Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Paying too much for broadband? Move to PlusNet broadband and save£££s. Free setup now available - terms apply. PlusNet broadband.  
Results 1 to 1 of 1

Thread: The nostalgic North

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Default The nostalgic North

    Back to school and a trip down memory lane

    THERE will always a special place in our hearts for our early schooldays. They account a significant percentage of our early education, the longest periods we have been away from our parents, meeting and making new friends and tackling new challenges in new surroundings.
    The strength of our affection for our old alma mater was almost tangible as my sister Lois and I mingled with the crowds that converged on Wick North School's second open day on Saturday, in advance of that heartbreaking demolition.
    There were former pupils and some of the younger generation who had come along to see where dad and mum, or granny and grandpa first embarked on their education.
    A steady stream of folks meandered through the corridors of the North, stopping to deliberate on which teachers had taught in which classrooms and comment on the change in the layouts. The main exhibition was in the gym where a plethora of pictures and memorabilia was laid out, in well- organised displays, the spectators craning their necks to quizically scan black and white class photos, in the hope of picking themselves out.
    The old belts, two in number were, there to remind some former pupils of times when they were on their receiving end for misdemeanours. I have to say that the short two, two-tailed tawse were less formidable looking, than I remember the straps but maybe they were designed to administer a gentler rebuke to younger palms.
    Without wanting to get into a debate on the right and wrongs of the belts, I can't remember being punished without justification. The strap was frequently only threatened and I can still hear headmaster Ac Henderson's oft-times warning -"If I catch anyone walking on the grass - my room" where you knew you were not going to receive a gold star.
    I think we always knew where we stood and where the deterrent was stored and that it would be produced if and when necessary.
    However, there was one occasion, where a totally innocent pupil was leathered. There was a teacher called Minnie Stewart who taught on a ground floor classroom.
    There was a boy at one end of the long corridor who spotted a fellow pupil about to disappear at the other end. This boy at the first end shouted "Minnie, Minnie, Minnie" to the boy at the other, who had been linked to a female pupil called Minnie.
    Fate took a hand for as the lad disappeared from sight, the teacher, Miss Stewart came out of her classroom midway down the corridor to find out what the noise was all about.
    She heard the cry and took it as gross insolence aimed at her. The boy was marched into her room and despite protestations was soundly belted. When he did manage to get a word in edgeways, he explained that there had been no discourtesy intended. Goodness knows how Miss Stewart felt. I'm not sure whether the lad escaped a belting for a future transgression or not, but he certainly deserved exemption.
    There was no doubt, however, about the guilt of one of my classmates, Alistair Ross. The evidence was there for all to see. We were sitting quietly in Mr Bruce's class (Primary 7) one summer's day, when a titter rippled round the desks. Mr Bruce looked up and the titter died prematurely. His head went down on his marking but in no time at all, there was further tittering.
    Mr Bruce looked up again and once more the humour was terminated. The object of the controlled mirth was a frog Alistair had taken into the class after break. It was a common pastime to pull back the grass on the permimeter of the playpark - which janitor John Steven's toothy mower could not reach - to see if one could find a frog. I think we might have raced them.
    Anyway, so long as Alistair's frog which had made a break for freedom, was hopping between two rows of desks, it remained anonymous.
    However, when it cleared the bottom row, it was in open country. Brucer was not amused and demanded that the frog's owner own up. Silence fell on the class and in the best tradition of pupil loyalty, no-one spoke. Brucer issued the demand again and once more it was met with a stony silence.
    The teacher was not going to lose face over it and issued, what I suppose was a rather unfair ultimatum - own up, or the whole class will be belted.
    Alistair , sadly like a few of my classmates, no longer with us, could not abide everyone suffer for his froggy frivolity and put his honourable hand up.
    Soon after it was in the horizontal position receiving punishment from Brucer's short but effective black belt. I reckoned the punishment of four 'shots' as we termed the strokes, was a bit on the excessive side but I suspect that part of it was for the joke that initially Brucer was, frustratingly, not immediately privy too.
    Not only was Alistair chastised but he was commanded to round up his pet and release it to the dear green place that was our play park and sports field.
    Which eases me gently into another tale. We always had rehearsals for the school sports. I wasn't particularly athletic but could do a passable turn in long jump and the high jump.
    Mr Nicolson was in charge and my long jump turn duly arrived. It was a poor one...
    Teacher was not at all happy but played the supportive card. I was capable of greater things he told me and was confident I could demonstrate it. Back I went and suitably pumped up did my run-up. It was a better one, but I was unaware of how good. As I picked myself out of the sandpit. I noticed Mr Nicolson measuring the jump and repeating the check.
    "Well done fact you have just broken the school record". I have to admit that future attempts did not come close to that celebrated achievement but, nevertheless is is one of the North School moments I will cherish.
    Like many of its old pupils I will observe a few moments silence as the heavy metal ball crashes through the bones of that hallowed institution, which once housed the RAF's operations nucleus during World War 11 and the bulldozers level the ground for its new and far less meaningful role of parking.
    Like many of the school's old pupils and some with no axe to grind, I can't agree that the solid North School should be demolished as were the lunch huts at the airport industrial estate. But here is nothing we can do to stop the school's demise and cars and buses have to park somewhere.
    But to parody the old can take the pupils out of the school but you can't take the school out of the pupils, present or past. You can't demolish the nostalgic memories. The nostalgia and memorabilia will remain...the daily bottles of milk, magnificent milk, complete with it frozen cream, the football games on the tarmac playground, marching into school to the stirring military music of American composer Sousa ...the intense rivalry between the North and the Academy and the stolen t.v. viewing?
    Our walk home took as down Coach Road and the last house at the foot of the street was occupied by Mr Clark who had the television shop next the Cliff Bakery. We used to stop for a few minutes and rudely stare through the window at the t.v. cabinet in the corner of the living room. I should explain t.v. was in the infancy in Wick, then, and it was well into the sixties before my family had a set.
    The curtains were always open in the Clark household, which in subsequent years I realised that Mrs Clark appreciated the attraction of television to us youngsters and wasn't going to spoil our enjoyment.
    North School for ever.... I won't conclude the saying but I'm sure some of you will be able to.

    See photos from the day at

    See some early North School classes at
    Last edited by Bill Fernie; 21-Mar-16 at 23:51.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts