LENDRICK MUIR SCHOOL

In our youth idealism, trying out roles, adventure and growing abilities lead to ambitious projects, travel, new relationships ; but most of us begin by the age of thirty to see limits, accept compromise and settle for specific tasks and situations. From 1964 to 1973 I spent virtually all my thirties at Lendrick Muir School teaching,  housemastering, first and second bedders, hiking the Hillfoots, driving buses, canoeing, sailing, trying to ref hockey, watching the moonshots and the weary Vietnam bloodbaths on the telly and seeking recreation in chamber music with local friends ; for Mr. Grieve -  founder Headmaster - had left a superb grand piano in a magnificent acoustic setting - the hall.

With the explosion of youth culture in the 60's one could freak out with teenagers in the stables to Beatles pop or share the subtle structured passions of Brahms with Jim Haig, Deputy Head and versatile pianist the baronial splendour of the school hall. In fact living and working in that lively community was like a permanent culture shock. Everyone, staff and pupils, sought, in expression of individuality to escape the constraints of living and growing in a structured community, and the burdens of authority. Too often, staff meals (we seceded to Room One c 1967) were soured by personality clashes, 'hawk v dove' arguments and tensions  perhaps prompted by the energy, demands, testing out, and threatened anarchy of pupils. Often, profound debate, hilarious anecdote, and bizarre eccentricity enlivened staff society ; we felt partially free from outside convention, though the world occasionally intruded, for example, matches, visits, church, exams, visitors and open days ; and sometimes a line had to be drawn. A pupil was expelled for intercourse, another because too violent, and two staff, one married, were forbidden intimacy. The school was small enough (c80 pupils and 15 staff) to tolerate eccentricity which flourished as a form of entertainment /therapy). After leaving a pupil told me of the secrets of initiations, explorations 'below stairs' in the labyrinth of cellars in foundations of the main building - a lively spontaneous educational counter-culture to complement official activities.

We all developed individual life styles : Mr. Thornber played the Stock Market; Mr. Haig did everything from music and mountaineering to hanggliding. Dave Sneddon had judo and his Mormon Church. Mr. Bridgeland, paradigm of pipe-smoking, wise academic housemother's was through teaching therapeutic poetic expression developing an interest in psychotherapy. Mr. Buddery played squash and had a flair for persuasive management, Miss Middleton valiantly tried to keep secretarial order, taking emergency powers at G.C.E. time. Miss Duff as Senior Matron determinedly preserved authority and status from the school's independent days.

Colleagues apparently unique and immortal live on in memory : Mr. Weatherhead master and consultant in the art of child and mob control Miss Urquhart's new leases of life, first with her own car, then in a new relationship. Marie France's courageous struggle to find a role at first in a strange incomprehensible community ; Jim Haig's enthusiasms, fast cars and delicious stories against himself ; John Hughes, prepared by priestly training and confessionals jovially exposing the neurotic and libidinous conflicts fermenting beneath public personas ; Miss Comrie's buoyant humour ; Brian Fease's superb storytelling wit Norman Bisset's irresistible, honest , sadistic fantasies, Mrs. Kerr's patient management of boisterous country dancers ; Harry Baxter's natural cheerfulness.

Vivid scenarios still retain their immediacy for me twenty years after.

An incredible peace eventually calmed restless spirits in chorus late at night, often their energies symbolised with storm winds and rain battering the big south windows ? nature mocking our hot-house society. The hurricane night of was it '68 left trees torn down in dozens, roads blocked and Mr. Morrice's classroom damaged. Without electricity we regressed (quite eagerly I think) to earlier forms of survival, candle-making flourished and the community drew closer together, united in adversity.

Prophecies of disaster multiplied when we returned after one holiday to hear that the girls were coming up to live in the main building while Craigard was renovated ! However instead of compounded illicit activities, the only outcome was endless bedtime letter writing and tolerant territorial accommodation.

Prowling around dorms at night on duty made us hypersensitive to sounds - slipper flinging or bed-tipping could escalate in minutes to all out war ; and dining room noise "The kids are high tonight" threatened incipient hysteria that one had to try to manage , without
succumbing onesself [sic].

Gearing up for a weekend on duty, or facing new timetables and stress schedules at start of term took stamina - and accepting extra duties when colleagues didn't appear took loyalty. More positive is the memories of the incredible luxury of a hot bath after struggling up Ben Clach or White Wisp with children. At the end of term an extraordinary relaxing calm invaded when everyone left and one rediscovered natural rhythms and sounds birds, rain, wind ; but a few days before starting again tension and excitement grew again as matrons (renamed housemothers) busied about with beds and linen preparing to hold the line of civilisation amongst the barbarian invasion. Curiously there were mostly very positive staff/ student interactions at term ends and beginnings. During term everyone seemed to express fairly honest feelings - from pupils optimism, fear, joy aggression, withdrawal, trust, misery, compassion ; - indignation (I have been allergic to it ever since) despair, cheerfulness, tolerance, anxiety, courage from staff trying to structure, organise, harmonise, harness.

The camps and expeditions were curious 'existential' situations - I only did a few - Loch Ryan, Ben Lawers, Glen Lyon, Oban. One left one's meagre but precious privacy for a week but shared, discovery and adventure ; the camps were a curious amalgam of extended family and teenage survival expedition - keeping warm, dry and fed, but living for kicks.

I started when the school, still with a few private pupils, was changing from independent to special status, so most of my colleagues had been appointed by the legendary Mr. & Mrs. Grieve (she, the understanding psychologist, he the uncompromising authority) and adaptation to Headmaster Mr. Nicholson's child-centred approach and more problematic pupils added to the strains of teaching in a fairly isolated community. In my own opinion David Thornber, with the ideal preparation of boarding school, PPE, National Service and Approved School experience managed the school's adaptation to its new role extremely well. It must have been a Herculean task demanding subtle skills, energy, and staying power. Above all David was a master of discretion and seemed free of the fatal weakness of seeking emotional support (response, success acclaim) in his task.

What a dramatic revolution when Mr. Thornber, new Headmaster, arrived in a huge Bentley and married a French champagne saleswoman.

After a Quaker teetotaller head the contrast was startling. Staff parties became dramatic celebrations rivalling the youthful high spirits. To hazard an oversimplification of motives, lack of this quality was probably partially responsible for some "do gooder" staff leaving soon after coming.

One looks back on a colourful, stimulating, heroic experience with many unforgettable pupils and staff, and feel member of an exclusive club which regularly faced basic social moral and political problems.

My more recent adventures seem quite tame by comparison.

Lendrick for many of us must be an ultimate reference point. We feel it should always be there, as it is immortal in our memories and dreams.

I'm sorry it has to pass into legend. As survivors of ordeal by adolescent testing out, we have all lost our political naivete, and gained in discretion self-dependence and an admiration for the colourful diversity of humanity's problems and potentials enshrined in a rich store of memories.

ROGER WILDMAN

Contact | Legal