I've been asked to write a bit about myself. I've tried to condense it. Honestly!
I was born and brought up in Gateshead, County Durham, grandson of an engine driver! I trainspotted a bit in my teens - mostly locally, at Low Fell Station and trips to Heaton Sheds. I really was more of a bus geek privately, but as there was no internet and I had never met anyone else in the world who was the least bit interested in buses, I decided that this was best kept to myself.
I graduated from the Royal Manchester College of Music as a Singer and Pianist and began teaching in Lancashire. I had not been your typical Music student. I threw myself into the life of the University Chaplaincy Centre and also became very involved with the British Council, organising activities for the astonishingly high percentage of overseas students in the Manchester area.
From the age of 12, I had been introduced to the Scottish Schoolboys' Club and attended my first annual summer camp at Bruar in 1962. I do remember that my (cardboard) railway ticket said "Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central to Struan via Glenfarg." Well, by 1973 I was still going to Bruar and many other activities too as a voluntary Officer in the SSC, which employed one full-time person as National Organiser. This position became vacant and I applied and got the job, based in Edinburgh. Music teaching was "on hold". The next five years were probably the best in my life.
There were a lot of "unsocial hours" but as well as doing the youth development, the massive amount of admin and the mechanical engineering which goes with keeping 350 people fed and watered for 4 weeks in a field without electricity, I found time to sing in St Giles' Cathedral Choir, Scottish Opera Professional Chorus and do quite a bit of solo work, mainly with amateur operatics but also some with the BBC.
However, I knew that I had no paper qualifications in Youth Work or admin so after 5 years I got back into teaching and landed a job at Inverness Royal Academy which then had a huge academic 5th and 6th form as there were so many remote parts of the mainland (and also several islands which were part of Invernessshire) where the Secondary Schools only taught up to 4th year. If you were bright and you lived in one of these places, you transferred to Inverness and stayed in the Hostel. The pupils from Barra only got home once per term.
As well as all the extra-curricular Music activities at IRA, I was recruited to help Charlie Bannerman with athletics and cross-country. Two nights a week after school I donned my singlet and shorts and led all the mobility warm-ups and then took all the distance runners out into the hills while the two other staff dealt with the sprinters and hurdlers. Cross-country fixtures were dawn till dusk affairs on Saturdays, often involving three hours in a coach to somewhere like Thurso or Fort William or Banff and then standing around on a bleak headland for hours, marshalling the race with nothing between the fillings in your teeth and the North Pole. We all loved it!
The quality of life in Inverness was excellent, but promoted posts scarce, so after 3 years I reluctantly returned to Edinburgh where I spent the next 10 years as Head of Music at Tynecastle High School. You name it, I did it. Oh yes - including the Cross Country teams, who won some prestigious silverware.
Then, being me, I worried about getting stale, so I resigned . . . . . and bought the Co-op Stores and Post Office at Kinloch Rannoch! So for most of the 90's I was an Independent Licensed Grocer and Subpostmaster, bringing my own brand of entrepreneurial skills and an unequalled selection of chocolate biscuits to Highland Perthshire.
After selling up the shop, I became expert at making a living out of supply teaching and eventually moved back to Edinburgh. After several years I was drawn back in to a permanent post - at Dunblane High School, and then in St Andrew's High School, Kirkcaldy. Because I had had a break from teaching and because I wasn't in a promoted post, with all the politics that that entails, I really enjoyed teaching right up to my retirement.
I've absolutely no regrets about any of the bizarre twists and turns I've allowed my life to take. Things are much less hectic nowadays and I've much enjoyed the welcome extended to me by FoFNL