Mindin’ o’ James – School Years

Perth Academy, “Two One”, 1962

James arrived at Perth Academy aboo’ five months efter we’d stertet there in September, 1960, so wouldah been maybe spring term, 1961. He stertet secondary school at Waid Academy in Anstruther, Fife (Locals call it Enster) where his dad had a hotel.  Ah’ll aye mind on The Man comin’ intae Bernard’s French class furra first time, a’ togged up in a brand new navy-blue uniform (the second new school uniform in the same year!), a shiny leather bag, his black curly hair atop quite a serious face – I suppose fair eneuch in strange surroonin’s and 30-odd other pupils looking at him, some o’ them awfy odd. 

At Perth Academy, about 3rd or 4th year (1963/64):  James managed to get seriously up the nose of an older pupil who was also a prefect and at least three years older than us, quite a difference in one’s younger years. Onnywye, near the tuckshop one day, James somehow had got hold of a hockey stick and intae his heid in a fit of devilment that it would be fun to do summat outrageous with it. So he approached Gordon Cluckie from behind and put the stick between his legs near the top then pu’ed it back to the end part so Cluckie got a fair whack in the goolies. Well, talk aboot no’ happy! Gordon was a bigger lad and a rugby player – he turned quickly and the pair o’ them loupit awa’ roon’ the huge playground. The great irony of this is a couple of years later James seriously started gon oot wi’ Gordon’s sister, known affectionately as Fanny. 

English Class:  There were about 30 of us in “Wee Nick’s” English class for a couple o’ years for the big exams in fourth and fifth years. He was a braw serious teacher, we were fell pleased to have him. One time Wee Nick noticed James laughing up the back a’ by hisself, naebuddy else enjoying the joke, and Wee Nick not having said there was anything to laugh about. He wandered up to James and asked him what was going on.  James said he had seen something funny out the window. The point here is the windies were too high to look out of at anything from one’s desk. Wee Nick said not for the first or last time, “Borowczyk, you really are a bit of an eccentric!”

Man with pipe, Ewen, Lynda, John, Maggie, the writer up in Killiecrankie hills.

At Lynda’s parents’ cottage, about 1966.

At school about 2nd or 3rd year, in the French class, the teacher was Mr Bernard, a tall serious man, brooking no messing about or humour. He went up tae James, leaned ower him and asked when he could have his letter of explanation for his absence the day afore.  James dramatically lifted his arm to look at his watch as if it was digitalised 30 years hence, as if it had a day and date on it. He looked at the watch for a couple of seconds, then declared somewhat dramatically, “Tomorrow, sir.” It was the first time we had seen Bernard smile.

Fifth Form, 1964-65 – “Naybuddy smile, a’right!”

1964 – 65 at the Moncrieffe Arms Hotel at the Bridge of Earn. It was owned by James’s faither and we’d sometimes ging oot there to play “singles” on James’s awfy braw record player in a huge sitting room with tall windows and heavy brocade curtains. James lo’ed Elvis (he was an early member of the Elvis Fan Club!); I liked The Shadows and Adam Faith. We would bring a few singles to play. Ah cun see James now carefully taking a “45” out of its sleeve, giein’ it a careful dicht with a velvety cloth and placing it awfy careful on the turntable spindle. Sometimes he would be ca’ed on by his faither, Felix – he would open the door and summon James to do some job, such as filling in for a late barman. I aye recall James leaping lithe to his father’s utterance, “Jehmss!”; a’ wur activities gi’ed up, the turntable left gon roon’ an’ roon’. 

Summer, 1964 We listened a lot to “It’s all over now” by The Stones, playing on Radio Caroline gey near every hour. While still at school, we were camping at the Mull of Galloway with my cousin Billy, the three of us in one small tent. We were joking (or wildly imagining?) one night in our sleeping bags about if one had a “bag off” or a wee sweetheart in the bag, and Billy said, “There’d be no room for the hard-on, it would have to go somewhere.”  James retold that one for many years. “Mind the time” always the starter to some funny memory … Yeh, yer richt, I hear ye sayin’, “Aye, that’ll be funny tae youz yins!” And the dafter the better! Billy remembered this camping summer vividly, saying he still smiles at the memories and even chortles at James oft saying, “Speak to me, brown lips!” before letting go a braw raird, a thunderous trouser ripper.

July/Aug., 1966 – After finishing school, James, Ewen and I worked in Perth for the summer at the Moray Royal Hospital for the mentally ill. It wasn’t a bad job, just cleaning the wards and doing odd jobs. Ewen recalls classic lines from patients, sic as, “Ahm no’ takin’ yer pishy peels!” We had to wear white coats, I suppose to distinguish us from the dafties! We joked at the time it was an awfy guid idea. I remember clearly it was the time of England winning the World Cup, cycling hame the five mile tae watch on wur B&W telly.


  The Moncrieffe Arms Hotel

Long Ago Memories

I didnae ken much about James’s family connections when we were 13 or 14 in the early 1960s. I only briefly met his faither several times visiting his hotel about four mile south of Perth.  The longest encounter though was driving back from France. James’s father picked us up at Lucienne’s with whom we’d been staying (See “Travels Thegither” paragraph heading, “Going to France, May/June, 1964) and I’ll never forget his first words to me on being introduced, his English use of idiom being a little strange – as we shook hands he said, “What’s cooking?” We drove home to Scotland, James and me in the back, Felix and Lynda’s faither Jim Morison in the front with another friend of theirs driving, name of Ian Jack. They’d been to Poland together. We maistly minded wur ain business and chat. I recall though that the “olds” in the front did a lot of laughin’, it was guid to be wi’. 

I got tae ken James’s mither better because of a wee bit mair contact, visiting a couple of times when she lived with her mother (“Granny”) in Auchterarder, about 30 minutes west of Perth. They’d be sitting smoking Player’s Plain and sipping cups of strong tea. Whit’s mair, ah saw some of mother Mary on a coupla visits to New Zealand, then finally when she got cancer and went tae bide wi’  James and Brigid aboot the mid-1980s., Brigid kindly takin’ care o’ her, seeing tae a’ her needs, her sae poorly.

Felix died in April, 1967, during James’s first year at Edinburgh Medical School. It was hellishly sad for him, and he generally went fair quiet in conversation on return to medical studies after a week awa’. Several of us attended the burial at Aberfeldy graveyard, north of Perth – there was a family plot there. It was a gey dreich efternin, weel fitting the general mood.

NB:  For a couple of daft antics at school, see stories, “Urine in Latin?” and “Tinribs and the Glue”. Then there are our gravedigging experiences in “Gravedigging Days”. An interesting memory is “Ron’s Dong”, but you’ll need a strong constitution for some of the images.