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Lena Croll

Mrs Lena Croll Transcript

[The Interviewer is Mr Ted Brocklebank (TB) who is digitally recording Mrs Lena Croll (LC) for the Madras Archive. Mrs Pat Anthony (PA) is also videoing the interview which was made on 8th January 2016. The recording was transcribed by Veronica Whymant.]

[Start of Digital Recording]

TB: Anne Bridges was telling me that your father was, did he make golf clubs?

LC: He was a golf club maker. He was a specialist in wooden-headed clubs with Forgan.

TB: And what was your maiden name, then?

LC: MacIntyre.

TB: MacIntyre. [Start of Video Recording] So had the family lived in St. Andrews for a long time?

LC: Well my father, I think his family moved to St. Andrews when he was about ten. Ten or maybe upwards a year or two of that.

TB: And where had they been previously?

LC: His family had come from Glasgow. The whole family had moved to St. Andrews when the children were quite young.

TB: So at what age did you go to Madras?

LC: Well I went to the West Infant School, East Infant School, Burgh School, Madras and I went into Madras Secondary School when I was twelve, just becoming thirteen.

TB: So, maybe you can tell us what year that was and what your initial memories were?

LC: Asking me what year that was is absolutely hopeless!

TB: Well, if you are ninety five, twelve from ninety five? You should be able to do this sum, Pat!

PA: Eighty three.

TB: Eighty three years ago! So…

LC: A long time ago!


PA: Well, the easiest way would be the year of your birth and add twelve. What year were you born?

LC: 1918 wouldn’t it be?

PA: 1918.

LC: Is that right?

TB: So 1930 you’d go to Madras. So, as a small girl arriving at Madras aged twelve, what were your immediate thoughts of this old school?

LC: I think I was always perfectly happy at school. I mean, you are right. I was just twelve when I moved into the Secondary School from the Burgh School. My immediate thoughts? Just perfectly happy child. Made lots of friends.

TB: What about the school teachers because all of us, I think, have memories of people who were our favourites and some that we didn’t like and so on?

LC: Yes. Mr Blue was the English teacher and a very good English teacher, too. Dr. Jock, Maths. Johnnie Mason came about the same time as I went into Secondary. He started teaching at Madras about the same time as I went in. Miss Barron taught Latin – or attempted to. Jimmy Easson was Music. Which other subjects?

TB: Was Mr McPetrie, was he the Headmaster?

LC: He was the Rector.

TB: What was he like?

LC: He was absolutely delightful! He was the perfect academic gentleman. When we were choosing Special Subjects I wanted to specialise in Maths and something else and I think I had to do Latin and he said, “Now, do you think you’ll pass?” And I said, “I’ll make a point of passing!” And he said, “Well, you may sit it in that case.”

TB: And, at that time, did they have a prefect system or did that come later?

LC: I think we had a prefect system. I’m not very sure. We certainly had a prefect system by the time I was in Fifth Year. I was not a Prefect by the way but I still remember ones who were. But whether it was in existence for the older classes or not, I wouldn’t be sure.

TB: And so, was Mr McPetrie the Headmaster for the whole of the time you were at Madras or was he replaced by Norman MacLeod while you were there?

LC: No, I was teaching by the time Norman MacLeod came.

TB: OK, so let’s take it in sequence – so you then, was Doc Jock teaching?

LC: Dr. Jock was teaching.

TB: Was he? My goodness, he must have been, he looked very old when I was there, I have to say! He seemed to be one of these brilliant mathematical minds.

LC: A brilliant teacher!

TB: Yes.

LC: I was very good at Maths and very interested. I’m not sure how good he was with poor pupils.

TB: Hopeless. I didn’t do Maths and he wasn’t interested in me!

LC: It’s difficult to tell. You see, I thought he was an absolutely wonderful teacher!

TB: They said Johnnie Mason was better with people who weren’t being very good at Maths because Johnnie could see the problems whereas Doc Jock couldn’t see the problems.

LC: No, Johnnie was a very, very clever Mathematician. Johnnie Mason was a very clever Mathematician but he was no teacher!


LC: Don’t quote me but he’s been dead for a long time now!

TB: You’ve quoted yourself! So you then got to Class Six and where did you go after Madras?

LC: To P.E. College.

TB: Why did you decide to do P.E. when Maths seemed to be the thing you were most interested in?

LC: Oh, I was much more interested in Physical Education. Hockey, whatever you call it. I wasn’t a terribly conscientious pupil. I was either mentally good at a subject or I was terrible!

TB: And so, at that time, would that be Dunfermline?

LC: Yes, Dunfermline College.

TB: Dunfermline College.

LC: I was one year at Dunfermline when War [WW2] broke out and we were evacuated to Aberdeen.

TB: Right and so was that part of…

LC: We weren’t evacuated there for safety reasons; we went because our building was taken over.

TB: Ah!

LC: In Dunfermline. And we went in to the Training College in Aberdeen.

TB: In Aberdeen. Yes, so did you complete your P.E. training in Aberdeen?

LC: In Aberdeen, I did, yes.

TB: So when did you come back to St. Andrews?

LC: Straight from College actually.

TB: To Madras?

LC: No. To Leven and, boy! Did I learn a lot in Leven in the way of language! There were Glasgow evacuees there and they were tough!

TB: And people like Keith Neilson would be similar because Keith was a peripatetic…

LC: No, he was a pupil of mine!

TB: Was he a pupil of yours?

LC: Yes.

TB: But he became a peripatetic P.E. teacher, didn’t he?

LC: He became a P.E. teacher, yes.

TB: Yes. And so when did you meet Tom?

LC: Oh, first when I started teaching actually, I think.

TB: Was he at Madras at that time?

LC: He was so many days at Madras and so many days at Waid. And I taught one year in the west of Fife and then came back and I was the three days that Tom wasn’t at Madras, I was there. How we met I don’t know because I was three days when he was elsewhere! And vice versa!

TB: Did he come from the west of Fife?

LC: He came from the village of Gateside and had been at Bell Baxter.

TB: Gateside, ah ha. I knew he had come from Gateside.

LC: And he was in the army and then they were getting desperately short of teachers and so many of them were just taken out – so-and-so and so-and-so – and he came to Madras and Waid at that time.

TB: Madras and Waid, yes. So, who were the memorable, OK, you were on the staff of Madras by this time so who were the memorable teachers during that period because I’ll remember some of these. Charlie Anderson and people like that.

LC: They were mostly the same teachers that I had had at school. I mean, I was virtually only away from Madras, you see, for four years. Three years at College and one year teaching and then I was back on the staff at Madras so there wasn’t a big change in the staff who taught me and the ones I was teaching with.

TB: Well, Norman MacLeod was a change because he came as the Headmaster.

LC: Yes, that’s right.

TB: How did he compare with Mr McPetrie?

LC: The exact opposite! Mr McPetrie was a gentleman, an academic. Away with the fairies with a lot of things. Mr MacLeod was exactly the opposite!

TB: I only had him for two years. My first year and my second year so I have nothing to compare him with.

LC: No, just a minute. I’m mixing him up a little bit with – who came after him?

TB: Thompson. John Thompson.

LC: No. No, I’m not mixing him up then.

TB: I think Mr MacLeod came from Lewis. Dr. MacLeod with me.

LC: No, I don’t think he was a Dr.

TB: Was he not?

LC: We called him Mr MacLeod.

TB: Mr MacLeod. And I think he had a son at Madras, too, who was quite bright.

LC: Now I’m mixing up the Rectors. There was Mr MacLeod and then there was…

TB: Dr. Thompson.

LC: No. There was somebody else. [End of Digital Recording] Dr. Thompson had quite a family of children who were at school.

TB: 'Battery low', it says here. That's wonderful! Will we carry on just as long as we can and if you hold on to that?

PA: Yes.

TB: Dr. Thompson had a lot of children.

LC: Yes, he had...

TB: Alison and Andrew.

LC: Alison and Andrew were twins and then there was David.

TB: David.

LC: He was a nice boy but a rebel!

TB: Yes.

LC: And a girl who was a friend of my daughter's. And Mary was the young one. He had five children.

TB: [beeping sound] Is that me or is that...?

PA: I think it's...

TB: You think it's through there? OK, so where were we? We were at Dr. Thompson. Did Dr. Thompson seem to bring in a lot of changes and the school, I think, went through a fairly good phase.

LC: I think he was a very good Rector.

TB: And then, how old were you when he retired? Sixty-ish?

LC: Yes. Wait a minute until I think. Sixty one, I think.

TB: Sixty One.

LC: I was going to retire at sixty and somebody else who'd been off on maternity leave was hoping to come back and she said, "Would you just not stay on?" so I think it's sixty one.

TB: And was Mr Gilroy, was he the Headmaster then?

LC: Yes.

TB: Yes. He wasn't in my time. Thompson was there during the whole of my time there but memorable teachers for me were Charlie Anderson, McLees, Doc Gordon. Dr. Gordon - History.

LC: He never actually taught me. I think I must have been teaching by the time he came. He was never a teacher of mine.

TB: No. He died very young.

LC: Yes, he did.

TB: And Ian Hendry was the Modern Languages.

LC: Yes.

TB: And then, of course, my colleague, Colin MacLeod, was on the teaching staff in P.T.

LC: ?? anywhere. He and my husband were in the same department for quite a lot of years.

TB: Yes, indeed. Well, Colin and I played rugby together of course. Sadly, he's no longer.

LC: Yes, he was a nice man. He was a good teacher, too!

TB: Yes he was. Yes, he was! So, looking back on it - what do you think of Madras now, given it's a far bigger school?

LC: Well, I really know very, very little about it now. I think it is far too big and, I mean, the other schools that I've known or known people who are pupils of, I think they never quite survive in the expansion in size.

TB: I think you are right. I mean fifteen hundred pupils is, I think, half as big again as it should be if you've got a thousand pupils but that seems to be the way of things now.

LC: How many pupils were the total when you were at school?

TB: Six hundred.

LC: Yes, you see, I think it was just about a thousand when I left.

TB: When you left, yes. It was six hundred when I was there.

LC: It had gone up fairly steadily but I think that was its limit anyway.

TB: Yes. I certainly enjoyed my time there very much but I worry now, when I look at Madras, given its size, given to the fact that it might be coming to a hillside over here, I wonder whether it will have all of the, I don't know, the memories for people that it had for, certainly, my generation.

LC: Yes. I'm sure it won't and, I think, in other ways when schools get too big, discipline goes too. I mean, the size of school when I was at school - if you did anything wrong, every single member of staff was down on it straight away!

TB: Yes.

LC: And then it got bigger but it gets to the stage that the staff don't know all the pupils.

TB: Yes. But with you, of course, in your day, you would have to wear a school uniform?

LC: It wasn't compulsory but most of us did. No, it still wasn't compulsory.

TB: It wasn't compulsory at that time?

LC: When I was teaching, there, it was, but not when I was a pupil.

TB: Yes. So, again, of the ones who were there when you were there, characters? Any of them that you thought, I mean, were, when you were teaching alongside them, who would be the characters at that time?

LC: In the staff?

TB: In the staff.

LC: In the staff, oh, Dr. Jock was a character in his own way. Mr Blue.

TB: Mr Blue,

LC: I did Special Music so I had Jimmy Mason. I don't think he was a character. He was a good teacher. I honestly don't know. It wasn't a big staff.

TB: No.

PA: What about Miss Brown and Ferguson? Were they there?

TB: Oh yes! Miss Brown!

LC: Yes, they were two characters!

TB: Miss Grubb.

LC: Miss Grubb had just started. No, she hadn't! She came when my daughter was at school and her nickname with Christine's crowd was Modern Grubb! She taught Modern History!

TB: Modern History. We had Miss Brown. Miss Brown, for some reason, we called Pussy.

PA: Pussy.

LC: That's right.

TB: But none of us used to remember why she was given the name Pussy. I asked Keith Neilson and he couldn't remember.

LC: No, no, because she was Pussy long before Keith went there.

TB: Yes, before he had her.

LC: And Nell Ferguson.

TB: Yes, Fergusson.

LC: Miss Crosthwaite.

TB: Miss Crosthwaite, yes, in French. Miss Sanderson.

PA: Solo!

TB: Solo!

LC: She was a character!!

TB: She was a funny, wee woman! We used to put the chalk up on the blackboard for her to pull down and it fell on her head!

LC: She used to come along, when you lined up for going up to prayers in the morning, she would come along the road and wearing socks when the weather got warmer - "You can't go and sit beside Mr Easson with bare legs!" We thought this was hilarious!

TB: The other thing I meant to ask you about because I was told to ask you, was you were really interested in swimming?

LC: Yes.

TB: And you, sort of pioneered, the fact that a lot of the kids got basic swimming lessons and learned a little bit of lifesaving?

LC: I don't know that I started that but I certainly encouraged it. I did a lot with it.

TB: I did the Elementary and things of that kind. Somebody suggested to me that you introduced, everybody had to go and do the Elementary Swimming Certificate in the Step Rock?

LC: Well, more or less. I mean everybody who could swim and they had to go to the Step Rock. I didn't believe in doing it in an indoor swimming pool.

TB: So, it's you I have to blame for these horrific days at the Step Rock?!

LC: That's right! Toughened you all up. And remember, I had to stand in a swim suit as well and watch you all going in!

TB: Watch us all doing it! OK. Well, I think that's been excellent. I think we've maybe just run out of battery here but I think we've picked up over there.

PA: Hopefully.

TB: So hopefully we've got it all down here.

LC: And have I said anything tactless that shouldn't repeated!

PA: I don't think so!

TB: Now that you are off the thing, you can be more truthful, perhaps!

[End of Video Recording]