Fond memories of a wee glen schoolie

This photograph of some senior pupils at Glen Tanar School dates to the 1940s
This photograph of some senior pupils at Glen Tanar School dates to the 1940s

FORMER pupils of one of the most fascinating school buildings in the North-east will have the chance to visit their old learning ground on May 19, when a reunion is planned for Glen Tanar School pupils of all ages.

The B-listed building, designed to look like an English Oast House (hop kiln), is one of several quirky creations of the Victorian architect George Truefitt, a leading designer of churches and banks in his day. The school interior features granite and wood carvings in the form of proverbs aimed at encouraging hard work.

But this wee glen schoolie also seems to boast a human history that is – in the main – fondly treasured by former pupils, many of whom have made their mark on Upper Deeside and far beyond.

Credit for this is widely attributed to a remarkable head teacher Charles Gauld, who added his own skills in gardening, ornithology, art and carpentry to the curriculum, broadening the horizons of several generations of children.

Remembered with a touch more fear is the formidable Miss Kate Pirie, from Ballater, who ruled the infants’ room with a rod of iron and expected respect from all ages. Woe betide the loon who forgot to doff his cap if she encountered him on her morning march to the school from Dinnet Station.

One of the whole-school events remembered with most pleasure by older pupils was the Empire Day (later Commonwealth Day) essay competition, where all children wrote under a nom de plume, usually the name of a bird, and their entries were judged by the local Laird, Lord Glentanar, who never knew whether he was picking a winner from the children of factors, teachers, estate workers or labourers.

These memories are among the many sure to be shared at the reunion, which will also include a get-together at the Aboyne and Glen Tanar Memorial Hall (also known as Victory Hall), Aboyne.

Partners and carers will also be welcome, and anyone wishing to attend should contact the following: - Lesley (Glass) Davidson 013397 55177, Betty (McGregor) Sutherland 01463 240976 or Helen (Beattie) Murray 013397 55144.

Jock Strang, haulage contractor. Class of 1934 – 1948

Walked nearly three miles over what was called the Queen’s Drive, forbidden to the general public, but well used by schoolchildren as a short cut.

“Walking in the deep snow was quite difficult because we were so small, but we were lucky because our next door neighbour, the late Gracie Ogston, was a much older girl and she used to forge a path in the snow so that we could all walk in her tracks like a line of little ducklings.

“We had military-style drill every morning, followed by Bible study before lessons. We had to take our own food in summer, but we got soup in winter, and later soup and pudding which was a great luxury. Mrs Morrison, the dinner lady, cooked for the Royals at Balmoral all summer and for the Glen Tanar children all winter.”

Helen (Beattie) Murray, nurse. Class of 1938 – 1945

Helen lived in Dinnet, 1½ miles from the school. She walked from the age of 4½ until eight when she got a bike (apart from once, see below).

“The first thing I remember was the inscription ‘Procrastination is the thief of time’. I didn’t understand it, but I could recite it! We had to walk to and from school in all weathers, which was dreadful, though I do remember we used to pinch a neep from one of the roadside parks and eat it raw on the way home. When I was eight, I got a bike, but my younger sister Teddy still had to walk. Then, one day, I came out of the school to find the bike had gone…and so had Teddy. Fit a roose I was in as I -- yet again -- walked home.”

Ian Hepburn, joiner contractor. Class of 1941 – 1949.

Ian walked two miles to school with his brothers and sisters.

“We had to get to school whatever the weather, and I remember walking behind a v-shaped plough pulled by a lovely big white Clydesdale horse. Some of those blizzards were something else. We often arrived soaking wet and the only way to get warm was to stand beside the open fire sharpening our pencils until the teacher told us off and we had to go back to our desks with the steam rising from our clothes.

“Dominie Gauld was an amazing man who put me on track to becoming a joiner. He was an expert cabinetmaker himself and used to run extra carpentry classes in the evenings.

Neil Williams, farmer, Class of 1948 -1955.

Neil lived two miles from the school. He got a lift until he was eight, then cycled.

“I’ll never forget aye lookin up at the headmaster. He always stood just alongside the fireplace, which had the ominous inscription: ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ on it.”

Sandra (Murray) McRoberts, HR advisor. Class of 1961 to 1966.

Sandra lived just half a mile from the school.

“My parents, Sandy and Patricia, my brother Peter and my sister Pearl all went to Glen Tanar School. Pearl was one of the last pupils there when it closed in 1969.

“I remember the proverbs carved into the granite fireplaces and the arched beams, and another memory is of cases and cases of stuffed animals and birds.By the time I was at school the milk came from a large supplier, but originally it would have come from my grandparents’ farm nearby. I was still sent regularly to fetch the eggs from there for the school. That was a great skive!”