Jordanhill College School Memories
An edited set of notes prepared in 1995 by Janet S Finlayson (nee Baillie)
It was a very wet morning in September 1923 when, accompanied by my mother and young brother, I travelled by tramcar up Crow Road past the large laundry on the left, over the humped-back railway bridge (long since demolished) to the tram stop between the two present bridges.
A long walk then followed up a quiet open Southbrae Drive to Chamberlain Road, which was just a rough country road. We were glad to spot the large new red Training College School surrounded by open ground. We entered the front door and turned right to the Headmaster’s room, the room on the left being occupied by the Director of Studies of the College who supervised many rooms of the School used by them. After our interview by the newly appointed Headmaster of the School, Mr Tod Ritchie, I was conducted upstairs to the corner room (now known as B 12) which was Miss Douglas’s classroom,
A List of School books and jotters etc. was issued, which had to be purchased by my parents. For the rest of my school life, and many years to come, this was always an expensive item for parents, though sometimes second-hand books could be purchased at the ABC shop in town. We had already been fitted out with the School uniform, which for the girls was a brown gym tunic with silk blouse and brown stockings. We each had to be equipped with a slipper bag containing indoor slippers or sandshoes, as we had to change from outdoor shoes when entering school. The boys wore brown flannel trousers with badged blazer and cream shirt. The boys wore caps which were brown and yellow sectioned, which earned them the name of ‘Bumbees’ outside! The regulation hats for the girls were flat stiff brimmed ‘Boaters’ with the school band ‘JCS’, which on a windy day, if not held firmly by the elastic under our chins, would bowl down Woodend Drive with us in hot pursuit!
As this was a Demonstration School for the College we had been privileged to join, a line of students very often occupied the first row of chairs along the wall of our classrooms. The students took copious notes while Miss Douglas or a College Lecturer conducted a lesson using the pupils as ‘guinea pigs’ perhaps trying out a new method of teaching. The testing times came for the Students when they themselves had to take a ‘practical’ in front of an examiner.
The Janitor, Sandy Gordon who was ex Army, rang a large handball to summon us all to prayers in the school hall each morning, and at mid-day and close of school. At the end of each period he entered the empty hall to blow a whistle for the benefit of the Secondary Department. Sandy was a Janitor supreme and it was said that one could eat a meal off the floors of the classrooms, such were his rules of cleanliness. Even teachers could often be seen, down on their knees, scraping off an ink blot before Sandy spotted it, and woe betide any pupil who hadn’t changed into his slippers from his outdoor shoes!
The staff rooms were on the Mezzanine floor next to the senior cloakrooms, ladies on the left of the hall, men on the right. I had the job that first year at school of going in the morning to the Janitor’s house at the School gate to collect a small jug of milk for the staff cup of tea.
As there were no lunch rooms in these early days, our lunch ‘hour’ was 90 minutes from 12.30 until 2 p.m. to allow us time to go home for our meal. As tramcars were slow and far away, many of us used cycles which we safely parked inside the large demonstration room at the corner (now a Drama Studio) looking on to the boys sports pavilion at the back of the playground. The playgrounds were separated by a line of open shelters. Hockey, netball and stoolball games were played on the girls’ side when we could not get room on the grass playing fields, and as the playgrounds were of sloped tar-macadam, the games were fast and furious!
Classes were small in the School, but by September 1921, Mr Andrew Walker was appointed to assume responsibility for 19 pupils who were now the secondary department. He undertook the teaching of all subjects - except French!
By 1922 ten College staff were helping to undertake part-time instruction in School. One of them, Miss Isabel Milligan, was to become a full-time Member of staff as Principal English and History. As the secondary department grew in numbers, so did the full time
staff, and Mr Walker was able to devote his full attention to his favourite mathematics and science departments along with Mr George McNicol. They produced our text book for mathematics.
Mr Walker and Mr McNicol both had a gift of imparting their knowledge to their pupils and instilled a love of their subjects to many, including myself. “Pa Walker”, as he was nicknamed, was a strict but fair disciplinarian whose room was No 13 (now B2) next to the corner examination room, and called by wrongdoers, and those who did not like maths, by the name “the room of terror”.
One incident connected with room 13 caused quite a sensation. Leading from Miss Milligan’s corner room on the second floor there was a small door which led to the attics. This was out of bounds. One day some daring boys thought they would explore this area and as they crept along one boy slipped between the rafters and his leg came through the ceiling of room 13 in the middle of a maths lesson.
1926 saw the waste ground beside the school being cleared to form tennis courts. Mrs Tod Ritchie, the Headmaster’s wife, officially opened them with a golden key. (I wonder what happened to that key). 1926 also marked the first Glasgow Music Festival appearance of a School choir trained by our music teacher Mr Ross and great was our delight at coming second in our class. Later we achieved the supreme heights by winning the Premier Challenge Trophy. What a day that was! We had to get little shelves specially erected at the back of the hall to hold the cups. Many enjoyable concerts and plays took place in the School hall and had to be run for several nights to accommodate the audiences.
The two balconies at the ends of the hall were open passageways in these early days and the balcony seats at the back were much in demand by pupils who sat and gazed through the bars. I have in my possession a programme of a “Dramatic Entertainment on Tuesday 28th June 1926 - Admission 6d” Four plays were presented that night, one of which was “Blanche Neige”, or “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” performed in French. I was one of the seven ‘little people’ and since I was over five feet tall I was glad of my beard as disguise.
1926 also marked the first year that pupils were presented for the Leaving Certificate Examination. When the School, in later years adopted “ad summa nitor” (Latin, I strive for the highest) we used to say it meant ‘I strive for my Highers’. A personal memory about my own Highers sticks in my mind. After our written and oral examinations were over, Mr Walker and Mr McNicol were chatting to the class and asking each of us what we were to get from our parents if we passed. Bicycles, watches and jewellery etc. were mentioned and when it was my turn, I reported that when I asked my father the question he said, ”you’ll get a clip on the ear if you don’t pass’. .
I was the only girl who took science as one of my L.C. subjects and I always thoroughly enjoyed the experiments. In 1927 we wondered if we could make a water barometer. Lengths of glass and rubber tubing measuring 30 feet were filled with water in the labs on the top floor and then carefully carried along and suspended from the top landing down the well of the stairs to the bottom. We got our vacuum at the top all right but our cheers were short lived when the 28 feet column of cold water collapsed and drenched those standing at the bottom, including staff. (My elder son has since told me he saw the same experiment repeated about 30 years later, without mishap, but they probably had the benefit of plastic tubing).
Mr Walker’s khaki lab coat saved his clothes from drenching that day, but the same coat was to cause embarrassment a few years later when the 1932 panoramic photograph was being taken. Mr Walker was dashing about in his lab coat directing operations. The photographer turned to the Headmaster, Mr Montgomerie, and pointing to Mr Walker said “Would you ask your Janitor to bring more chairs”. Perhaps that is why we were all smiling in the photograph.
Christmas School dances took place as our secondary department grew and we also ran seasonal staff v pupil matches of hockey and tennis which would be followed by a meal and dance. The pupils sometimes let the staff win and we all enjoyed these happy occasions no matter who won!
The prefects, who had been appointed, did the catering themselves for those matches and christmas dances. Our cooking took place in one of the cleaners’ pantries on a single gas ring. For christmas we made jellies, trifles, sandwiches and brought home-made sausage rolls and cakes. I still use the recipe we used to make our lemonade. I remember one very hot day at a tennis tournament when Mr Walker was drinking so much cool lemonade that he had to be warned that one of the ingredients was epsom salts. Christmas dances always had a plentiful supply of “conversation lozenges”, which were very popular. These were oblong shaped hard sweets with printed messages on them, and they were passed or flung to people (sometimes with an appropriate word or two added) much like valentine cards nowadays.
The old gymnasium saw many a most enjoyable feast in these days, although the prefects were tired out when the last and third group was over. Our dance programme, played by a hired band, consisted of scottish country dances, waltzes and fox-trots, such a pleasant experience compared to the ‘noisy shoogling’ that passes for a dance nowadays! The girl prefects and the 5th and 6th Years always wore long dresses to their dance and felt very grand as they danced the night away.
Mr Ritchie as Headmaster, was replaced by Mr Montgomerie in 1931 before I left school,
and the classical interest of our shy new Headmaster was in contrast to the outgoing Mr Ritchie. As prefects, we decided to persuade him to grant us a small room for our use, which he did, and we were very proud of our little room at one end of the old gymnasium. The boys got the one at the other end. We took great pride in furnishing it and made full use of our electric kettle at spare moments.
We were all very sad when leaving day in 1932 arrived and most of us shed tears at the end of our ‘happiest days’ as we said our “goodbyes” and departed, many not knowing what the 30’s recession held for us.
Our School Former Pupils Club began in 1928, so it was only natural that we became members on leaving School. The Rugby Club was very active but it was difficult to keep members interested and it closed at the beginning of the War in 1939. It was resurrected after the War and I was appointed honorary secretary of the ordinary Former Pupils Club, while the Rugby Club still continued with its own interests. Funds were always a problem although the annual dinner dance held in the old Charing Cross Grand Hotel was usually well supported. To raise more funds we asked permission to run the refreshment stall at the annual School sports. Thanks to Hood’s Ice Cream Co. we arranged a ‘sale or return’ system for supplies, but I’m glad to say the returns were usually nil. The stall holders, consisting of our willing F.Ps. were usually kept so busy that we never saw the sports but never wanted to see another ice lolly again by the end of the day!
An appeal for Members of the FP Club was usually addressed to school leavers at the end of term and so survived for a number of years.
Like many others I was delighted when our former maths and science teacher, Andrew Walker, returned to J.C.S. as Headmaster in 1936 after the sudden death of Mr Montgomerie. When there was an advertisement for a secretary for the school in 1937, I applied and was thrilled when I was appointed to the post. On my first day I was shown to my small room at the side of the Headmaster’s room on the left of the front door. I was presented by the janitor with a pile of letters impaled on a spike, the only existing filing system. An ancient typewriter was unearthed and thus the office started. One of our duties was the collection of the School fees, which were 3 guineas per term for the primary and 5 guineas per term for the secondary. Twice a year, at the beginning of each term we went round the School to each classroom to collect the fees.
The House System was introduced into the school in 1936
On Coronation Day in 1938 the Corporation of Glasgow presented a small blue square tin of chocolates to every pupil. I still have one of the tins, but it is empty. The school planted three flowering cherry trees at the side of the School to mark the event and I often wonder where they went when the huts were erected. Other festivities for the older pupils were enjoyed, such as a trip to Ardgoil and the weekend cruise to the Western Isles.
In 1939, we nearly lost our School. On 28th August 1939, the School had reopened after the summner break but four days later, on the eve of the outbreak of War, 232 school pupils, 43 mothers with pre-school pupils and 31 members of staff were evacuated from Jordanhill. Naturally parents were very anxious to know their destination but staff were sworn to secrecy and I well remember the long crocodile, headed by the Headmaster and escorted by the police, winding its way down Woodend Drive and Crow Road, to Jordanhill Station.
A number of parents preceded us to the station and asked the engine-driver his destination. Accordingly we were met by many parents at Gartmore and Aberfoyle where they had made private arrangements with local inhabitants to billet their offspring. What a mix-up they caused. For the others, there were tears on both sides as we steamed out of the station that day not knowing what the future held. I remember vividly, next day, standing in the local village school shed listening to the Declaration of War on my little radio.
All over the country, school children were being billeted as evacuees in strangers’ houses and we could understand the resentment that many householders felt, especially when some of the evacuees were none too clean. J.C.S. pupils were not in this category but there were difficulties which we did our best to solve. The staff latterly took over a small cottage where we looked after ourselves while trying to carry out our duties. The lack of air-raids in Glasgow and conditions in our temporary schooling etc., which were far from satisfactory, soon caused many pupils to drift back home leaving a handful at Gartmore and at Bridge of Cally, where Miss Aitken, our French teacher, had formed a school for pupils from variou schools.
It appeared that the Government’s official evacuation was a failure. Mr Walker, anxious about the education of the Leaving Certificate pupils, had been teaching them in his own
home in Glasgow while we were unable to use the School buildings. He anxiously looked around for alternative premises and I remember one of his experiences. At that time, there was an eccentric property dealer called A.E Pickard who bought up empty buildings and he offered to help. He called for Mr Walker in his large car which bore a coffin on its roof, with the words “Hitler’s Coffin” inscribed in large letters. Mr Walker was horrified and said “What if the parents see me?” I assured him he would be all right as the windows were of a very new mirror glass. He could see out but we could not see in. His journey did not yield any help and my parents kindly suggested that we might be able to help as we had large rooms and the house had a basement which would make an ideal shelter in case of an air raid. We flitted school desks etc. after we had emptied rooms and 22 Broomhill Drive became the new address of the secondary department, half in a morning group, the other half in the afternoon. Our large garden paths made ideal playgrounds and kept them free from weeds but we latterly had to lift our stair carpet!
Other parents followed our example and took small groups of younger pupils all over Jordanhill. A total of 300 pupils soon rose to 400 by December 1939, all receiving this unique type of education. Shelter accommodation, the crucial factor, was meantime being prepared in our School and by January 1940 it was possible for 500 pupils to move back into School. However, 6 months later in July 1940, we were once again shattered when the military authorities intimated their requisition of the School grounds to take place immediately.
In June 1939 I become engaged to one of the Mathematics teachers and following our marriage in August I had to leave my job as secratary, as married ladies were not allowed to be employed by the College in these days.
My husband and I were both called up to help in the secret Radar, thanks to my interest in school Science, so we missed most of the varied new premises for the School These were rooms in the College, Woodend pavilion, Rothley pavilion and Barclay Curie’s pavilion, but my memories of these events are from the History books.
Nearly 300 Former Pupils served in the Armed Forces during the War and 34 of these made the supreme sacrifice. Their photographs now hang on the left hand side of the front entrance hall of the School opposite the memorial plaque.
As a Teacher’s Wife and Parent
After my husband returned from his War service, the School was still accommodated in the College buildings and was very anxious to return to its own premises. The matter was even raised in Parliament in 1944 and in 1945 the School was ready to celebrate our Semi-Jubilee with a dinner in the Marlborough House among other functions. That same year the Parent Teacher Association was formed.
In 1948 I qualified to join the PTA when my elder son joined the roll of the School as a pupil and I felt that this was where I had come in.
28 September 2005
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