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Jean Gillespie

Mrs Jean Gillespie

[Madras College Oral History Interview between Mr Ted Brocklebank (TB) and Mrs Jean Gillespie (JG).The recording was transcribed by Veronica Whymant.]

[Start of Recording]

TB: This is an interview for the Madras Archive with Mrs Jean Gillespie and it is recorded on the 8th December 2015.

Mrs Gillespie, I remember your mother, Mrs Blue. I don't remember your father but your father, I think, was the man, when he was the English teacher at Madras, who wrote the school song?

JG: Yes. Yes, he was.

TB: When was that?

JG: Well, it would be in the 1930s somewhere. I can't remember exactly when but he was at the school from 1932 to 1941 when he died so it would be written sometime about then. I think more, probably, towards the 1940s because there was another school song before that which I don't remember.

TB: But he also, I think, wrote bits of poetry and was interested, very much interested, in drama?

JG: Yes, he was. He used to produce little plays for the school concert and I also remember that he used to go to some amateur drama festivals. That must have been with the school. I mean, there wouldn't be any other group he would go with. So, I do remember that in the 1930s but, of course, I was quite young then. I don't remember very much about it. I mean, I never went to any of the drama festivals myself.

TB: But you must have been quite proud when you were singing the school song that here was your father who had actually written the song?

JG: Yes, I suppose so, yes.

TB: I know that you weren't born in St. Andrews. I think you told me that you came when you were three years old. Tell me a little bit about where your father taught previously and what made him decide he wanted to come up here to St. Andrews.

JG: Well, immediately before coming here he was teaching in Glasgow High School and then - it's really all rather complicated because, you know, in the First World War all the young men wanted to join up and so on and he couldn't join. Well they wouldn't take him at first because he was short-sighted so he had to do other things and I think, I don't know that he really wanted to teach but after he finished university I think he, he did take teaching jobs but of course, since he hadn't got any qualifications, he couldn't teach in Scotland very much except I think he taught at one or two Catholic schools in Scotland and then he spent quite a time (he was married by that time, you know) going south. He did eventually join up so that took up a few years but he spent a number of years, I think, just wandering around in England. You know, just picking up jobs there. He spent quite a long time in the Isle of Man, in Douglas but, eventually, they came back. I think, probably, my mother wanted to settle down and they came back to Glasgow and he did take teaching qualifications so I think his first job was at Glasgow High School. But then the Director of Education in Fife wanted him to come back. I think he must have taught at Catholic schools in Fife at one time and he wanted him to come back to Fife and he said that if he would take this job at Kirkcaldy High School for six months then the Madras job would come up, you see, so that's how he happened to come here.

TB: And your mother, she taught too, didn't she?

JG: She taught after my father died. She was a teacher originally, a Primary School teacher but then when she got married she had to, you know women at that time had to give up their jobs so she didn't teach again until after my father died. But she was at primary school in this area, yes. At a number of different schools round about.

TB: So you came here when you were about three. What are your earliest memories of St. Andrews?

JG: Oh, I don't think I could answer that.

TB: As a little girl.

JG: I mean, my earliest memories, I suppose, are going to school here. Madras College, at that time, had a primary school so I went there. I don't remember anything about St. Andrews before going to school really. So I went there when I was five, of course, and so I was at the Primary School for the seven years of primary school and then you went on to the Secondary one.

TB: And who was the Headmaster, the Rector, when you started at Madras?

JG: Mr McPetrie.

TB: What kind of man was he?

JG: Well, he was a very pleasant man but a bit kind of, maybe austere isn't quite the right word but, I mean, somebody that you wouldn't really get to know very well but he always, he was kind of benevolent, I would say!

TB: Any other teachers from that era that you remember who made an impression on you?

JG: Well, I think I remember all of them. All of the teachers in the Primary School and the ones who were there at Secondary School. I don't know that any of them made a, I mean I got on well with all of them and I liked most of them, I think. I don't remember disliking any of them intensely. Yes, I mean I could give you the names of probably all of them but you probably don't want to know just as much as all that!

TB: Were you an academic pupil, would you say?

JG: Well, yes, I suppose you would say that. I mean, in Secondary School at that time, each year was divided into three - A, B and C - and the A Class were the ones who were expected to go on to Further Education and B, well they did, I can't think of the word.

TB: I suppose some of them, in my day they went in to banks and places like that.

JG: Exactly. Yes. Exactly and commercial work, you know, typing and so on. And then the Cs would be ones who were probably expected to go to trades and things. The leaving age, at that time, was fourteen so I think most of the ones in the C Class would leave at fourteen but there was, of course, I mean, some of the C ones would do very well and be moved to B or A or something so there wasn't, you know, a great division between them all!

TB: Were there great feelings of loyalty towards the school at that time because the words of the song, your father's school song, there's very much a kind of a sense of Madras - this is the way we do things?

JG: Yes, I think in these days there was more, well, a sense of patriotism towards the country and loyalty towards the school. Yes, I would say that.

TB:And you had school uniforms? Everybody wore uniform at that time?

JG: Yes.

TB: So you obviously passed through and went, you went to St. Andrews University?

JG: Yes, I did.

TB: What did you study?

JG: Well my degree was in French and English.

TB: And despite having teachers as your mother and father, you didn't go in to teaching?

JG: No, I didn't. My brother went in to teaching and then in to university-teaching after, you know, a few years at schools so I felt three in the family was quite enough!

TB: Tell me about what you decided to do.

JG: Well, I didn't, I mean, most of my teenage years I really intended to be a doctor. That was my ambition. But for some reason I suddenly changed and I suppose I decided that Arts was a more cultural thing which, I think, nowadays, of course, it's complete rubbish but in these days, I think I felt - anyway, very silly but there you are. I think, maybe, I should have gone in to Science rather than Arts, you know, I think that would have suited my brain better but anyway! I made the decision to go into Arts but I had no special ambition after that. What I actually did was, you know, when I had finished at university, I wrote to the University Library here to see if they had a post so I went there with no qualifications or anything so, after that, it was university libraries I was working in.

TB: And then you went off, eventually you went off to Canada?

JG: Yes, I went to Canada at one point. When I left St. Andrews after a few years at the University Library here, I went down to Cardiff to University College Library there and then out to Canada.

TB: So, looking back on Madras from your day - looking at Madras now, which is a much bigger school, what do you think of the current state of the old school?

JG: Well, I suppose I don't really know a great deal about it now. Yes, in my day, there were about a hundred pupils in the Primary School and about three hundred in the Senior, Secondary School so it is a very big change! I mean, when I was at school you knew nearly everybody else. I mean, you would know the ones in the classes near you. You would know who they were but even in, you know, when you were in Class Six, what you call S6 now, I suppose, (we call it Class Six), you would still recognise the ones in Class One even if you didn't get to know them.

TB: Did they have a Prefect system and a Head Boy and a Head Girl?

JG: Yes. Now the Prefect system actually started at some point while I was there. I mean, there wasn't one initially but there was, it did start. It may be because the Headmaster changed. You see, Mr McPetrie retired and Mr McLeod came in and maybe he was the one who introduced the Prefect system. I just don't remember. But yes, there was a Prefect system.

TB: Head Boy and Head Girl?

JG: Head Boy and Head Girl, yes.

TB: And I remember Mr McLeod. He was there for a year of my time there and I didn't really get to know him at all well but how was he regarded, compared to Mr McPetrie?

JG: I don't think he was nearly as popular as Mr McPetrie. I know I didn't care for him particularly. I mean, he was always very nice to me but I wasn't particularly fond of him. No, I would say, generally speaking, Mr McPetrie was more popular.

TB: I think Norman McLeod was from Lewis, wasn't he? He was, I think he was a Gaelic speaker from Lewis.

JG: He was certainly a Highlander. I've forgotten whether it was Lewis.

TB: And I think he had a son who was at Madras. Also called Norman.

JG: He certainly had a son called Norman. I can't remember whether he was at Madras. Somehow I don't think so.

TB: You think he wasn't perhaps?

JG: No, I don't think he was. I do remember him and there was a daughter, of course, too.

TB: Yes. And what did your brother, what did he go on to teach? Was it English he was involved in, too? I think he was Dougal. Dougal Blue.

JG: Dougal Blue, yes. He took a degree in English and History, I think. But I think he, when he first qualified he took a BEd. after that or an Ed.B, whichever one it was. And I think he, I remember him thinking, at one point, that Primary teaching was more important or important to teach fairly young ones rather than the more senior ones but when he went to Canada he was actually in, he was teaching Education when he went to Canada, at the University. I don't know quite how you teach Education but that's what he was doing! I mean, he wasn't teaching English or History out there.

TB: So, looking back on it now - I haven't even asked you your age! How old are you?

JG: I'm 87 now.

TB: 87. Looking back over the years, how much do you think you benefited from the educational system, as it existed then, at Madras in the thirties? Do you think the standard was fairly high?

JG: Yes, I suppose it was. It's difficult to judge but, yes, I would think it was a fairly reasonably good education.

TB: Yes, I mean, given that I suppose, in these days too, you had a lot of academic people who were sons and daughters of University lecturers so you would probably expect a lot of them to be quite bright but none of them particularly stick out in your memory as being very academically gifted?

JG: Oh well, there were certainly - Yes, Mr Caldwell was a teacher of Classics (well, he taught other things besides Classics) at Madras and his sons, they were very bright. His youngest one was a Harkness Scholar.

TB: Oh yes.

JG: And then there was another Harkness Scholar in that same year but he wasn't a St. Andrean. He came, I mean, I think he came when he was in his mid teens but he was very bright. Roy Anderson. He got a Harkness the same year as Bobby Caldwell.

TB: You mention Anderson. Was Charlie Anderson, do you remember Charlie Anderson?

JG: No, he was after my time.

TB: He was after your time? He was the Classics Master when I was there and he made a big impression on all of us.

JG: Yes, certainly from what I gathered, he was very influential, wasn't he, but I didn't know him.

TB: No, I think he was a farm worker's son but very bright and I think he got a Harkness Scholarship, too, I think, in his day but he was after your time. OK. Well, I think that really is probably the bulk of what I am trying to get out. The thing is geared mostly towards your memories of Madras and the kind of impact it has had on you. The friends you made then - you mentioned Mrs Cook and you mentioned another lady, I mean these were friends you made when you were at Madras and they've been friends all your life?

JG: Yes. Well, I haven't kept in close touch with them all my life but, you know, now that I am back in St. Andrews I have been in contact with them again. I mean, there are still, one of my closest friends, I suppose, Evelyn Cole, I mean I've known her since we were five, four or five and, you know, we still see a lot of one another.

TB: Is she local?

JG: Yes, she's very much local. I wondered about suggesting her to you. She's lived in St. Andrews all her life. In fact, she's lived in the same house in St. Andrews all her life! It's quite interesting because her parents married in the early 1920s and her father, of course, had been in the army during the war so they got one of the first Council houses that were built in St. Andrews in Woodburn Terrace. I think there were one or two built in St. Marys Street at that time and one or two in Woodburn Terrace and one or two in Sloan Street, all the very first ones here. So, Mr and Mrs Cole, they were first married and they moved in to this house in Woodburn Terrace and, well, Evelyn's the last one there. She's been there all her life now!

TB: Yes. What did she do when she left school?

JG: Well, she went in to nursing but she had to give that up because she developed some allergies and so on and then she was, she worked in Pagan Osborne offices for years until she retired so she's been in St. Andrews all her life. She might be a good person to talk to.

TB: I will try. Her surname now, is she Miss?

JG: She's still Miss Cole. She insists on being called Miss Cole! She gets very annoyed if anybody calls her Mrs Cole! I don't know why!

TB: OK! That's fine. Thank you very much. That's excellent!

[End of Recording]