On Saturday, November 29, I will return to my old school. It’s not being billed as a reunion, but rather a celebration party. It is 50 years since the old Galashiels Academy closed and the new Galashiels Academy opened.
In the year of 1963, our lot were the last intake to the old Academy on the Melrose Road and to the sandstone edifice that was the Roxy on Roxburgh Street.
In 1964, Melrose Road and Roxburgh Street came together in a spanking new complex built on land that had belonged to the Laird of Gala adjacent to the Scott Park.
I remember well walking to the Melrose Road school for my first day at secondary school after primary education at first the Balmoral and – for the final couple of years – the Burgh primaries.
It was a big step in many ways – including the walking distance to my new home of education. It was exciting, but it was also sad. Sad, because the primary classroom ethos that we had been used to was now disappearing. We had been used to spending our entire school day in the company of our pals who were also, in most cases, our neighbours. And we had the same teacher all day and every day, Monday to Friday, except for the odd music lesson or an hour with a visiting gym teacher.
Now, some went to the Roxy and others to the Melrose Road. School days were split into periods – double sometimes for the dreaded maths – and we had to get used to the foibles and the moods of a variety of teachers. And they were varied. Very varied. Some are still alive, so I will say no more. But it was a change and a change that wasn’t, for many, easily weathered.
Our bunch kicked about the Scott Park, so we watched what was to become our Alma Mater take shape. We saw the healthy trees felled and their roots blasted from the ground. We watched the earth dug out, foundations laid and the walls that would encase and hopefully educate us rise to their three storeys, with a wee bit perched on top, the reason for which, in my three years there, I never discovered.
By the summer of 1964, it was ready for us. Melrose Road and Roxburgh Street came together as one. Melrose Road was actually three buildings – remember the gym hall down at Langhaugh? – and a collection of huts. Now they were all under one roof. Well, for a while. A few years after our lot left they heid yins at the cooncil discovered the new Academy wasn’t large enough and an annexe had to be built up the Elm Row driveway.
I have returned to mark anniversaries at both the Balmoral and the Burgh, this will be my first reunion by another name, at Galashiels Academy.
Our new school was opened by the Queen Mum on September 23, 1964. I remember it well. On her visit I was in Mrs MacDonald’s room 10 for mysterious maths. I was to be in the front row and would likely be the subject of a Royal hello. Not to be. My misbehaviour saw me despatched to the back and all I saw was a large hat perched on a Royal heid.
I am genuinely looking forward to the evening.
Reading this, some of my still-living teachers might not be so like-minded.