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Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet

Greenock Academy, Nelson Street - 1955

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet

Greenock Academy Staff ... 1955

Back Row - Herbert Watson : Agnes Roxburgh : Mairi McEwing : J.H. Cameron Love : Thomas Allan : Harold
McNeill : Daniel Morrison : Martha Baird : John McIntosh : Hugh McFarlane : Allan Macphail : John Brown : Duncan
Ritchie : Jean Armstrong : Cameron Johnston.
Middle Row - Hector Munro : Sarah Hughes : Janet Shedden : Catherine Stoddart : Jean Kirkwood : Margaret
McAuslan : Mary McFadyen : Catherine Macdonald : Marjorie Brown : Georgina Lindsay : Annie Russell : Barbara
MacKechnie : Daisy Russell : Norah Martin : Catherine Milne : George Prevost (Janitor).
Front Row - Mary Johnston : Anne Brown : Mary Cameron : Annie Innes : Charles Perry : Allan Beckett : Isabel Lyle :
James W. Chadwin (Rector) : John Niven : Jean Tannock : Ian Macdonald : Margaret Landles : A. Gardner Andrew :
Christina MacGregor : Eva McCuaig.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet


Within the pages of this commemorative booklet will be found the story of Greenock Academy during the hundred
years that have passed since its foundation in 1855. It was the aim of the generous and public-spirited citizens who

commissioned the building of the school to provide educational facilities in Greenock of a quality equal to those
available in any Scottish town of comparable size, and the account of the development of the school will show how
administrators. Rectors and teachers have laboured assiduously and successfully to secure this end. It will show how the
school has kept steadily abreast of every proved advance in educational practice in Scotland and has striven at all times
not only to achieve the highest standards of scholarship but also to lay the soundest possible foundations for gracious
and useful living.

Only the first part of this brochure, however, is devoted to a straight-forward, systematic record of the growth of the
school. There follows a series of articles, specially written by certain former pupils, which give vivacious accounts of life
in the Academy in their time and convey a vivid impression of the school's particular characteristics. I acknowledge
with warm thanks these most acceptable contributions which will give much pleasure to all who
read them.

It is my sincere wish that this brochure may find ready approval among the hundreds of former pupils and teachers
whose thoughts will at this time turn with affection to their old school and I am sure it will be read with particular
interest and pleasure by those who, for one reason or another, may not find it possible to visit Greenock for the
Centenary celebrations.

I commend it also, and no less warmly, to the attention and interest of Academy pupils of the present day. May the
perusal of these pages quicken their affection for and strengthen their pride in their school and may the words
of the Psalmist find an echo in their hearts - "The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground : Yea, I have a goodly


Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet


I have been asked to write a Foreword to this Brochure which has been prepared to mark the Centenary of Greenock
Academy and I am very glad to comply.

A Centenary of any kind is an important occasion: the Centenary of a school is particularly noteworthy. In these times
competition is keen in all fields of human endeavour and therefore the need for a sound liberal education becomes of
paramount importance.

It has been the aim of all those associated with Greenock Academy during the hundred years that have passed to ensure
that every pupil received such an education. Generations of scholars have passed through the portals of Greenock
Academy and it is true to say that former pupils have attained to prominent positions in many parts of the world.

The school has had a long classical tradition but with the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918, and the
consequent abolition of School Boards, there emerged a new conception of learning. Education came to be viewed
from a much wider angle: different techniques were adopted: changes in curricula were introduced: but—and perhaps
most important of all—the needs of the child were at long last given first consideration.

Today then, the Education Committee make provision in Greenock Academy, not only for pupils at the primary school
stage but on to the fifth and sixth years of the secondary department. Instruction is given in a wide lange of subjects -
English; Latin and Greek; French, German and Spanish; History and Geography; Mathematics and Science; Art and
Music; Commercial Subjects, Technical Subjects and Domestic Subjects.

Greenock Academy pupils have acquitted themselves well at the Leaving Certificate Examinations of the Scottish
Education Department during a long number of years and they have also had some specially praiseworthy successes in
the University Bursary Competitions. The tradition of the school is therefore being fully maintained.

The Education Committee, however, are concerned with the condition of the fabric of the Academy, the main building
of which was erected in the year 1855. According to present-day standards accommodation leaves much to be desired.
The possibility of erecting a new building is being seriously considered by the Education Committee but in order
to do so it will be necessary to find a new site of a rather larger area than that on which the Academy at present stands.
Negotiations are in progress and while it will be a number of years before new and more up-to-date accommodation
can be provided, I venture to think that in time the hopes that are at present entertained will be realised.

Renfrewshire Education Committee

The First Hundred Years

It seems, at first sight, as if education was thriving in Greenock during the first half of the nineteenth century. In
addition to the Grammar School, dating from the early eighteenth century, there were the Mathematical and English
schools, two Charity schools, several private schools and. during the period of the Napoleonic War. many oppor-
tunities of tuition in French from refugees. It seems probable, too. that private lessons in German and Italian could be
had more easily than at the present time. But this picture of a plethora of educational facilities is deceptive.
Most of them were available only for the well-to-do. The roll in two of the three main schools never exceeded 100 and
that of the Grammar School reached 150 only after the appointment of Mr (later Dr) James Lockhart Brown. There
was, too. an utter lack of co-ordination and a great wastage of time, for pupils took classes in various schools and
probably, like their modern counterparts in their passage from room to room. dallied away the time. Theoretically, each
of the three chief schools, as their names imply, was restricted to a limited range of subjects, but they poached on one
another's preserves from the beginning. In the 1760's Alexander Bradfute of the Grammar School, was repri-
manded for teaching English by the Town Council which feared that the English schoolmaster would, in his turn teach
Latin. Accusations and counter-accusations fly from school to school during the whole period. At the root of this was
the eagerness of the teachers to seize any opportunity which would promise an addition, in the shape of more fees,
to their scanty salaries.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet

The Need for an Academy

The need of centralisation was felt as early as 1780, when an attempt was made to unite the Grammar. English and
Mathematical schools in one Academy. This plan soon fell through and a proposal to the same effect made in the
Town Council in 1805. had no better success. In 1810, however, when the Magistrates were promoting a new Town
Bill in Parliament, they were petitioned in a Memorial, signed by 87 of the principal citizens, including John Gait. to
build "an Academy or well organised seminary" so that education in Greenock could compare favourably with that
provided in other towns. The Memorial was approved by the Council but an accompanying suggestion that house-
holders paying rents over £10 should be taxed to finance the project understandably met with a very different
reception. This obnoxious clause was dropped when the proposals were incorporated in the Bill, critics having pointed
out that in Perth and Dumfries the Academies had been raised by public subscription. Forty-five years, however, were
to pass before the Academy was opened. Severe trade depressions, particularly during the catastrophic
period of the 1840's, and serious epidemics of cholera and smallpox, consequent upon appalling housing conditions,
preoccupied public attention, and there survives from the same period a reference to dissatisfaction among the
ratepayers that public funds should be used to subsidise a school for the children of the rich. There is no doubt, too.
that it was difficult to raise the necessary money: indeed, as will be seen later, the Academy was in financial
difficulties for the first forty years of its existence. It seems clear, also, that masters in schools which were not to be part
of the new institution regarded the project with dismay as imperilling their own livelihood and probably did their best
to obstruct it. And in the end. when the decision was taken, very lengthy deliberations preceded its execution.

The long train was laid in 1847. On May 2nd of that year. on the proposal of Provost J. J. Grieve, a committee with
powers to co-opt others, notably ministers of the town, was appointed "to consider the whole subject of
education locally, to bring about improvements, and to concentrate all branches of education into a combined system
under one roof with a uniformity of hours and classes." The report of this committee, largely compiled from the
returns made by Greenock's thirty-five heads ol' schools, revealed a considerable decline in education in the burgh
during the previous thirty years. In 1826 one-ninth of the population had attended school, in 1834
one-eleventh, and at the date of the Report the number was down to one-thirteenth. These figures applied tu children
under fifteen. Only sixteen boys altogether were learning mathematics in Greenock. In the Grammar School
only fifty boys were learning' the Latin language. In other schools Latin grammar was taught incidentally to forty-two
boys. and only twelve young men were learning Greek. "At present", stated the Report, "parents and guardians have no
encouragement to retain their children in Greenock: and, seeing the educational institutions of other places to be
much more advantageous, many families either remove altogether from the town or send away their children at great
sacrifices of money and inclination." It was proposed therefore, that "the two schools at present in connection with
the Town Council, the Grammar School and the Mathematical School, should be incorporated into a new Academy to
be built by public subscription, provided that an arrangement can be made with the masters." Both
Dr Brown of the Grammar School and Mr (afterwards Dr) Buchanan of the Mathematical School, agreed to transfer
then- services to the proposed Academy. Dr Brown died in 1847 and Mr Buchanan was appointed Rector of the

Erection of The Main Building Its Surroundings

Long and tedious negotiations took place before a decision on a suitable site was arrived at. At last, in 1852, at a
meeting of subscribers, it was decided to build on a feu of two acres, in a field off Nelson Street, generously offered by
Sir Michael Robert Shaw Stew-art. Bart. The building was designed by Messrs Hay., Architects, of Liverpool, who had
previously designed Wellpark Church in lower Lynedoch Street. It was to be in what was called, not inappropriately, the
Monastic Style. Building began in May, 1854 but, even before the work was started, it was discovered - this has a
familiar ring, that the cost would largely exceed the sum at first named - £3,605. The plans were modified to bring the
cost within that sum and the architects, this sounds less familiar, regretting their miscalculations, afterwards made a
donation of fifty guineas to the fund.

When the Academy was built, it had plenty of open space round about it, space for large playing fields, one must reflect
regretfully, but this educational development could hardly have been foreseen at the time. On the opposite
side of Nelson Street was a large field through which wandered the West Burn, a clear stream in 1855 and frequented
by townswomen who there washed and bleached their domestic linen. Later, the burn became filthy and polluted and a
menace to public health. Beyond it. in the neighbourhood of the present West Station, was Ferguson's Sugar House.
built in 1847 and destroyed by fire ten years later. This sensational occurrence, like a later fire in Brisbane Street, no
doubt caused depleted attendances in the new school. Behind the school stretched a large expanse of fields, with very
few buildings to be seen. The most conspicuous were Greenbank House - still standing, though divided, Ford

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
House, so called presumably because of the ford at one time across the West Burn then much larger - and the
Observatory, on the site of the property known today as Towerhill. The West Kirk had been built in the early forties,
but its steeple was not completed till 1854 and the bell not erected till 1859. Ardgowan School was not
built until 1896. An interesting feature of the landscape, particularly for Academy pupils was an orchard at what is now
the corner of Inverkip Street and Nelson Street. Academy boys were in the habit of pilfering fruit here
during the dinner hour. The owner skilfully transferred reprisals by allowing the boys to climb the trees and then
releasing his watch-dog which kept them there until they had to face the penalty for being late.

In such agreeable and interesting surroundings the Academy was opened on Monday, 3rd September. 1855, in the
presence of Sir Michael Robert Shaw Stewart. the Provost, the Bailies, Members of the Council and Teachers, together
with many Ministers and principal inhabitants of the town.

Financial Difficulties

Debt weighed heavily on the school from the beginning and new measures had to be taken to finance the undertaking
and provide for further expansion and improvements. In 1864, a new Constitution was drawn up, making
provision for a capital of £7,000 to be subscribed in shares of £10 each. It is worth noting that among the chief
shareholders were Thomas Fairric and William Macfie, who also gave respectively donations of £100 and £1,100 and
who founded two Academy bursaries, open to boys in the town and still annually competed for.

The annual revenue from the school was to be allocated for payment of rates and taxes, interest on the debt. repairs,
salaries, and additions to the buildings. Any surplus was to go towards reducing the principal of the debt.
Any sum then remaining, and this is a phrase which throws doubts on the arithmetic of the period, was to be divided

among the shareholders. but only when the debt had been paid off. The shareholders at no time received any-
thing. £2,500 had already been borrowed by the Directors and a further £500 was then borrowed. £3.000 being
regarded as the limit of any borrowings. By this time, 1864, the northern wing had been completed and five
hundred pupils were attending the school.

The First Three Rectors

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet

Dr Buchanan resigned in 1860 and was succeeded by Mr (later Dr) Archibald Montgomerie. another mathematician,
but his successor, Mr Edward L. Neilson, who was appointed in 1872, was a classical scholar. This fact was immediately
reflected in the school Prospectus, where Latin and Greek were put first in the Prize List and Mathematics was
reduced from first to fourth place. Very little information can be obtained about the personalities of the first three

Rectors of the Academy. The Staff, too, are little more than names, but we do know that the Head English
Master, Mr Haye Mure, taught Manners and Cleanliness as an incidental and that Mr John Fraser, the Writing Master,
wrote a hand of superlative elegance, specimens of which still survive to astonish us. The following extract
from the "Greenock Advertiser" of 3rd March, 1860, records a miracle of penmanship - "The Paisley Advertiser"
makes the following remark on the Greenock Non-Intrusion Petition being rejected by the House of Commons on the
ground of its being engraved - We often witness errors and inconvenience flowing from bad penmanship, but it is
something new to hear of difficulties arising from its being too good. Mr Fraser may well congratulate himself on
receiving such a practical acknowledgment of his skill; for a higher compliment was probably never paid to
penmanship.'' Mr John Fraser then conducted a private school at 7 West Stewart Street and later became Writing
Master in the Academy.

Short though we are of personal documentation, a good deal can be gleaned about the school itself from the
Prospectuses which were published from the year of the opening until 1927.

The "Young Ladies" and "Young Gentlemen" of the announcement made in the "Greenock Advertiser" previous to
the opening of the school have become "Boys" and "Girls" in the Prospectus of 1860. But already, in 1856. there are
"Young Ladies" and "Girls" on the Prize Lists, and the "Young Gentlemen" have disappeared. In 1870 the "Girls" have
returned to gentility, the boys. presumably, being irredeemable. In 1873 there are "Girls" in Drawing and Latin, but they
are "Young Ladies" in other subjects. By 1875, there are "Girls" in Arithmetic and Singing and in 1876 they are to be
found in Writing. In the following year the "Young Ladies" appear for the last time - in English and Modern
Languages. It is interesting to speculate on this lack of a uniform designation. Was it a question of the views held by the
teachers, or were the "Girls" only "Young Ladies" in certain classes ?

Throughout the greater part of this period - until 1883, to be exact - the statement, "The Curriculum is not
compulsory," appears regularly. But it is also pointed out that Pupils would do well to keep to recognised courses. An
increase in numbers and the development of external examinations finally imposed the necessity of abrogating the

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
liberty of those early years. There is not much word about school examinations of the modern sort. An account of a
Public Examination of the pupils is given elsewhere in the Brochure and we learn, too, that, from Mr Neilson's
accession, all classes were open for inspection, i.e. by parents and others interested, on Fridays. After 1879 classes could
be inspected at "all times." No first-hand account of what happened on these occasions is available and we do not
know to what extent, if any, parents took advantage of the offer.

The management of the school was transferred to the Greenock Burgh School Board in 1882. Its reputation and its
curriculum were steadily growing. By 1872 three former pupils had won Snell Exhibitions and one was a Senior
Wrangler. In 1879 R. Macfarlan, still very rnuch alive, is recorded as winning a prize for Phonography, i.e. Shorthand.
Botany, presumably a girls' class, appears in the Prize Lists in 1885. and Science in 1889. Science was taught by the
Mathematics staff until 1900, when a separate department was set up under Mr David Baird. In 1889, also, there are
Prizes for both Drill and Gymnastics and this continues till 1910 when Drill disappears. Writing figures prominently at
all stages and a special prize for Ornamental Writing was awarded till 1889. The utilitarian age is thus ushered in to give
way ultimately to the age of the Biro and illegibility.

In 1887 the curriculum was reorganised "to meet modern requirements." The girls were to receive a "thoroughly sound
English Education in all its branches." Special attention was to be paid to French, German, and Music, and Cookery
was introduced. For the boys there was to be a Classical and a Modern Side, alternatively called a University and a
Commercial Side - the latter to equip boys thoroughly for "a mercantile career." Emphasis was laid on the value of
Physical Training for both boys and girls. The girls were to have Drill and the boys Drill. Fencing and Gymnastics.
French and German were to be begun earlier and the "Initiatory Classes" - formidable language - were to be "more
conversational than grammatical."

Until the end of this period, and for several years after it, girls' names hardly appear in the Classics and Mathematics
Prize Lists. They were, it seems, discouraged from pursuing these studies too far. In Mathematics they seem to have
been restricted to Arithmetic although, in 1881, a girl appears among the Prizewinners in Algebra for the first time, and
gets an "Extra" prize, but there is no girl in the Senior Mathematics Prize List till 1892, In Classics girls appear as
prizewinners in the first and second Latin classes as early as 1878 but infrequently thereafter till 1888. In 1893,
the year of Mr Gemmell's accession, the Prospectus states firmly: "Parents should note that for subsequent
examinations in English and French some knowledge of Latin is of great service to girls.'' In the same year,
Malcolm McCaskill was the first winner of the three principal school prizes, the Brown Prize for Classics, founded in
1853 in memory of Dr James L. Brown, Rector of the Grammar School from 1823-1847, the Stewart Gold
Medal, awarded to the Dux, instituted in 1856, and the Campbell Prize for Mathematics, dating from 1863. No girl won
the Brown Prize till 1916 when it was won by one of the first girls to take Greek, but nineteen girls won the Stewart
Prize before that date, and, starting in 1898, five had won the Campbell Prize, three in succession in the years 1913-15.

Until 1887 the school opened at 9 and closed at 3, younger pupils coming at 10. There was an interval of ten minutes
every hour and a break of half an hour between 11.45 and 12.15. Only those living near the school could run home for
lunch: the others had to use the school canteen. There were no organised games, but cricket, football, and prisoners'
base were played in the playground, then very much larger than now, extending indeed up to the present Drill Hall. It
must be remembered. too, that the Academy consisted till 1888 of the "twelve spacious and well-aired classrooms with
teachers rooms etc. and a large hall" which made up the original building. The Prospectus of 1887 refers grandly to
the Playground as the Park (it is so designated till 1907), but a former pupil of the period avers positively that there was
very little grass. However this may be, the Cattle Show and Highland Games took place there annually for several years
and the former event, held during the term, was a notable cause of truancy.

The Gemmell Era

Mr Neilson retired in 1893, to be succeeded by Mr Alexander Gemmell who became Rector at the early age of twenty-
eight and who occupied the post for thirty-seven years.

The first Prospectus of what might be called the Gemmell era is a much fuller, clearer, and more informative
publication than its precursors. While omitting the lists of text-books, it gives more precise information on the
curriculum, dilates on the value of the Leaving Certificate, devotes a page to the Special Prizes, sets forth the School
timetables - and the teachers - and, for the first time, includes a number of School Regulations, among them an
injunction that, "Idling about the Playground during School hours will not be permitted." The School, its day now ex-
tended to 4 p.m., has become something of the complex unity with which we are familiar.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
During this period also it took its present shape. The development of the school buildings is described in some detail
elsewhere but a very brief reference may be made here to the three large additions built during the Rectorship of Mr
Gemmell, the first, in 1894-95 adding to the original structure a Gymnasium, a Science Room, two Art
Rooms and a Class-room, the second in 1909-10, being the present Primary building and the third, in 1928, consisting
of a workshop, a new Science Lab. and a canteen.

From the full information available on the Staff of the school at this time it is clear that Mr Gemmell had very able
subordinates. Several of these taught in the Academy during almost the whole period. Notable among them was Miss
McWilliam, Infant Mistress from 1896-1929. Many former pupils pay tribute to her enthusiasm, her kindness, and her
understanding of small children. One reference to her as "rather forbidding to a child of five" is followed by the
revealing, "But I was not afraid of her as I was of some teachers." Another teacher in the Infant Department
who still takes a great interest in the school and visits it frequently, Miss J. Allison MacGillivray, was a member of the
Staff from 1904 to 1948. Miss Marjory Menzies, who taught in the Modern Languages Department, and founded the
French prize, was a gracious and efficient Lady Superintendent from 1900 to 1924.

Of the English Staff, Mr James Anderson, Head of the Department from 1883 to 1908, is referred to with affection and
enthusiasm in three other contributions. His successor, Mr William Braid Taylor. who later succeeded Mr
Gemmell as Rector evokes this tribute: "Mr Taylor was a shy man, whose severity of expression was softened by a
twinkle of the eye that brought hope, if not of escape, at least of mercy, to the wrongdoer. He soon showed
himself an excellent teacher. Believing, to the dismay of the lazy, that for genius and dullard alike, hard work was the
way to achievement, he assumed that all shared his view and refused to believe that learning was impossible for anyone.
Above all. he was interested in his pupils as individuals, and found his happiness in helping them. Teaching the girls
hockey, helping with rugby and cricket, or driving in stakes on the eve of the sports, he was completely at home. And
pupils were proud to have his friendship."

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
Mr Tait, Assistant in Mathematics from 1893 to 1917 and Head of the department till 1927, is thus described by a
former pupil: "A kindly man, calm of movement and temperament, he gave to all his pupils a sense of security and
strength. Problems were no longer insoluble and the most intractable sums lost their terror under his quiet guidance. In
the class-room and as umoire on the cricket pitch he inspired the efficient and brought hope and courage to the fearful
and disconsolate." The Science Department as it is today was founded by Mr David Baird who also fostered rugby in
the school. When he left in 1930. to become Headmaster of Johnstone High School. Science was securely established
as one of the major departments and rugby had reached an exceptional standard for a school with so few "big" boys.
Other teachers of the period who gave long and excellent service to the school were Mr W. U. Park, a Colonel in the
Territorials, who taught Arithmetic and put it into practice in surveying exercises from which pupils were inclined to
drift away to more congenial pursuits, Mr James Millar, the Writing Master, who was captain of the Greenock Golf
Club and Mr David Ramsay, who revolutionised the Art Department. Those Principal Teachers finely maintained the
efficiency and reputation of the School during the difficult years of the 1914-18 war. A word must also be said of Mr
William Downie, school janitor from 1887-1922 who dispensed cocoa and rolls and syrup at ½d each from what has
come to be called the "old staffroom" and Sergeant Sheret, Gymnastics Instructor from 1903-21, a foils champion of
the army and now church-officer in St. Giles Cathedral.

The last phase in the reorganisation of the school was the appointment of Mr J. L. L. Niven as Principal Teacher of
Classics on the retiral of Mr Gemmell, who had been, like his predecessor, Head of the Classics Department
as well as Rector. In the same way, Dr Buchanan and Dr Montgomerie, mathematicians, had supervised the work of
the Mathematics Department. But it was now seen to be no longer possible to combine the business of organising the
school with the headship of a department, without overworking both the Rector and the departmental assistants.

The Development of Games

The references made to Mr Tait and Mr Baird have already indicated that games were being developed in the school.
The first Prospectus reference to games in Session 1896-97 states: "There is a Cricket Club and it is hoped there will be
a Rugby Club in connection with the School. A Gymnastic Instructor has been chosen, specially qualified to

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
superintend the cricket and football." Another development, cut short, alas ! is referred to in the following sentence:
"Academy Pupils are admitted to the West End Baths at half-price." The cryptic note also appears that " Pupils who
own bicycles are requested to hand their names to the Rector." This is explained in the following Prospectus which
states that 'there are in connection with the School a Cricket Club and a Rugby Club" and that "it is hoped there will be
a Bicycle Club." The Prospectus goes on as follows: "For a long time the want of a proper field for Cricket and
Football has been very much felt: but hitherto all endeavours to supply this want have proved vain. Those who are
interested in outdoor games will be pleased to learn that the Rector has entered into an agreement with the Wanderers
Football Club to share with them the cost of levelling and draining a portion of West Battery Park, so as to adapt it for
Football and Cricket. A sum of about one hundred and fifty pounds will require to be raised by the Academy Clubs and
they look with confidence to old pupils and friends to assist them. The Rector will be glad to receive and acknowledge
subscriptions." The reference to this one hundred and fifty pounds appears for the next year or so but by Session 1900-
01 the Prospectus merely states that "There are in connection with the School a Cricket Club and a Rugby Club and the
ground is at West Battery Park." (As the School was deprived of this ground during the First World War, Sport was
much disrupted but Glenpark was made available for school cricket practices and matches.) The Gymnastics
Instructor is still stated to be in charge of games' supervision. By 1901 it appears that a bat was being presented to the
best batsman and a ball to the best bowler as ascertained by League Matches. This practice has been discontinued as
fostering individualism. The lirst reference to organised sports is to be found in the Prize List attached to the
Prospectus for 1903-4. but these sports were presumably of much earlier date. We hear no more of the Bicycle Club,
but during the years that followed the Academy became a force in rugby and cricket and in the latter game was
able to challenge successfully the chief Glasgow schools. It was not until 1923 that the loss of the Battery Park playing
field was made good by the opening of the ground at Fort Matilda which provided tennis courts as well as rugby and
cricket pitches.

The School and its Rector

While the Academy of Mr Gemmell's period begins in several essentials to resemble the school we know, we come
across many references which place it in a bygone time. In the early part of the period there were still open fires and gas
lighting. The Staff had no common Room and the departments lived in dignified isolation meeting only twice a year to
write reports, and each June to arrange the prizes. The daily visits of the Janitor to "take the Roll" and tours of
inspection by the Rector alone established the fact that the school was a whole. Present-day pupils would not envy
their predecessors who, if they wished dancing lessons, had to have them on Saturday forenoons "so that pupils are
enabled to avoid late hours in the dark winter nights and so that the classes do not interfere with the ordinary school
lessons." It is rather a surprise to us, too. accustomed as we are to associate strict enforcement of rules with the schools
of the past, to learn, from the monotonous repetition of the statement, "Boys are expected to wear the Academy Cap,"
that the expectation was vain. A repeated reference in the Prospectus to a falling-off in attendance "during the first two
and the last three weeks of the session, immediately before every holiday and on Fridays generally throughout the year"
makes sporadic truancy seem a relatively small matter by comparison.

In the later years of Mr Gemmell's Rectorship the curriculum, founded on the learning of the past, was expanded to
include a wider range of subjects. Spanish was added in 1921, technical subjects were given more attention. and music
was no longer restricted to singing. This meant a re-adjusting of periods and a curtailment of the time - about ten
periods a week - allotted to Classics, but was a further step towards the realisation of the ideal expressed in the school
motto—"Hinc Vera Virtus." During this period, too, the Education Authority took over the school from the School
Board. That this change in administration did not affect its character is a tribute to the Rector's vision and tenacity of
purpose. His retiral ended an epoch decisive in the life and development of Greenock Academy.

Mr Gemmell was notable as a scholar, a headmaster and a personality. The variety and impressiveness of his gifts were
not more remarkable than the masterly and masterful manner in which he deployed them, whether spectacularly, as
when, on his own behalf, he conducted, and won. a case in the Court of Session, or less obtrusively as in his vigilant.
unremitting attention to the interests of his school. He was a distinguished member of the University Court, taking a
prominent part in University administration and keeping a watchful eye on Classical studies, as was to be expected from
a President of the Scottish Classical Association. But despite his enthusiasm for the Classics, he was fully aware that the
curriculum had to be changed to meet changing circumstances, and it is to him that the school owes the introduction of
Spanish. His busy and purposeful mind neglected no subject in the curriculum and no school activity. "Hunumi nil a inr

alien-inn puto" might well have been (.me of his mottoes. He constantly insisted on the importance for later education
of a thorough grounding in the Primary School and saw that it was given. The cricket and rugby captains had to report
to him after every match and if the team had lost. a post-mortem took place. The high reputation which the Academy
acquired in the worlds of learning, business, and sport was a testimonial to his great abilities. That he had his

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
eccentricities and what Dr Johnson might have called his "anfractuosities" there is plenty of evidence: this cannot
obscure the fact that the Acadc my was fortunate to be guided into the 20th century and through some of its most
difficult years by so sure and so skilful a pilot.

Mr Taylor

The retiral of Mr Gemmell after such a long period in office inevitably presented a problem and a challenge to his
successor. The impact of a strong personality on a school is evident in all phases of its work, and the
withdrawal of his inspiration may well prove crippling, if not disastrous. The school, however, was fortunate in its new
Rector. Mr William Braid Taylor.

Mr Taylor, the antithesis of Mr Gemmell in many ways. a quiet, persistent man who shunned the lime-light, had known
the school intimately for many years and now returned as Rector with the added experience of five
years as Headmaster of Johnstone High School.

The School, when Mr Tavlor took office, was growing in numbers, but accommodation was not unduly taxed. The
curriculum showed little change, and the balance between the Classical and Modern sides was nicely maintained. Under
the quiet but firm stimulus of Mr Taylor school life settled to a steady rhythm which enabled both Staff and pupils to
give of their best. Few, if any, periods in the school's history have produced such successes in the Glasgow University
Bursary Competition. In the period 1931-41 Academy pupils won one first and three second places in the Glasgow-
University Bursary Competition. The "annus mirabilis" was 1935 when the Academy had the first, second and ninth
places. High University honours were also gained by ex-pupils, and yet another Academy boy won the Snell Classical
Exhibition to Oxford In games, too, the school prospered, with special successes in cricket and hockey.

Behind the scenes, meanwhile, changes were taking place. Administration was making ever heavier demands on the
Rector's time and at last, in 1935, a telephone was installed and. later, a second clerkess was appointed. The increase in
the roll (702 pupils in 1935) emphasised the inadequacy of the accommodation in the school: the one gymnasium could
not satisfy the requirements of the Education Departmenf for physical training, nor were the full courses in Technical
subjects and Homecraft possible. Thus there began that pressure upon the authorities for further accommodation
which was not adequately met until 1950.

The last years of Mr Taylor's Rectorship were clouded by the threat and later bv the outbreak of war. Emergency
measures, the evacuation to safer areas of some of our puplpils, the requisitioning of the Infant Annexe by the R.A.F.
and the call-up of members of the Staff disturbed the work of the school.

The Blitz in May, 1941, left the school materially little damaged, but greatly increased the difficulties of a war-time
regime. That the standard of school-work was to a large extent maintained, so that the percentage of L.C passes was
almost normal, reflects great credit on the Staff, who in addition to their responibilities in Civil Defence also served on
the various panels for the L.C. examination.

In June, 1941, Mr Taylor retired. Quietiv. as the rigours of wartime demanded but, in all probability, just as he would
have preferred, he left the school he had served so devotedly for twenty-eight years. "Semper honos, nomenque tuum,
laudesque manebunt."

Mr Dewar

As successor to Mr Taylor the Education Committee chose Mr William McL. Dewar, a First-Class Honours Graduate
of Edinburgh University and Principal Teacher of Classics in Dumfries Academy. Mr Dewar. who was only thirty-six
years of age at the time of his appointment, shouldered his task with enthusiasm and zeal. A less energetic man
might have been content to postpone until the end of hostilities any plans for educational advance but Mr Dewar faced
with boldness and resource the difficulties and limitations imposed by war-time conditions. The problem

of accommodation was temporarily relieved when the classrooms in the Infant Annexe were derequisitioned but with
the rapid rise of the roll to over nine hundred the difficulties again became acute. Nevertheless. Mr Dewar forged
ahead with plans to broaden the curriculum and make better prevision for "practical" pursuits. New courses were

devised in Commercial and Technical subjects. There were still no premises or equipment for instruction in Cookery
and Housewifery but Domestic Science courses right up to Leaving Certificate level were nevertheless introduced,

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suitable accommodation having been acquired for this purpose in the Finnart School. Full Leaving Certificate courses
in History and Geography were also organised and placed under the direction of specialist teachers.

Much credit is due to Mr Dewar for his successful efforts to foster training in citizenship, to develop gifts of
"leadership" and to strengthen generally the school's "esprit de corps." As a means to this end the Prefect system was
introduced and the pupils were divided into four "Houses" - Atlantic, Matapan, Narvik and Taranto. By the award of
special trophies inter-house rivalry was stimulated in athletics, music and drama, school examinations and - last but
not feast—"service to the school." Every encouragement was given to the development of extra-curricular activities
including the recruitment of a unit of the Women's Junior Air Force and an Army Cadet Force company. It was Mr
Dewar, too. who promoted the formation of the Parents' Association which has done much to foster co-
operation between teachers and parents and has contributed in many ways to the welfare of the pupils.

Mr Dewar's record of achievement in six very difficult years was impressive and it came as no surprise when in 1947 he
was chosen for one of the highest posts in Scottish education, the Headmaster-ship of George Henot's School
in Edinburgh.

In the years 1941-1945 a number of teachers who had served the school well for many years left on promotion or
retirement. In 1941 Mr Dow, Depute Rector and Principal Teacher of English, was promoted to a headmastership. A
man of varied interests and wide-ranging mind, he aroused in his pupils a lively curiosity
and interest in his subject, and was a worthy successor to Mr Anderson and Mr Taylor. In this period, also. Miss
Keddie. the Lady Superintendent. and Miss E. Logic, the Infant Mistress, retired. Miss Keddie in her work in
the Modern Languages Department and in supervising the girls maintained the high tradition established by Miss
Menzies, while Miss Logic's conduct of her department won the respect of all and ensured a sound founda-
tion tor the future educational development of her pupils. To the assistants whose long and devoted service at last
received recognition the school owes a debt of gratitude, and pupils will long remember John Thomson, Hamish
McKenzie. Robert Morrison and Hugh Craig.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet

Mr Chadwin

The vacancy caused by Mr Dewar's resignation was filled by the appointment of Mr James W. Chadwin, M.A., B.A., L-
ès-L., Depute Rector and Principal Teacher of Modern Languages in Glasgow High School for Boys. Mr Chadwin, on
taking office, was not faced with a need for drastic reconstruction. He had to consolidate, and here and there to modify,
in the light of altered conditions. The acute problem of accommodation was to some extent relieved when the severe
building restrictions of war-time were relaxed. In the spring and summer of 1950 the Domestic Science Depart-
ment was at last adequately housed and a new dining-hall with proper facilities was opened. When the Rector was given
the option of turning the old one into a library or having it made into another classroom, he had no hesitation in
choosing the library and satisfying a crying need in the school.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
A further step was taken in adjusting the curriculum to conform with modern trends in educational practice. Two
periods of instruction at the playing fields in games and athletics were provided weekly during school hours for
every class in the school.

One other important matter remains to be recorded. At the end of the First World War money had been raised for a
War Memorial to Former Pupils, and it was decided that the most fitting way to remember them was to use this money
in helping to provide playing fields for the school. As it was not possible to acquire the exclusive use of a sports
ground, the school became a partner in the Fort Matilda Playing Fields Union. After the Second World War a plaque
was erected in the school hall to commemorate the former pupils who had fallen in both wars and a special prize fund
was instituted. The plaque was unveiled in 1950, the ceremony being performed by Miss J. Allison MacGillivray. The
sum of money raised was sufficient to endow War Memorial Prizes throughout the whole school. It is appropriate at
this point to mention that the generosity of the Parents' Association in gathering together a substantial sum as a
Centenary Prize Fund will relieve the school of any further responsibility for providing for an adequate number of

Finally, mention must be made of several teachers who have left the school in recent years after long and worthy
service. In 1949, Mr Alex. Dunlop. a mathematician of distinction and a teacher of great ability, resigned. The same year
saw the retiral of Mr Barr Turner. Principal Art Teacher, and of Mr James Gunn, Head of the Handwork Department.
These two had been associated with the Academy for twenty-eight and thirty-eight years respectively. In recent months
the school has been deprived of the services of Dr Percy Elton from whose notable musicianship it has benefited since
1925. A saddening event was the death in 1951 of Mr T. M. Wylie, who had managed the Science Department with
outstanding success since 1930 and had started many brilliant scientists on their careers.

The Academy is a hundred years old and that, in itself, would mean very little if we felt it had outlived its purpose, or
that its character could be radically altered without loss to the community, or that. if it disaupeared. another,
any other school, could take its place. A survey of its growth and development leads to opposite conclusions. That.
over a century, it has produced, for its size. a surprising number of notable men is some evidence of its scholastic
standing. What is equally important is that its living tradition of service, self-reliance, and a communal spirit has
influenced thousands of its pupils to the benefit of their town and of their country. Centenary celebrations are a tribute
to our predecessors whose worth we estimate from a vantage point in time: may those who celebrate the bi-centenary
find a retrospect as rewarding as ours.

THE story has already been told of how education in Greenock was unified by the building of Greenock Academy.
Even although the northern wing was not completed till after 1855, the erection may be considered to be a bargain at
the original building costs. The ground floor opened out by means of arches on to the space which came to be called
the school garden. It was soon discovered, however, that driving rain and the east wind made conditions
uncomfortable and draughty, and these openings were tilled in with wooden panels and glass. The leaded glass windows
with their diamond panes later gave place to the utilitarian, if less ornamental, plain glass. A relic, however, of the
original type of window is still to be seen at the girls' stairway.

The school grounds at first were not completely fenced or walled in. and it was a frequent excuse for late-coming to say
that one had not heard the school bell. This excuse vanished in 1887. Mr Hugh Steel's offer to build the walls of
Gourock stone at Finnart Street and Kelly Street lane was accepted at the lump sum of £500, the lowest offer, and
operations began on the 29th June. Finnart Street at that time had not been properly formed, and when boys entered
the school precincts by the gate on that side, they incurred the displeasure of Mr Horatio Peile,
factor for the Laird. The guardians of education in the early days apparently did not believe in the system of remote
control, for a Directors' Room was housed in the school building. In the School Board minutes of 7th July, 1887, it is
recorded that the Directors' Room was to be fitted up as a classroom for the German Master, the German classroom
being allocated to the French Master. Throughout the school's life repeated shortage of accommodation has been
partially overcome by recourse to division of various rooms. It was not till 1888 that the first addition was made to the
school as originally planned. A one-storey building, as a gymnasium with dressing-room for boys and
girls, was completed on 9th August. Presumably Room 4 was used for drill and the less spectacular forms of physical
training prior to this. Juniors 1 and 2 were brought to this large hall on the ground floor in session 1896-97 and Room
17 in the upper flat, where the infants had been taught, was divided, the room in the north-west corner. No. 16, being
taken over for sewing.

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The present Room 8 was the Rector's Room in the early days and the Office was united to Room 7. A bust of Colin
Lamont, headmaster of the old Mathematical School and a pioneer in the teaching of navigation, benignly surveyed the
scene from between the two doors.

No doubt as an echo of the Education Act of 1892. and the proposals of the Secondary Education Committee in
Renfrewshire in 1893 to recognise Greenock Academy as one of five major centres in the county, further exten-
sions were completed in session 1894-95. These comprised a new gymnasium, two art rooms, two dressing-rooms, a
science lecture room (now Rooms 19 and 19A) and a class room (No. 18). The janitor's house was also com-
pleted in 1894 and occupied the south-west corner of the rear playground. By session 1899-1900 the old gymnasium
had been converted into a chemical laboratory and a second flat was built above to accommodate another laboratory.

At the Jubilee celebrations in late September, 1905, a red carpet decorated the stairs as former pupils made their way to
the new gymnasium for the conversazione, the gentlemen in evening wear, complete with high collars and tight-fitting
trousers, and the ladies, with waists constricted to sixteen inches, wearing feather boas.

The demand for still more accommodation continued relentlessly, and the primary building was completed in session
1909-10. This consisted at first of five primary classrooms on the ground floor and. on the upper flat of two
Art rooms and a room for Nature Study, etc. The present music room was then an Art store and the workshoD was
also on this flat. The former Art rooms were converted into two Science laboratories, and in the same period
larger dressing-rooms for the gymnasium were fitted up. Session 1910-1911 saw a covered way erected to join the
original building to the primary building. The roof of the passage collapsed under a heavy weight of "protective"
sandbag's in 1940 just before a large number of primary children were due to cross to the main building.

In a minute of meeting of the property sub-committee of the Education Committee, dated December, 1926, it was
stated: "The Special Sub-Committee had under consideration the whole question of accommodation at Greenock
Academy." As a result, in 1928, the lower chemical laboratory was transformed into an additional classroom for
Mathematics. This rearrangement permitted provision to be made for an additional room required for the departments
of Modern Languages and Classics. The sewing room in the old building was converted into a classroom when the
subject found a new home in the former workshop. A new wing at the south end of the existing building was erected to
provide accommodation on the ground floor for a workshop, metal room and store. Above this was the laboratory
(Room 24), and adjoining the stairway on the opposite side was a lunch room and its attendant kitchen.

The primary department continued to increase, and in 1931 a wooden annexe for the four infant classes was built in the
back playground nearby the lane separating the Drill Hall from the school.

1939 saw the evacuation of many school children to less vulnerable areas, and at Rothesay Academy one could see the
colours of many a school, including the maroon of Greenock Academy. The R.A.F. requisitioned the infant annexe and
the classes were shifted to other parts of the school, chiefly Rooms I5 and 37. Two classes occupied the Hall and two
others were taught for a period in Ardgowan School, being later transferred to Finnart School.

With the return to peace conditions the rambling collection of buildings was still incomplete, as increased provision had
to be made for lunches in school and for pupils taking Domestic Science, now called Homecraft. Accordingly, pre-
fabricated buildings were erected in what was once the pride of the school, the garden. The new domestic block was
brought into use in March 1950, and the new dining-hall and its accompanying kitchen at the beginning of a new
session, on 28th August, 1950. The former lunch room was taken over as a library in May, 1954, and the old kitchen
was converted into a second staff-room for the men.

The annexes detract from the impressiveness of the Academy frontage, but it must be said, too, that the classrooms
which lie behind the facade of the old building fall far short of modern standards in classroom construction. One day it
will certainly be found necessary. in the interests of health, comfort, and convenience, to make very radical changes in
the solid structure built by our ancestors.


Extract from the "Greenock Advertiser"

THE first examination of the Academy took place within its various class-rooms on Tuesday, the 8th July. 1856. The
parents and friends of the pupils attended in very large numbers, and the whole proceedings gave unbounded

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
satisfaction. The examination was confined to a single day for the purpose of concentrating the interest of the
exhibition: but while perfectly successful in this respect, as evinced by the crowd which thronged the various rooms,
opportunity was necessarily not afforded for the teachers showing in any adequate way the progress made and pro-
ficiency acquired by their pupils during the year. This is the less to be regretted, however as satisfactory opportunities
are offered to parents and guardians visiting the school on fixed days all the year over. It is unnecessary
to record the business of the various classes: but all the visitors were delighted to witness the interest which the scholars
from the oldest to the youngest took in their lessons, and the readiness and accuracy with which they answered the
various questions suggested to show their appreciation of what had formed the subjects of their study. Several of the
classes, especially the more advanced young ladies, were not publicly examined: their success, however, was displayed in
numerous tasteful essays and other compositions which they had handed in to the teachers during the year. The
specimens of plain and ornamental writing were many and beautiful, those of the young ladies being remarkably neat
and uniform and those of the boys distinct and business-like. The formidable list of prize-winners in the various
denartments affords evidence of the zeal and emulation by which the children were inspired.

The very large attendance of visitors interested in the proceedings of the day rendered the hall of the Academy
altogether unfit for the remaining and more public business, and, as the day was very beautiful, a platform was erected
in front of the Academy. A numerous and gay crowd surrounded it at three o'clock, when Provost Hunter took the
chair. Mr Oliphant, being called upon by Provost Hunter, said—Although he had no thought of intruding upo-n their
attention, he had the greatest pleasure in accepting the invitation of the Provost to say that he had been greatly
delighted with all he had witnessed that day. He was glad indeed, to see an institution so noble provided by the people
of Greenock for the education of their sons and daughters, and he would say that their expenditure was not misapplied,
for what, had been exhibited that day would stand comparison with the best establishments in the country. He would
not detain them by observations on the various classes, but he could not help remarking a feature common to them all,
the evident good understanding and feeling that subsisted between the teachers and children. That cordiality afforded
ground for the highest hopes of the success of thsir efforts, and made their labours a pleasure, not a toil. He hoped
the directors and public of Greenock would have many opportunities of witnessing exhibi- tions as successful as that by
which their elegant Academy had been that dav augurated. (Great cheering).

Provost Hunter then called upon the Rev Dr M'Culloch. Dr M'Culloch said that after the high and gratifying eulogium
just pronounced on the examination by an educationist of such experience and authority as Mr Oliphant, it was quite
unnecessary for him to offer any remarks on the admirable manner in which the pupils had acquitted themselves. His
sole purpose in coming forward was to express, in the name of the directors, the unmingled satisfaction which the
whole proceedings had afforded them and to tender the thanks of the directors alike tu the large before
him for their presence and countenance on the present occasion, and lo the rector and masters for their zealous,
unflagging and most efficient labours. He only expressed the unanimous sentiment cf the directors, when he said that
this was on many accounts a proud day to them. They were proud of the fine building, now happily all but completed,
which the liberality of their townsmen had enabled them to dedicate to the cause of education. They were proud of a
body of scholars five hundred strong - a number which had far outgone their most sanguine expectations. They were
proud of the good conduct and proficiency of the scholars. They were proud, too, of the confidence which so many
parents had shown in the efficiency and management of the Academy, by placing and continuing their children under
its charge and discipline. But they were most of all proud of their teachers - and not merely proud of them, but
thankful for them - thankful to the Divine Bestower of every good gift. The Directors were well aware from the first
that everything depended on their being able to secure the services of a staff of teachers in whom the public could
confide as first-class men. They knew that if they failed in obtaining the right men. this noble edifice would be only a
useless pile of masonry: nay. a monument of educational folly. And they were aware, moreover, that to search for good
teachers was not necessarily to find them - that, to select carefully was one thing, and to select successfully quite
another thing. It was accordingly w'ith no ordinary solicitude that they set about the task of looking out for suitable

teachers. They felt that. notwithstanding every exertion to choose wisely, they might yet choose wrongly, and thereby
withhold from this community, for years to come, an institution which the experience of the last nine months proved
to have been a felt want and a prized benefit. All the livelier, therefore, was their thankfulness, that they could point
today to a staff of teachers who had already won for themselves a place in the hearts of both parents and children: who
had worked energetically apart and harmoniously together and managed their various departments with such temper
and discretion that not a single case of discipline, or even of complaint, had yet called for the interposition of the

The private classes, which contained the oldest and most advanced pupils, had today made no sign. The highest English
class composed of young ladies well versed in several branches of literature, had declined to make compearance.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
modestly holding back from the public gaze, and hiding its light under a bushel. But when he (Dr M'C) informed his
audience that the young ladies in question had during the past session studied the principles of composition, mastered
two books of the "Paradise Lost." gone through a large portion ef the history of British literature, and written, he knew
not how many, essays, and tales, and poems, he was persuaded all would agree with him in thinking that these young
ladies might, without fear or shame, have stood the test of any examination, and by their attainments delighted, perhaps
instructed, many of their seniors. In nothing abo-ut the Academy did he rejoice so much as in the means and appliances
it provided for the higher education of young ladies, for their intellectual culture during those years which immediately
precede womanhood, those years when their judgment and taste were most susceptible of culture, and when, moreover,
their fathers and mothers did not very well know how to employ and occupy them. He rejoiced in the efficiency of each
of the departments in the Academy. He rejoiced that the mathematical department had sus- tained its old and well-
earned fame; he rejoiced that the penmanship was so admirable; he rejoiced that the Latin and Greek classes had been
so well attended, and so effectually taught. But he most of all rejoiced that Mr Chalmers had succeeded in attracting to
the study of the English language and of British literature, so large a number of young persons above the age of mere
girls. He trusted the highest English class would prosper more and more, and be patronised more and more. And
if young ladies from sixteen to twenty years of age would but take his advice, they would all resolve, as the best and
wisest thing they could do, forthwith to ask their parents to allow them to attend that most instructive and
attractive class.

I CAME to the Academy in 1894. after four years in the Highlanders' Academy. My father had been a pupil in an earlier
Highlanders' Academy, and I think this influenced him in sending me there. I was put into Senior II. The school
prospectus was impressive. There was a front view photograuh of the building and there was a little of its history, as
well as details of work and timetables and the teaching staff, and a list of the class prize-winners in the past session. A
statement which appeared in successive years of the prospectus, remains with me - "the drainage system has been
thoroughly overhauled, and the sanitation is perfect."

Mr Gemmell was then beginning the second year of his rectorship. To us. at first, he was just a figure, but I saw much
of him in later years because he took suecial care in the instruction of the boys who were going to the University. He
was a fine teacher and loved his classical subjects, and his senior boys got a grounding in Greek and Latin which they
never forgot. He interested us in English literature and introduced us to the works of Rudyard Kipling, who was then
becoming well-known as a poet and story-teller.

In the English department I remember Mr Anderson, who was its head. Mr Millar, and Mr Pollock. Mr Anderson had
a passion for Shakespeare and everything connected with the drama. His class examinations were carried o-ut in a
simple manner. Fifty questions were asked, ten in each of five subjects, and these were answered in a word or phrase
on long slips of foolscap. At the end of the questions each paper was passed along two places and each boy or girl
marked the answers of his next neighbour but one. Everything was finished by the end of the hour. Mr Millar. as well
as instructing us in English, attended to our accents and saw that we did not pronounce "man" as "mahn." Mr Park
was head of the mathematics department, but it is Mr Tail's admirable teaching of his subject that I specially remember.
We liked Mr Comrie, who taught us elementary science as well as mathematics. He became president of the
Educational Institute of Scotland. In my last year at school, which was an extra one because of illness, Mr King came to
this department. He was a very good teacher, but nad some difficulty in keeping order because
of his youthful aopearance and high-pitched voice.

Mr Critchley, whom we liked, an Englishman, was head of the Classical side, though Mr Gemmeli took a small special
senior class. He became head-master of Waid Academy, Anstruthcr. There was also Mr Cameron and, later. Mr Gillies,
Mr Patrick and Mr Bisset. Mr Gillies became Rector of the Royal High School of Edinburgh and Mr Patrick an
inspector in the Scottish Education Department. Mr Bisset we never really got to know. He had a method of marking
Latin proses which sometimes gave alarming results. You started with a nominal 100% and so many marks were
deducted for each mistake. One day a boy got minus 55% for his prose and another minus 65%. Mr McGregor, short
and stout, taught writing and book-keeping, and Mr Milligan drawing. Drawing in all schools in these days was a dull
and sterile subject, chiefly the endless copying of geometrical and forms and diagrams from cards. M. Lavallaz (or was it
de Lavallaz ?) taught French in a lively manner. The boys said he played the flute in the theatre orchestra, but I do not
know if this was so. Mr Dryden and later Herr Dennler were German Masters, but I did not take this class. Because she
was a family friend I particularly remember old Miss Maclean, the sewing-mistress and lady superintendent who lived
with two sisters in Kilmacolm.

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The gymnasium was an active place, and the instructor was Sergeant-Major Woods. He was succeeded by Sergeant
McReynolds, who had been a swordsman in the army. At the annual gymnastic display in the Town Hall in 1897 I
remember his cutting through two lead pipes, which had been placed on end, one after the other, with his sabre. This
display in 1897 had the unusual feature that one of the boys. Willie Jamieson took the part of a clown and he did it very
well. After the cutting of the lead pipes by the instructor, the clown, with some kind of sword, similarly cut through a
much bigger bar of what looked like white shining metal: but when the pieces fell apart it was seen that it was only a bar
of soap, covered with silver paper. In 1897 Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee - she had reigned for sixty
years. It must have been a very wet season, for the clown came on carrying a board with the' words: "Greenock's
Record Rain, 60 Years". Sergeant McReynolds w'as succeeded by Mr Hughes, who had been trained in Dundee and was
a first-rate gymnast. He went as physical instructor to Glasgow University. The janitor was Mr Downie, tall and thin
and white-bearded. He made his one solemn joke quarterly when the treasurer came for a week to collect the fees. He
came round the class-rooms each morning and announced "The Treasurer's Here." but on Friday he added "This is the
Last Day."

The school's playing-field was at Battery Park, where the rugby pitch was shared with Greenock Wanderers. The
Academy was hardly a match for the bigger Glasgow schools at rugby but in cricket they could hold their own. A
formidable rival in cricket was the team from Mr Graham's private Collegiate School. But what nearly all the Scottish
schools needed was coaching, and if some of the senior cricket clubs of the day had taken an interest in school cricket
they would have been rewarded by more young members. The school playground was not very suitable for games, and
was not much used. Indeed there was a great lack in the town of places where young people could play games of any
kind. Skating was popular, but was not organized. When the ice was thick enough we were given a skating holiday.
There was a small private pond, the West-end Skating Pond on high ground near the golf-course and the top of the
Lyie Road. and many boys and girls became members of this club for the season. The other place, not so accessible,
was the Moss at Kilmacolm which was much bigger and had the advantage of being on higher ground. Skating holidays
were not numerous because the climate of the West of Scotland is too disappointingly mild for much ice: and it always
seemed to us that the frost gave way on Friday afternoons.

All boys wore the school cap which was the only piece of academic uniform. It was dark blue and bore a badge which
incorporated the Arms of the town. This was replaced by a maroon-coloured cap with a monogram of G.A. on the
badge and, I think, the motto "Hmc veru virtus." The monogram no doubt stood for "Greenock Academy." but we pre-
ferred to believe that both it and the motto referred to the rector, whose initials were A.G.

At the same time a tie for former pupils was introduced. They did not take much to do with school affairs after they
left, but they had one very popular annual event, a former pupils' dance, which was held in the school. Greenock was
well situated for one of the pleasantest of summer holidays, sailing on the Clyde from Princes Pier in the Glasgow and
South-Western Railway Steamers. There were about ten of them. and they went to most places on the firth, including
Arran every day, Ayr once a week and very occasionally to Stranraer. On one or two days in the Clyde Fortnight a
special steamer might follow the races. That was the period of the big yachts, including Britannia and the Valkyries; one
of the loveliest sights in the world. When you were under 18 you got this month's sailing for eleven shillings, and if you
were under 14, it cost no more than seven-and-six. These boats had red funnels with a black top. We despised
the showy cream-funnelled Caledonian fleet which sailed from Gourock, and the economically built and furnished
North British steamers which were based at Craigendoran.

Examinations were as important and as big a nuisance as they are today, but there is at any rate one improvement. Then
we used to sit Leaving Certificate examinations each time they came round, whether we had already passed them or not.
I understand things are better now, and that when you pass in a subject that's the end of it, which is sensible.

I write this at the end of a long spell of snowy weather. The impulse of every schoolboy is to throw snowballs at
somebody, an enthusiasm less appreciated by those against whom it is directed. I am sure it was in the interests of the
latter that after a good snowfall the Rector organized a snow-fight between two sides in the garden. After twenty
minutes of this conflict the chances of a quiet passage for walkers down Newton Street were sensibly increased.

What the school greatly lacked was a library. This might have contained books of reference for the various departments
and, in addition, sections on history, general literature and fiction. A subject which should be taught in school, and
which is not to be found in any prospectus, is the art of reading books. One can't begin too young.

Adam Patrick.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
TO go back in memory over half a century of storm and stress to schooldays in the Greenock Academy is to sense
once more the feeling of security which surrounded a Victorian childhood which had as its background a happy but
hard-up home and as its playground the lovely hills and lochs of the Clyde.

It is true that in my last year at school Victoria died and we patriotically mourned her passing in "blacks" borrowed
from our elders.

It is true also that the South African war had produced unexpected reverses despite our loudly sung and firm belief in
Tommy Atkins. But in these days wars were waged in far away countries and mainly by professional soldiers and the
Academy's contribution to the South African war went no further than a series of "Tableaux Vivants" of a peculiarly
harrowing nature staged to raise funds for widows and orphans.

Despite these shadows I imagine that all my contemporaries left school as I did, with the comfortable feeling that. with
so large a proportion of the globe coloured a British red. all was well with the world.

A "finishing" year in Germany did something to shake this haopy belief for me, for Germany in 1901 hated us bitterly
and. to a home-sick Scot. the Christmas Sermon in the Lutheran Church in Detmold which thundered against "that
nation across the sea which harries the little peoples of this earth" was a bitter pill.

But the Edwardian Era and the German menace and all that came of it belong to later vears: Victorian Academy days
are the days to be specially remembered in this Centenary Year.

But before I come to talk of the School itself and its personalities, I should like to put on record my belief in a co-
educational system, where boys and girls attend the same classes and collaborate in school social activities. The fact that
in the Academy it was taken for granted that boys and girls could work together was of great importance to me when,
in the early twenties, I found myself in charge of the Establishment Branch of a Scottish Department of State and had
to help in carrying through the reorganisation of the Civil Service on a mixed basis. At that time and again much later as
a member of the first committee which reported on the entry of women into that last stronghold of conservatism. "The
Diplomatic and Consular Service." I found support in my school training for arguing (against the fearful predictions of
service colleagues) for equality of treatment for men and women, both as regards the educational qualifications for
entry to the Service and the work allotted to them in the various Departments of State.

As for the Academy itself, it seems to me now that the building of our day had a greater dignity than any other known

The long open corridor with its unglazed arches may have been draughty, but it gave a cloistered look to the building
and the charm and peace of the garden in front of the School were a joy to us Seniors. It was a setting in which one felt
that learning was a gift worth having.

Of course, as in every school, there were masters who made learning a pleasure for their pupils and others who seemed
to have mistaken their vocation, and at least one who ruled by setting "impositions."

The classes were not small and yet our teachers managed to convey to each pupil that he or she was an individual with
individual characteristics to be considered and fostered.

I have always been grateful for the freedom given to us to develop each his or her own personality: that freedom still
seems to be the best gift that any school can bestow on its pupils.

I talk of "masters" because in my time the Academy was almost exclusively staffed by male teachers though Miss
McWilliam in the Infant Department and Miss Maclean in the Sewing Room were powers in their own

One or two of these teachers live more clearly than others in my recollection. There is the faint memory of Mr Neilson
as a scholarly stoooing Rector oacing the corridors and a distinct memory of Mr Gemmell's top-hatted sartorial

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
I remember how Mr Anderson, our English master, made the plays of Shakespeare come alive despite the "glossary"
which accompanied the text, and how he gave us our first glimpses of great poetry despite the somewhat prosaic
method of bringing together snatches of our loveliest poems in a book designed to teach us to parse and analyse. How
far he was successful in teaching us to speak and write good English I am perhaps not competent to judge as the later
years of my working life were in The Civil Service whose out-pourings, I know, are regarded by the general public and
the popular press as verbose and unintelligible.

I am afraid however, I shall have to admit that the short-lived School Magazine of the day showed no very high
standard of English Composition - George Blake was still in the Junior School !

I have before me as I write a battered copy of that low-brow publication, "The Krugger," which, being hand-written,
had a limited and rapid circulation; it was mostly read under desks in a class where alertness was not required.

Then there was Mr Lees, the classical master, who was also a scholar of modern languages and could combine those
different branches of learning in a way which fascinated me and Dr. Clark, the master who taught German and whose
foster-mother in the town of The Piedd Piper gave me a few days' happy release from boarding school and was
horrified at the number of German slang phrases I had picked up at a Select Dames' School.

Space forbids mention of other masters or of the Lady Superintendent of later years or even of the kindly Janitor who
supplied a syrup roll and a cup of "bottle coffee" for the princely sum of one penny.

But one more teacher I must name before I end - Mr Macgregor, our writing master, affectionately and irreverently
called "Beefie." Most of my correspondents and many of my one-time clerks and typists must have felt that he failed
dismally in his duty, for it has to be admitted that my hand-writing shows no sign of the beautiful copperplate in which
Mr Macgregor exhorted his pupils to "cast their bread upon the waters." But if he failed to teach me to write a legible
hand I nevertheless owe him a debt of gratitude.

In my last years at schcol women began to be employed as typists and. knowing that I should have to work for my
living, I decided that this was a new and suitable avenue of employment.

I therefore presented myself at Mr Macgregor's Commercial (short-hand) class only to be asked why I had come, to be
told plainly that he would not teach me short-hand and to be ordered to go back to non-commercial subjects. I still
remember how small I felt as I rose and left the class. Yet it was because of this kindly action taken in my interest that
many years later, when I was of a more mature age. I found myself free to choose a career in the Social Services - a
career which has given me a very satisfying, happy, and interesting life.

Much water has run under many bridges since the beginning of the century. War and the threat of war may seem to
have dominated the scene but these dark patches don't tell the whole story. These fifty years have also witnessed a
peaceful and complete revolution in the social life of Scotland.

"Social Work" began for me during the depression of 1906-1908 when the Majority and Minority Reports of the Royal
Commission on the Poor Law were being hotly debated, when the employed labourer on the railways earned
16/- to 18/- per week, and a vast number of unemployed existed on food-tickets supplied by voluntary" charitable
agencies. Little by little, as the public conscience was roused, the scene changed. One after another the Statutory
Social Services, including the Insurance and the National Medical Services, came into operation, until, in 1942. I had the
pleasure of watching the plan for the unification of these services come to life under the masterly literary
touch of Sir William Beveridge.

Centenaries are apt to awaken nostalgic memories but though one still hears casual mention of the "good old days," I
doubt if there are many people in 1955 who wish to set the clock back to 1900. Indeed I now suspect that the feeling of
security which was the portion of the Victorian middle-class was brought by an unwillingness to look below the surface
of things.

I also suspect, however, that my generation may be challenged as having placed too great an emphasis on provision for
material needs and as having forgotten that man is a composite unsatisfied being who cannot live by
bread alone. If we have so erred, is it too much to hope that the balance may lie redressed by our successors''

Muriel Rilson.

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
"Fortsitan et haec olim meminisse juvubit . . . " One can still hear the faintly nasal voice of the late Alexander
Gemmell. for so many years Rector of Greenock Academy, enunciate the tag in the language he loved better than
English itself.

He was himself a great man for exhortation, was Neddy. He used to burst into the classroom at all hours and exhort us
never to fall into the sin of smoking cigarettes, each one of which would be a nail in our coffins. (My own potential
coffin is thus now composed entirely of nails). He exhorted us to beware of German military aspirations and to look
out for the coming of der Tug - and how right he was ! Too many of the bright lads under his care went down into the
dust of the first conflict. He was specially concerned to exhort us to a mastery of the Latin and Greek tongues.
According to Neddy, you never knew when. travelling abroad, you might meet an old man on the top of a high hill and
have the pleasure of conversing with him in one or other of the classical languages.

Neddy was. in fact, one of the "characters." In his early days at the Academy he took exercise by riding a white horse.
("Here's Neddy Gemmell on his white-washed charger" the ruder boys of the town cried at his appearance). In later
life, married, he got himself involved in litigation over a monkey puzzle in his front garden: but whether he
wanted to cut it down or refused to have it cut down I cannot now remember. The affair certainly tilled a great deal of
newspaper space and vastly cheered all his pupils, past and present.

Should we Academicals not be proud to boast that ours is probably the only important school in Scotland that had a
Rector who rode a white horse and went to law in a public way over a monkey puzzle9 He would probably
have preferred to call it an araucaria . . .

Neddy's exhortations not infrequently, if the cold truth must be told, occasionally went beyond the strict bounds of his
otherwise copious learning. He used to breeze into our Senior Six room on a darkling November afternoon and. seizing
the chalk from Tommy Tait, proceed to cover the blackboard with his own conception of the Differential Calculus.

When this was done. and he had departed after exhorting us to vote Unionist when we came of age. Tommy Tait
would pick up the duster, wipe out the Rector's hieroglyphs, and say in his dry Aberdonian way. "Now you can forget
all about that."

And now it strikes me, looking back on the rich life of the Academy as I knew it during the first ten years of this
century, that I incline to think more of the teachers than of my fellow-sufferers at their hands. Some of us
have done mighty well in life, such as Jack Morison. Sir John to you - and did he ever return my copy of Unuura by R.
M. Ballantyne ? There was and is, my oldest friend of that generation, Jack Denholm, at the very whisper of whose
name all the shipowners of Great Britain tremble. Of those who were spared the holocausts of the Somme and
Passchendaele some became Indian Civil Servants of the highest rank, some professors, some distinguished doctors.
Neddy's boys did not let him down, even if they did smoke too many cigarettes.

But we came and we went. We were bubbles on the steady stream of school life. I know not how they look nowadays,
but the class-rooms were perdurable, even to the pens stuck in the rafters of the big Writing Room. The Janny of those
days, whose name was Downie. seemed to have been on the job since the opening in 1855 as. with at least one finger-
less hand. he smeared syrup on a barm biscuit, price one ha'penny. But the teachers were, in the view of one small boy,
immemorial, as deeply rooted as Longfellow's murmuring pines and hemlock.

It seems probably true that schoolmastering was a more stable profession in those old days than it is now. when the
demand is greater than the supply and a harassed Rector has no sooner got a likely chap placed in charge of
Senior III English than the chap is hareing off to Galashiels or Montrose as Second Master of a Junior Secondary. My
impression is that our old masters of - Heaven help me ! - 40 years ago were more apt to stay on the job until they
were retired, full of years of honour.

Many of my coevals will remember the case of Mr J. B. Anderson. admittedly a rather special case. Mr Anderson was
what sentimental writers might call "a dominie of the old school." but the cold fact is that he was nothing of the sort.
He could lam parsing and analysis into you as well as the next man, but then he would quite suddenly take on the
mantle of his natural greatness and have us rolling in the aisles with his rendering of a juicy chunk out of Hamlet or
Macbeth, so that the poetry came alive: so much better than the notes of arid dons in our textbooks . . . Old J. B. had his

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
frailty, and. the Unco Guid prised him out of his job. It has always pleased me to remember that he lived on his
scrubby pension for fully 20 years after the Upright turned on him.

There was in much the same class James Millar with a quite unmentionable nickname,
who professed the arts of writing, phonography, book-keeping and what you will. So far as the memory is of the
slightest importance, he regarded my handwriting with some approval, but I got the taste of the real man many years
later, one summer evening on Greenock's aery Golf Course. Mr Millar was in his day a fine golfer before the Lord. and
in his old age he liked to come out and watch us young chaps at play.

On this evening, so long ago. I had lost my match on the 17th green to my opposite number in a team from Gourock
or some other obscure location, and Mr Millar was a spectator of the collapse.

"You used to write a nice hand. George," he said, his full lips curling under the thin moustache, "but you can't putt
worth a dam." My gentler readers will, of course, know that "a dam" was an almost worthless coin once in circulation in
the Far East.

And who but I can now sing affectionate praise of Bob Pollock, the one and only ! He was always Bob Pollock: just
that; and the rough idea was that he taught English to the late Junior and early Senior classes. Out of all this he quite
unconsciously, quite innocently, created for his pupils a tremendous amount of fun. Bob was not really highly
qualified in the academic sense: the mere notion of aspiring to an Honours degree would have had him fainting by the
roadside. The charm. and usefulness, of his teaching lay in the fact that he would innocently confess to us, one decent
Greenock man to several others, that he was not himself quite sure what the lesson was all about.

It is one of my most pleasant memories of the Academy that Bob Pollock took us in Geography one year, the special
subject being for one term Western Australia. It shortly became obvious that Bob, like the rest of us, thought the lay-
out of that province to be as boring as it was bewildering: and there came the joyous day w'hen he had, with pointer
and wall-map, to indicate to us the respective relative positions of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

In this effort he completely failed, while we cheered him on. At length he turned to us with a grin and confessed: "I'm
dashed if I know which is which. You can look it up for yourselves when you get home."

I could go on and on about Bob Pollock, remembering such as the day when he apologised to us for his failure to
return to us our marked examination papers, saying. "The fact is, the wee chap chewved them up" - and I fancy that
the wee chap is now an ageing and highly respected member of society.

What a gallery of characters ! Daddy Park, who started the winter session by setting out a sum in Practice on the
blackboard and then relapsed into a state of bland hibernation until, the spring coming round again, he stirred to the
bugles of the local Volunteers and remembered his duties as a senior officer of that picturesque corps. Who shall sing
now of M. Adolphe Vignon. who taught us to chant Frere Jacques as a catch - "Frerry Jacky," to our less able linguists
- and who, like one of the characters in the French contes he loved so well-fed the mice in his cupboard with the
crumbs from his frugal lunch ?

Of course, it is easy for the professional writer to look back and let the tears doonfa' and throw off thumbnail sketches
of figures now beyond the ken of most of us. I should, however, be creating a very wrong impression if
I have failed to suggest to the reader, probably younger than I. perhaps one without any affiliations with Greenock
Academy, that I look back on my schooldays with affection and, what is much more, a true sense of gratitude.
Miss McWilliam took me into her capable, if muscular, arms in the year of grace, 1897; William Braid Taylor, one of the
best men and best teachers I ever knew, sent me out into the world towards the end of 1910. not ill-equipped,
if I may say so.

It has always interested and puzzled me that so many men of my own writing profession look back on their schooldays
with horror. One gathers that the English Prep. School is on the whole, an institution in which the sensitive child is
bullied, starved and humiliated, and from which he passes only to be roasted and then bored in his Public School. This
gloomy retrospect has coloured so much English fiction and so many memoirs of the past 40 years that one wonders
how the system could ever produce leaders, which was one gathers the main idea.

Perhaps only the born leaders could survive it, but it seems to me that we have done not so badly in Scotland under the
purelv native system. My own simple soul is completely tree from any hangover of grievance against Greenock
Academy. No memories of cruel beatings keep me awake o' nights: no female teacher ever chose me as her Young

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
Woodley and provided me with the subject of a future novel. My worst memories are merely of occasional boredom,
especially when the subject of the period bordered on the mathematical. As for leadership, I can compile from the
records of my own peers a not by any means undistinguished list of pro-Consuls, Indian Civil Servants, soldiers, sailors,
airmen, master mariners, tea planters, and tough eggs in general.

It often occurs to me quite seriously that any boy or girl may be best educated in a day school of the old grammar
tradition, with a sound domestic background as the other essential of the pattern.

It is quite firm in my mind that the men and women of my generation were lucky in their school above Nelson Street.
And there was always the Rector who rode a white horse and went to law about a monkey puzzle. I cannot believe that
even a Provost of Eton ever conferred such a distinction of individuality upon his foundation.
George Blake.

My schooldays began (somewhat late, for I was an unhealthy child) in 1913, and ended in 1923. Over long stretches the
sands of time have settled, level and bare. I think I remember being taken to the Infant Room and after much bright
exchange of reassurances between my mother and Miss McWilliam (in which I took no part) being committed to the
care of certain aged crones, who must in fact have been very young women, if not mere girls. Curiously, there seem to
have been no other children present at all. Of these early days little remains but shadowy and (on the whole)
benign personalities associated with the names of McWilliam, MacGillivray, Cairns and Speedie. Miss Aitken I can
recall vividly because she was my first love. Then or later my garb was the ubiquitous sailor-suit of Britannia still
regnant, or (to be orecise) two sailor-suits, the Sunday and newer one complete with white lanyard and whistle: my
stockings were black, in winter worn over the knees, and my boots buttoned. About that time, since my homeward way
to:)k me up Newton Street, the menace of Finnart School often clouded my days, Long before any of us had heard of
Marx or Engels. we "Academy pups." unless travelling in convoy or basely detouring by South Street, encountered
almost daily the truceless hostilities of the class struggle. Joy was it in that dawn to be alive ? Some of us wondered. But
the years passed and the Finnart boys grew smaller and soon I was in the "Qualifying." Nowadays (it seems) this is the
Great Divide, Childhood's grand climacteric, with fuming fathers and hag-ridden mothers fretting their hearts lest their
tiny tots be condemned to courses baselv mechanical or even be torn from the bosom of their alma mater and exposed
somewhere on the hills behind the town. But Consule Planco the psychologist and the politician were scarcely
even a small cloud on the horizon of education. Across the bridge from the primary to the secondary school all went
together by a kind of divine prescription, asses and thoroughbreds alike. Indeed, by an ingenious
misnaming of classes we were all across the bridge (or seemed to be) before we reached it. Senior One was our
qualifying year. And for many years more the great imoosture was to continue. All over the world today former pupils
of the Academy are being accredited with six years of secondary schooling when in fact they have had but five. At some
early stage, probably in the chaos of the kindergarten, we completed one year and called it two.

If in respect of genuine reminiscence the first years of one's schooling are a featureless desert, the later years are a
jungle of fantastic growths. Palpable inventions combine with innocent (and ignorant) misinterpretations of
imperfectly observed facts to present an impenetrable barrier to the traveller after truth. The very dimensions of the
most obvious things are desperately wrong. The school tower, for example, is definitely further off from Heaven.
Can that half-acre of grass, those narrow flower-beds fronting Nelson Street be the rolling savannahs, the paradisal
pleasances I knew as a child? And who would have thought that the writing-room was so much smaller than the nave
of St. Paul's ? Admittedly the Great War created temporary vacancies on the staff necessitating the admission of types
not normally to be found in halls of higher learning and after the war the new permanent
teachers had certain habits to unlearn as they made their educational experiments on our vile bodies. Even so that other
war was still on. the age-old strife of pupils and teachers with all its propaganda and denigration.
Surely Mr Millar. one of the finest teachers the Academy ever had, neither peered through
keyholes for evidence of indiscipline nor kept bottles of whisky in the gallery clock ? Surely Mr Mushat did not support
the trousers of his morning suit - his invariable attire - with the bright, cowhide belt he employed to belabour
the imperfect Latinist ? Cockroaches could never have been so numerous on the premises that the juvenile purchasers
of janitorial rolls and syrup stood an odds-on chance of getting a third ingredient. Nor. I suppose, are the feats
of magisterial cunning basically any more credible. There must have been some ranges, some angles, that baffled the
virtuosity of Mr Smith who, succeeding Mr Millar. abandoned the orthodox manipulation of the tawse -
difficilis in perfecto mora' - and made of it a missile weapon like the aborigine's boomerang. There must have been some
mathematical problems too abstruse or too involved for Mr Tait to solve with a scrap of chalk on the palm of his

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
admittedly impressive hand. And when boys, staggering from Drawing to Latin heavy with purloined leadshot.
proceeded to rain their shrapnel at the back of "Massa" Goodliffe's apparently unsuspecting head, did that
ingenious optician always catch the rampant offender reflected in the corners of his spectacles? We were indeed brave
bovs and clever girls whom enemies so ruthless and resourceful could not defeat or daunt.

But there remain some memories which being less pandemic I find more persuasive. In my adolescent mind—honi soit
qni mal y pense' - the extreme brevity of Miss Mackail's gymnastic tunic made a profound impression. So did the
bilingualism of Mr Culbertson who dressed his ordinary thoughts in the sweet Doric of Hawick but never let the Clas-
sics go abroad unless in a stiff and shiny Sunday suit from the heart of Wardour Street. I wonder how many of us
realised just what Vergil's husbandman was up to as he "eke made drums for his wains." I remember Senior Six's Latin
in the cosy fug of the Rector's room being interrupted regularly about ten o'clock by the state arrival of the young
Dauphin. I remember learning natural history from "Daddy" Park under the sad cypresses of Greenock Cemetery: I can
still see a sombre pond, its waters browned (we believed) like Tennant's beer by the effluvia of adjacent death, the only
nursery of sticklebacks in the whole county of Renfrew. I remember how easily Mr Taylor could be lured away from
the hard asphalt of grammar into the fresh woods and pastures of country lore. I remember Mr Ramsay's gentle
horror at "the coarser pleasures of our boyish days and their glad animal movements," his resigned despair over so
many young Calibans congenitally blind to the subtle "tones" of his miscellaneous crockery. I remember the pneu-
matic Mr Gunn and my own persistent failure in several years to complete even one solitary plant-label: always - in
limine portus - the blind Fury would sink the abhorred chisel a final fraction too deep, and heigh-ho' behold
the diminished sliver ceremoniously broken in twain and money demanded for new wood
and (monstrous injustice!) new paper for a new plan. I remember. I remember .... But how authentic are even these
memories that seem so personal'.' Is it reminiscence or "a mere fiction of what never was" ? Of the nine Daughters of
Memory only one is the Muse of History. The odds are against us.
Jack McLean.


WHEN I was invited to write an article for the centenary brochure, I realised that it is twenty years since I left
Grecnock Academy and that school customs and methods of teaching have probably changed a lot in that
time. In Victoria, the fashionable emphasis in teaching is on "project" methods (you learn arithmetic by keeping rabbits,
and so on) and on "teaching aids," by which is meant any gadgets, doodahs, gimmicks or ancillary apparatus used to
drive the lesson home. I once heard a list of teaching aids which started: "One whip, two revolvers. .... .." but the more
orthodox application of the term is to radio sets, puppet shows, instructional films, working models of machinery, or
special equipment of that type. And there is a lot of equipment available here. The teachers cannot plug in to a
television demonstration of some tonic, as teachers do in the U.S.A., but radio sets are plentiful and most secondary
schools have a film projector. For films, there is an excellent library of films and the teachers can order
what they want from it.

No doubt similar equipment is available in Greenock Academy nowadays. The point I want to make is that it was not
in use twenty years ago. There were B.B.C. broadcasts for schools but I cannot remember hearing any
in school, although the broadcasts were well worth listening to. (I realised this when I had the chance to listen to some
of them after I left school). It was probably tradition rather than the cost of a radio set that nrevented us
from hearing these broadcasts in school. Or perhaps it was simply that thev did not fit into our timetable and syllabus.

Looking back on it. the school tradition must have been rather conservative at that time (1930-35). The obvious
procedure would be to attribute this to the rector and the teachers but the pupils contributed, too. I
remember George Dow. the head English teacher, trying to make our readme; of Shakespeare more dramatic by asking
bovs and girls in the class to take over the roles in the play and read out the appropriate speeches. The girls responded
moderately well but the boys did it grudgingly and grunted resentfully through their parts. It must have been the era
of strong, silent heroes, for there was a great reluctance to put any expression into our voices. The same thing happened
in French. Perhaps it was worse there, partly because there were genuine difficulties, partly because it was well known
that Mr Perry was very sensitive to this form of torture.

So it was not altogether the fault of the teachers. The class had its own idea of how lessons should be conducted and
was probably more conservative than the teachers. Another instance of this tendency came if a teacher or.a visitor
addressed a question to the class general way, without designating a particular pupil. The tradition was that nobody
replied, even if most of the class knew the answer. I suppose we were too self-conscious - attracting attention. This

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
may have been due to the way we were treated at home rather than in school. In the presence of their elders, children
were supposed to listen quietly and speak when they were spoken to and we carried that training into school with us. I
can see now that some of the teachers tried to change our ideas. But at the time these influences had little effect. The
cult of leadership, so carefully nourished in the wealthier English schools, was on a famine diet in Greenock Academy.

I noticed the contrast when I went to Cambridge and encountered these brilliantly talkative Public Schoolboys.
Sometimes their conversation was brittle as well as brilliant but, right or wrong, they could talk rings round me. I
noticed the same contrast, in a more likeable form, in the U.S.A., where five-year-olds take part in the family
deliberations with the gravity of grandfathers. It always amused me to meet one of these American kids in the street. As
we passed, we greeted each other solemnly: "Hiya, Arch !", "Hiya, Butch !". Or if we stopped to talk, it was always a real
man-to-man approach.

Recently. I was asked to fill in a questionnaire on behalf of a student who wanted to enter an American university. It
was a long questionnaire, with twenty questions or more about the student's character. I went through it patiently,
filling in the obvious answer each time until I came to a question: "Does the applicant show qualities of leadership?" I
replied: "No. He is too sensible to chuck his weight around." This happens to be true I am sure it is not the answer that
was expected. It was an echo of the Greenock Academy tradition of 1930-35 rather than the Australian or American

Of course, the tradition has probably changed since those days. At that time there were no school prefects or house
captains and, in general, little need for pupils to act on their own or undertake responsibility. In addition.
parents took the line "Children should be seen and not heard'" rather than "Punish them'.' Oh. no! You musn't bruise
their little ego !"

Another tradition that may have been blown to bits by the war was that the brighter pupils were guided into Latin and
Greek. For example, there were bursaries which stipulated that the bursar take Latin and Greek and this
in itself ensured that two or three of the best pupils in each year took these subjects. Occasionally a bright pupil (or his
parents) refused to give way to the pressure of tradition and chose science or modern languages, but
'ho orthodox course was classics.

Not that I regret doing Latin and Greek in school. I remember pleasant conversations with Mr Niven. in the after-glow
of our midday meal, before we buckled down to reading Thucydides. The class prolonged these intro-
ductory conversations as long as possible, rather than start on the work we were supposed to have prepared overnight.
We did not dare take any liberties of this kind with Mr Mackenzie, but we liked him for the clarity and precision of his
teaching. To me, the climax of our classical studies wai reading Homer in the original. It repaid all the grind
of Greek proses and irregular verbs that we had gone through in our earlier years. I do not believe I could have got the
same impression - or anything like it - from translations, still less from pompous academic imitators like Virgil or

However, that was twenty years ago and I have forgotten most of it by now. A few traces remain. Apart from incidental
advantages of a classical education, such as in doing crossword puzzles, I find that I have a great deal of sympathy for
modern French authors, most of whorn seem to have been brought up in a similar tradition of classical studies, with
competitive examinations as the gateway to higher education or civil service employment.

Our education, too, was closely wedded to the examination system. I can hardly complain, since I thrived on this
system, but I rnust admit that a good memory was often more valuable than sympathy for the subject. On the other

hand, the training we were given tended to develop some useful characteristics, such as a capacity for hard, patient
slogging at a subject and a desire to make sure of the facts as the first step in any problem.

Our training may have been stolid and limited in scope but within its limits it was thorough. Nowadays my job is
lecturing in mathematics to university students and in this job I realise how fortunate we were in getting such a sound
training in school. I see examples again and again of students who get themselves into difficulties by mistakes in algebra
or arithmetic, even when they know how to deal with more advanced problems. (These mistakes in algebra are liable to
transform a problem which was carefully arranged to give a reasonable solution into something which is practically

Little attention was paid to non-academic subjects in those days. We had one hour of music and one hour of
gymnastics a week. For most nupils. woodwork and art dropped out near the beginning of the secondary course. The

Greenock Academy - 1855 - 1955 - Booklet
tendency at that time was to be "collar-proud" and the social prestige attached to a white-collar job was held to
compensate for the small salaries that sometimes went with these jobs. So manual skill was not: encouraged. Although
Greenock was an industrial town, few pupils went into the engineering faculty at the university. Here again, the school
was cramped by tradition: the tradition was that the brighter pupils tried to get an Arts degree. Of course, this was a
depression period and prospects in industry were discouraging but I doubt if that explains the white-collar outlook
completely. I suppose it was a form of snobbishness.

Well. these are one person's impressions and I do not imagine that my class-mates would agree with everything that I
have written. I have concentrated on the academic side since that is the side with which I was mainly concerned. There
were other things besides study. although I find it a little difficult to disentangle school activities from outside activities,
since the same people appeared in both. The class I was in was unusually keen on football and for two or three years we
played at the side of the school after 4 o'clock, scraping together our pennies to get a shilling ball when the hawthorn,
hedge had punctured the previous one. The pitch we used had a number of natural hazards, such as the boundary wall
or an occasional pedestrian, but the experts could turn these to their own advantage. (I must have been hard on shoes
in those days, for if I did not wait to play football I went home kicking a stone along the pavement all the way).

Among my other recollections are the morning parade, when the boys and girls strolled up and down in front of the
school during the morning break, or the trek along Finnart Street to Fort Matilda on a Wednesday afternoon, when we
got away early for rugby practice. And I remember the pleasures of Schoolboys' Club camps, especially the summer
camps at Crianlarich. I hope that, however much things have changed, the present-day pupils still get as much
enjoyment out of their schooling as we did.
Archibald Brown.