organisation, and Services. 

How these aims were conceived and carried out were the result of the previous experiences of all three founders. Dougal at Edinburgh Academy, Oxford and Air Sea Rescue during the war, and at Strathallan School; Pat at Cambridge, R.E.M.E., crossing the Sahara desert and travelling overland to teach in South Africa; John flying in the RAF, working on the re-building of Iona Abbey, and six years in state education; and significantly for all of them, a combined teaching experience of fourteen years at Gordonstoun , and Pat and John both at school under Kurt Hahn. They felt they could put into practice what had been learned; adopting and adapting and sometimes rejecting their previous experiences and of course innovating to suit the unique situation of Rannoch. 

In the planning of the school buildings they felt it important that boys should, as much as possible, be in touch with the magnificent setting of Rannoch - classrooms, dormitories, studies, and common rooms should get a sight of the natural landscape rather than man-made alternatives. By participating together in the construction and maintenance of the fabric of the school, boys could become practical and self-reliant, and not dependent always on professionals to keep the community functioning. Many difficulties arose but these were often perceived as opportunities. 

The setting was eminently suited to a wide variety of outdoor activities and sport, but it was believed that academic work was good for its own sake in the strengthening of character, just as much as reaching a mountain-top. Rannoch was trying to get the best of both worlds by using the opportunities of the surroundings to the full and at the same time recognising the importance of work in the classroom, without an over-intensive forcing of the pace either mentally or physically. 

They believed in the establishment and development of a state of trust, which could not be prescribed but had to be nurtured. It was repeatedly said that in formulating a set of rules, the more you specify, the more you exclude.

Boys were to be given real responsibility for the care, maintenance, and smooth running of the Houses. This was considered important despite the disorder that was inevitable if these tasks were not conscientiously carried out. Looking after juniors in their dormitories was the duty of the Room Leaders who would meet regularly. The welfare of every boy was of concern at every level. The success and development of the school was very much dependent on the active involvement of both staff and boys. To quote from a later prospectus, written about 1962 when the system was becoming more established: "An individual, as well as corporate, awareness of the importance of high standards is sought for, and to this end an internal constitution and method has been introduced, providing for delegated authority and individual response right down through the school. Every boy, even the most junior, has a school task and duty to perform. There is no fagging. Junior and Middle School boys with special responsibilities are called Factors. Cadets are usually appointed from IVth and Vth formers, and above them are the school Leaders. Some of these Leaders are appointed Wardens. The main school departments have their own boy captains and the House departments have their officers. Boys who are entrusted with the very varying responsibilities enjoy no additional privileges except possibly such as are necessary to enable them to carry out their duties with success."




Contributed by David Barry 

Sports of many kinds were from the start very much a feature of Rannoch, a school which aimed to give to each boy an opportunity for success. Indeed, as far as Rannoch is concerned, it is difficult to know exactly what we should describe as "sport" so, for the purposes of this article, "Sport" is a term which will be applied to "having fun out of doors" however I will not consider the more serious activity of "Expeditions", the realm of Mike Haines and later Andre Zaluski, or sailing, where the mysteries of the tack are beyond me.

In 1959, "Sport at Rannoch" meant Ronan Hutchison and those whom he trained to assist him. With Ronan, I met for the first time a teacher totally devoted to getting as many pupils as possible reasonably proficient in some outdoor activity - either individual or team depending not jusjt on the boy's abilities but also on his character. 

However, no sport in those early days meant going out and playing, for the first requirement for both staff and boys was to create the "playing field". This could, and did, mean flattening and stoning the rugby pitch, making the wooden boxes in which the rugby posts were set and also, of course, digging the holes into which the boxes were first placed. (Thus my definition - "having fun out of doors"!) These were crude exercises when compared with laying concrete throwing circles for shot-putters which would not crack in typical Rannoch winter conditions. Essentially it was: "You want to become Scottish shot champion, Pat? Well, find out from Mr.Fleming how to mix concrete and get him to tell you how to level it without making it too slippy."

In preparing for some sports we were very well placed at Rannoch. Take for instance Pole Vaulting, the realm of the bouncing Bermudan, Fraser Smith. The local saw mill provided unlimited supplies of sweet-smelling sawdust to cushion the landings from ever-increasing heights. 

Right from the first term, other schools, like Gordonstoun and Glenalmond, were prepared to offer us rugby fixtures and thus to give encouragement to the creation of teams and the spirit that went with it. Our boys had to become accustomed to fairly massive defeats at times but this did not prevent an enthusiastic approach and probably helped to ensure that such games were kept in perspective rather than, as in other places, becoming too important. This does not mean that there were not times when staff and players became over enthusiastic as when Mr. Grieg awarded a try to Rannoch  when one of our boys "touched down" over the 25 yard line or when Ronnie Maclean celebrated "scoring" a victory-bringing try in the very same place -the Inverness Academy referee must have been sorely torn as he was Ronnie's uncle! 

The number of boys provided a very special and personal problem for several of the staff in the first few years. This was occasioned by the visit of Colin Whurr and his Edinburgh University beer-drinkers' team which required the School team to be reinforced or given bulk by some of the staff. Packing down in the scrum became a thoroughly intoxicating experience! For some reason - probably because it was the only pitch which was not frost-solid - this match was always played at Camghouran . This meant there was a fierce wind blowing off the hills to the south, there was a goodly scattering of sheep manure on the pitch and, if you had the misfortune to be required to score a try at the eastern end, you had to dive into a deep, icy pool which totally took your breath away.

Other games were played here too and, on balance, it was better to be playing than watching as no coat seemed capable of keeping out the wind. 

Travel was another problem for the development of competitive sport and was resolved in several ways. Jimmy Duncan, fortunately, was prepared to take us in his bus anywhere provided he could get to the school to collect us - his sole test for roads in the district! I think, too, we had the advantage as his bus was fairly firmly sprung or our teams were well accustomed to the bumpy roads so never became sick unlike some of our visitors who were not always in the best condition to play when they arrived.

Our most complicated journey which was only made possible by the enthusiasm of the Kiel staff was to Dumbarton: Jimmy Duncan to Rannoch station - train to Dumbarton - Kiel staff cars to the School; with the whole process having to be reversed and the teams fed within a very restricted time to enable us to catch the only northbound train of the evening. Kiel were a very valuable fixture for Rannoch for the games were always closely contested with both schools being about the same size. But the games, or at least half of them, were quite literally an uphill task owing to the geography of their pitches; the slope on several of their pitches also made the games very tactical! Challenging, too, were the visits to Fort Augustus where it was said the 1st.XV were fiercely punished by the monk, who doubled as coach and bursar, if they lost to Rannoch which they certainly on occasions did. On one visit he was entertaining us so well, the bus set off to Spean Bridge station without the staff, and cars had to be found to chase after it. 

But rugby was not the only Sport. Athletics involved the whole School in the Summer term with Standards being set at several levels so everyone had something to work for which they had a chance of achieving. "Standards" also meant there was always something going on which sustained interest for the majority rather than just serious coaching and training which soon becomes boring for all but the best.

"Standards" allowed individuals, however slow, to compete and gave rise to some classic "duels" as well as unorthodox support; to the sole, I think, vegetarian who was by no means a poor athlete was given the sympathetic encouragement: "Eat some meat and then you will be really good." (Those who remember the "supporter", the almost Dracula- like Aspin, may wonder whether he did not mean Blood.)

Athletics brought the School into competition with a further set of schools, including our nearest neighbour, Breadalbane Academy, and Queen Victoria's School at Dunblane. Here, we spent the most pleasant evening of the athletics season competing regularly in a six school competition which they organised. I don't think we ever won but also I don't think it ever rained and we did well enough to make the journey over the hills very worthwhile.

In athletics, the highlight of the year was the visit to Glasgow and the Scottish Schools' Competition. This we did by car, with the night spent on Loch Lomondside. I cannot believe the boys slept in much comfort but it didn't prevent them winning medals in several events over the years.

I can never forget the consternation in the back of our car when Patrick Ussher thought he had lost his Javelin Gold medal - of course, someone had hidden it. Many fine performances were achieved at various times and, certainly in these early days, this was the sport in which Rannoch made a name for itself.

As much a test of logistics as athletics was the annual Round the Loch relay. At a time when transport was essentially provided by willing and generous staff, to get all the runners to the correct places and at the correct times needed all the organisational skills available at a school where time­keeping was not always taken very seriously - except, of course, when timing races! Whether the race was as much fun for the runners as for the judges/spectators I do not know but I cannot imagine many races run anywhere in the world along such a beautiful course. Despite, too, the length of the race it was often very closely contested to the last "leg". 

Though several schools nowadays may have Curling in their list of activities, I doubt if any then or now have it as an outdoor sport. However, in the grounds of Dall was the local estate curling rink. How much it was still used before the School arrived I do not know but the locals certainly welcomed the School's offer not only to clean it out but to provide it with floodlights - the latter an offer which Pat Whitworth could not resist; not only to provide the lights but also, of course, the electricity to power them. It may seem strange, but to get the pond to hold water so effectively as to ensure reasonably flat ice proved a considerable problem - like so many of the other sports, getting the "pitch" ready was a major part of the "sport".

However, in the several suitable winters, this was achieved to the satisfaction of all. In the afternoon when rugby was out of the question, the School curled madly (a word chosen with care) with members of staff participating rashly (one year Mike Haines' blood stained the ice for several weeks). At night, the locals arrived for an even more convivial session with the staff participating even more enthusiastically. This was the real "Roaring Game" played according to the old method with the exception that proper brooms were replaced by denuding all houses of their floor brushes. Modern curlers would have been astonished at the wonderment shown when someone returned from Canada and demonstrated the new method of delivering a stone - sliding with the stone rather than remaining poised on the "hack". 

Being Rannoch we did not wait for it to freeze at loch level but took all the kit up to the Reservoir in a jeep which had, I think, been bought by a consortium. Equipment had never been a problem as Mike Haines, the regular “habitue" of the auction rooms and "picker up of unconsidered trifles", had arranged a deal with Loves of Perth who had produced a load of stones at £1 a pair, or almost a pair. 6" nails driven through a board provide a more than adequate "hack", while similar nails through a longer board mark the "head" most professionally! 

Another winter sport, and certainly a better spectator sport, was practised down the McGibbon track which compared very favourably with the Cresta Run for excitement if not for speed. Crash helmets may not have been obligatory but they were certainly advisable as there was a large tree marking the almost right angled turn into the final straight. I don't know how fast we actually travelled but it was quite fast enough to make falling off painful, particularly if the person riding with you landed on top. 

Two racing Fours were given to the School and a staff Four once took to the loch. The Chaplain of the day rowing at stroke did nearly cause a re-baptism of the crew by total immersion but the loch was seldom calm enough for teaching beginners and much of the time the boats remained unused.


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