3: In Action
Jane Whitworth & Elizabeth Fleming
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Editor's note: Not all photos from this book are included below.
- THE AIMS
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
OF SPORT AT RANNOCH
by David Barry
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
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.
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."
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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".
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".
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".
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!
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
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