By Their Names Shall You Know Them


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.

Peanob, Tin Ribs, Daddy Penguin

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.


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 [See comment below explaining this] 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


  1. There was also Bill Bowie (music teacher) whose Jaguar car (DFS667C) received special attention when parked in Regent Terrace. Mr. McIvor was an excellent history teacher who eventually became Head Teacher at Broxburn Academy and Peter Simmons became Head Teacher at Blackburn Academy. While going through the school with Robert Dunnett in the same class, I eventually ended up teaching at the Royal High (Maths ) under Iain Dingwall who was certainly until recently still about along with Flossy Duncan who I actually replaced. She had a triumph car which she treated like gold. Then there was Imrie, the Rector, replaced by Baillie T. Ruthven when he died. And what about Pete Collins who tried to teach us Art and also Nigel McIsaac who was his boss. Let us also not forget about Henry IV part 1 and Henry IV part 2 which were the two parts of a bust of Henry IV which had fallen and broken into two pieces. There was also McAra who was an English teacher. Another Maths teacher was Mouser Mowat (because of his beard). I think I am also correct in saying there was a Bill Lornie and “Cheyenne” Brodie (Technical) and Dave Somerville (History). “Fanny” Whiteside also attempted to teach me science.

  2. FLOSSIE (Mrs Duncan) passed away in Australia at the age of 93. I received a call from her son Gordon some time ago. Andy McKissock (in London)

  3. I arrived at Regents Road in 1946 from Jocks Lodge Prep. The Rector at that time, was a
    man named Ball. I soon became familiar with Tin-Ribs Bobo Fifi Pongo who was I/C
    the School Cadet Force. There was a Master called Gillispie who would send a wee note
    to Fifi if French was your next class.
    I can only assume Mr Aitken(history) was called Bobo as in Little Bo Peep, he would
    stand during a lesson with his eyes closed for maybe a minute or two with no comment.
    I have a photograph in my study of the 1st. junior 15 circ.1945. I played Rugby Cricket &
    Basketball, Happy times

  4. What contact do you have of Michael Paton. Who was a student at Royal High School. Played the organ for the school at the Usher Hall. No training, a natural gifted talent, moved from Edinburgh to Australia. Did not go to any Musical Academy. Around 1960’s

    1. In retirement Mike has just recorded Bach’s complete organ works and taken a first in Physics, after a career as taxi driver and airline pilot

  5. Haven’t seen Pa Broon (biology) mentioned. Guitars as phalluses was one lecture room topic he came up with. Well he may be right!

  6. I was at the junior school when Stanza Smith took over from the fearsome mr Scobie. I’d like to claim that I have him the nickname, but it was probably a lot of us who realised that it was a bit strange to say let us sing the next hymn, omitting stanza 2, when it was a verse.

    1. Agreed. However Jim Noble (minus the “wee”) does get a mention from Bruce Skivington in the blog-post “Coming soon” (find it in “News and Events Posts”) and in “Happy Days – The Sixties”. Seems he was Deputy Head at Penicuik.

  7. I finished at RHS in 1964. You asked about Horsey the music teacher. His surname was SHIRES hence Shire horse. I remembered when he moved on he chased the rector and all the teachers and staff out of the great hall having told the rector he wished to say goodbye to the boys. He took his place at the organ and burst forth with “Horse horsey” a popular song back then! Andy McKissock

  8. 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. Cook, Head of Science, was Robin Cook’s father. I believe, they arrived from Aberdeen Grammar, though the politician hadn’t listed the High School in “Who’s Who?” last time I checked, and I believe that the Wikipedia entry showing Robin’s arrival as 1960 is slightly out. Perhaps someone else remembers it and can confirm ’63 or ’64. The politician’s father was from Fraserburgh, a town that features in my retirement research project as pivotal in the Japanese Industrial Revolution, but that’s another story.

    3. Oh, Zak Smith, head of chemistry was almost certainly marginally insane. He seemed to have a hatred of me at first sight. I was belted by him for mentioning thalidomide in an essay on where science has gone wrong. Probably didn’t help that I misspelled it phalidomide.

      In fifth year I had decided to bunk off early and was walking down the drive when he drove slowly past me and stopped his car, beckoned me over and asked where I was going. I had my excuse off pat, or so I thought, ‘doctors appointment’ says I. ‘I’ll give you a lift says Zak, get in’. You didn’t defy Zak. I got in and off we went down the drive only for him to do a 360 round the roundabout at the bottom and drive back to the main door of the school. He turned to me and beamed in his maniacal fashion lent over and opened the door. I got out sharpish.

      1. I think we knew him as Von Gripe! I had him in 6th year for CSYS Chemistry and the few months I lasted before being lured to work in a record shop I quite enjoyed his classes. Jimmy Dignan was the one who got me to take a deep sniff of a bottle of ammonia one day! We got him back on a ski trip to Aviemore when he and a female teacher who had come had relations!

        1. I recall von Gripe tried an experiment to show how mixing hydrogen and oxygen could be explosive – and it was as most of us went deaf for about a minute and next door chemistry teacher Frank Lund appeared on the scene to ask if we were all OK. There was also an insane chemistry teacher called Syme whose main activity in July when a wasp got into the classroom was to coax it into the fume cupboard and turn on the gas and we watched it for around 15 minutes slowly go round in circles until it fell to the floor of the cupboard. This happened a few times a week. Downright dangerous if there had been a spark. He also had half a cricket bat, split top to bottom used to wallop us on the bottom. He also had the other half in a cupboard inferring he actually broke it himself for the purpose. Gym wise there was Herbert Gristwood, aka Sherbet Driftwood, who was always the junior gym teacher. Malkin was a technical teacher – usually metalwork and Charlie Hume – who cycled every morning into school from Balerno rain, hail or shine, was a Latin teacher with curly black hair and round possibly national health glasses. Fairlie was Head of Maths and I well remember having been in Von Grip’s class going to Fairlie’s maths class immediately afterwards and some chemical was put down the sinks in the cloakroom outside his room and then lit the gas coming off with flames shooting out of the plugholes much to Fairlie’s concern, but amazingly he guessed we had been in Von Gripe’s class beforehand, and we were then forgiven. Music wise there was New Zealander Garth Clemson who was the most naïve teacher in the school and whose strap line to try to get us to sing was ‘One, Two, Three — Go!’ all of which meant he had no hope of every being able to keep order. I also recall Bob Campbell, an English teacher who hated me and my brother, and he also did careers advice which he was useless at. He was ultra right wing and made remarks which would not be tolerated today when William Maxelino came to the RHS.
          Fanny Whiteside taught biology and had a rat in a cage in the class, which we let out causing all sorts of mayhem as she was terrified of vermin.

          1. Hello Ralph and Harry,

            Dear old Bob Campbell was one of my favourite teachers, I’m astonished to hear he hated you and wonder why. I was unaware of his right wing views, perhaps I wasn’t paying attention in class? He was very keen on Gerald Durrell I think. Also useless at careers advice but I think that was the norm for most schools careers officers in those days. He was also very inclined to blush. I think he went very red when he belted someone once. Wasn’t you was it?

            There is a photo on the Edinburgh FP website of all the teachers taken in 1967 – 1968 before the move to Barnton, along with a key to their names. Most of the teachers you mention are still there.

            Pete Collins’ son is Edwyn Collins, well known for his worldwide hit song “A Girl Like You” as well as being lead singer of Scottish post punk band Orange Juice in the 1980s.

            Fred Scott drove a Ford Z car. I think it was a Zodiac. Perhaps not as classy as Bowie’s Jag or Dave Somerville’s Rover, but it seemed very big, modern and shiny.

            Good to hear from you
            Will Dunnett

      2. Hello Jon……Are you the Jon Yates originally from Liverpool who’s best mate was John Knowles ?

        1. ‘Tis me Manny. As I recall, you sat on my left in biology class. I remember you sneaking out the room to get help when Glen Peters was acting rather strangely in class one day. I was pally with Knowlesy and other names I remember, and possibly you will too, are: Dave Bogie, Neil Christie, Hunter!, Alan Williamson, Clive Abrahams, Pete Guyat (sp?), Gordon Baillie (was it him who tried to blow up Pa Brown or had he already been expelled by then?), Alan Lander, and Keth McGregor. Feel free to help me with other names from our year. Regards Yatta

  9. 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.

    1. across the years… I was on the golf team at Regents Road with Bryan…he was a much better golfer than I was..and I’m sure he played for many many years. Others on the team? Norrie Farquarson (sp?) and Ian Paterson. I gravitated eventually to Running…and ran 30+ marathons and would at least try to claim an RHSFP best Masters time of 2.38.36 in 1985 …i graduated in 1960.

    2. I recall him refereeing at rugby on the pitch at Holyrood now with Parliament building all over it. Technical department along with Bill Lornie and Sandy Malkin if I remember right?

  10. 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

    1. Did you ever come across David Nichol of Scone at Shell. He was my Uncle. I think he was fairly high up.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 was a riot..he didn’t actually 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

    1. Wee Mac taught geography and was department head when I was there 1967 to 1973. As a young teacher he had taught my mother at Bo’ness Academy. A rare double i think.

    2. I remember Donald McDonald well – I was Dux in geography in 1969. After I got married in 1980, he looked me up and came to see us at our house out of the blue and said he kept tabs on a good number of us. An excellent teacher and lovely caring personality – I remember him always rolling his eyes upwards when making an apparently important point.

  13. 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.

  14. 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 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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