"Lendrick Muir, " I was assured soon after my arrival, "is not a job. It's an infection, and once you're infected you never shake it off."

My exposure to the condition is too recent to judge whether "never" is justified, But there has been something about the place to make me change my original plans and stay for half my working life and then to have to be pushed into the real world struggling in protest.

And up and down the country, I meet people who know that their contact with Lendrick Muir has made an impact that they haven't shaken off.

It's easier, I think, to say what does not account for the experience of Lendrick. In my case, at least, it was no love of residential schools. I shed no tears for the fact that residential schools are closing, having long thought that many of them should never have opened; and even those more sympathetically inclined will see the truth in the judgement of a pupil of some years ago who likened Lendrick Muir to the medieval ducking-stool - "If I'm good, you'll pat yourselves on the back and say how right you were to send me here; if I'm bad, you'll say how disturbed I am and how much I need to be here. " And I may not be alone in thinking that the playing fields of our better residential schools which have produced our British leaders make a good case for comprehensives.

It wasn't the system, the therapeutic structure, which attracted me. When I joined the staff, the nineteenth century seemed to be causing problems of adjustment and there was still difficulty in accommodating the more revolutionary demands of the Magna Carta.

It wasn't the building or the living conditions which wove the magic. Trudging up the drive - car broken down again - after a walk to the Bungalow to buy fags, seeing the Victorian pile just as the siren wailed through the drizzle, I knew why it was called Colditz. The best that could be said was that it engendered the Dunkirk spirit, that "We're all in it together" pride in defeat which is the British genius and which, in its northern refinement, makes us Scots probably the only nation on earth who drink for the hangover.

It wasn't either, the green rural surroundings; as a confirmed townie, I regard with great suspicion a place where wild animals wander off the lead and where carrots come with dirt attached. And it certainly wasn't the management (who they? ? ed.)

So, Kenny, if it really is your fault, if the closure of Lendrick is really the Scottish Office's response to your launching me on a showbiz career, take some comfort that at least some bathwater is being thrown out with the baby.

Still, good feelings about Lendrick started early - in my first week, in fact, I had to take a pupil to a Children's Hearing in Cumbernauld. I didn't know him at all and he seemed to regard social workers with less than adulation. On the journey, we chatted about this and that - mostly motorcycles, I recall. Then we reached that point on the road where Cumbernauld becomes visible.

"Just think," he said in slow tones of wonder "Architects won international awards for this carcinogenic nightmare."

Flashes of Light in the darkness. Like the Glasgow mother who was so worried about having to make her first flight that she asked me to accompany her to the airport. I arrived early on a Sunday morning (now you know it was serious) to find her so fortified for the journey that she needed a wheelchair to take her to the aeroplane. After a series of bizarre events, she had to be winched into a helicopter from the deck of a ship in heavy seas off South Africa, to find herself pursued by two Zulu warriors (they were trying to sell her souvenirs but she didn't ask). It seemed to cure her fear of flying.

Or the pupil who broke a long and awkward silence in a family interview, when his father had just confessed to alcoholism, impotence, theft and despair with the considered judgment - "Well, naebody's perfect."

Or the remarkably good beer from the dorm 19 brewery aroma vented through the plumbing and enhanced by a few beard-hairs.

Down and out in Rumbling Bridge and Ploubaglance. Shall I ever forget The French Trip? Will France? Fourteen hours of driving the minibus, preventing Peter from running away to join the Foreign Legion (on the M6), an overnight ferry crossing of Bacchanalian dimensions and most of a dull Sunday spent in a deserted gare maritime, preventing Peter from trying to swim home - it was worth it to see Europeanism in action:-

"Ou est le pinball, mister?"

"Hey Mike, dae they no sell real cheese here?"

"What woman? The wan that speaks French?"

"The coffee here's boggin,"

All on a bed of Dunlopillo cheques and tortured Barclaycard.

The letter soliciting these thoughts tells me that Lendrick Muir "as I knew it" would disappear at the end of this session. But it's secret was, I think, that it never was fixed. Alex would understand - "You can't jump into the same river twice" (or as he would have it, once).  He would also tell you, "Your days are only numbered if you count them."

As a Bridgeton (note to D.T. - Glasgow, not Barbados) kid gone to the dogs of social work I'm proud to number among my friends these fellow- sufferers - staff, pupils, students - who fall into the category created by a pupil to explain Lendrick to a distinguished visitor - "we're the cream of the scum."

RICHARD RUSSELL Sen. Social Worker

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