Happy Days – The Seventies

By John Burns – 1970 to 1975

A Mellower Bad Dewar?

I look back on my years at Schola Regia mostly with warmth. Although it purported to be a lot more as a whole than in fact the individuals (teachers I mean) were taken on their own, in my opinion anyway. I was 70-75 so was taught by Paddy Ashton, Rab Alexander (up the jags!) Sandy Malkin, Bill Lornie, Dougal Cantlay, Badger, Jimmy Dignan, Von Gripe, (sorry can’t remember his proper name), Sam Leitch, Mr Forsyth, Mr Dingwall, Gaudin, Arty Mac, Richard Green, Mr Mitchell (Gym and Geog), and others

I read “Through Rose Tinted Specs” and it seems that the Badger explanation wasn’t right, the writer thinking he got it as he bore a resemblance to a badger. We also found out that getting him on the topic of Rugby helped to minimise our exposure to triremes, battles and the greek alphabet. Not only this subject but the other was his HI FI. You got diagrams on the board! Strange I should end up in the very same industry! But the nickname! He told us himself that it started as Bad Dewar and in time eased into badger. I read recently that he has attended every Edinburgh Music festival from the start. He was actually very kindly certainly compared to his colleague Fred Scott!

Fred Scott Again

I recall Fred Scott nearly eviscerating Ped Macquarie one day. He wasn’t our teacher but Badger was diverted away from the class and our volume level had gone up a bit. Fred strode in and we all rose with a collective gasp of omigod it’s Fred! Ped was next to me as Fred yelled right in his face. My son is now a teacher and tells me his mark is set by selecting the ‘baddest’ boy in the class and making an example like this. ( who was it that used to embed threepenny bits into his desk with his belt or am I getting confused with one of my wife’s schooltales of Currie High?

None of them could belt really unlike that tale of Mr Snow. I recall one French teacher hitting himself when one of my classmates ‘opened his hands while being belted! Crawford was 6 feet and big early on so did not take any nonsense.

Tabloid Scandal

I was there also when one of the ‘bad’ boys sold a ‘drugs in the playground’ story to the Daily Record or one of the tabloids. This was on the front page. Can’t say I knew of any real basis for it but it was at the right sort of time.

Songs on the Buses

The other funny thing was being on the number 29 (or 41) bus as it went through Stockbridge. Apart from the driver threatening to call the drug squad after someone set off some incense a top deck full of School sang all the names of the shops as the bus made it’s way down the High Street, towards the end of the song I remember Boots the Chemist getting three mentions ‘Boots!, Boots!, Boots! . Harris and Blackwood are names that come to mind here. This was hilarious and often had onlookers in stitches as well.

The Clerrie Derrie and Bar-OX

Then there was Grunter AKA Graham Hunter who was the leader of the feared Edinburgh Bar-OX (gang from Oxgangs). he must have eventually been expelled at least for wearing jeans instead of regulation trousers or any other number of antics. I think he did help though when the Clermiston gang came up the road to meet the School one afternoon and got chased away for their efforts. Not too much later they were school mates when it went comprehensive.

Oh and the old doors lead out into the teachers car park. I missed leaving that way too, in fact I was a postal resigner in the end.

1976 to 1980

by Steven Marr

Dinosaurs vs Clermiston

I went to the Royal High School from 1976- 1980, and like many from Clermiston loved the school, but the school didn’t love us, or for that matter want us. There was no passing through that famous old door, when I left it was over the fence and goodbye.

Even entry to the school from Clermiston was made as difficult as possible, no gate , just climb the wall, some of the teachers during my time, were from a prehistoric age of school fees and elitism, they had a preconception of the pupils from Clermiston, they didn’t want change and never hid the their resentment.

So though I had such a good time at school, it wasn’t down to the dinosaurs like, Mr Murray, Miss Garvie, Mr Mitchell, Miss Urhquart, or Mr Simmons.

To this day myself, and many of the people I went to school with , that were from Clermiston, have never been to RHS FPs dinner dance or club, is this simply because we haven’t joined “the club” or because we came from Clermiston.

If I’m wrong , please let me know, vivas schola regia.

Coming next – Dr John

I assume the Doctor Murray who writes so entertainingly on our next page about the musical forays into Europe cannot possibly be the same person as Mr Murray described as a dinosaur above. I should also point out that at least three out of the four above aforementioned dinosaurs were not at the school (as far as I can recall) in my time when it was fee paying and allegedly selective. (I left in 1969). Will – Webmaster

Music in Europe


  1. Re songs on the buses. The boots, boots, boots puts me right back on that 29/41 bus. Now the 29 goes to Liberton where I lived but then it involved a change to a 3/8. There was another character/pupil who led the singing/chanting, older than me by probably 2 years. I don’t remember his name. Also speaking of scandals, at the height of the IRA bombing/bomb scare era, a pupil called in a bomb threat. We congregated outside for a few hours while the school was searched. I believe the individual involved was expelled.

  2. I was considered a Bad Boy,…. but my older brother was a ‘model pupil’

    Very happy days indeed!!

    Who can remind me of the nickname of my Geography teacher??

    In 1974 I joined British Rail,… ending up as the last Sales Mgr for InterCity at York HQ and the first for GNER! –
    At an Institute of Directors Conference at the Albert Hall, I addressed the 3.000 audience to say why Privitisation would FAIL!! Hmmmm???

    1. Hello Alan, Thanks for your comment. My Geography master was known as Wee Mac. The other Geography master was Mr Graham. I think
      his knickname was a little bit derogatory. Wheezy perhaps? I too started my career at British Rail in the computer department at Nottingham in 1976. I moved on after a few years.

  3. As current president of The RHS Club , having left the school in 1972, I take total disagreement with the anti Clermiston attitude. Half of secondary Pupils pre 1973 came from all parts of Edinburgh’s catchment primary schools. In my first year at Calton Hill there was a pupil from Clermiston, Keith Ferguson, who had a severe disability which meant in sporting terms all he could get actively involved with was swimming. He was a great friend to many….Okay I beat him at the the final of our Subbuteo League. As for your reference to Mr Mitchell…Curly Bill..again you are misinformed. As for the leaving ceremony all pupils in sixth form went through the doors greeted by RHS The Club. As for membership of The RHS Club, during my tenure as president we have have introduced a policy that all pupils by right are members of the RHS Club. So all all welcome…we would love to see you all in 2022. Follow the website info! Very best to you all. Ian R.C. Cowie

    1. I came to the RHS from Carrick Knowe Primary in 1973 and certainly at the time I did not feel any discrimination because of my status as part of the Comprehensive intake. A few of the older teachers could best be described as “dinosaurs” but they were by my leaving year of 1979, a tiny minority. It was only many years after I left that I became aware that some of my fellow pupils perceived an attitude of favoritism towards the Prep School boys. As I recall, all leavers 4th, 5th and 6th year, who bothered to attend on the last day of the Summer school term, left through the the ceremonial doors with a farewell handshake from the Rector and a greeting from the FP Club on the other side. Membership of the FP Club at the time was £5.00 (the school historian AA still has confirmation of receipt) which included a copy of the school history. Since leaving I have been to one reunion in the Rugby Club but never have been to a dinner, not because of any burning resentment but simply because I never seemed to have the time. Maybe next year……..

  4. Steve needn’t worry about Clermiston bias. The stigma of not having been to the prep school was far greater in my opinion.

    Mr Mitchell the geography ‘Dinosaur’ was at the Old School – I recall him telling us about a parade of rats marching across the playground there cutting him off in the annexe.

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