PRESTON LODGE TEACHERS - Annette Gilroy
The year was around 1950 when I remember
Mr George Mackenzie as a tall. stern-looking man. striding along
the corridor into the Hall for Assembly, his robes flapping and
a sheaf of papers under his arm. He was the holder of a decoration
from WWI. the Military Cross I think, and when we discovered this
we tried to see him through different eyes. as a dashing young
officer performing a deed of bravery but it didn't work. He was
always referred to as Mr Mackenzie or the Rector and treated with
the utmost respect.
Miss Smith - Madam - is the first lady teacher I recall and she
was very worthy of her name! The Head Teacher of French, she was
a strict disciplinarian and a hard task master (or mistress!)
with French verbs and pronunciation. Her very presence in the
corridors seemed to strike everyone dumb. Her eyes darted everywhere
as she slowly strolled along and if you accidentally caught her
eye you fell very. very guilty. All this seemed to improve your
accent as she certainly got results, but how would she fare with
some of today's pupils?
The girls P T teacher. Miss Burt. looked sweet and petite when
she was demonstrating some graceful gymnastic action but on [he
hockey Field she could outrun everyone else and bellow encouragement
or reprimand so loudly it was not like the same person. She was
a most understanding lady. an excellent guidance teacher, very
proud of her hockey teams and if you were picked it had to be
a very good reason to be excused. There were at least two girls
who went on to play for Scotland so P L had reason to think highly
of her hockey teams as well as her rugby ones. The boys owed Miss
Burt thanks too when it came near Christmas and the inevitable
practice for the school dances started - how patient she was.
What came quite naturally to girls seemed to make the majority
of the boys grow more and more clumsy as she battled with them.
The one-two-three of the waltz was bad enough but when it came
to the pas-dc-bas. it was a disaster! One year the story went
around that Miss Burt had forbidden girls to wear patent leather
shoes as boys would see the colour of our underwear in the reflection!
Not many had patent shoes but I think we were innocent enough
to believe it. She helped boys and girls alike with some form
of the social graces of the time and was much liked and respected.
Another teacher interested in sport was Mr Scott of the Science
Department. When Sports Day drew near and keen competitors were
practising in the lunch break he would sometimes wander out and
stand watching. A few of the older boys knew of his interest and
would persuade him to demonstrate the long jump. He took off his
jacket which they held while he rolled up his shirt sleeves. He
was a very tall, thin man with long legs and it was quite a sight
to see him setting off at speed, pounding down the grass with
wide trouser-legs flapping and then take off and cover an enormous
length over the sand. He had been a keen sportsman in his youth
and still hankered after it. Apparently, he was also a brilliant
mathematician but took his First love. Science, as his subject.
A very gentle man, he spent a lot of time explaining his experiments
in easy terms and almost seemed astonished himself at the miracles
of science. I must add that his nickname was "Schnozzle"
for obvious reasons but was always spoken of with great fondness.
The next teacher was also held in affection. Miss McLeod or "Rosebud"
because of her rosy checks and gentle manner. She was just about
to retire when I first knew her but that did not make her any
less enthusiastic in passing on her great knowledge of shorthand,
typewriting and book-keeping. The First lesson in shorthand amazed
me as we were writing simple strokes to dictation by the end of
it. This was long before the more modern methods of teaching Pitman's
appeared and it was all the more surprising as she was very old-fashioned
in outlook and dress. She organised the Scripture Union, holding
meetings in the lunch break and it had quite a strong membership
for a time but faded when she retired.
My next recollection is of sister and brother. Miss and Mr Penman.
Jocky P is probably the more familiar one to Prestonpans as he
lived at Gardiner Terrace with his wife and family. Cynthia and
David. He was head of the Mathematics Department and was very
much aware of his duty to bring all the 'A' stream classes up
to a high standard. He did not take it kindly when we Commercial
girls joined his elite for arithmetic and came out on top. This
happened partly because Miss Penman took our Commercial Arithmetic
class and the contents overlapped a bit!
Miss Penman was a brilliant teacher. She took quite a number of
different classes. English. Geography, but it was in Mathematics
she excelled. I don't know how many have mentioned over the years
of their debt to her and talked of her patience and perseverance
in getting over what. to some. was a very. very difficult subject.
This era was long before one-to-one was known but she practised
this with any who needed a little extra tuition and encouragement
and such was her teaching ability no other pupil suffered neglect
from it. When Ross High opened she moved there as Lady Superintendent
and was a great success. She certainly deserved the position.
Another lady teacher was Miss Porteous of the Science Department.
Puggie and she will be remembered by many as rather eccentric.
She would stride around, taking long steps and peer at your work
as she seemed to be short-sighted. Her moods varied a lot and
would swing from friendliness to intolerance but she lived for
her science. She loved to show how ordinary things worked and
each year had a tank of tadpoles to grow into frogs. One year,
so I've been told. some acid was poured into the tank and poor
Puggie could not understand why there were no frogs. I don't think
she ever found out it was human error and not the fault of nature
or science. I cannot remember who the boy in question was but
two were mentioned, one became a G P and the other a Headmaster!
My last memory is of Dr Allatt who had no nickname but should
have been called Mr Music. He was totally devoted to his subject
and must have often felt he had a thankless task trying to instil
a love of music into his pupils but he did manage it with a few
of us! We may not have been able to play any instruments but the
enthusiastic way he spoke and played caught the imagination. He
was quite short and tubby and wore pale grey spats over his boots
in winter. Years later when I read of Agatha Christie's detective,
Hercule Poirot, Dr AlIan immediately came to mind as they seemed
to have quite a lot in common, not least that they did not suffer
In the music room there was an upright piano on wheels and. therefore,
it was a little unsteady on the knotted wooden floor. Occasionally,
trying to illustrate his point, he would thunder out a piece of
music with his short stubby fingers and how he made that piano
rock - and this was long before rock 'n' roll! He was a magnificent
musician and impressed us all with his performance, especially
if he played on Preston Church organ. His rendering of "Jerusalem"
was unforgettable. One piece which he insisted that absolutely
everyone learned, whether they knew Latin or not. was the school
song "Gaudeamus" and if I hear it on television or radio
I'm immediately taken back to the Assembly Hall at Prizegiving
Music was like Art in those days. It was not a subject which brought
much fame or prestige to Preston Lodge so just as Mr Stevenson,
the Art teacher, would appreciate the reputation of John BelIany
now, so. I think, would Dr Allatt be immensely proud of the present
day Music Department and all its success and I hope the year 2000
pupils will look back in thirty or forty years time with the same
regard for the teachers of today.
Old Preston Lodge School which
was destroyed by fire in 1961