|In the days when we had non-certificate
classes containing the less able who could never seem to
develop any ability to read music, I fell upon a ploy I
had used some twenty years before - placing coloured
tabs on the keys of all keyboards. So they found
every 'C' was purple, each 'D' was blue, each 'E' was
green and so on. The written arrangements were in
notation of similar colours. This was the
counterpart of 'painting by numbers' - they
'played by colours.'
one period of this each pupil could hardly believe
it! They could actually achieve something.
About the third or fourth week of this, we attempted
ensemble work and they took to it immediately.
one pupil would take charge, counting the others in at
the start of a piece (usually pop numbers which they
knew well) and off they would go. When coming to
grief , someone would shout "Stop!" and they would
begin again. They were determined to get things
right that first day and eventually I had to say, "I
think it's time to stop for the day." "Why?"
said they. "Because it's twenty past five!" I
retorted - well over one hour since the final bell had
rung! Their reply was, "Please, sir, can we stay
late every Thursday?" This from pupils who were
the bane of many a department because of their
disinterest and lack of self application. But
they had now learned to believe in themselves and the
fact that achievement was NOT an impossibility.
pupil who turned out to be musically talented, highly
artistic and a junior member of a city football team
could be trouble with a capital T and this from his
first year in school. However, he went on to
complete successfully a certificate course in music and
would do anything for me. This was the result of
an event in his 1st year. Let me explain...........
classes, in addition to studying academic or serious
music, were exposed also to a practical and theoretical
block of history - History of Popular Music from 1900 to
1950. When we were dealing with Jazz and Swing and
the fact that so-called black musicians seemed to give over
100% in performance, I always corrected the 'black'
statement and said that they should really be referred
to as Afro-Americans, explaining why.
Now - this
boy was the son of a Scottish mother and an African
father and, of course, coloured with the frizzy hair of
his father's lineage. This, perhaps, had been one
factor in the root of his alienation.
heard someone actually extol the abilities of the
coloured races, he visibly brightened. I asked the
class at this point, to reinforce the social content of
the lesson, if anyone had seen a 'black man.' All
the hands went up and a few turned to look at their
classmate. I said. "Oh? I've never
seen one." I asked the boy to come out beside me
and he duly did so. I held a piece of black card
up beside his face and said, "Is so-and-so black?"
All could do none other than shout out, "No!" I
then held a white card up to my face, a slightly tanned
pink, and said, "Am I white?" Again came the
see, then, that we are ALL coloured," said I, with my
arm around the boy's shoulder, "The only difference
being that so-and-so's colour is much richer than
mine." There and then good race relations and a
unique rapport with the boy were established.
On a lighter note was the Christmas
discos in the 1980s for all pupils in certificate
courses - third to sixth years. One entire
afternoon before the Christmas recess was set aside
for festivities. One room of my department was
rearranged with pairs of desks positioned around the
room and covered with red table cloths upon which
were holly and a lighted candle as
decorations. Two record decks and disco lights
were positioned at the front of the room to balance
the tables of quiches, pizzas, sandwiches, sausage
rolls and all manner of sweets and fruit which
surrounded the Christmas tree at the rear.
to reflect a popular programme of the time on
television, the classroom door bore a large notice for
all to see:- "MEL'S DINER". And all staff from the
rector down took up the invitation to drop in for food
and drink even if for a few minutes. The classes
of that period seemed to possess a unique maturity and
mannerability which made them a joy to work with.
there we leave Linlathen with its great positivity and
pupils who went on to become honours graduates at
Scottish universities and also the few more negative
pupils who achieved little but who, as characters or
rogues, added to the school's unique identity.
here, as I ended my speech at my retiral presentation,
when talking of these things,
"I've said it so many times before
and I'll say it again this last time - But Goddam,
that's what makes Linlathen LINLATHEN!"
Within a few months of that speech
and on account of the local council's policy on
school closures and amalgamations, Linlathen at 3.45
p.m. haemorrhaged its role of pupils, closed its
doors for the last time and died! The corpse
was duly dismembered and in pieces taken to
land-fills, recycling yards as usable building
materials or whatever is done with old departed almae
matres. I am told that a
Morrison's supermarket now occupies the site which
was sold for "a few million bucks" to top up the
city's coffers but, having never seen it, I cannot
possibly believe it!
is a counteractant to this morbid finality as a
great many ex-Linlathen pupils have banded
themselves into a "Linlathen Group" on Facebook
and maintain the cohesion of former camaraderie,
forming without realising their creation, a
Linlathen group-mind which is ever vibrant.
Ergo Linlathen, albeit in a non-corporeal
existence, lives on! Of course I am a
cell within that group-mind and have daily
messages, retaining old contacts and conversing
again with my pupils, now in their early 50s with
children, yes - and grandchildren!
Note:- the following email arrived 22:04:04
and made me realise all our work was not in vain. Indeed the young man, now
in his late 20s, actually quoted from a 2nd year
lesson as the subject of the posting. Now
that's a memory for you!!
sure I could actually ever call you Mel - how
pretty sure you would have a time remembering me as I
was not one of the ragamuffins that, I have no doubt,
currently reside in Perth Prison!
just thought I’d drop you a line to say that I for one
thoroughly enjoyed your classes and always thought
them informative. You and a handful of your colleagues
at Linlathen did have an impact on the young
minds you tended and were a credit to your chosen
Thanks for the kind
words, Andy, they're very much appreciated.