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A schoolboy remembers - The Killer!

WAS IT just yesterday I went up to the big school for the first time?

Our headmaster at the ‘up the den’ senior school in Ferryden was J. Spiers Burt (Burty) and he and his wife had done all they could to prepare us for the big day.

We had sat our ‘qually’ (11-plus exam) some months earlier and, with the sheep separated from the goats, we were as ready as we would ever be to face what we all knew was a milestone in our lives.

The qually had been a new experience; instead of questions written up on the blackboard, we had been handed printed papers for completion, and it took a while to grow accustomed to the unfamiliar language used to put the questions.

It was a few weeks before we got the results but when we were told who would go to the Academy and who would go to the ‘Toony’ (Townhead Secondary in Blackfriars Street) there was no hint of rancour or jealousy in the ranks.

The swots went to the Academy and the rest went to the Toony. Simple!

Five years passed in a blur! But in recalling the teachers we had, one stands head and shoulders above the rest ... ‘The Killer’!

Mr Shepherd taught us French for five years, and now, as we read and view endless accounts of violence against children, whether in the home, at school or wherever, it seems to me that we could learn a lot from The Killer’s own brand of ‘abuse’.

We had small notebooks (dozens of them over the years) into which we copied and learned thousands of French phrases, copied from the text of our French reading books.

Daily The Killer would put us through our paces on how well we had learned the phrases underlined in the reading book, and woe betide anyone who had skimped their French phrase homework.

“Is this your best work, Sir ?” The Killer would ask.

“Yes, Sir” came the fearful reply ... at which point Mr Shepherd would proceed to beat you about the head with the offending phrase book!

“Well If this is your best work, Sir, you had better find a better best. And quickly!”

I suppose by some narrow-minded politically correct definition the above could be termed abuse. But in the view of this oft-times ‘victim’ of The Killer’s wrath, my memories of Mr Shepherd have more to do with fondness and appreciation for what he did for me.

And I am by no means alone in my affection for The Killer.

I challenge anyone who passed through his hands to dare to offer a different view.”

The Killer was the best rector Montrose Academy never had!

l If you enjoyed reading Ian A. Paton’s reminiscences, and if you reckon there’s ‘an article in you’ - please get in touch with the Review at 63 Murray Street, ‘phone 01674 672605, or e-mail news@montrosereview.com

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