Tuesday, 21 April 2009

2 August 1942

Out from 10.20 till 11.35.  PB still like a dove.  Two games of handball played.


I started going to school at 5 years of age and attended Skene Square Public School image

Skene Square School in Aberdeen as it stands today.


My attendance there was of short duration.  I suppose that, petted and spoiled as I was by all the family, I was ill fitted to feel at ease among the ragamuffins of Skene Square and was probably pretty much picked upon as a result of my disinclination to mix with them.  The fault was, of course, entirely mine as being much too sissy.  However, my school mates, within a short time apparently decided that the error of my ways should be impressed upon me by means of the operation known as ‘the turkey’s nip’.  This was administered as follows.  Two boys  held my arms while a third, having spat on the back of my left hand, rubbed the place with his rolled up tweed cap until the skin broke.  I carry the scar to this day.  I gather that it was this incident that decided my parents that I was not fitted for the rough and tumble of the public primary school and that I should be placed in a small private day school where I might learnt the three R’s without being the subject of such violent interruptions.  In parenthesis, in self-defense  for my failure to ‘make good’ at Skene Square I ought to mention that I was a sickly child and remained so until by 7th year, an operation of appendicitis then putting a full stop to the whole gamut of childish ailments, including whooping cough, measles (3 times, twice ordinary and once German, it is said), mumps, diphtheria, etc which had been my lot since birth.  The private school I was sent to was such as has probably ceased to exist a quarter of a century ago and partook of the nature of the old fashioned Scotch country school where the Dominie was headmaster and whole teaching staff combined and the entire school accommodated in one room.  My school was run by a Miss Reid, an elderly retired school teacher and if ever a woman had the gift of imparting knowledge and getting results from pupils, she had.  I give Miss Reid the full credit for any really worth while training received by me during my years imageat school and college.  She kept school in the sitting room of her flat which was on the top storey of a house in Rosemount Viaduct  and had ten or twelve pupils at that time, of ages ranging from give to ten years of age. The children were either weakly, like myself, backward or, in some cases, actually mentally deficient.  The classes were graded according, I believe, to age, so that a class by itself might consist of only tow or three pupils, if not of only one.   Each child received, therefore, what amounted practically to individual tuition and benefited accordingly.  I know for myself that even at that tender age the mass production methods employed in the public schools with 50 to 60 childish voices chanting in unison C-A-T, cat and D-O-G, dog used to nauseate and disgust me.  There were only two of us in my class, a boy called Gordon and myself.  I can remember on one occasion we were given a homework task of making up sentences containing certain words.  One of the words given was ‘cheeses’.  Gordon submitted the next morning - ‘The little baby died and went up to cheeses’.  That is the only genuine schoolboy howler I can vouch for from experience.  I was about a year and a half at Miss Reid’s school, my parents removing me when they began to notice that I was taking unto myself the habits of facial contortions and grimaces with several of my half witted classmates were afflicted. By disassociation this ill was soon remedied but the foundation which Miss Reid’s teaching had laid has been a lasting and invaluable benefit to me.  After leaving Miss Reid I attended Sunnybank Primary Public School until I entered Robert Gordon’s Collegeimage at 11 years of age in 1915.  But the two years previous provided me during the summer vacation with a holiday such as any boy might envy.  My uncle Johnnie was the cook on the SS Hogarth imageof the Aberdeen Steam Navigation Company, whose boats plyed between Aberdeen and London twice a week,  the trip along the coast each way taking about 36 hours with a stay of the same duration in each port.  Bless Jonnie for ever for his proposal that I should accompany him as supernumery cook’s boy during the summer holidays. Just imagine it – six whole weeks on board a ship and going to London every week, and that to a boy of nine!  How Johnnie managed it I don’t know but as far as Captain Dow was concerned, I apparently did not exist.  If he did see me, he must have, like Nelson, viewed me through the telescope with his blind eye.  Anyhow, there was I, duly installed as cook’s third mate, complete with diminutive cook’s apron which mother had made for me and as happy as a lark.  Mind you, I had to work and very good training it was.  I had to wash dishes, polish brasses, peel potatoes and prepare vegetables.  Only when selling peas I had to keep whistling.  There was an abundance of good food as can be imagined (no wonder cooks are fat) and to which I did full justice with an appetite whetted by the healthy sea air, so much indeed that I recall that when I went on board at the beginning of the vacation, I weighed 3 stones 7 lbs and at the end 4 stones 5 lbs.  That was in 1913 and it was in that year that my Dad met with a very serious cycle accident.  It happened a little beyond Banchory where he was in the habit during the summer months of weekend camping in a tent with a few of his workmates.  On this occasion he had arrived at the tent to find that the others had not yet arrived and decided to pass the time by prospecting a road close to the camping ground.  The road led to a mill which was situated at the bottom of a steep incline where a bridge crossed a small stream at a sharp angle.  Rounding the bend in the road, Dad found himself on the steep downhill stretch and, observing the bend at the bridge, clapped on his brakes.  The brakes, for some reason or other failed to act and lost control of his cycle and half way down the hill, crashed into the stone wall running along the road side on the right.  He remembers nothing more until he recovered consciousness at home many days later.  We were informed, however, that the miller’s family who had heard the crash, found him standing in the middle of the road, his head split from above the right eyebrow to behind the right ear and simply soaked with blood, gravely contemplating in his hand the bell of the cycle which had been knocked off by the smash.  He was brought to Banchory in a cart and was such a ghastly sight that the miller kept his head hidden under an umbrella when they came through the village.  His injuries were temporarily dressed by a doctor there and he was then brought home to Aberdeen in a taxi cab.  I always remember that on that day my mother, sister and myself were just on the point of going out for a walk when, looking out of the window, I saw a taxi coming up the street.  ‘Mum’, I called, ‘there’s a taxi coming.  Shall I engage it?’ ‘Righto’, said my mother, in the same joking spirit, ‘tell it to stop here.’  And while I watched, in idle curiosity, the car drew up and stopped at our door and mother and Madge, having run to the window at my excited call of ‘It’s stopped here’, the three of us were in time to see our poor Dad, his head and face swathed in bandages, being lifted out of the car.


A note by Pat O’Neill about Robert Gordon’s College, as per http://AbsoluteAstronomy.com
‘It originally opened in 1750 as the result of a bequest by Robert Gordon, an Aberdeen merchant, who made his fortune from trading with Baltic ports, and was known at foundation as Robert Gordon's Hospital. This was 19 years after Gordon had died and left his estate in a 'Deed of Mortification' to fund the foundation of the Hospital. The fine William Adam-designed building was in fact completed in 1732, but lay empty until 1745 until Gordon's foundation had sufficient funds to complete the interior. During the Jacobite Rising in 1746 the buildings were commandeered by Hanoverian troops and named Fort Cumberland. Gordon's aim was to give the poor boys of Aberdeen a firm education, or as he put it to "found a Hospital for the Maintenance, Aliment, Entertainment and Education of young boys from the city whose parents were poor and destitute". At this point all pupils at the school were boarders, but in 1881, the Hospital became a day school known as Robert Gordon's College. Boarding did not return until 1937 with the establishment of Sillerton House. In 1989 RGC became a co-educational school.’


http://www.eastlondonpostcard.co.uk In 1821 the Aberdeen Steam Navigation company began to operate a service from Aberdeen Wharf, Limehouse.  General cargo was carried between London and Aberdeen.  The image shown was that of the SS Aberdonian which would have been of a similar vessel to the SS Hogarth.


KnockKnocking said...

I love all the old style photos!!

jstinson said...

What a wonderful tribute. I enjoyed the school boy memories so much!