Minding James – School Years

Perth Academy, “Two One”, 1962

James arrived at Perth Academy maybe six months or so after we had started there in September, 1960, so it would have been around March, April, 1961. I’ll never forget him coming into the French class for the first time, all togged up in a brand new navy-blue uniform, a new leather bag and his black curly hair atop quite a serious face, I suppose in strange surroundings and 30-odd other pupils looking at him. 

At Perth Academy, maybe about 3rd or 4th year (1963/64):  James managed to offend an older pupil who was also a prefect and at least a couple of years older than us, quite a difference in one’s younger years. Anyway, near the tuckshop one day, James somehow had got hold of a hockey stick and got it into his head that it would be fun to do something outrageous with it. So he approached one Gordon Cluckie from behind and put the stick between his legs near the top then he pulled it back to the end part so it hit Gordon’s genitals. Well, talk about not happy! Gordon, a bigger lad, turned quickly and chased James all around the huge playground. The great irony of this is a couple of years later James started going out with Gordon’s sister, known affectionately as Fanny. 

English Class:  There were about 30 of us in “Wee Nick’s” English class for a couple of years for the big exams in fourth and fifth years. He was a fine serious teacher, we were pleased to have him. One time Wee Nick noticed James laughing up the back all by himself, no-one else, and Wee Nick not having said 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 windows were too high to look out of from one’s desk.  Wee Nick said, “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 to James, leaned over him and asked when he could have his letter of explanation for his absence the day before.  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!”

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 like, “Ahm no’ takin’ yer pishy peels!” We had to wear white coats, I suppose to distinguish us from the daft patients! I remember clearly it was the time of England winning the World Cup.

1964 – 65 at the Moncrieffe Arms Hotel at the Bridge of Earn. It was owned by James’s father and we would sometimes go out there to play “singles” on James’s very nice record player in a huge sitting room with tall windows and heavy curtains. James liked 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. I can see James now carefully taking a “45” out of its sleeve, giving it a wipe with a velvety cloth and placing it delicately on the turntable spindle. Sometimes James would be called on by his father, Felix – he would open the door and summon James to do some job, such as filling in for a late barman. I always recall James leaping quickly to his father’s utterance, “Jehmss!”, all our activities abandoned. 


  The Moncrieffe Arms Hotel

NB: There are a couple of other school antics, told in separate longer stories, entitled “Tinribs and the Glue” and “Urine in Latin”.