By Their Names Shall You Know Them

Sarcasm

Schoolboy humour and adolescent attempts
at sarcasm always look pretty weak when considered from the Olympus of hindsight,
but the RHS lads did manage to come up with a few memorable or apposite nicknames
for teachers over the years. I’ll leave it to the youngsters to counter with
what the girls added when they were finally allowed to grace the old place.

Badger, Cocky, Fred, Jocky and co

Of course many nicknames are simple diminutives. It didn’t take a Mensa
brain to convert Mr Cochrane, French and German in the 60s, into Cocky
– yet given his caricaturist’s gift of a bottle nose, Weeble like frame
and penchant for driving ancient bangers we could surely have come up
with something better. An attempt to label him Smokey, from his habit
of grabbing a quick weed break whenever he could and returning reeking
of smoke never really caught on. Badger – Latin
in the 60’s – and by all accounts a continuing institution, rather than
an inhabitant of one however earned that name through his looks rather
than his smell. Paint him black and white and you’d have to hold back
the dogs and the men with spades. Fred tiny, black-begowned, silver-haired,
ramrod-straight head of Latin and seemingly always on the edge of a seizure
of rage; Jocky – malevolently twinkling head
of history and deputy rector and Arthur the archetypal gym master – were
all presumably their given Christian names. (Although Jocky was also known
as Jockey due to his lack of height apparently. Read David Robb’s memory of Jockey the Terminator – the ed.). Younger readers
may not appreciate that teachers’ first names were jealously guarded in
these dark days before human rights were extended to schoolchildren.

Going back to the 1940s and I’m told of "a small man with little
or no hair" who is variously recalled as Peanob or Peanuts and one
Bob Ironside, another Latin teacher, who was born to be Tin Ribs. Recollections
on how and why Mr Mclaren became The Mole or Mr Aitkin, Bobo
would be welcomed, as would any more insight on Igor and Daddy Penguin.

Flossie meets the Mekon

Rather as with chants on football terraces
it seems impossible to identify the original creators of nicknames. Either teachers
always had them or suddenly one day that’s what everyone was calling them. Whoever
first dubbed the sadly overwhelmed Religious Knowledge and hysterically inappropriate
(and probably self-appointed) sex-education teacher Mr McNichol, The Mekon,
deserves silent salute. Again readers retaining any of their own teeth may need
reminding that The Mekon was the arch-enemy of Dan Dare "space hero of
the future" who featured in the Eagle Comic from 1950 to the mid-sixties.
The giant, bulbous cranium and green tinge fitted Mr McNichol to a "t";
his zoo like classes could probably have benefited from some of the dictatorial
blood-lust which marked his namesake’s approach to world domination. An equally
gloriously inappropriate sobriquet was Flossie for the utterly un-mumsy maths
teacher. At a guess I’d have put her at 82 when I first fell under her basilisk
gaze in the early sixties; no doubt she was less than half that age and probably
a founder member of friends of the whale.

Lofty and Wee Mac

Lofty Peak was an apposite and linguistically
satisfying name for the substantial, white haired (what was left of it) modern
languages master Mr McDougal. Descriptively it was spot on but it also scored
on the intellectual front as Lofty Peak was a brand of flour the packet carried
tasteful drawings of snow-capped mountains – then produced by Rank Hovis McDougal.
Less inventively Lofty Peak also got tagged Big Mac which paired him rather
conveniently with the diminutive and so, of course, Wee Mac – Mr MacGregor
who taught geography.

Slow Burn

Nicknames can also help reflect passing minor celebrities and popular
culture of the times. One Mr Kennedy became Edgar Kennedy after the American
screen comedian of the Thirties and Forties famous, so I’m told, for his
“slow burn” a feature not shared by the RHS Mr. Kennedy. Another, Ian
Currie, a pre-war Dux of the School who went on to teach English became
Ken Currie after a Hearts footballer of the late Forties. A maths teacher
of the 60s called Shannon became Del after the American singer best remembered
for his first and biggest hit "Runaway" once described as a
great falsetto howl of urban anguish. And, if we are dropping in to the
non-commissioned ranks, a rather ungainly janitor picked up Lurch from
the Adams family.

Stanza

Descriptive names were often the best. Mr Smith a former head at the prep
school, also for some reason remembered as having very small feet, was
known as “Stanza” because he would never say “verse” when telling pupils
which parts to sing of the morning hymn, he would always say stanza. In
the PE department Mr Hall’s curvaceous nose saddled him with Hook and
Mr Mitchell’s glistening pate meant Curly Bill was inevitable, although
Greensleeves from the one very tatty track suit top he seemed to favour
at all times occasionally featured. Again Fats Forsyth and Wee Jim (Noble)
both from the English department are self-explanatory and a nine-year
old would make the consonant switch to turn Mrs Fieldhouse into Fieldmouse.
(No doubt current pupils don’t even need the prompt of the popularity
of "Red Dwarf" to make the current rector curse the scatological
juvenile joy one transposed letter can bring.) More information on hows
and whys is sought on Horsey, a music teacher
apparently and Messrs Dingwall and Marshall AKA Captain Caveman and Coco
the Clown respectively. Apologies all round if I’ve got any of these wrong
or missed out your favourites but I did spend some decades trying to forget
about it all until the current committee nagged me into this pull together
of various reminiscences.

No Offence Intended

It’s
often if not always true to say that bestowing nicknames is a mark of
affection or even respect and we hope teachers so identified here will
take it in that spirit. Looking back the past is truly a foreign country
and what once passed for normal behaviour by some of those entrusted with
the care of growing boys would nowadays result in their being disbarred
from teaching and quite possibly earning a prison sentence and a place
on the sex offenders’ register not to mention having their houses torched
by angry mobs. Perhaps it’s best to let those who didn’t earn the regard
of familiarity whither on the vine of memory.  

Robert Dunnett RHS 1962 to 1969

The Old Days

..or skip to Robert’s —>Through Rose Tinted Spectacles

10 comments:

  1. Other nicknames/staff well remember were Ronnie Graham whose catchphrase ‘Enough’ was legendary. Then there was ‘Spare’ Brown, a Maths teacher using the loosest description, who gave up teaching and went to Derby to work with Rolls Royce. There was also a geography teacher called Marr and another called Foxwell. Then there was RR Campbell in English and ‘Pussyfoot’ (surname forgotten – possibly Graham) who taught Latin and named so because of his suede shoes. Also Cook in physics who branded all his stools with ‘C’ in case another teacher stole them for their own room. There was also a Chemistry teacher called Smith who was good fun if not marginally insane. There was also ‘Horsey Alex’ who taught Maths and called thus as he was named A de G Gaudin (i.e. de GG). The best scream however was Mini Mink whose attempts at controlling any class was a failure all the time. She was strategically placed between Flossie Duncan (Maths) and Fifi Phillips (French) in room 11 in the huts. It is hard to believe our parents paid money for all this !

    1. I remember you, or was it your brother, used to do very amusing impressions of the teachers. Perhaps you covered them all between you.

  2. It is with great sadness to report that my father Bryan passed away on Monday 11th August 2014, suddenly and unexpectedly. He will be greatly missed. Graeme.

  3. After all these years I still remember sitting behind Ian Ferguson when Mr. Burgoyne made his remarks to him.

    A few years later when travelling to join my Shell Tanker t.e.s. Thallepus in Teesport on the train from Newcastle in those days the trains did not have corridors by chance Gavin Stuart who was also in my class entered the carriage.

    He was on his way to his first job with ICI in Billingham after gaining a Second Class Degree in Chemistry from Edinburgh University.

    Three years ago I found another school pal through this site Maurice Bell who now lives in London ,Ontario, Canada and since then we regularly contact each other by telephone.

    Both of us had run ins with Dr. Imrie as he was not keen on myself spending four weeks at The Moray Outboard Sea School Burghead over the Easter holidays and Maurice who was good sprinter who came second in the Scottish schools championships in the 100 yards and not competing for the school.

    I joined Shell Tankers after leaving school as an Engineering Cadet and ended up as a Chief Engineer Officer on a 70,000 dwt Tanker.

    In 1968 spent six months running between Singapore and Vietnam with aviation fuel some times a bit scarey we were lucky as we were never hit but the sister ship had a mine placed on the engine room shell plating partially flooding it.

    After leaving Shell I joined Lloyds Register in Birmingham then was transferred to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Santos, Porto Alegre in Brazil, then to Aberdeen surveying Oil Drilling Rigs in the North Sea with the last posting to Lima,.Peru.

    I then worked as a Marine Consultant from Sao Paulo covering the whole of South America .

    I still remember all of these teachers in the article after all these years.

    Alistair Montgomery, C.Eng.
    Solihull, England

  4. 1942/1954
    Johnny Burgoyne Deputy Head taught RE.
    First words to me ” Sit at the front, I taught your father ( James Ferguson) , and I will watch you”.
    A lovely little man, as was Bobo Aitkin who shaved badly and always had a bit of bog roll on his face.Had a grand Choir in those days and performed at the Usher Hall every year,(Soprano to Bass).
    I played Cricket and Rugby for the School and slacked my way to the required results before following my parents to Jersey.

  5. i wish to make a correction…’Wee Mac’ was not McGregor but McDonald.(this would be 54-60 at the ‘Big School”). He was a very good bloke and given that Geography was not a very demanding subject, he wasn’t one of our ‘belters’. He loved golf though he had been injured in the war and that affected his game though not his enthusiasm. Belters??? ..hmmm Tin Ribs, whom i knew as Uncle Bob, and who previously ran the House, was infamous ..Peanob was funny..often he would start the class by attempting to belt us all..it was a riot..he didn’t actually dominate..it should have been reality TV 58-60. The one i feared was Bill Bowie (our extremely pompous music teacher) who truly seemed to enjoy inflicting punishment.

    For those who are reading…i am now a US citizen and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana (3 years before the mast) and teaching in schools where caning is still very much in vogue..girls and boys.
    character-building i say..but deplorable, of course. Bryan Gourlay! school golfer extra-ordinaire…greetings if you read this..i made up the losing tail on the golf team in 59 and 60

  6. I remember Peanob very well – Mr T D F Scott if my memory serves me well. He was my maths teacher in the 1950s – a short, bald and very nice chap. He lived in a flat in Dalkeith Road. My last memory was playing a round of golf with him at Prestonfield Golf Club where he was a member. He had just retired and was going off to live with his son in Australia.

  7. i remember all the pupils making a mass exodus for the rocks at break times,dinner time was mixed watties bakers top o clerry bakers at bottom o clerry. d,mains for half harvest. remember having school disco in 84 in tent . also remember putting deek elder from 1 st to top floor and back in dumb waiter when he came out nearly fainted whoops.some good looking teachers to miss walker miss powell stan mowat

      1. ok..Wee Mac wasn’t McGregor but MacDonald. He was an easy-going teacher..geography was an easy-going subject! He loved golf…i caddied for him a few times in tournaments at Duddingston. He had been injured in the war but it didn’t affect his enthusiasm, Caning??? Peanob was funny..sometimes he would attempt to belt us all at the start of class..but he wasn’t quite up to it. the toughest..Tin-Ribs..oops my ‘Uncle Bob’ who used to run the school house, was genuinely feared..i was spared. For me the ogre was Bill Bowie..i think i hated that vindictive cruel sob..he could lay it on!

        Spare the rod, spoil the child..can’t say it ever bothered me..and for sure i got my fair share of whacks..but it is now so out of fashion.
        Me (RHS..1947-1960)? I am now a US citizen and ‘working’ as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana (2010-2013) where caning is still very much in vogue….sigh. Bryan Gourlay..school golfer extra-ordinaire..greetings..i was the losing tail in our matches. who else? Ian Paterson..Norrie Farquarshon (who had a swing like Jim Furyk). Greetings, Bryan

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