2014 GA Magazine
THE GORDONSTOUN ASSOCIATION
Patron: HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG, KT
HAPPY 80th Gordonstoun
HAPPY 90th george
THE GORDONSTOUN ASSOCIATION
SCOTLAND IV30 5RF
+44 (0) 1343 837 922
Find us on Facebook by searching
for “Gordonstoun Association”
Welcome to this edition of the GA Magazine, which contains a
remarkable range of articles and information which confirm the
health of The Gordonstoun Association.
The GA Committee
View from the GA Office
The number of former pupils attending events continues to grow
with exceptional numbers now attending the London Carol
Service and the GA weekend at the School. Other events
have had good support and the variety of venues is always
interesting. Our farthest event this year took place in Auckland,
New Zealand which has prompted suggestions of hosting
events in other parts of the world including Australia.
A Butterfly flaps its wings
Reflections from across the water (Part I)
The school is now in its 80th year. There are going to be many
events taking place around the UK, with many linked to Ocean
Spirit’s voyage around Britain and a schedule of her voyage will
be ready in the New Year. Ocean Spirit is a wonderful vessel,
a little more comfortable than some of her predecessors such as; Diligent, Henrietta, Prince
Louis, Solidian, Pinta and Sea Spirit.
Why you might ask have I focused on the school yachts, the answer is very straight forward,
all the School’s vessels alongside the various cutters have contributed in their own way to
the success of Gordonstoun as a school where pupils, staff and even some parents can find
something about themselves through the challenges imposed on them by sailing.
For those who live outside the UK and who would like to organise an event for the 80th
anniversary celebration please let the office know and we can at the very least publicise it.
It would also be great to get photographic feedback no matter how big or small the event. I
would urge all to try and get involved where ever you can.
Reflections from across the water (Part II)
My Art Journey
My Passion for Art and Sculpture
Hooked on Rugby
Hook, Line and Sinker
Spithead Naval Review
The Gordonstoun Campus: A moment in time
A Love of Life
From the Ivory Tower
Quarkers about Physics
It’s all in the DNA
Memories of a term at Gordonstoun
Ultra trail du mont Blanc
There have been calls for a wider choice of events that might suit those who are not of a sporty
disposition. As a result, this year we launched the Gordonstoun Association Art and Literature
Society (GAALS). The Society’s first event took place at the Scottish National Gallery in
Edinburgh for a private tour of the Peter Doig (Windmill 1974) exhibition at the end of August.
This was followed by a visit to the Tate in Liverpool for the Marc Chagall exhibition in October.
Both events were extremely interesting and enjoyed by all. I am looking forward to other
events being arranged and would ask that if you are active in the Art and Literature world and
would like to host or arrange an event please contact the GA office at the school.
Empowering the disadvantaged
Gordonstoun is a very young school in the independent sector, in some ways it could be
said it is just entering its teenage years when you consider the age of some of the other
well-known schools. Yet the loyalty it engenders amongst its alumni is truly remarkable.
Having met hundreds of OGs at many different events over the last few years, I have been
impressed by the diversity of professions that many OGs have chosen to go into. Words
such as open, friendly, optimistic, inspirational and tenacious all spring to mind when I think
of the OGs I have met along the way.
On the committee front I am pleased to announce that Alistair McNutt and Heather Glover
(nee Main) were elected as new committee members. In the office Niki Pargetter is on
maternity leave following the birth of her son Finlay - both are doing very well. Marina
Edge, a committee member, has been covering for her.
The take up of electronic copies of the GA Magazine has been good, and I thank those
who opted to receive mailing electronically. I would like to see more receive the electronic
version, so if you wish that format in the future, please contact the office to let them know.
For various reasons we have not provided advertising in this issue of the magazine. We
hope to offer advertising space in next year’s issue, so if you are interested in placing an
advertisement please contact me via the office.
Finally I would like to reassure members that the GA committee is your committee and it will
always try to do what is best for the Association and the wider Gordonstoun Community.
When there are challenges to be met we will do our best to address them.
I would like to thank all the Committee, Steve Brown, Andrew Lyall, Niki Pargeter and
Marina Edge who are invaluable in the on-going success of the Association together with
From the Archives
Poot thaat baack
The GA Office
Moray IV30 5RF
Tel: +44 (0) 1343 837922
Email: [email protected]
Find us on Facebook!
Please let us have your email address so
we can email you news and events, rather
than printing and sending them on paper!
The GA Committee
Georgie Middleton née Housman
GA Committee Secretary
Amanda Campbell Lambert née Brown
(Plewlands 1991) GA Treasurer
Keeper of the Gordonstoun Family
Marina Edge née Ford
Heather Glover née Main
Nicky Montgomery née Hill
The GA Office
GA Assistant Co-ordinator
GA Office Administrator
Whilst every care is taken in the preparation of this publication The Gordonstoun Association cannot accept responsibility for actions or
decisions taken by readers based on information supplied, that is subsequently changed or cancelled. Any opinions expressed are those of
the authors and not necessarily those of The Gordonstoun Association or The Gordonstoun Schools.
THE VIEW FROM GA HQ
By Steve Brown, GA Co-ordinator
Gordonstoun approaches its 80th year in excellent
shape. The school role is a very healthy one and
there is an ambitious and exciting programme of
capital development projects in place. We have
seen the opening of the George Welsh Sports
Centre which is now both fully functioning and
hugely impressive. Indeed it is a fitting tribute to our
eponymous hero in the year in which he celebrated
his 90th birthday. The extension to the Ogstoun
Theatre to accommodate further teaching space
is almost complete and there are exciting plans
for significant improvements in terms of boarding
provision. The school must continue to evolve and these developments are
designed to allow the delivery of a Hahnian education fit for the 21st Century.
Gordonstoun continues to flourish and to evolve and we feel confident that the
good Doctor would approve. As Henry Brereton wrote of Gordonstoun in the
mid-1940’s “it is a living organism and, like a seed, carries with it both past
and future”. We look to the future with real confidence.
The past twelve months have seen the Gordonstoun Association continue to
go from strength to strength. It is a vibrant and robust organisation with the
committee working extremely hard on your behalf to ensure it meets the needs
of its membership. There has been a full and varied programme of events and
it is very gratifying to see numbers attending many of these events reaching
‘record’ levels. Both Carol Services, the London Dinner, GA Weekend and the
Edinburgh Dinner are now all firm fixtures in the GA Calendar. There have
also been a number of successful Gatherings outside of the UK with events
in Switzerland, NZ, China and Hong Kong. Whilst the GA is always very
keen to support these social occasions it also has a role to play in helping the
Gordonstoun family come together in more challenging circumstances and in
many ways this is when it is at its strongest.
The development of a Gordonstoun Arts and Literary Society (GAALS) has
been an important theme for 2013 and we have enjoyed visits to both the
Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and the Tate, Liverpool. There are
significant numbers of OGs involved in a wide spectrum of ‘arts’ based careers
– painters, sculptors, actors, writers, directors (in theatre, film and television),
the media, academia, musicians, singers, composers and conductors. In fact
this magazine features pieces by an OG artist and gallery owner living and
working in Australia, a UK based sculptor and a professor of Art History in
the USA. It also features a piece by Rosemary Gillespie, who was one of the
students pictured on the front of last year’s GA magazine and who is now
also a Professor in the USA. There are a couple of further articles with strong
connections to academia ‘across the pond’.
The diversity of the school’s alumni imbued as they are with a wee dose of
‘Plus est en vous’ ensures that the range of careers in which they are involved
is extraordinarily wide and the diversity of challenges they undertake is quite
staggering. One of the most widely held misconceptions of Gordonstoun is
that it only suits a certain ‘type’ of student. Of course nothing could be further
from the truth and Kurt Hahn did all he could to create a school for all ‘types’
and it is a privilege to work in an environment where such a disparate intake
are afforded the opportunity to grow both individually and collectively and
in the process develop such strong bonds. In 1934, the year in which he
founded Gordonstoun, he wrote the following of his students;
“Now, what are you all: bookworms and practical children, gangsters and
sluggards, fighters and forgivers, explorers and dreamers, builders and
jesters? Must we tolerate and nurture you all until you have developed and
expressed your manifold and incompatible selves?”.
The answer then, as now: a resounding yes. This is what makes Gordonstoun
such a special place.
(I know this is true because I have come across them all in my 20 years at
Gordonstoun. You know who you are!)
Gordonstoun is in a strong position as it approaches its 80th birthday and we
do hope that you will be able to join us at one of the many events throughout
the year. We particularly hope that GA Day on Saturday 3rd May will be
a very enjoyable and well attended celebration building upon the success
of last year’s event. We are also very excited about this summer’s voyage
by Ocean Spirit of Moray which will see it circumnavigate the UK calling
in at Edinburgh, Ipswich, London, Brighton, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol,
Liverpool and Glasgow. We do hope you will be able to join us on board for
a reminisce and there may even be some sailing opportunities for the more
intrepid amongst us.
Plus est en vous?
News from Admissions
By Chris Barton, Director of Admissions
This has been another busy but successful
‘Admissions Year’ and we were delighted to
welcome 178 new students into Gordonstoun and
Aberlour House at the start of September. The
numbers of OGs choosing to send their children to
the Gordonstoun Schools, and I hasten to add that
this also includes the International Summer School,
continues to grow and this is a particularly positive
trend. We now have over 580 young people here from Year 4 to Year 13.
and kindness shown by our former students has been of huge assistance to
the School and I am afraid that there are far too many individuals who fall
into this category for them all to be mentioned personally.
As ever, we are always open to new ideas and feedback over the
admissions process, potential markets and indeed invitations and
introductions to feeder schools and especially to families who might be
interested in learning a little more about life at Gordonstoun. We would
very much appreciate additional input from OGs in this regard.
Boarding/Day/ Boy/Girl - numbers have remained virtually constant in
the recent past with the only slight change being a small decrease in the
numbers of Expatriate Families and the associated slight increase in those
students coming from overseas. We have retained our international breadth
with youngsters from 43 different countries represented within the school
community. In the Senior School the fact that we are one of the very few full
seven day boarding schools remains an important ‘niche’ factor.
We are now right in the middle of Scholarship season having already
completed the Aberlour House Assessments and we are now looking
forward to the Sixth Form Scholarship Competition (16+) on the 16th/17th
January and the Lower School Scholarship Competition (13+) which this
year runs from 24th to the 26th February. Further details on all of the
above can be found on the School website at www.gordonstoun.org.uk or
from Mrs Ann Hawksley, our Admissions Secretary, by email [email protected]
We have also been very grateful for the support and advice of many OGs
during our promotional visits both at home and overseas. The generosity
May I conclude by issuing a sincere invitation to come and visit your old School
with your families. There will be a warm welcome waiting for you here!
Principal’s welcome CAmpaign update
By Simon Reid, Principal of Gordonstoun Schools
By Richard Devey, Campaign Director
This has been a great year for the Gordonstoun
Association and Gordonstoun and one of its
finest markers was the GA weekend held on
Saturday 4th May. About 160 people joined us
for a full day and evening of events. At the risk
of attracting a storm of complaint from OGs
not of Round Square ilk, I should add that it was
particularly good to welcome ex-members of
Round Square who had, the night before, been
celebrating their association with Angus Miller,
their erstwhile Housemaster. The Open Day and
the evening’s celebration of the school, in the
company of many OGs, endorsed once again the thoughts and educational
ideas which found structure in the early years of the school and continue
to be part of its fabric today.
Following several years of concerted
effort by a huge team of supporters,
we were delighted to officially open
the George Welsh Sports Centre
in March of this year. The facility
is already proving a real Godsend
to the School and local community
and is in use from very early in the
morning until late each evening seven
days a week. It was fitting that Jockey
(as I am sure most OGs know him),
in his 90th year, was able to open
it with two of his former pupils, OG Olympians Zara Phillips
and Heather Stanning, and I know that all of us at the School
who have known George for many years are delighted that this
wonderful facility bears his name.
Undoubtedly, the main reason for celebration was the 40th anniversary
of co-education at Gordonstoun. In September 1972, the school’s doors
opened to girls for the first time and many of them came back for the
weekend. We were very proud to welcome back Alison Phillip, Christina
Rau, Franziska Thiede and Ghislaine Friesen, four of the first girls in
Hopeman House. We were also equally happy to welcome back no fewer
than three former Housemistresses, including Mrs Georgie Souter, who
had been with us at the school for the previous 111 terms.
Many of those who were here that day – or who visited their old school
before and after it – will have seen a place which, on the face of it, is
changing fast. The splendid George Welsh Sports Centre was opened in
March this year and alters dramatically the geography of the east end of
the school; and the construction of the Ogstoun Drama and Dance Centre
was well under way in early May (now completed). These are the opening
stages in a series of projects which see a transformation in the schools
curricular and boarding facilities over a five year period.
However, some things will not alter: the principles which are part of the
fabric of our school. Not all together surprisingly, these are principles
which are centered in what I believe education to be.
It is so tempting, to judge schools purely by their pupils academic
achievement and attach importance to League Tables. These are of
course very important but they are only one aspect of what a school can
provide in educating the young in its care. Having spent several decades
in education, I can see, as anyone can, the importance of what academic
achievement produces. However, what our early 21st century world needs
is far more opaque and more subtle.
Education needs to foster the qualities of humility, courage, tenacity and
compassion. Not by any stretch of the imagination is this achieved by
academic endeavour alone. “Never let formal education get in the way of
your learning,” said Mark Twain and he implies neatly what is important
about the challenges of mountaineering; or the leadership of others to
find the best pitch on a cliff or in musical arrangement; or the service
achievements of conversation with a person whose medical condition
means they cannot remember your name from yesterday; or, indeed,
the influences on the future of cultural understanding built into living
alongside students who have travelled the globe to attend this school.
These experiences and many others that a Gordonstoun education
provides, ensure that its impact remains with you throughout life.
We look forward to welcoming OGs to this year’s GA Day for the School’s
80th Anniversary on Saturday 3rd May 2014.
However, as is the way with Gordonstoun, little time was taken
to draw breath before the next exciting developments got
under way. At the time of writing the new major extension to
the Ogstoun Theatre, which houses dance studios, rehearsal
spaces and classrooms, is almost open, and we are delighted
that on this occasion we have not had to head out in to the
wider Gordonstoun family for support with this project, but
have funded it through careful budgeting and sound financial
management. Next on the cards is the beginning of the boarding
and academic re-structuring as outlined by the Principal in his
letter of May 2012; changes which are probably as significant
as any undertaken in the last 80 years. With a projected cost
of £9 million for all that is planned it is certain that we will need
the help and support of more of the Gordonstoun family than at
any time in the past, and I do hope that, when the call comes,
you will be keen to help your alma mater. There is little doubt
that these are exciting times to be involved in the Development
of Gordonstoun, and I look forward to meeting as many of you
as possible at events over the course of the next few years as
the projects progress.
Ocean Spirit Summer 2014
By Ian Lerner, Sail Training Co-ordinator
Ocean Spirit will be touring the
UK during the summer of 2014
to help celebrate the school’s
eightieth birthday. There are visits
planned for Leith, Ipswich, London,
Brighton, Portsmouth, Plymouth,
Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow,
with events on board for OG’s.
We will be publishing the full
programme shortly and hope to
run a week long OG voyage from
Glasgow to Plockton mid-August - please let us know if you
would be interested in participating in this. We hope to
bring you further news of dates, events and chances to help
us celebrate this special anniversary early in the new-year.
pastoral care at gordonstoun
By Diana Monteith
Recently a member of staff at Gordonstoun
brought her 15 year old son to a rock concert
at the school; he attended a local state school,
and had various prejudices about where ‘Mum’
rather embarrassingly worked. He left converted
and eager to apply for a sixth form place. As a
keen guitarist and ‘rock’ fan, he was astonished
to discover that the whole school turned out to
support their friends in their endeavours and
greeted each act, no matter who was performing,
and no matter what year group they were from,
with enthusiastic cheering and clapping. A rich
array of performance greets you every day at Gordonstoun and I never
cease to be amazed at the apparent (and it is apparent) ease with which
performers get up in chapel, or appear on the stage in the Ogstoun
Theatre, or in the Tennant Room, to make presentations, to play musical
instruments, to act, to sing, or to dance - and wherever this occurs the
support the students give each other is heartfelt, genuine and appreciative.
This whole culture is indicative of the health of the community – one in
which students feel safe and secure with their peers and with adults alike.
This culture of support begins every (yes, every!) morning in chapel. Here
not just staff, but also students give presentations about their projects,
their trips, their services, their clubs and societies, their interests, or their
beliefs. Getting up in front of 500 teenagers and about 30 staff to give
a presentation is no mean feat. But here we see the second unique
feature of Gordonstoun – the staff are also prepared to put themselves
in this ‘risky’ and vulnerable situation. And of course, this is not just
in ‘performance’ in chapel, it is also on mountain expeditions, or sea
voyages, or in conducting service to the community, or on an International
Project. My focus though is not physical ‘risk’, but the emotional, social
risk of performance in public where understanding and support is vital
for success. Feeling exposed is a daily experience for everyone at the
Gordonstoun community, but its reward is the daily reassurance of the
support the community gives.
Another very public place is the refectory: recently we had a visiting team
for dinner. When someone dropped a plate and it smashed, I was appalled
to hear a cheer and a giggle from behind me. Jumping up to quell this,
and suggest that the person laughing might like to help the unfortunate
person pick up the plate, I was astonished to find it was the visiting team.
Their teacher took no notice, and seemed not to care. Our students, as
usual, came to help clear up the mess, and once again, I was reminded
of the extraordinary culture of support that we do manage to engender
amongst our students and how different this is to what occurs elsewhere.
Not always of course. Students come to us from all over the UK, but also
from all over the world. It takes a few weeks for them to understand our
behaviour in chapel, or the refectory. We often have a little spate of
hymn book slamming at the start of the year and staff sometimes have to
remind students about not mocking the plate droppers in the refectory, but
it doesn’t take long for the respect to sink in and the behaviour to change.
In fact it is rare the staff need to step in, house captains, CBs, those around
the new students will soon make it clear that chapel is a special place for
all of us and somewhere to be respected by all. Or they will rush to help
out the embarrassed junior with the broken plate.
Peer support is so much a part of the culture it is easy to think it just comes
naturally, but, of course, it doesn’t. There are currently about 80 students
in the school who are peer mentors - volunteers, trained in counselling,
available to help and listen to those who need a student’s listening ear. We
also have senior students buddied up with juniors in boarding houses who
need extra help with organising themselves: through the learning support
department, a personalised programme is developed, for instance, checking
the prep and the school bag each night. In many houses senior students,
expert in a particular subject, are available to help lower school students
stuck on their prep. The boarding houses work hard to engender the family
atmosphere so vital to our students, through their house captains, and
captains of juniors, brews and house events and house expeds. If there are
ever instances of bullying I can pretty much guarantee to have heard about
it within hours, often from many different sources, and usually from students.
They don’t tolerate unkindness amongst each other and will step in to help if
they can, or report it to staff if they need to.
The boarding house is the ‘home from home’ for all our students. Run by
a remarkable HM, who moves in with family and pets to share their lives
with 60 teenagers, helped by the live in assistant HM, and by matron
who is there each day to provide help with the day to day practicalities
of living away from home, a listening ear, and lots of hot chocolate.
The house is a sanctuary in the very very busy life of any student at
Gordonstoun. All full time staff – and many part timers – are tutors
in a boarding house, which contributes to the boarding house family
atmosphere. In-house evenings, brews, house councils, games rooms,
kitchens, all help the student to feel that this is their home for the time they
are at school. Having worked in a school where houses were organised
horizontally, and as students moved up the school, they changed houses,
I am absolutely convinced that we get this right. The HM and house staff
form a very strong bond with the members of their house – the boys and
girls ‘look out’ for each other and a sense of belonging is created.
I have taught in 5 different schools, including a boys’ school, a girls’
school, an international school, a state school, and a mix of boarding
and day schools, and of course, have visited a myriad of others, but
nowhere else have I ever found a community in which the individuals are
so honestly, absolutely and entirely supportive of each other on a daily
basis in such a public place as our chapel, or where the daily test of that
support is tried in so many arenas.
Kurt Hahn when speaking about the Gordonstoun Services expressed a
wish that in a young man’s life compassion would become ‘the master
motive ...’ and the school still regularly listens to the parable of The Good
Samaritan – Hahn’s favourite bible reading. I believe Hahn would be
proud of the school community he would find at Gordonstoun in 2013,
and would truly see his vision of a school in which service to others,
appreciation of others and compassion for others is realised.
A story to tell: my career at the bbc
by Liz MacKean (Hopeman, 1992)
I left the BBC this Spring after an amazing twenty-four years there as
a journalist. It was a job where you could honestly say that no two
days were the same. It was always eventful; particularly in the months
leading up to my departure - I’ll return to that!
After university I took a postgraduate course in broadcast
journalism. It was a very technical
course, essential for mastering
the ability to edit by cutting tape
with a razor blade - no-one
was talking digital back then. I
began working shifts at Radio
Manchester where my first “big”
interview was with the doyenne of
traditional Labour politics, Dame
Barbara Castle. The interview
had gone well. On my way back
to the studio I thought I’d listen
back to the tape. Silence. Then
panic. No new reporter wants to
tell their editor they haven’t got
the story. I turned the car around,
walked into the Labour meeting, which was by now in full swing. I
remember saying: “I couldn’t be more sorry, but....” A minute later,
Dame Barbara had agreed to redo the entire thing. It was a lesson
I would never forget: if you are in a fix you have to sort it out. Oh,
and always check the sound.
was also one of the most fun. The easiest politician to interview was
Martin McGuiness, now Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, came a close second.
I took a close interest in events in Northern Ireland leading up to
the peace process. I carried this on when I transferred to the main
BBC newsroom and then Newsnight. The programme was a steep
learning curve. One night you might be reporting on the Middle
East; the next it could be American politics. And all the while you
might end up in the studio to be questioned by the most famous TV
interrogator of all: Jeremy Paxman. He enjoys putting colleagues
on the spot. Once I was asked to explain about a leadership crisis
among the Liberal Democrats. At the end Paxman turned to me, with
his trademark raised eyebrow, and demanded: “Do you actually
know what any of this means?”
I loved the challenge of the job, and I’m sure this can be traced back
to my days at Gordonstoun - that “have a go” spirit or, as someone
once put it: “Plus et en vous”! The ability to talk to anyone, vital to a
journalist, is also something fostered at the school. A few years ago
I went to Ivory Coast in West Africa to investigate the dumping of
toxic waste in the main city. Our reports helped establish it was done
deliberately and compensation was paid out. For a couple of years I
followed a group of teenagers in care looking at their lives and the
difficulties they faced growing up. I’ve never done anything that got so
much public support and interest and a commitment by the incoming
government to improve things.
My next contract was at Radio Cumbria, then Hereford and Worcester.
Part of the job was to write and present news bulletins. Finding stories
was a challenge in these rural stations. A big set of roadworks could
make the lunchtime news alongside fighting in Israel and political
storms at Westminster. Time was often tight; writing up until the last
minute, mistakes could be made. The famous golfer Mark McCumber
was introduced by me as Mark “Cucumber”. My editor, a sports fan, told
me he’d nearly driven off the road in surprise.
My next job was at Radio Solent. The stories seemed to get bigger. At
the end of the first Gulf War I was sent to Gibraltar and steamed back
aboard HMS Cardiff commentating as the ship made land. The crowds
of families lining Portsmouth dock and the emotion of the sailors after
many months at sea is something I’ll never forget.
I moved into television and got a job on BBC1’s Breakfast News in
London. For a couple of years I was one of the presenters, getting
up at half-past three in the morning. I never minded it - it was always
such fun to get into work and see what was going on. Working for
the BBC is a great privilege: doors open. The most famous person
I interviewed during this time was probably George Clooney. He
Working for the BBC is a great
privilege: doors open.
Then, I embarked on what was potentially the biggest story of
my career: the exposure of BBC presenter Jimmy Savile as an
abuser of children. As newspaper headlines recorded, my bosses
dropped the story, in controversial circumstances. An independent
inquiry later found the story should have run. After these events I
decided to move on and I now work for Channel 4 on Dispatches, a
When I reflect on my time at the BBC I feel so fortunate for the
opportunities and endless interest it’s given me. And, who knows, I
may go back?
reflections from across the water Part I
by Andrew McClellan (Duffus, 1975)
As a university-based art historian for the last thirty years, I would say my
life has been spent in the art world more than in the arts. I don’t practice
the arts, I teach them and write about
them; and my writing, to be more precise,
concentrates more on the history of art
criticism, collecting and museums than on
practicing artists. Nevertheless I love what I
do and I owe Gordonstoun a good deal for
putting me on my way.
Looking back on my years at school, it
feels like I spent so much of my time – and
certainly every Saturday – on a playing field
somewhere in northern Scotland or on a bus
getting us there, winding through beautiful
landscapes and many a forlorn town. But in
the end a more lasting influence was exerted
in the tired old Nissen huts near Cumming
House that served as the school’s fine arts
hub. I was a hopeless artist – couldn’t paint
a lick and my pottery wasn’t much better,
but it was there that I first studied the history of art with Messrs. Paterson
and Waddell (better known as Ali P and Willy Waddell). Mr. Waddell in
particular, who taught architecture, was a delight. He enjoyed teaching
and, beyond dates and terminology, he conveyed a sense of style, taste
and the importance of aesthetic standards. Despite the coming of the first
girls, it was still an austere and macho school back then, and the freedom to
study art history at A level in the company of my fine fellow students, Doug
Quin and Sally Lincoln (both fellow Americans, curiously), was a welcome
respite from the rigoUrs of outward bound. Also important, I should add,
were some adventures in theatre under the provocative supervision of
Jim Wingate, who pushed to find the creative “plus est en vous” in each of
us. Fresh from Oxford, he made the prospect of going to university seem
exciting, a little daring even.
I relished my time at Gordonstoun but after five invigorating years in the
Highlands I was done with public school and the wilderness. I was accepted
at various universities, including Yale back home, but I couldn’t resist the
lure of London and the chance to study art history and philosophy at UCL.
London was, and always will be, an art lover’s paradise and I consumed the
city’s rich art and architectural heritage. I spent holidays travelling rough
and cheap in Europe (thank you, school expeditions!) and a summer tour
of Italy before my final year left me certain that art was in my life for good.
After university I landed a job working with
school groups at the National Gallery and
selling post cards in the shop. I got to know
every painting in the collection, but a year of
retail and children was enough. I decided to
pursue a PhD in art history and entered the
Courtauld Institute of Art.
than vaguely aware of what I was up to. Winning the Booker Prize half way
through my time at the Courtauld did nothing to increase her attentiveness.
I remember she once said to me: “Don’t let art history become a substitute
for your life.” The trouble was I wanted art history to be my life, or at least
R.G. Waddell (ca.1975
I vividly remember the moment my outlook and fortunes changed. Sifting
through historical documents at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, I
came across a list of instructions issued during the French Revolution on
how to protect monuments and works of art against the destructive turmoil
unleashed after 1789. The document felt so modern. The consciousness
of history and coordinated effort to preserve the past even as the future
of politics and society were being remade was utterly compelling. One
document led to another and they all pointed to the creation of the first
public art museum at the Louvre, which became the subject of my thesis
and first book, still in print after twenty years. It was unusual at that time
to write about something other than a famous artist, but it was a fortuitous
decision that has fuelled a happy and productive scholarly career writing
about museums, art connoisseurship and collecting. But thanks to varied
interests and a certain humility engrained at school, I like to think I have
prevented art history from taking over my life.
If you’ve got any old photos
you’d like to share with the
readers of the Gordonstoun
Association Magazine, please
send them by post
or email to the GA office and
we’ll feature them in these
A bastion of the art establishment, the
Courtauld was at a low ebb when I arrived.
With some exceptions, professors left
their students to sink or swim; there was
little esprit de corps. I was interested in
eighteenth century art and assigned to
Anita Brookner, who was then morphing
from art historian to successful novelist.
She was kindly but distant and never more
Andrew McClellan, Douglas Quin and Margot Turcotte
in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (ca.1974)
by Douglas Quinn (Altyre, 1975)
As I reflect on the legacy of the arts in my life and the formative experiences
at Gordonstoun, I realise that the influence has been profound and nuanced,
ebbing and flowing through all that I have done professionally over the years.
What I both appreciated during my years at school, and what has coalesced
in the fullness of time, is how creativity and discipline were fostered and
threaded through our experience—and not solely in the arts. We certainly had
some good teachers, including Mr. Waddell. I can still smell the kilns firing and
see his long graceful fingers turning pots on the wheels and getting slip on
his jacket as he patiently instructed. He was a character, too—as were many
of our teachers. Like Andrew McClellan, I appreciated the haven he provided,
the value he placed on the arts as important and worthy of study, as well as
inculcating aesthetic judgment and that illusive notion of good taste.
Douglas Quin & Dane Hardine sculpting a bust (ca.1975
We both fondly remember Jim Wingate who instilled a sense of passion
and excitement about literature and theatre. In addition to his teaching, Mr.
Wingate organised poetry and play readings, theatre improvisation games,
and took a group of us to London for the university student theatre festival.
While the arts certainly provided a key foundation for me, the embrace of
our education was holistic and reflected Kurt Hahn’s profound educational
philosophy, which I have distilled to a valuing of the whole person. Studying
the natural sciences with Bex Richter, Angus MacKnight—who worked directly
with Hahn—Mary Byatt, Neil Cowx and Sheila Fraser-Moody instilled in me
a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world. This persists in my
work and I continue to be fascinated by landscape, animals and the natural
soundscape. The many expeditions we undertook were of tremendous value
as were encounters outside of classes and sanctioned activities. Weekend
naturalist jaunts along the Moray coast with Mr. Richter and helping Ms. Byatt
in the biology lab were notable because these were teachers who cared to get
to know me.
Likewise, the premium placed on service is something that was ingrained at
school. I looked forward to spending an afternoon every week at the Junior
or Senior Occupational Centre or at the pensioners’ home in Elgin. It was
important to connect with a community outside of school and to be made
to feel that one could make a difference in the lives of others. I still undertake
service—from volunteering with cultural and arts organisations to lending a
hand with community-based environmental initiatives.
So, while the arts were an indispensible part of my education at
Gordonstoun, it was their integration into a greater educational vision that
has left the most enduring impression on me as an artist—and inspired me
as a teacher. Let me share a few choice arts-related reminiscences from my
school days; they remain vivid in my mind as affirming moments in what
has become a wonderful adventure of a life in the arts.
I have a memory of rehearsing several scenes from Macbeth at Duffus
Castle: I played McDuff and Andrew played Banquo. It was a beautiful
summer evening and, as we wrapped up our final lines and collapsed,
exhausted onto the grass, several swans flew overhead. It was so still that
we could hear the edge tones from their wings. It was truly a magical
moment; we all felt so alive, relishing in the fact that we were acting these
scenes just miles from where the story took place in a motte-and-bailey
castle that was built in the 12th century (thank you, Mr. Waddell, for
making sure we knew our architecture).
Another memory that I have is playing music with Jonathan Hill. One day,
as we leafed through Melody Maker—a now-defunct music publication—
we saw a call for a music competition. Successful bands would receive
cash, gear and a possible recording contract. Our eyes grew large with
excitement. The rub was that we had classes and little time to rehearse.
So, we made an appointment to see the Headmaster, John Kempe, to ask if
we could miss some activities to practice and also a few days of school to
travel to Glasgow for the competition. Much to our delight (and surprise,
I might add) he agreed and was keen. We didn’t win anything, but being
encouraged and supported meant the world to us. Plus est en vous,
indeed! Jonathan is a gifted songwriter and can be heard in pubs and at
cèilidhs across the Highlands and islands of Scotland.
Finally, I remember walking up the North Lawn to the cliffs talking with
Andrew about where we might find ourselves as adults. Why I remember
this, I am not sure, but the conversation had the import of a pact—we
would go on to follow our bliss, to quote mythologist Joseph Campbell.
Looking back on it, we were lucky: as 14-year olds we had a pretty clear
sense of what we wanted to do. I knew I would be involved in something
creative—art or music. Andrew was, and still is, the consummate scholar.
So, here we are 40 years on and still doing what we love.
After leaving Gordonstoun, I returned to the US and went on to receive
a BA in Art from Oberlin College, where I also studied electronic music.
I continued my studies earning an MFA from the School of the Boston
Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University—where Andrew is currently a
professor. There I continued my studies in music composition and sound art.
After teaching Art and Art History at a Jesuit boys’ public school for 11
years, I returned to school and received my PhD in Acoustic Ecology from
the Union Institute. All the while, I slowly built my career as a composer and
sound artist, touring, performing and working variously in museum exhibit
design, film sound, music composition, recording, and bioacoustics. Over
the years, my work has been performed at numerous festivals and venues
internationally and nationally including Merkin Hall at Lincoln Center, the
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Spoleto Festival USA. I am
the grateful recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Ars
Acustica International prize, Meet the Composer, multiple fellowships in
music composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, and support
from the National Science Foundation. Among other recent projects, I have
composed music for the Kronos Quartet, created the sound design for and
mixed Werner Herzog’s Academy Award® nominated film, Encounters At
the End of the World and worked on exhibits for the Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History
and the Polish Academy of Sciences, among others.
I continue to work professionally in music and sound and, after a 15-year
hiatus, returned to teaching as an associate professor in the Television, Radio
and Film Department of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at
Syracuse University. I love what I do in both the arts and education and have
Gordonstoun to thank for a gift that keeps on giving.
my art journey
by Mike Banks (Cumming, 1976
Gordonstoun’s motto, Plus est en Vous - from
the influential noble van Gruuthuuse family,
based in Bruges (Flanders), literally the motto
means: There is more in you; and I felt this
when leaving Gordonstoun. I felt capable
of doing anything I set my mind to. The only
trouble was I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to
do back in 1977. All I knew was that it had to
I have recently returned from an eleven day
art research trip to the outback of Australia,
to an area called Ruby Gap, about 135kms
(85 miles) east of Alice Springs, I am now
preparing for an exhibition in Brisbane to be
held in October.
Ruby Gap National Park is a ruggedly
handsome place. It is situated in some of the
driest and most inhospitable regions on the
planet. It is so dry, it is as though every drop
of water has been wrung out of the place and
then blow-dried to be certain. Every twig,
leaf and blade of grass crunched, cracked
and crackled under foot, and every thirsty fly
from miles around congregated in the creases
of my skin, to suck on the smallest amount
of moisture, before it evaporated into the
dryness. The days were hot and the nights
very cold, as is typical of the desert at the
time of year (June and Winter), dropping to
2 degrees most nights. I know this, because
I slept a few nights out of my tent in a ‘swag’,
under the moon and shooting stars.
With an exhibition in mind, I settled into my
environment to paint. My palette for the
trip was a glorious cobalt blue sky, jagged
vermilion escarpment, sitting upon twisted and
buckled yellow ochre sandstone strata, with
thin-leaved trees, grasses and scrubby bushes
of thirsty green, deep rich alizarin Blood Gum
sap, and stark white of the Ghost Gum.
I have been asked to write a short piece
for the Gordonstoun Association magazine
because I am an old Gordonstoun boy, who
now makes a living as an Artist and co-owns
an Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia.
Gordonstoun was, without a doubt, a great
experience and offered so many possibilities
and opportunities, which led me to be sitting,
painting, in front of a massive escarpment
in the middle of the Australian outback. It is
a journey that has taken me from Sri Lanka
(where I was born), to England, Scotland,
London, Wales, New Zealand and finally to
my adopted home in Australia… and now to
Art is in my family. My late parents wrote and
illustrated three books on Sri Lankan Birds,
Butterflies and Animals, that are all still in print
today. Encouraged by my parent’s success at
writing and illustrating books, my partner Kaye
Fox and I wrote and illustrated a children’s
book called Meg A. Feather and the Forest
Games, which we published for the New
Zealand market, and I have illustrated another
children’s book in Australia, as a freelance
illustrator. My aunt also paints on commission,
Campaign Scenes for regiments of the British
Army, when they need a historical record of a
particular battle depicted.
However, the path of an artist is never
straightforward, even when the genes are
there. The journey usually has a few more
side-tracks than most other more traditional
vocations. I did many jobs in the past
like waiter, chef, accountant at Hamleys,
cabinetmaker and carpenter, selling vacuum
cleaners in Wales and mobile phones
in New Zealand. As things turned out, I
wouldn’t change a thing, as the path I took
has led me to this point; I can now call myself
When I left Gordonstoun, I spent the last term
as an exchange student at The Southport
School, on the Gold Coast, Australia. It was
perhaps one of the most important terms of
my life, as it gave me the opportunity to see
this great country, Australia, where I would
eventually live and call home, and where I
would find my Element and be in my element
(from the book The Element by Sir Ken
Robinson) and make my living doing what
I truly love. It is never too late to find your
metier and follow your bliss. Who knows
what surprising twists and turns, diversions
and U-turns, you’ll experience along the way
– much like the 4WD journey into the unknown
outback terrain of Ruby Gap - an amazing,
sometimes bumpy journey to a challenging,
fulfilling and awesome destination.
As with all journeys, mine was not done in
isolation, and I wish to thank my dear departed
parents for their sacrifices in sending me to a
great school, Gordonstoun; also my partner
Kaye, for her enthusiastic encouragement,
and Gordonstoun itself, for instilling in me
the motto, Plus est en Vous, without which, I
wouldn’t be where I am today.
The Ruby Gap Exhibition, hosted by Moving
Canvas Gallery, Foyer of Central Plaza One,
October 16th to 25th October 2013.
My passion for art and sculpture
by James Eddy (Cumming 1993)
The journey of being an artist, I have found is
seldom a straightforward path and is filled with
many surprises and twists. In comparing many
artists’ careers, certain common themes and
patterns can be apparent, however in practice no
two artists careers are ever the same.
My journey in the arts started becoming apparent
at Redruth secondary school whilst studying
GCSE Art, taught by a wonderful teacher, a very
relaxed surfer and VW camper van owner. Around
the same time I learnt from my brother the art of
making Airfix models. And joking aside I consider
the time I spent making WW2 aircraft as a serious
and invaluable grounding for my future career.
Not only in learning key art skills, but also in
developing huge amounts of patience!
At the time of joining Gordonstoun I was keen
to become an RAF pilot, another influence from
my elder brother, and as such
my A-level choices were quite
sensible for someone who
thought they ought to get a
proper job in life. However
one of my most endearing
memories of that time, is one
of desperately trying to fit in
A-level Art as a fourth subject.
My attempt inevitably failed,
so I settled for joining the
schools Arts club instead.
Fate however ensured that a
full time career in the armed
forces never materialised.
Although my love of nature
and being outdoors did lead
me to studying Environmental
science at university and a
short spell as a countryside
ranger. This knowledge of
the natural world and my
experiences of working as a
woodsman, have inspired my art work ever since.
At university I always returned to Cornwall
between terms, preferring to be on the sea or the
beach to city life. A friend I had met during one
summer holiday, convinced me to volunteer for
a month long community theatre project, run
by Kneehigh theatre company. This experience
helped me to understand that a career in the
arts was actually very possible indeed and it was
certainly the main inspiration for me in becoming
a professional artist.
So upon graduating in 1999, I returned to live
in Cornwall and promptly booked an exhibition
space in Falmouth and over the next six months
I created a body of work to exhibit. The work
was an eclectic mix of painting, sculpture and
photography, inspired by poetry, much of which I
had written whilst at Gordonstoun.
The exhibition also saw the first incarnation
of my fish shoal sculptures. The inspiration for
these sculptures came from watching David
Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ footage of dolphins
herding pelagic fish, tight together into a furiously
moving bait ball.
In 2011 perhaps my apprenticeship ended and
my international career started to blossom.
As well as having my sculptures represented
in galleries, I received an invitation to work
as artist in residence at the Lost gardens of
Heligan. This year long residency led to me
being able to realise several large outdoor land
Since that first exhibition I have practised
extensively as a portfolio artist, as well as having
the necessary supporting part-time work. In
hindsight, the subsequent ten years until 2010,
was in effect the serving of a long apprenticeship.
Learning from other artists and by making my
own mistakes. I developed my painting and
Land art is one of my favoured types of
work. Land art in the context of my work is
the creation of sculptures and installations
using natural materials, often only using
hand tools and applying the Japanese
aesthetic principles of wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi can be loosely defined as having
a simple preference for natural beauty that
embraces the impermanence of things.
sculpting skills, and took part in a number
of exhibitions. During the same period I also
worked on a broad spectrum of arts projects and
commissions, both private and public. Creating all
manner of works including amphitheatres, murals,
mosaics, sculptures and gardens.
One commission of note was working as a project
manager for the African sculptor El Anatsui,
producing a sculpture for the tropical dome at the
Eden Project. The opportunity of working with an
international artist of great experience taught me
the importance of planning and logistics in the
creation of large sculptures.
Since 2011 opportunities have flowed
thick and fast and my artistic journey has
become a little more certain, however I’m
sure there are many surprises to come. I
do I prefer being an artist that has many
strings to his bow, the challenge of creating
art works by learning new skills and ways
to express oneself is an exciting and
hooked on rugby
by Donald Macleod, President, Scottish Rugby Union (Cumming, 1959)
I attended Gordonstoun from 1955 to 1959, starting in Hopeman Lodge for two
years with Mr Whitby before moving to Windmill Lodge for one year with Mr
Syme. My last year was split with two term as House Helper in Gordonstoun
House where Mr McComish was Housemaster and my last term was at Cumming
House, again as House Helper, with Dr McKnight. On leaving school, I went
to Edinburgh University to study Medicine before training in Surgery. I was
appointed a Consultant General Surgeon with
a special interest in Accident and Emergency
in West Lothian on 1st April, 1976, retiring
from clinical practice in 2001. I continued
as Associate Post-graduate Dean [Surgery]
at the Edinburgh Post-graduate Board for
Medicine until 2004 and served as VicePresident of the Royal College of Surgeons of
Edinburgh from 2001 to 2004.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at school, on
call with the Fire Service as well as playing
rugby and hockey. I wasn’t interested in
summer sports, much preferring the ethos
and camaraderie of team games.
I was brought up in Selkirk, in the Borders,
before my parents moved to Edinburgh. It
was shortly thereafter, on 18th March, 1950
that I attended my first rugby international
at Murrayfield. Scotland was playing England
for the Calcutta Cup. Scotland won by 13 points to 11 points with a dramatic
conversion at the final whistle. Three of the players that day were medical
students from Edinburgh University and I was fortunate to meet them later that
evening. Subsequently I have been “Hooked on Rugby”.
I started my playing career at the Edinburgh Academy before moving to
Gordonstoun. I progressed through the years finishing as wing-forward in the
First Fifteen. On one particularly memorable and uncomfortable occasion I
broke my left clavicle at the bottom of a pile up of players. It was a home match
and I was taken to Dr Gray’s Hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed and a
“Figure of Eight” bandage applied round my shoulders. I was given a lift back
to Gordonstoun but had to get my bike back to Hopeman, so I cycled. No one
seemed to think that was inappropriate!
Gordonstoun’s motto has remained with me and I still keep fit by cycling, hillwalking, orienteering and fishing.
I started my surgical training working for Professor Sir John Bruce in Edinburgh
Royal Infirmary. I had managed to keep playing rugby for Edinburgh
Academicals as an undergraduate and occasionally thereafter until 1969. Sir
John was invited serve as Match Doctor at Scotland’s home internationals
and he asked me to prepare a suitable medical bag. His Senior Lecturer and
I accompanied him to the matches, starting in 1967. We sat on the bench at
the side of the pitch while Sir John was comfortably seated in the stand. It was
raining particularly heavily on 22nd February, 1969 and the Senior Lecturer
opted for the stand. We were playing Ireland. I was in charge and it was mayhem
with one player concussed, one with a dislocated shoulder and two cuts, one
of which needing careful suturing. That was my baptism as Scotland’s Match
Doctor. Incidentally, we lost.
I had the amazing good fortune during my 25 years as team doctor with
Scotland to win two Grand Slams[ 1984 and 1990], attend two Rugby World
Cups and one Sevens Rugby World Cup and travel with the British and Irish
Lions in 1983 to New Zealand. The management of that tour consisted of a
manager, a coach, a doctor and a physiotherapist. Somewhat different from the
management of the recent tour to Australia.
My last duties as team doctor were in Pretoria in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. We
were knocked out of the tournament in the quarter final by New Zealand. The
decision that rugby was becoming a full time professional sport in 1995 meant
that I could no longer balance my professional life as a Consultant Surgeon
with the demands of a professional sport.
I remained Medical Advisor to the Scottish
Rugby Union and served on the Medical
Advisory Committee of the International
Rugby Board until 2003.
During my time in Rugby and through
experience gathered running a Sports
Medicine Clinic I became increasingly
involved in the prevention, treatment and
rehabilitation of sports injuries. Scotland
hosted a series of major international
conferences on aspects of Sports Medicine.
Subsequently a group of like-minded doctors
from a range of sports worked hard with
the Post-graduate Medical and Surgical
Royal Colleges, the Sports Councils and
the Department of Health and, as a result,
Sport and Exercise Medicine is recognised
a specialty in the UK, with equal status to
Cardiology or Orthopaedics etc. Her Royal Highness the Princes Royal is Patron
of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine as well as the Scottish Rugby
Union and Chancellor of Edinburgh University.
Following retiring from Surgery, Post-graduate Medicine and the Scottish Rugby
Union I returned to the Borders and my first love, amateur rugby, joining the
committee of Selkirk Rugby Club. I was President of the club from 2009 to 2011.
I was then invited to stand for election as Vice-President of the Scottish Rugby
Union and was elected unopposed in June 2012. I have recently been confirmed
as President and will serve for one year covering the season 2013 / 2014.
Accordingly I have come full circle from a school and club player usually on
my bicycle to travelling on the Team Bus as team doctor and nowadays on the
Rugby has changed dramatically with professionalism. Amateur rugby remains
a contact sport with the clubhouse after the match being as important as
the match itself. Professional rugby is a collision, high intensity, gladiatorial
contest requiring enormous commitment from the players and everyone
involved with them. It is the most dramatic of all team sports with increasing
world-wide media interest. The medical and scientific support necessary to
ensure professional players can perform at the expected level is beyond the
wildest dreams of amateur clubs. Modern, often full-time, medical teams
support their players from a background of appropriate qualifications,
training and experience. They have the benefit of rapid access to modern
diagnostic techniques and a wide range of Specialists. The medical team has a
responsibility to protect players from “burn-out” as a result of too many high
intensity matches as well as repeated, potentially serious injuries to their soft
tissues, joints and concussion. They work closely with Sports Scientists to ensure
their players are at the peak of fitness and good health.
Changed days from turning up at an International in the 1960s having borrowed
some equipment from the hospital. In spite of all the changes, I remain “Hooked
Hook, Line and Sinker
by Hugh Coulson (Duffus, 1998)
The 2012 season on the Varzuga may possibly go down as the most
productive season ever for the number of fish caught to the number of rods
fishing, to the number of fish caught for any salmon river in the world. I was
lucky enough to be manager at Middle Varzuga when all the key elements
for a record breaking season fell into place….
The Varzuga flows north to south for 168 miles, crossing
the Arctic Circle roughly at its midpoint and drains 3,794
square miles of pristine tundra out into the White Sea.
The season starts at the beginning of May just after the
covering of ice breaks, allowing the fish to start their run up
river. This year however the river “broke” late and with the
heavy snow falls from the previous winter the river was still
clogged with ice and grossly swollen. These factors made
the first week all but a washout with more ice bergs caught
than salmon as the system vented its winter cloak. Then
right on the last day when most had conceded defeat to the fishing gods, a
Varzuga veteran who was fishing at the bottom of the beat hit a huge run of
fish making their way up through the frigid depths. He landed an astonishing
42 salmon to his rod in the last few hours of the day, his best ever haul by
some considerable margin and more than doubling his tally for the week in a
few frantic adrenaline fuelled hours. The fish had arrived in unprecedented
numbers and the record season on the Varzuga had begun.
will get just rewards, all the more remarkable then that the 12 rods finished
the week with 1277 fish between them. The question was now, how long
would the run last?
There is always a degree of one-upmanship in fishing and so as the new set of
Scottish clients replaced the exhausted outgoing, mainly English group, it was
unsurprising that they too were chomping at the bit to wet
their fly as soon as the chopper had cleared. The weather
was warming rapidly and spring comes to the Varzuga in
the blink of an eye and as the water heated up so did the
action. This group too fished like men possessed and by the
final morning had landed a jaw dropping 1360 fish for their
week with one angler having landed a record 67 fish in a
single day; these are figures that may never be bettered.
The run of fish did inevitably slow down for the last three
weeks of the season as summer came to the peninsula but still pods of fresh
fish poured into the system right until the last week. All told 4766 salmon
were landed in just six short weeks. It is heartening to see one of nature’s
great phenomenon’s still in such good health and to see a strict catch and
release police and good husbandry of the land pay such dividends and
bring joy to so many passionate anglers over the years, it has certainly been
a privilege to witness it and I recommend salmon fishing to one and all.
Anyone who has fished before will tell you that timing is everything and so
it was with heavy hearts that the guests boarded the helicopters the next
morning knowing that they had been on the cusp of fishing nirvana, but their
loss would be the next groups gain.
The next group arrived, all old hands to the rigors of fishing Russia’s frozen
north but also charged by the news of what might be told to them by the
rueful outgoing clients they had met at Murmansk airport. They were all
hurriedly setting up rods as soon as the chopper was clear and raced to get
to their favourite spots. They fished hard, with some fishing close to 15hrs a
day and with the water temperature at 2oC and wading in a swollen river;
these early weeks are not for the faint hearted and they had to work for
every fish. This was certainly not a case of shooting fish in a barrel and for
anyone who says that catching this many fish isn’t fun, well they probably
haven’t tried it. The Varzuga is a big powerful river and only a skilled angler
Spithead naval review
by Alec Provan (Gordonstoun, 1953)
Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne occurred
in February 1952; however, the Coronation
Ceremony did not take place until June 2, 1953, to
be followed soon after by the imposing spectacle of
the Spithead Naval Review on June 15. In order to
celebrate the Coronation a fleet of over 300 vessels
assembled in the waters of the Solent, adjacent to
the major ports of Portsmouth and Southampton.
The fleet consisted of major and minor warships
representing the UK, Commonwealth and a number
of foreign countries including the USA and Russia.
In addition there were numerous merchant vessels,
fishing vessels and private yachts – all assembled in
assigned rows and/or specific areas where they
could be reviewed by Her Majesty and Prince Philip
from the bridge of the Royal Yacht, “HMS Surprise”.
Planning for this great event had commenced many
months in advance and somewhere along the way
it was decided that Gordonstoun, the school where
Prince Philip had received his education, should be
represented at Spithead by an appropriate vessel.
The choice of suitable candidates was severely
limited as the schooner “Prince Louis”, the former
Gordonstoun sail-training vessel, had been assigned
to the Outward Bound Sea School at Burghead,
leaving the ketch-rigged “Salt Horse”, owned by the
seamanship master, Commander A.H. Godwin, as
the next best choice. During the winter and spring of
1953, many Seamanship classes were devoted to
the preparation of the ketch for her voyage from the
Moray Firth to the English Channel. Hull, topsides,
rigging and sails were overhauled and “Salt Horse”
was in every respect “shipshape and Bristol fashion”
by the time she left on her intended mission.
Commander Godwin and Mr. Stokes
On Saturday, May 23d, we sailed from Hopeman
Harbour for the first leg of our journey, a short trip to
Inverness at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal.
Mr. Danny Main, harbourmaster and seamanship
instructor was in charge, assisted by Mr. Stokes
as mate and a crew consisting of Gordonstoun
students. With a favourable wind we made good
progress until the afternoon westerlies sprang up
and we resorted to the venerable diesel engine to
propel us the rest of the way. This engine had its
own peculiarities; in particular the direct drive to
the propeller i.e. when the engine turned over so
did the propeller. As the engine turned only in one
direction we had no means of stopping or going
astern without resorting to some fancy footwork
by the crew, especially in the confined spaces of
the canal locks and similar locations. The normal
procedure when approaching a berth was to stop
the engine at a suitable distance from the berth
and glide to a stop with the aid of a stern line
secured to a convenient bollard, piling or lamp-post,
occasionally assisted by an unsuspecting bystander.
Unfortunately this didn’t work too well in the stop
and go transit of the canal locks as the engine could
not be trusted to restart when the time came to leave
the lock! By skilful manipulation of the mooring
lines we were able to keep the engine ticking over
when secured to the lock walls and we transited the
Caledonian Canal with only one major incident.
Jimmy Richmond became the hero of the day when
he dived into the icy waters of the canal to clear a
fouled propeller. This was accomplished under the
admiring gaze of spectators standing on the sides of
the lock! While alongside in Inverness, Commander
Godwin relieved Mr. Main and assumed charge of
the vessel for the remainder of the trip.
Departing from Corpach at the south end of the
canal, we proceeded down Loch Linnhe and
the Firth of Lorne, then by way of Islay Sound to
the open waters of the North Channel and Irish
Sea where, only four months earlier, the ferry
“Princess of Victoria” had gone down during a
major North Atlantic storm, with the loss of over
100 lives. On Friday, 29 May we celebrated
Commander Godwin’s birthday with cake on the
quarterdeck. For reasons that I don’t recollect, but
which probably had something to do with weather
and tides, we bypassed our next intended stopover
at Aberdovey and proceeded to Fishguard near
the southwest tip of Wales. At Fishguard we had a
crew change, with the arrival of students, identified
in my skimpy, illegible notes as Robinson and Plant,
and the departure of Arnold, Pern and Richmond.
Colin MacDonald spent some time tending to our
unpredictable engine, ably assisted by John Swallow.
Leaving Fishguard under sail on June 1st, we ran
into a tidal race off Strumble Head and I had an
involuntary dip up to my waist as the bowsprit
submerged into the chilly waters just as we were
in the process of hoisting additional sail. In the
process of hanging on to whatever might be
available I accidentally dropped a shackle into
the ocean. I expected to be severely castigated
for my carelessness, however, no abuse came my
way. Looking back over the years I suspect that
Commander Godwin was so relieved to see his
bowsprit and crew member emerging from the
wave into which we had plunged, apparently with
no permanent damage to either, that the loss of a
shackle was the least of his concerns! Eventually we
had to resort to our much maligned engine to get us
out of trouble and propel us across the entrance to
the Bristol Channel, assisted by a strong northerly
breeze. On June 2nd we rounded Land’s End and
proceeded up the English Channel accompanied by
numerous freighters and coasters. Later in the day we
heard Her Majesty’s radio broadcast, following her
Coronation ceremony. We also heard that Everest
had been conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and
Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The following day we
entered Weymouth harbour and secured at the
coaling wharf, where we would restore the vessel
to her pristine condition before embarking on the
final leg of our journey to the Solent.
During our one week stay in Weymouth crew
members Mann, Plant and Robinson left us to return
to Gordonstoun and were replaced by Weatherall,
Swallow, Broadbent and McGillivray, who would
be with us for the remainder of the voyage. We
left Weymouth on the evening of June 10th, and
proceeded along the south coast with a fresh
northwest wind. Around noon on the following day
“Salt Horse” passed the Needles at the entrance
to the Solent, and continued on to Yarmouth on the
Isle of Wight, where we secured to pilings around
1700hrs. The next day we continued up the Solent
under full sail, with a close-up view of the fleet that
had assembled for the Review. The foreign vessels
included an Italian square-rigged sailing vessel and
the Russian cruiser “Sverdlov”. “Salt Horse” entered
Portsmouth harbour in drizzling rain, and along with
several other yachts which were replenishing their
fresh water tanks, we tied up alongside the former
Royal Yacht “Victoria and Albert”. The Royal Barge
was also alongside, with gleaming paintwork and
varnish. The whole crew took advantage of our
stay in Portsmouth to visit “HMS Victory” and were
greatly impressed by the complexities of the rigging
Leaving Portsmouth, we crossed the Solent to
Cowes where we anchored for the night in the
company of numerous other yachts gathering for
the Review. On Sunday June 14, we proceeded
to our assigned anchorage and undertook some
last minute chores prior to the next day’s sail
past. Monday, June 15 dawned overcast and
dull; however, the presence of so many vessels of
all description, dressed overall for the occasion,
provided a colourful and festive atmosphere.
During the morning we were joined by a dozen
or so former pupils, who shared our ringside
seat and privileged view of the Royal couple as
the Royal Yacht, “HMS Surprise”, made her way
along the ranks of the assembled fleet. As she
passed each vessel, the crew, standing smartly at
attention on deck, joined in three hearty cheers
for the Queen and Prince Philip. Later in the
afternoon we enjoyed a flypast of naval aircraft
including helicopters and fighter jets. As darkness
fell the fleet was illuminated by streamers of lights
which replaced the flags shown during the day.
Promptly at 2240 hrs. the lights were extinguished
and we were treated to a fireworks display which
lit up the whole surreal scene. Most of our visitors
had departed by this time but a few stragglers
spent the night on board and were sent ashore in
the morning by means of a passing patrol vessel.
With a favourable tide we weighed anchor
and proceeded down the Solent to Yarmouth,
passing close by “RMS Queen Mary” enroute.
From Yarmouth we had an uneventful cruise to
Weymouth, where the “Salt Horse” received a
final cleanup before the crew disembarked for the
return trip by rail to Gordonstoun.
No doubt there was a public relations aspect to
this particular cruise, but for those of us who went
on to follow a career at sea, the voyage provided
excellent hands-on practice in navigation and
seamanship, especially the requirement to be
vigilant at all times and to have a sound knowledge
of the marine version of “The Rules of the Road”.
Radar was still in its infancy at that time and other
aids to navigation such as Decca Navigator, echosounder and Loran were reserved for warships
and larger vessels of the Merchant Marine.
Satellites and Global positioning systems were
something for the future, so we relied on our paper
charts, magnetic compass and hand leadline,
supplemented by visual landmarks and lighthouse
flashes, to keep track of our position. I have no
recollection of a two-way radio on board, but we
did have a battery-operated broadcast receiver,
which enabled us to listen to the BBC marine
weather forecasts and major news items.
Later that summer I took part in a cruise to
Kristiansand South in Norway on board the “Prince
Louis”; however, the “Salt Horse” cruise was
undoubtedly the highlight of my eventful year as a
Gordonstoun student. I still feel very privileged to
have been a crew member on that occasion, and
for the once in a lifetime opportunity to view the
magnificent Naval Review which celebrated the
Coronation of our present Head of State, Queen
Elizabeth. My one regret is that I didn’t make a
better record of the trip, especially the names of all
the students and staff involved – perhaps if I had
known that 60 years down the road I would be
writing an article about it I might have done better!
An internet search on “Spithead Review 1953”
turns up a great deal of information including
media film footage. On the other hand, a search
for “Salt Horse” reveals only that this was the name
given by sailors to the brine-pickled beef and pork
which formed a major part of their diet prior to the
introduction of refrigeration. If you precede “Salt
Horse” with the word “ketch”, you may find a brief
reference to our Spithead adventure, immortalised
on the “Nauticapedia” website.
Weymouth (Commander Godwin, Alec
Provan, John Swallow, Weatherall,
the gordonstoun campus:
by James Byatt (Son of David & Mary Byatt)
In July of 2012 the Gordonstoun Association approached noted
landscape architect, James Byatt, to produce a drawing of the
Gordonstoun estate. It was to show Duffus House, first residence of
the school, which will be vacated soon and rebuilt within the school
Research for the drawing began in the autumn, a time of cold winds
and rain showers. Considerable time was spent sitting in the car
waiting for the weather to improve to enable sketching. During
this time James became very familiar with the car parks next to
Cumming House and the Sports Centre. The final work on site was
carried out wearing woollen mitts – a definite first for James!
The drawing was produced in four stages. Firstly, a pencil sketch
was made based on an Ordnance Survey map with individual trees,
shrubs and particular landscape features drawn and annotated. This
work took considerable time and involved long walks around the
estate to areas not visited by most students such as the sewage reed
beds and Coronation Wood.
Hugh Brown, Financial Director, was of
enormous help providing background historical
information such as the Gordonstoun Historic
Designed Landscape Management Plan of
James’ family has a long association with Gordonstoun. As well
as being an Aberlour House student himself, his great uncle Keir
Campbell was one of the first masters at the school in 1934. His
grandmother, Keir’s sister, came to live in Elgin the same year and
knew Kurt Hahn well, sending all three of her sons to the newly
Security, too, came to know James; a Duffus
boy reported a man in a strange hat walking
the grounds! Other staff appeared not to notice
him and he was able to walk backwards and
forwards across Sweethillocks for some two hours without being
questioned by a man marking out white lines for the pitches. James
was pleased to accept the occasional lift on the estate team’s golf
James’ father, David Byatt, was a pupil both at Wester Elchies and
Gordonstoun and was Guardian in 1951. He returned to the school in
1971 as Second Master and finally Warden in 1991. Both James’ parents
taught biology and retired in 1993.
The sketching took many months to complete and was interrupted
by inclement weather and, more significantly, the death of James’
father, David Byatt. A memorial service was held for David in St
Christopher’s chapel on 03.10.12
Having completed the detailed sketch of the estate, a black ink
a moment in time
copy was made by overlaying the pencil sketch with tracing paper.
Additional drawings were added of the houses, Ocean Spirit and
other features of special interest.
Stage three involved copying the drawing from tracing paper to
plain paper and colouring the drawing with Letraset Promarker
pens. The colours used indicate the different terrain, with paths,
trees and water being coloured appropriately. Finally, the drawing
was scanned and printed with ultra-violet light resistant inks to
The completed drawing was first shown
at the GA weekend in May of this year
& was well received.
It is a highly detailed work of art and
will remind all OG’s of their time at
The drawing has been reproduced in three sizes
[515 x 980 mm £75, 415 x 800 mm £50,
215 x 410 mm (A3) £20]
It can be purchased from the school shop or
ordered by post from James Byatt at www.
jamesbyatt.com (postage £6.99)
Further information about James’ work as an
estate cartographer can be found on his web site.
a love of life
by Rosemary Gillespie (Hopeman, 1975)
in the USA. This was exactly what I would have
loved to do! The research used spiders to explore
ecological decisions that animals make. While social
pressures at the time expected that I find a “real
job” I had been instilled with the philosophy of
endeavor. Thus, I applied to graduate school at the
University of Tennessee and headed off into a very
alien environment – holding on firmly to the ideals
espoused by Kurt Hahn of the importance of an
“undefeatable spirit” and “tenacity in pursuit”.
A product of an all-girl’s boarding school for 6 years, I
remember the move to Gordonstoun being exciting,
daring – and very intimidating. Plus est en vous – what did
that mean? The utter exhilaration of the next couple of
years was unexpected.
Forty years on I’m cuddled up in my sleeping bag high
in the forest of Molokai, Hawaii, staring out of a small,
cracked window pane at the relentless soft rain, and I
think back on my first camping trip through Glen Affric
as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award. Back on Molokai,
after a night collecting spiders, we come back to the cabin
and get the propane stove ready to cook dinner. As we
talk about the night’s activities, I’m reminded of a winter
trip to the Cairngorms and coming back to a bothy near
Aviemore, cold and wet, before building a huge fire and
talking and laughing in the warmth of the flames. How
little things have changed. However, there’s a reason for
that: Gordonstoun was where I learned not only to value
the beauty of the natural world and appreciate what it
had to offer but also that I could – and should - live up to
It was with Mr Cowx that I had my first taste of research:
We went on a trip to the Summer Isles to trap small
mammals. I recall the feeling that we were discovering
the inner secrets of this seemingly barren landscape as
we quietly measured and weighed the little animals in the
darkness of the bothy lamplight before releasing them
back into the night. I felt tremendously privileged to be
given such insights into the natural world and I wanted
to learn more. Studying zoology at the University of
Edinburgh was a natural next step.
It was during my final year at Edinburgh that I learned
of research being done at the University of Tennessee
As a graduate student in Tennessee I did my
research at a site in the Smoky Mountains in an area
of outstanding beauty and tranquility allowing
me to explore the bounds of scientific creativity.
I experienced the necessary frustration of being
unable to key-out a spider or insect, interspersed by
the few moments of euphoria on figuring out what
one specimen was; the panic at being told to do my
homework on a computer at a time when I didn’t
even know what a computer looked like! However,
over the course of my graduate career, despite being
far from home and with a very uncertain future, I
caught a glimpse of academic life and the possibility
of living my dream.
I left the University of Tennessee to take a postdoctoral
position at the University of Hawaii on the feeding
behaviour of the aptly named “happy face spider”.
However, after just a couple of days in the field I happened
upon something truly extraordinary: close relatives of the
long jawed spiders, on which I had done my PhD in the
Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, were in great abundance
in the Hawaiian forests and the diversity of species – in
terms of their form, behaviour, and ecology - was utterly
inconceivable. But my funding was for only 6 months. So I
spent the next few years scrounging up (really) small pots
of funding to allow me to keep working on this heretofore
unknown and largely undescribed “adaptive radiation”. A
product of the Gordonstoun education, I couldn’t possibly
turn my back on such a rich research opportunity. It took
me 4 years before I published my first papers on the
Hawaiian spider diversity, with much of that time almost
living in the field. However, that period was invaluable and
gave me deep insights into the radiation paving the way
for the subsequent 25+ years of my research.
I was offered a position at the University of Hawaii in
the early 1990’s, joined there by my husband and fellow
biologist, George Roderick, in 1993. In 1999 we moved
to the University of California at Berkeley with our young
children, William and Melrose. Coming to the present the
boys are almost grown up and off to university. But the
nature of my work has changed little with my research still
based in the high mountains of Hawaii as well as Tahiti,
Fiji and other little isolated spots in the Pacific where the
diversity of life has taken entirely unique trajectories.
Perhaps most importantly, I still love what I do – my work
is my passion, my hobby, my life. What more could anyone
ask for – plus est en vous.
from the ivory tower
by Leonid Peisakhin (Cumming 1999)
Victorian-era textbooks copied and recopied since the time of the
Russian Empire (I must have sounded rather like that famous Bram Stoker
character; in fact, I was even cast as a sort of Bond villain in a Cumming
House play in 1995). However, Mrs Clutton (my third form English
teacher) and Mr Gabb (the housemaster at Cumming) were not about to
be daunted by that and soon put me right. Despite my rapidly improving
English, I might have tried to make a dash for the Russian Embassy had
that railway line to Lossiemouth still been in place! Soon, though, things
were back on track, and the Gordonstoun years turned out to be some
of the happiest and most interesting thus far. More importantly, the
healthy injection of internationalism that I acquired at Gordonstoun was
absolutely pivotal in shaping my professional development and career
A proud owner of a small cartload of academic degrees in political
science from Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, I am currently completing my
As I sit down to write this, it dawns on me that it has been nineteen years
almost to the day since I first set foot at Gordonstoun—a mere trifle from
the perspective of those sharing fascinating reminiscences about the
School in the 1940s, but an eternity when considered form the point of a
view of a thirteen year-old making his first trip abroad, as I was then. The
vivid detail of those first few weeks and months is unlikely ever to fade. In
August 1994, I arrived in Scotland with my mother in tow—that was my
first trip ever outside of Russia. A greater contrast than that between the
post-Soviet dilapidation of what was back then an urban dystopia of St.
Petersburg and the multicultural splendor of vibrant London or the rural
idyll of Morayshire can scarcely be imagined. We were not fully conversant
with all the local mores, and the idea that large tracts of land should be
privately owned without right of access seemed particularly difficult to
digest. As we had a few days to spare before the start of term and knew
next to nothing of local attractions, it seemed like a good idea to wander
into one of the local verdant fields for a bit of sunbathing (it was one
of those all too rare sunny and warm Scottish summers). Within twenty
minutes we, being in a state of some undress, found ourselves surrounded
by a group of men in full tweeds (in 32C degree heat!), on horseback, and
wielding shotguns; the hounds must have been suffering from a heat
stroke. An idyll interrupted…
final year of a post-doctoral research fellowship in Madrid. My research
The next few months proved equally challenging, as I struggled to
get my bearings. It transpired that the few English sentences that I was
capable of mustering in a rather frightening accent were hopelessly
outdated, as Russian schools still relied on what were effectively
from the most mundane daily routines to the most momentous decisions
is centred on the exploration of causes of political and economic
behavior. Specifically, I ask whether the choices that shape our lives—
at the highest levels of politics and business—are shaped by material
interests, institutional rules, or culture. In many ways, my interest in this
set of issues was first sparked at Gordonstoun while observing young
people of over fifteen different nationalities negotiate the often-complex
realities of communal life.
The search for answers to these near-intractable questions has taken me
from the long-forgotten borderlands of the Russian Empire, to Korean War
veterans’ homes in Taiwan, by way of the slums of Mumbai and New
Delhi and the Roma villages of Wallachia. While I am not much nearer to
answers, I certainly do feel a lot wiser for having undertaken the search.
One thing that strikes me again and again on my travels is how large
and omnipresent the Gordonstoun community is. On a recent trip to Saõ
Paulo, I was hosted by the family of Victor Cvintal, a dear friend from
the Cumming days. In New York, my first port of call is always YoHan
Cho’s charming home. And even at my tiny institute in Madrid there is
an old Gordonstounian—Andrew Richards, who was at the School in
the mid-1980s. Wonderful fruit has sprung from Hahn’s commitment to
internationalism, and the School is much stronger for it going into the 21st
century. Perhaps it is time to add “Soyez chez vous dans le monde” (Be at home in the world!) to our usual “Plus Est en Vous”
Quarkers About Physics
by Chris Monahan (Altyre, 2001)
I fell into physics, really. I’d like to say that I’d always dreamed of being a
physicist, but that isn’t quite true. I certainly knew that I enjoyed science and
as a teenager I was inspired by popular science accounts of the discoveries
and insights of the great physicists. But as University applications loomed,
I had a hard time choosing what to study -- Maths, Physics or Chemisty? I
enjoyed all of them and managed most of the homework most of the time.
And so, when I finally came to fill in the application form, I fell back on that
trusted teenage guide: which subject was the coolest? Here the answer
was clear: only one of those three subjects was taught by a teacher that
not only rock climbed (the continuing passion of mine that first started at
Gordonstoun), but also rode a motorbike.
Perhaps not coincidentally, that teacher, Mr. Tattersall, made physics not
only interesting but exciting. Something about his classes - the combination
of mathematics, problem solving and thinking about how the universe
really works - inspired me and helped me realise that physics was
probably the right choice for me.
Mr tattersall made physics not
only interesting but exciting
After a year abroad, spent mostly working and climbing in New Zealand,
I moved on to study physics at the University of Edinburgh. I enjoyed
the first two years, but it took a year on exchange at the University of
California, Berkeley for my desire to study physics to really catch fire.
There at Berkeley I met fellow students who not only loved to party, but
to study too, and both the lecturers who taught me and the friends I
made there inspired me to pursue a PhD. The summer after my degree
ended I was awarded a Royal Society fellowship to pursue three months
of research in particle physics. That lead, after yet another year, this
time spent in Europe and Asia (Gordonstoun instilled in me not only a
desire to work hard to achieve my goals, but also a deep love of travel
and adventure and putting off that hard work for a year at a time), to
Cambridge. My three years at Trinity College resulted in a PhD from
the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and a
fiancée, Kelcie, who I met through the ultimate frisbee team, a sport I
picked up to fill the void left by the lack of climbing in the Fens. This still
seems like an excellent return, all things considered.
My research focuses on the study of quarks, which are one of the fundamental
building blocks of the universe, and how we can predict their properties.
Quarks make up protons and neutrons, which in turn make up atoms,
molecules and ultimately, us. The mathematical framework that describes
how quarks behave is called Quantum Chromodynamics, or QCD for short,
and is unfortunately too complicated to solve on a piece of paper by hand. So
physicists use supercomputers to model how quarks behave and the results
are compared to experimental data to test our understanding of QCD. The
ultimate goal is to find some discrepancies or tensions that might lead us to
new theories that describe the universe at the smallest scales.
In my thesis I considered how you can interpret these computer models of
quarks and relate the results to the real world of particle physics colliders,
which is sadly a lot messier and more complicated than computer simulations.
After finishing my PhD I moved once again, to the College of William and
Mary in Virginia, USA, where I am a postdoctoral researcher. This year
I was awarded the JSA Postdoctoral Research Prize by Jefferson Lab, a
national physics laboratory in southeastern Virginia, for my work on new
methods to extract information from computer calculations of QCD and I
am currently preparing that work for publication. My research has taken
me all over the world, to meet other scientists and present my work, from
Australia to China and I have been fortunate enough to live in beautiful
cities, from Edinburgh to Cambridge to here in Virginia. I will be starting
a new postdoctoral position next year and can’t wait for the next stage of
my physics adventure.
So while I would like to say I’d always dreamed of being a physicist, really
it all started with that motorbike.
It’s all in the DNA
by Vitor Pinheiro (Cumming, 1996)
My Gordonstoun story started in 1994, as a lower sixth student in
Cumming House, in what was meant to be a gap year. It was my first
time away from Brazil (for any meaningful amount of time) and first time
in a place where people were measured in hundreds rather than millions
(as opposed to São Paulo) – a time of many firsts and an opportunity to
broaden horizons. Needless to say, reality turned out far more interesting
It was time to leave Cambridge after the PhD. In science today, to stay in
one place is to forego the opportunity to learn from the shortcomings of a
different culture and it is usually seen as a career disadvantage. At least
I made it to a different part of town. I stayed in Cambridge working at
the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the Medical Research Centre in a
career-making project: displacing DNA and RNA from their pedestal as
the only genetic systems on Earth.
I took two sciences (Chemistry and Physics), a broader A-level (Economics
and Business Studies) and an AS Maths, just to keep those little grey
cells ticking. Still within my first term at Gordonstoun, I dropped out of
Economics and changed gears in Mathematics, leaving me with a (nearly)
complete set of Science A-levels: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and
Further Mathematics (to get the A-level done in one year). Biology being a
key word missing here...
By using directed evolution to re-engineer enzymes that in nature carry
out DNA replication, I expanded their substrate repertoire. Thus, rather
than making DNA out of DNA, these enzymes started making a number
of novel molecules that could store genetic information – generically called
xeno- nucleic acids or XNA. This was the first demonstration that DNA and
RNA are not the only molecules capable of acting as genetic materials,
with implications to our understanding of life and its origin on Earth.
However, XNAs are not a mere scientific curiosity: they can be the source
of a new class of anti-cancer and anti-viral drugs.
Tempted by the prospect of applying to Cambridge, a gap year became
two, to gain full A-levels. When choosing what subject to study at
university, I ignored my natural ability in Maths and the career prospects
of Engineering, in favour of Physics - quantum physics. Yet, somehow, it
made sense at the time to apply to do Genetics in Cambridge because
of the flexibility of their Natural Sciences Tripos which would allow me to
take both Physics and Genetics forward for at least some time.
Despite applying to study Genetics without a Biology A-level, and telling
the Cambridge interviewer that they should have read my application, I
was given a place in Churchill College, in what was to become my home
in Cambridge through four degrees (BA, MSci, MA and PhD). But I did not
do Physics. I took my inability to stay awake in Physics lectures as an omen
that my career ought to lie elsewhere: first I pursued Chemistry, and then
due to a clerical error, Biochemistry.
I bring many very good memories from my time as an undergraduate in
Cambridge and although I was academically successful, occasionally,
I think that I could have become a better biochemist if I had attended
a different university. On the other hand, I took a very important lesson
from my undergraduate degree: the difference between ‘good’ and
‘exceptional’ scientists is very small.
Although tempted by careers in finance and management consultancy
taken by many of my peers, I decided to stick it out and make the
transition from learning about what other people discovered to
discovering the answers myself: I decided to do a PhD. I didn’t want to
spend six or more long years in the US and I felt that I needed to be
among friends (if I was considering spending three years working stupid
hours). Funding was another constraint; being Brazilian and having
graduated from the UK greatly limited the number of available funding
sources. However, I was in the right place at the right time to apply for a
Cambridge Gates Trust Fellowship and through them I got a place in the
right lab for the wrong reasons.
It took me four and a half years to complete my PhD investigating how
the bacteria that cause the bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) evolved from
a “mere” human gut pathogen (Y. pseudotuberculosis) – these results
are still (!) to be published. But it was trying to answer that question
that got me thinking about evolution and its molecular mechanisms.
And here, my earlier training in Mathematics started paying dividends:
the evolutionary process is counterintuitive because probability can
be counterintuitive. Or to misquote a great book – evolution works not
simply because the watchmaker is blind, it works because he’s a tinkerer
and keeps making new watches. I greatly enjoyed my second spell in
Cambridge and finished my doctoral training ready to answer more
questions, bigger questions.
Still, in hindsight, I occasionally wonder why it took six years to get
that far. So much of the project was obvious when approached from
certain directions and so much time was wasted fighting with referees,
collaborators and editors! Nevertheless, we succeeded and the
research was well received: only the occasional misinterpretation and
misrepresentation. The advantage of founding a new field is that suddenly
there are too many questions to be addressed by a single group, which
made my decision to take the next step in my career easy – it was time
to not only find answers, but to also set the questions. The progression
turned out to be easier than expected, albeit only because life at the time
was so busy that I can hardly remember those few months that I lived on
chocolate and coffee.
I now find myself setting up my own research team at UCL and Birkbeck in
London, building on the tools I developed in my post-doctoral research to
re-engineer how bacterial cells maintain and interpret genetic information.
In my view, human exploitation of biology as chemical factories is
inevitable. However, there are understandable concerns around safety and
containment of these engineered organisms. By storing genetic information
in molecules that do not exist (and cannot be easily synthesised) in nature
(XNA) and by altering how the genetic information is interpreted by the
cell (modifying the genetic code), my hope is that a new generation of
engineered organisms can be developed – one that cannot survive in the
environment and that cannot exchange information with natural organisms.
I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do hope that it will continue to
be unpredictable, challenging and incredibly rewarding.
memories of a term at gordonstoun
by Henry Florin (Altyre, 1985)
Often my thoughts about life and happiness
but also skills, stamina and ability take me
back to 1985. That year I was lucky to
stay for one term at Gordonstoun School.
Altyre House, the old barracks, proved to
be a splendid surrounding to explore life
far away from home, only being limited by
Mr Lofthouse, our housemaster. My mother
– herself a former Salem pupil - asked
me whether I would be prepared to go to
Gordonstoun. This adventure provided me
with a break, in my otherwise German
state school education, which had a longlasting influence.
Being German myself, hardly a day went
passed at Gordonstoun when I was not
reminded by fellow pupils that Germany lost
the war! This made me strong since I had
to learn straight away to reply in proper
English that I was not part of that war. This
was sometimes met with ignorance, but
more often in interesting conversations.
Soon I made some good friends. Together
we explored the width and depths of
experiences at Gordonstoun: In my case this
was Mountain Rescue Training sometimes
meeting emergency calls in the Grampian
Mountains; a marvellous sea trip on board
Sea Spirit around Scotland with a short visit
to the Orkney Islands; Scottish Dancing in
the main hall at Gordonstoun House and
plenty of sport. I took particular joy playing
the flute in the School Orchestra.
Looking back to this short but intense time I
am very grateful to my parents who provided
me with this chance at exactly the right
time. My self-confidence rose to a high and
carried me through the next two years back
in Germany finishing my German A-Levels.
After finishing School, my Gordonstoun
experience was still so influential that I
was prepared to choose a two-year army
career with NATO, finishing as Lieutenant
and Technical Officer for Nuclear Warhead
Sections travelling throughout Europe. This
training improved my English language skills
further and allowed me to start Engineering
at Imperial College London (Royal School
of Mines). What a joy: as a student I spent
as much time exploring London as I did
in the lecture rooms. However, soon I felt
that something was missing in my studies
and I was worried that my studies were
far too one-sided. I discovered that I was
also interested in Economics. That was
the moment when I remembered: plus
est en vous. With my Bachelor in hand
I participated successfully in the French
Concours to gain one of the few places
at Ecole Nationale des Mines de Paris, a
Grande Ecole in Paris, France. I remember
cooking my first French dinner for my then
French girl friend in my field kitchen I still
had from my Mountain Rescue Training at
Gordonstoun. She was not impressed! It did
allow me thereafter to focus on my studies
in Economics! After two rewarding years
in Paris I enrolled for a PhD in Berlin at the
Technical University. Looking back to my
university education I am proud to admit that
the self-confidence and stamina with which
I completed my training came from what I
learnt at Gordonstoun.
exhausting working hours. This lasted until
I started my first professional career with
Preussag AG, a German conglomerate
in natural resources and energy not
knowing that I would soon work for that
company in the City of London. There it
was again: London and Great Britain,
where I had already enjoyed my University
days following on from my Gordonstoun
experience. I was trained as a broker on the
trading floor of the London Metal Exchange.
Soon I was called back to the mother
company to lead the Business Development
team with projects in Canada, Australia,
Malaysia and the UK. In my spare time
I enjoyed mountaineering with friends in
the Midlands; in Scotland – on old tracks
I had first come across during my time at
Gordonstoun – and in Cornwall. Those trips
Resources and Energy.
gave me strength to cope with long and
2002 when I met Agnes, my wife.
Though we had met before in Germany it
was in London that we were reunited and
got engaged on the London Eye, Cabin 16,
135 metres above Westminster. We decided
to stop working at once and to travel
extensively until our wedding celebrations
later that year. After our honeymoon in Spain
we settled in Germany where we still live
with our three children. Several management
positions within the international natural
resources and energy utility industry
followed. In parallel to my professional
career in industry I also have the special
honour to be a Visiting Professor at Freiberg
University, Germany, lecturing Economics of
Today, the whole family enjoys receiving
regular news from Gordonstoun and its
Association and learning about recent
developments. The children consume the
news in the form of plenty of eye catching
pictures and I focus on reading about
campus life and developments. From my
perspective Gordonstoun has one important
asset which is special about it: within a
co-educational environment everybody at
Gordonstoun has a fair chance to strengthen
his/her self-confidence and stamina, ready
to share, which carries through private and
professional life. Looking back, this is quite
something. Will I be able to transfer some of
this spirit to my children?
by Irene Heywood Jones (Wife of Llewellyn Heywood Jones, Hopeman Lodge, 1955)
For the man on the Clapham
omnibus Gordonstoun is linked
to royalty, so it is fascinating
to hear Llewellyn recount his
education at ‘their’ school.
‘Between princes!’, interjects
In 1951 at Gordonstoun the
common entrance examination
was not required and, indeed,
some pupils transferred from
academic hot-houses like Eton. For the interview Llewellyn Heywood
Jones and mother Perena flew from Northolt airport and, slightly pushed
timewise, the plane was held for them!
Subsequently he travelled on the school train from King’s Cross to Scotland
with his contemporaries, when their greatest fun was to unscrew light bulbs
in the carriages. Boys eh, never change, helps their moulding.
Llew’s trunk arrived separately, with labelled clothing as dictated by the
list, ration book and an allowance for the term. Post-war years with food
rationing were not kind to hungry growing teenage boys. Llew recalls
his luxurious pleasure in Hopeman village going for an egg and bacon
high tea for five old shillings. Back at school the boys developed a neat
trick. The server collected breakfast for the group, would rush to toss the
contents from the tray onto the table to enable a dash back for ‘seconds’.
However in the evenings the perceptive cook always left out toasted bread
for the ‘starving’ boys to ‘steal’.
Four years after leaving Gordonstoun, Llewellyn espied Dr Hahn on
Banbury station and introduced himself as an Old Boy. Dr Hahn entered
into hearty conversation and insisted they travel together to London,
joining Heywood Jones in a third class carriage despite having a first class
ticket. It seemed the longest ever journey as teacher quizzed pupil about
his current life and studies, recommending suitable reading material. Some
months later, much to Llew’s amazement, he received three books sent
personally by the good doctor.
This inspirational man sounds rather special, totally passionate about
teaching and his boys – with his spirit obviously living on to this day.
Ah, but there was the glitch. Pubescent boys were kept clear of the
‘opposition’, as co-education in the independent sector was rare in the
50’s - although no doubt some clandestine cuddling could be sought off
premises by the brave.
Llew remembers one tragedy at Altye House in 1951/2. Two boys were
digging in a sandy bank, one boy entered the tunnel which then collapsed
and suffocated the child who lost his life.
At 18 Heywood Jones joined the Merchant Navy to become a Master
Mariner and travel the world, seeing lots of ports but still no women in
another male-dominated environment. He had honed his sailing skills at
Gordonstoun with the coastguard service, also with a trip to Norway on
the school sailing ship, Prince Louis of Battenburg (known to all as ‘spewy
Lewy’). The boys had decided to quickly wash the cutlery by collecting it in
a net and dipping it over the side. The net broke, cutlery was lost, and the
rest of the journey was a finger buffet.
One of Llew’s responsibilities was taking a shift to man the Gordonstoun
switchboard, run largely by the boys, using the now historic plug in system
to make contact. As seen in black and white films of the 40’s and 50’s
This Llewy gained a useful ‘O’ level in navigation, which together with
A few years ago the magical internet traced Llewellyn as one of the ‘lost
old boys’ with an invitation to Nigel Rimmer’s fabulous annual London
dinner. It is always great to catch up with acquaintances, especially to
discuss respective school days - we think the young people have things
called ‘facebook’ and ‘friends reunited’?
develop into a rounded, considerate human being with a profound degree
From 1951 to 1952 Llew spent happy days at Altyre House, then until
1955 at Hopeman Lodge, when Kurt Hahn was still headmaster.
lately drunk alcohol in school time. A boy raised his hand, ‘Sir, while
Jack (known as Jock) MacGregor was housemaster at Hopeman Lodge
and his wife housemistress. Jock was an ex Blue Funnel Line Master
Mariner and taught navigation in the nautical school. Like many sailors
in the war he had lost a leg and wore a prosthetic replacement. All boys
wore slippers in the house and Heywood Jones had a habit of removing
them during dinner. Reaching to retrieve his slipper, the poor boy found
it pinned to the floor and had to bend down to free it by shifting the
Llewellyn finally came ashore to work for the U.S Navy as a Marine
No namby pamby school bus for boys who cycled to school all year
round, continuing to be dressed in shorts until they were 18! I think ‘elf
and safety’ might like a word now – and the fashion police.
One occasion Bielby, the Guardian of Altyre House, discovered that his
car, an Austin Seven, had been placed up high on the porch over the front
entrance. It remains a mystery to this day – unless dear reader you know
Several boys spent a fun-filled Coronation Day in June 1953 poaching
trout in a nearby river, as they knew the gillie would be otherwise
occupied. Tut tut.
such experience gave one year’s remission from the sea time required by
his apprenticeship with Shell Tankers. The ‘Scottish School’ helped him
of responsibility, honest work ethic, discipline and time keeping (being a
Virgo probably helped!).
One incident involved Mr Brereton, the headmaster who followed Kurt
Hahn. At school assembly everyone was asked to be honest if they had
serving in the headmaster’s dining room I drained the half empty glasses’.
Transportation Specialist spanning 30 years, being involved in both Gulf
wars. He found a lively Aries nurse tutor from south London (a place
his mother had warned him to avoid!) who went to a co-educational
Married in 1976 on the hottest day for 300 years they moved to the safer
environs of Pinner, north London. Irene and Llew’s two children went to the
excellent Haydon comprehensive school, while managing to imbibe the
best qualities from each parent’s personality and schooling styles – making
us an eclectic family schoolwise.
At Warwick University daughter Perena met Susie Wheeldon, sixth form
Plewlands House 1996. Susie is the little star who cycled around the world
to raise funds for the charity Solar Aid, her article featured in a recent GA
magazine. Perena and Susie accompanied us oldies on a trip to Borneo
and we delighted in their company.
Llewellyn Heywood Jones not only saw beyond the harbour walls
but, finally after 50 years, met his girl from Gordonstoun – oh bliss.
ultra trail du mont blanc
by Tristan Bamford (Cumming, 2007)
This summer I ran the Camino de
Santiago, covering 20 marathons
in 18 days. When I finished, it
took me less than ten minutes to
ask myself, what’s next?
The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
(UTMB) is considered the hardest
ultra-marathon in Europe,
combining the distance of 4
marathons with the same height
gain of climbing Everest from
sea level. There was one small
snag: there is a very strict entry
qualification process, so I wouldn’t
be able to join the official race.
Completing the route unsupported,
in the official cut off time of
46 hours, would be a huge
achievement even for an experienced ultra marathon runner. Having never
run an ultra-marathon in my life, the idea of attempting this UTMB was
pretty fool hardy. Probably why it appealed to me so much!
When I arrived in Chamonix the whole town was in a frenzy of excitement as
the official race had just set off. The first runners finished in just over 24 hours.
They were physically extremely intimidating and I started to doubt myself.
At 7pm after a huge evening meal I tried to get some sleep but I soon gave
up and walked out to the finish line. As runner after runner crossed the
line, tears streaming down their faces, with their families, loved ones and
strangers cheering them on, it struck me what a special event this really is.
I set off a little after midnight. The first 8km wound gently through flat pine
forest. I tried to control my pace while the adrenaline pulsing through my
body spurred me on. I began to feel very isolated; cold and
fatigue bit at my legs. All I could see were eyes staring at
me from deep within the forest, which did little to keep
my pace in check.
When I finally crossed over the snowfields at the top of the first major col and
sun began to defrost my face, things were looking up – for a short while!
Having foolishly not checked the map, I took what I thought was the main
path towards the valley floor. After an hour of fantastic running, alarm
bells started ringing! I had gone off route, and could either retrace my
steps back to the top of the col or add on an extra 20km or so. At that
point I seriously considered calling the whole run off and having a nap in
the lush valley meadows.
The sun was now in full force and I was struggling to stay hydrated. The
way down to Courmayeur was hard going on my joints. I was exhausted
and desperately craving calories
After a few more hours the darkness set in again and the wind picked up. I
felt very alone and the weather seemed to be deteriorating along with my
body. Despite this I had now made up any time lost on my “scenic detour”
and was set to finish in well below 36 hours. So when I came across a cosy
mountain hut with a log fire, it was a no brainer!
It’s common on these sorts of events to take power naps for an hour or so.
I struggled inside and the hut guardian showed me to a bed, where I fell
into a comatose sleep for what I thought would be a 2-hour nap, setting off
again at 1.30am.
To my horror, I woke up to sunlight streaming through the window and I
immediately knew my dream was over. My first reaction was to fall back
asleep and forget the whole thing. It quickly dawned on me that this was a
pathetic way to give up.
In less than 5 minutes I was out the door, a man on a mission. I had a new
mind set: finish in 46 hours or collapse trying. The first 5km were hard
going as I had completely stiffened up overnight, but this soon wore off and
the next 20km flew by.
I ran over col after col and surprisingly I seemed to get quicker and quicker.
Finally, I was standing at sunset looking down on Chamonix. Only one more
mountain to climb and I would be finished. I pushed on at an even faster
pace, despite my legs almost giving way as I ran.
I finally hobbled into Chamonix in a time of 46 hours 35 minutes. A few
locals in the only bar still open on a Sunday night came out to clap me in.
The feeling of immense exhaustion vanished, replaced by sheer
relief and pride. Yes, I was a little disappointed not to
finish under the time limit, but I know I’ll manage
it when I run the official race!
romania project july 2013
by Chloe Drury (Year 13 Hopeman)
I was lucky enough to be given the chance to go on tour to
Capetown, South Africa with the dance and music department. It
was truly a once in a life-time experience, we got to spend 10 days
in the beautiful city, and performed several times in different Round
Square schools and theatres in and around the city. However my
most memorable moment of the whole tour was visiting the Langa
Township, performing for the children there and even being treated
to a performance from them. It was such a humbling experience
seeing how simple things made them happy. It really made me
appreciate my time here at Gordonstoun even more and made me
realise just how lucky I am to be part of this school and having all
these amazing adventures and experiences.
I was very fortunate to be offered a scholarship in order to attend
Gordonstoun and in September 2012 I started as a new year 12.
Starting the school was very nerve racking knowing it would be
so different from anything I had already experienced but I have
thoroughly enjoyed my first year here and have had so many
wonderful experiences along the way.
My first big experience at the school was STV and after only being
at the school for a week it was something I was both nervous and
excited about. However it was a great way to get to know some
of my year, which was quite daunting to start with and although it
was a big challenge, having never done anything like that before,
I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it and still count it as one of
the best things I have done at the school. I have been very heavily
involved in dance and drama at Gordonstoun, as it is something I
have always enjoyed and continue to do so. I feel as if it has helped
me be more involved and a part of the school community especially
when I first started. It has been a gateway to many amazing
experiences this past year.
That brings me to my last big adventure of the year. At the end of the
summer, with the help of funding from the GA, I got to fly to Sibiu as
part of the 2013 Gordonstoun Romania Service Project. We spent two
weeks working at Little John’s Orphanage running a summer school for
the children who live there and in the surrounding area. It is definitely
something I will never forget and was an experience I took a lot from. I
met lots of very special children who actually taught me a lot and made
me think about my own life. Every day we would run different activities
like painting, colouring, arts and crafts and various sports. Seeing all
the children get so much pleasure from these simple things really
made me appreciate all the things I have, and reminded me how much
happiness there is in life, and how much enjoyment you can get from
simple things. Communication was one the biggest challenges we
faced whist there. The children spoke no English or some a little English
and some who didn’t have any language skills at all. However this was
all part of the project and one way or another we found a way around it
and I think it made the bonds we all formed stronger, and it really made
me value just how important communication is.
We did lots of other things while out there like our weekend
spent in Brasov experiencing the Romanian culture and our trip
to a traditional Romanian restaurant. Overall the project was
really successful. As well as enriching the lives of these wonderful
children we learnt key skills like teamwork, and got to experience
a completely different culture which I think are things Gordonstoun
tries to teach us in everything we do. My first year here has
definitely been eventful, it has taught me so much and although it
was very strange at first it has definitely grown on me. I honestly
think my time here at Gordonstoun will stay with me forever.
Empowering the Disadvantaged
by Claire Richards (Plewlands, 1989)
Post Gordonstoun I planned to take a year out but
first I spent a wonderful summer, working in the
art department at the Gordonstoun International
Summer School. It was hard to believe that it was
the same school I’d attended a few weeks earlier
though Moira’s chant of ‘Put that back!’ was
reassuringly familiar. Next, followed the thrill of
a typing course. This was a condition my mother
attached to my year out. I was expected to dress
formally and sit in an ‘appropriate’ manner
during tea break; needless to say my typing and
my posture have served me well over the years.
My surf lifesaver skills were also pressed into
action that summer. I recall hours of very little
happening followed by a surging wave of nausea
whenever I spotted somebody in trouble.
The majority of my year out was spent in London
working for Wimpy homes in their marketing
team. Despite having a great deal of fun in
the evenings with a crowd of OGs, the days
passed at an excruciatingly slow pace and I
soon learned that the excellent money I was
earning was not enough to get me out of bed in
the morning. This was a valuable lesson: I would
never again take a job for money; it would have
to be something that I found challenging and that
I cared about.
I spent the next few years at Cambridge juggling lectures, toe-curling auditions for
Footlights productions and the passion for
reading that had started in Mr Spooner’s English
lessons back at Gordonstoun. During that time I
made no attempt to find graduate employment as
I rather arrogantly assumed I’d have little problem
finding a job; how things have changed for
graduates today. Fortunately, I started teaching
at a wonderful middle school in Hertfordshire
called Greneway. It was and is an extraordinary
place, where the achievement of every child is
celebrated at every opportunity. In summer the
whole school would turn out for athletics club
and just about every staff member would get
involved. Numerous notice boards were given
over to the recording of personal bests and
no matter the time any improvement was met
with genuine delight and praise from students
and staff alike. Rather like Gordonstoun, lots of
responsibility was given to the students including
the tending of animals on the school farm. The
younger students would take great pleasure in
naming litters of pigs only to wonder about their
subsequent disappearance! I loved teaching and
I particularly loved teaching at Greneway but I’d
been living in Cambridge for 7 years and I was
in danger of never trying another career. Armed
with the security of my teaching experience, I
moved to London to explore other options.
Later that year my agency put me in touch with
The ClementJames Centre where I started as
a Community Worker introducing children to
Carnival Arts during holiday periods, providing
social opportunities for the elderly and delivering
a modest homework provision. I was tasked
with developing programmes to better meet the
needs of this extraordinary community. Would
you believe that hidden behind the leafy avenues
of Holland Park is some of the most widespread
poverty in Britain? In North Kensington 50%
of children live in poverty, a third of the adult
population have no qualifications and haven’t
worked in the last 10 years. Only a third of
families speak English at home.
Poverty, unemployment and isolation divide
and diminish any community in their grasp.
We have developed programmes that deliver
education and empowerment enabling people
to achieve, participate and contribute. We
welcome every client as an individual, nurturing
potential and tailoring our approach to meet
their needs. In 14 years (I still can’t quite believe
it’s been that long) the team has grown from 3
to 20. We now support over 300 adults each
year to improve their English; 200 more to
increase their employability (70% progress to
employment or training) and we work with over
1400 children and young people each and every
year, increasing their attainment and raising their
aspirations. (77% of our year 13s progress to
university, compared to 18% nationally in receipt
of school meals.)
The roots of CJC are undoubtedly local, but
our successes have not been limited to North
Kensington. In 2007 we established a sister
charity to roll out our young people’s programme
‘IntoUniversity’ across London and further afield.
For the past 10 years, I have been Chief Executive
of The ClementJames and I can honestly say that I
love my job. My role is exhausting but every day
presents a new challenge; I have the autonomy to
design and develop programmes to address real
need. The trustees have allowed me the flexibility
to work around my children’s needs - taking them to
and from school most days, then returning to work
a couple of evenings a week once my husband
is home. I work with a wonderful team of bright,
energetic and passionate graduates, who are
relentlessly positive and solution-focused. Best of
all I have the privilege of serving a community that
is replete with endeavour and constantly striving to
improve it’s lot. It is a story that belies the pessimism
one often reads about in ‘Austerity Britain’ and our
successful model has generated more than a little
excitement; we were recently nominated for The
Guardian Charity of the Year Award.
from the archives
CAn you identify these characters?
If you can help by letting us know the names of any faces you recognise, please get in touch! [email protected]
Poot thaat Baack Altyre (Forres)
Moira Shearer by Marina Edge
Reunion Dinner Friday 2nd May 2014
Recent Facebook chatter about Moira and the
fond comments that resulted from the thread of
conversations including suggestions from some
that she be awarded an OBE has prompted this
Many OGs will remember Moira with fondness not
least because she is most well known for her catch
phrase “Poot thaat baack!!!!” When asked what
she thought most OGs would remember her for it
was indeed this phrase.
Moira’s refectory career started on 3rd September
1971 when she was only 16. The school was a very different place in those
days. For a start there were no girls, John Kempe was Headmaster and the
current refectory had not yet been built. All school meals were cooked and
served in Gordonstoun House. The Kitchens took up most of the ground
floor and according to Moira, “Cumming House and Bruce House were
served their meals in the North and South Rooms. Round Square, Altyre
and Windmill were served their meals on the top floor. Duffus House ate at
Duffus House.” Although I’m sure other OGs who were around at that time
might remember it differently.
Moira felt daunted on first arriving at the school as a 15 year old and
remembers feeling self-conscious having to eat her meals with the other
refectory staff. She described them as ‘too posh’!
When asked about the most memorable events that have happened during
her time at the school she recalls the general hedonistic behaviour of pupils
during the 1980s. The end of term always resulted in monumental food
fights between the boys and girls. She also recalls numerous bomb scares
which she attributed to hoax calls from students wanting to miss lessons.
Moira’s on going loyalty to the School can be attributed to the fact that
she maintains her job has provided her with ‘security’ and it has enabled
her to pursue her love of music during the holidays. She’s a fan of David
Bowie, Queen, The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart. When David Bowie was
visiting the school on one occasion she remembers feeling so star struck
that all she could say was: “Are you David?”
It is maybe because of her love of music that she fondly remembers a
boy called Willy sitting on the back steps of Round Square strumming on
his guitar. Moira and her young refectory friends sat on the steps of ‘The
Bank’ (the old refectory staff house) listening to him play ‘Without You’ by
Nilsson. She can’t remember Willy’s surname. Perhaps you or somebody
else knows who you are? Do let us know.
She had thought of pursuing a career as a secretary when she turned 18 but
then she figured she might not get the generous holidays that the School
offered. So, 42 years on and much music appreciation later, Moira is still at
the school. In the same way that Moira gets security from her job she in
turn provides OGs with a reassuringly familiar welcome when they re-visit
the refectory. “Poot thaat baack!!”
Moira has had her favourite pupils over the years but she has also had one
or two favourite members of staff. Jerry Bridgeland sprung to mind. She
also recalls fancying Richard Hadfield!
However, what resonated most clearly throughout my interview with Moira
is her clear fondness of the pupils that have come and gone during her
time at the school. It is astonishing how many names she remembers. I
asked her what the best present she could receive from the school would
be and the answer was: “a meal with all my favourite OGs”. The list is being
compiled as I write so be prepared for an invite if you were on her list of
We’ve had an excellent response to our initial email and it looks as
though we will be welcoming around thirty old boys plus wives, friends
etc. Probably around 70 in total. We also hope to have the pleasure
of the company of John Ray, Pat Whitworth, Ian Lawson, John Gillespie
and Tony White. For your interest, although many of us are reaching a
difficult age to travel a great distance, we have a good excuse to come;
it is 55 years for many since we left.
As last time, we shall have our dinner in the Laichmoray Hotel in
Elgin. There is a shortage of affordable hotels in the area that can
accommodate a party our size and they did us proud last time (is
it really coming up for five years?). Still to be finalised is our afterdinner programme. Jill Hollings, who so ably edited “Gordonstoun
– an enduring vision”, has agreed to speak and she will hopefully
have some amusing unpublished stories of the old school. We would
welcome further suggestions for our after dinner entertainment - singers,
musicians, raconteurs of Altyre stories especially if you have a relative
or friend looking for a new audience! Please let us have their details.
We will be in touch early in the New Year with a booking form and an
update on what to expect on the night. It is of course the Friday of the
annual Old Gordonstonians Weekend to Celebrate the first 80 years of
the School. Not only will you have a night of revelry and reminiscence
in the company of your old school friends, but in the next day you
will have the chance to see how the old school has moved on in the
We look forward to seeing you on the night.
Angus Morgan OGGS Captain (Cumming, 1962)
numbers were disappointing. In September
OGGS put up a team to play against Fettes Old
Boys at Panmure. It was an excellent day, and
to be highly recommended, though we were
narrowly defeated. A further match is on the
cards for 2014, and details should be available
Looking to 2014 we have four fixtures
organised. Martin Scriven has again very
kindly agreed to host the event at Ilkley on the
11th of April.
Following a very enjoyable outing to Ilkley in
April, hosted by the irrepressible Martin Scriven,
the next fixture was the OGGS v/s School match
that resulted in a drawn game. It was good to
see the still cheery faces on “drookit” students
and OGGS members as they made their way
up the hill to the clubhouse from the 18th green,
where all players enjoyed an excellent supper.
The following day around 35 hearty souls took
part in the Annual OGGS Competition at Spey
Valley in Aviemore. The day was a true test of
character; the equal of the more challenging
Gordonstoun expeditions. Despite the seriously
awful weather there were three golfers who
scored over 30 points, and the winner was
David Richmond. A quite outstanding result,
when most other competitors felt they had done
quite well to garner more than 20 points.
The annual match at Bruntsfield was a very
different affair with clement conditions and
a tightly fought contest with only 3 points
separating the top four, and the winner was
Philip Campbell here seen receiving the
Bruntsfield Trophy from OGGS Secretary, and
2012 winner, Brian O’Connor.
OGGS members David White and Mike
Doughty very kindly organised fixtures in the
West Country and London respectively but
perhaps due to lack of advanced warning,
The Society has been very fortunate, through
the good offices of Dr. Graeme Govan, to
secure tee times at Nairn West, a Walker Cup
course, for the match against the School on
Thursday the 1st of May. On the following day
we will be returning to Castle Stuart, venue of
the Scottish Open for the last three years, for
the Annual OGGS Competition. Details of both
Firstly, OGGS will contribute 50% of the cost of
providing expert coaching by David Torrance of
Nairn Dunbar for six young golfers, Aberlour/
Secondly, OGGS have supplied 8 wind proof
“Gordonstoun” tops for the School VIII.
And thirdly, in addition to entertaining the
School team in the match against OGGS, at
Nairn, two student players will be invited to take
part in the Annual Match.
At the 2013 AGM I advised that I wished to
stand down as Captain. and we have agreed
that I will stay on as Captain for a further year,
and that the Society will elect a vice-captain
at the 2014 AGM who will take over the
Captaincy in 2015. Candidates required!
events are on the OGGS section of the web site.
Quite a few members have signed up for both
events. Tee times are limited so if any golfers
are interested in joining the Society and taking
part in either or both of the events they should
contact the GA office.
The fourth confirmed event in 2014 is the annual
meeting at Bruntsfield in Edinburgh, which is
scheduled for Friday the 6th of June.
The OGGS committee is very keen that the fixture
Mike Doughty organised at Denham, West
London, takes place next year and it is hoped
that golfers in London will take the opportunity to
meet up at this quite excellent course.
OGGS Ilkley Outing
Friday 11th April 2014 - Ilkley GC
OGGS Match vs
Thursday 1st May 2014 - Nairn West
OGGS Castle Stuart
Friday 2nd May 2014
OGGS Bruntsfield outing
Friday 6th June 2014
Finally, it has been the intention of the Society
to seek to find appropriate ways to support
and assist students at the School who have an
For bookings & info email
interest in golf, and at the OGGS AGM in May
a number of decisions were taken.
£££ The GA 200 Club £££
You could be in with a chance of winning £1000!!!!
The GA 200 Club requires more members. Membership of the GA 200 Club costs just £30 a year. If you join the GA 200 Club you will be doing your bit
to help current students. The surplus money that the GA 200 Club generates goes into a fund known as The Student Support Fund which is available
to students who require financial help in order to participate in overseas projects, such as the Thailand Water Project and Sinai Project.
The annual 200 Club £1000 prize is drawn during the AGM, which this year will be held on GA Day, at the School, on Saturday 3 May 2014.
As well as the £1000 prize drawn in May there is a £500 prize which is drawn in November and also a £40 prize drawn during each of the
ten remaining months of the year. Please sign up as it is for such a good cause. If you are interested in becoming a 200 Club member, please
contact the GA Office by email [email protected] or phone 01343 837922 to request an application form.
Alice PLATTEN (Altyre 2009) engaged to Mr Mark Duncan. Met while studying at Warsash Maritime Academy
Patrick GILMOUR (Duffus 1998) to Nicola Grant on April 20th 2013
thomas GARDNER (Round Square 1999) to Helen Bourne on April 6th 2013
Peter and Jayne McLaren (nee Agnew) Hopeman 2001 are
happy to announce the birth of their son Duncan Arthur Agnew
McLaren on 13th September 2013. A brother to Alexander, their 2
year old son, and nephew to Fiona (Hopeman 1994-1999), Alistair
and Duncan Agnew (Bruce 2000-2005.)
Benjamin and Louise Seeling (nee Dear) Hopeman 2002
are happy to announce the birth of their son Tobias MacIntyre in
Mechelen Belgium on 13th June 2013
Jon and Caroline Overton (nee Day) Hopeman 1999 are
pleased to announce the birth of their son Campbell Murray on 18th
Born to Emma Buchanan Hopeman 2009, on 8th February
2013, a son, Niko Ross Thorsager.
Harry and Margaux Manners (nee Robinson) Plewlands
2003 are delighted to announce the birth of their daughter Eliza
Margaux 27th October 2012. A granddaughter to Nigel Robinson
(Round Square 1972), and niece to Peter Robinson (Bruce 2001).
Born to Julia Markell (nee Davidson) Plewlands 1996, on 29
sep 2012, a daughter, Madisyn Olivia.
The Gordonstoun Association is sad to announce the deaths of the following alumni and extends its condolences to
their family and friends.
HELEN HARKER - Former staff
JAMES D FERGUSON - Duffus 1956
FREDERIC (DERRY) GILMOUR - Altyre 1960
THE REV CANON PHILIP CROSFIELD - Former Staff
MICHAEL ABRAM - Duffus 1974
C JOHN D SHACKLES - Altyre 1958
CHRISTOPHER BROWNSON - Gordonstoun 1949
EDWARD WHITING - 1946
MICHELLE RAMSAY-FRASER - Hopeman 2007
PETER EBERT - 1936
AXEL METJE BEHNSEN - 1955
DOUGAL GREIG - Former Staff
FRANCIS G OLIVER - Altyre 1952
BRUCE C. ALLEN - 1944
CHARLES ALEXANDER CRUICKSHANK - Altyre 1978
GEORGE M DRAFFEN - Bruce 1962
RACHEL H A ADAMS (nee Gray) - Hopeman 1984
MICHAEL A.M. STARY - Gordonstoun 1948
LORD JOSEPH E GAINFORD - Round Square 1940
HUGH J.F. McINTYRE - Gordonstoun 1947
JAMES S DONALD - Former Staff
JAN R. URBYE - Altyre 1956
Full obituaries (if available) can be seen on our website: www.gordonstoun.org.uk/former-students/ga/obituaries
If you wish to share the news of your graduation, engagement, marriage, births or notify the Gordonstoun Association of a
bereavement, please contact the Gordonstoun Association Office. Tel: +44 (0)1343 837922 or Email: [email protected]
The Gordonstoun Association Committee request the pleasure of your company on GA Day,
at Gordonstoun School
Saturday 3rd May 2014
to celebrate the School’s 80th Anniversary
There will be a range of activities during the day followed by dinner in the evening
Please e-mail the GA office on [email protected]onstoun.org.uk if you would like to attend
For up-to-date information on all events and gatherings, please see our website:
or phone the GA Office on +44 (0) 1343 837922
calcutta cup weekend
Saturday 8th February 2014
THE GA Annual london dinner
Fino’s wine cellar, london
Friday 14th March 2014
THE GA yorkshire Dinner
4th Altyre (Forres) Reunion
Laichmoray hotel, Elgin
Friday 2nd May 2014
GA Day 2014
Saturday 3rd May 2014
GA Austrian gathering
Friday 21st June 2014
OCEAN Spirit (80th Anniversary)
Circumnavigation of UK
The ga annual edinburgh dinner
New club, Edinburgh
Saturday 16th August 2014
Do you have a story you’d like to see published in the next edition of this magazine? If so, please get in touch with the
GA Office: [email protected] | +44 (0) 1343 837922