When I was very young I lived in the Saughton area of Edinburgh and when I was old enough to go to school, I went to Balgreen Primary. I have a vague recollection of starting the nursery late, but didn’t like it, so I don’t think that worked out.
I remember my first class and how traumatic an experience it was to go from being at home all day with my mother, to suddenly being deposited in a very strange place with lots of children I had never met.
Miss Dodds was my first teacher or second, I’m not quite sure. She was very nice and I remember meeting her one day, when I was at another primary school. We were both waiting on a bus at Whitepark in Gorgie and she asked me how I was doing. I remember being stunned at this as I had never seen a teacher outside of school and I didn’t answer, which is a pity as I always regretted at least not saying that I was fine.
Another memory I have of that class was the Christmas Nativity. Our class was putting doing the Nativity for the school to watch and parents of course. Everyone was being allocated parts, based on how well they could speak, clearly and loudly, of course. I had tried out and failed as I was very quiet and did not have a loud voice (that changed over time) and it was now down to just me and another person for the shepherd part. I had already tried it and wasn’t good enough, however I decided that I was going to do it this time, and belted it out at full blast. I got the part. “Look at this lamb, its mother has died and I have brought it to the fire to get warm”, this was my line!
For the nativity we had to bring something in to wear as we needed various costumes. I hadn’t brought anything and my part was at risk, although we could bring things in that weren’t necessarily for our part, we still had to bring something. I told my mother I had to have a dressing gown as it was suggested, but I didn’t really have one that my mother thought good enough, so she went and bought a brand new dressing gown. I still remember it, that dark red sophisticated looking one, with the rope like trim round the edges and a similar belt with tassels. It was very nice and I took it to school and Miss Dodds contacted my mother as she was so apologetic about the fact my mother went out and bought a new coat just for the play. Of course shepherds didn’t wear that type of garnet, we just needed sheets and a tea towel, so Keith (I forget his last name) got to wear my dressing gown before me. He was the Inn Keeper. The play went very well and I handled my part. I can still see us on stage performing for the parents.
Another memory I have of that school was sports day. It was held in the tarmac playground, even though there was Saughton Park right opposite the school. So tough luck if you fell over and hurt yourself on the hard surface. There were all the traditional races, egg and spoon, sack, three legged, sprint and so on. I remember that there were prizes, toys, given at the end of each race I think. The race I particularly wanted to win was the sprint from one end of the playground to the other. There was a plastic car I wanted to win. At home I had any amount of cars, soldiers, forts, castles, but I wanted this car. I ran really fast, always have been a fast runner, but I was second. However I thought there was still a chance as first three places got a prize, but they gave it to the winner (can’t remember his name) and I got a mouth organ! I caused a bit of a fuss, which didn’t go down well as I think they felt I was quite spoilt, and they’d be right!
The photo below is our class photo, the only one I have before I left to go to Broomhouse Primary (I moved out of the area) and is from about 1961. The original is black and white, but I have colourised this version, which looks very accurate. I remember some of the kids in the photo, as I met them again when we went to High School. They didn’t want to know me then, which was a pity, as I didn’t know anyone going to Tynecastle (I’d just moved back to this area) so it was another very lonely first day at school experience.
Back row – Miss Dodds, and the Head Teacher extreme right, but I forget his name. Third boy from the right is Arthur Mann and second boy from right next to him is Phillip Lightfoot.
Middle Row – Extreme left is Alan Brown, he was a nice boy and I remember him at Tynecastle. Extreme right is me. Next to me is another nice boy, but can’t recall his name either.
Front row – Extreme left is Ian Deas and Keith who got my dressing gown is second from the right.
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