Well, this has to inspire some sort of cluster of words – poem, rant, reflection or whatever.
A couple of weeks ago I met with 3 school friends where we enjoyed a lunch- seemed the safe thing to do – as we hadn’t met since our high school departures in the early 70’s. So, 45 years ago, lives lived, families and adventures all experienced. 180 years of stories I guess, to share perhaps.
We all attended Ainslie Park High School, located in the depths of north Edinburgh. As a school where many experienced it, many remember surviving it. It wasn’t great – is high school ever? – for everyone. Many enjoyed it. It was an oasis in other deserts.
It was populated, in our time with around 1700 wide eyed pupils. We were in the early years of comprehensive education, a new tilt at democratic learning. It was no such thing overall though many teachers warmed to it individually. They were often at the core of the best memories. Well, they both enabled stuff to happen, or stopped you taking part in things if they didn’t take to you.
All four of us had memories in the enabled category, a few in the ‘the swine didn’t let me’ slot. But we all agreed we had good times, school was a good time and we carry a lot of the influences with us.
Being involved in education as a career I look back at the streaming effects that the school system in the 60/70’s had on all of us, one way or another. I recall we were the last year to see friends leave school at 15 – it rose to 16 minimum age – and loads o’ folks left. There was jobs everywhere, different times for sure. It influenced attitudes and behaviours. I played for our year football team and after third year ended there was only two of us staying on for fourth year. Adjustments required.
Two of my lunch mates married each other, now in their 5th decade, my other friend recalled how generous her mum had been in letting us party at her house – those of us who enjoyed the gatherings appreciated it very much. We recalled music, theatre, sport, social events, under age drinking, loon pants and part time jobs. Lads and lasses, teenage years, laughs and tears, we chatted and sparked many things we had forgotten .
I don’t do Facebook though this is how we four collided and discovered where other school mates had moved to, Australia attracted a lot of us people, all looking happy, New Zealand too. I’m guessing others are keeping in touch, I know our meeting here encouraged two classmates in Australia to meet up for the first time in 45 years. All during lockdown too.
Meantime the four of us will meet again, hopefully with one or two others we might contact in-between times. There looks like we might meet up in 2022, in the UK, with a couple of the Australian ‘team’, travel assumed.
Overall the whole thing has sparked in me, an explosion of images, experiences that I hadn’t dredged up in years for whatever reasons. There isn’t a day that goes by now that I’m not reflecting on a for better or worse memory – most for the better.
We were as a family seriously financially challenged, it caused issues for me on a number of levels free lunches, need for clothes, shoes and money for school activities.— the majority of pupils at Ainslie Park were coping with their own challenges, some were huge and unimaginable.
Lots of tales from my own experiences alone, plus others shared. People to thank too, I hope I’ll get the chance to do that with some of my school mates..
One event, this year, that will cause many of us to take a breath will be the 50th Anniversary, 21st November, 2021, marking the tragedy in 1971 that became known as the Cairngorm Disaster, Ainslie Park disaster also. Taking part in an exciting outdoor education residential as many of us did, at Lagganlia, Cairngorm, 6 of our school mates plus an instructor died in a snow storm on top of Cairngorm. It’s a huge tale. I was one of a group of senior pupils who attended funerals – they were our friends. This was a one off experience for us but what a hit for the local families. North Edinburgh was a tight community. I understand it still hits hard to this day. Of course it does.
I loved the outdoor residential experience- I took part in 6 over my school years and many more after. This tragedy shaped the future of outdoor learning for ever more, mostly around training and qualifications for leaders, health and safety, risk assessment of youth and school trips…….and so on. There was a Holy search for people to blame, a sign of the times then.
I’ll find some way to mark this, I think of the days in school that followed the announcement. 800 kids in the usually manic noise filled assembly hall , completely silent. I can hear that silence today.
So much to say.
So many other memories too, hopefully tales to tell, tales to reflect on. I’ll contribute a couple of pieces to the poem bank.