I sat my eleven-plus at Camlachie Primary School, and when the results were announced I was told I was going to Riverside, as I was in the top stream. Those not so academic went to Bernard Street. I have to confess at the time I would like to have gone to John Street as my sister and two brothers had attended it. John Street and Whitehill in Dennistoun always had the kudos of being probably the two best schools in the east end.
As August 1967 approached, I was understandably a bit apprehensive. Guys who stayed beside me in Janefield Street and who attended Riverside laid it on thick about first day initiations. Getting thrown into the thorn bushes, head down the toilet pan and being sat on the well were all offered up as future terrors I could expect. I was also told about ‘Harry the Hawk’, a teacher who carried his belt over his shoulder, under his gown.
I remember arriving for my first day, with my haversack, which a lot of boys used. I believe they were gas mask carriers in a previous life.
Riverside is shaped like a capital E, with the long elevation fronting on to Springfield Road, and the two playgrounds (boys and girls) in the inverted part. I went through the left hand arch into the boys’ playground, which struck me as being quite large. At the back end of the school was a collection of huts used as overspill classrooms. There was also a dinner hall here, and amazingly in my four years at Riverside I was never in it. I also recollect that one of the huts was used at playtime as a tuck shop with senior pupils serving crisps and chocolate bars through the windows.
However, back to day one. All the new starts were lined up against the wall of the gymnasium, which was the middle arm of the ‘E’, and the headmaster Mr Cameron and Mr Boyd (Harry the Hawk) started calling out names and allocating classes. I recall wanting to be put in class 1B1, which was the top stream boys only class. I remember my disappointment when Mr Cameron called out ‘Peter Mortimer, 1BG’. I immediately knew I was in a class with girls, what I didn’t know was that it was the top class for the year, and had all the pupils from the feeder primary schools with the best marks.
At this time we did not see our female classmates, but all the boys in 1BG were taken at this time to the class of Mr. Boyd, in room 9, which was on the upper floor of the classrooms in the boys’ playground. I can remember getting our timetable, and hearing the tannoy doing the morning announcements. I think they were usually done by the Assistant Head, whose name I think was Mr Campbell, but his classroom was in room 10, next door to Harry Boyd’s.
I remember that the morning session consisted of five periods, and lunch (dinnertime to us then) was from 12.45 until 2.00. Mid morning the bell went on day one and into the playground we all went to face the terrors of day one initiation.
I got off lightly, being sat on the well and left with a wet arse, which was far better than one or two others in my class who ended up in the thorn bush, and spent most of the day after that picking thorns out.
In first year I remember absolutely hated the technical subjects. Our techy drawing teacher was a Mr. McPhail, who I recall had halitosis, and he would lean over you showing you how to do elevation drawings. I was really crap at it, and I recall one day he commented that my drawing looked as though ‘a herd of elephants ‘had run over it’. It was true. It was a real mess, with corrections, rubbed out lines, and lines off the square and plumb.
Woodwork was an even bigger joke for me. I was a danger to myself and everyone else. I remember using the band saw, and unbeknown to me the teacher was at my back watching what I was doing. After I finished, he told me he didn’t want to interrupt me, but the way I was doing it, I was in danger of taking my fingers off.
Interestingly, in my job, I now have to look at technical drawings, and draw scaffold structures, and take off quantities. As for woodwork and DIY, I usually get a man in to do it as I can’t hammer a nail in a wall.
I remember my first encounter with the science subjects, the classrooms were above the technical block and fronted on to Kempock Street. The lab desks were huge with Bunsen burner fixings in the centre. The teacher was a Mr. Sanderson who struck me as being barking mad. He would rant and rave, usually caused by his frustration at our inability to grasp the subject. I also remember another science teacher, who had not long qualified as a teacher and was in the Territorial Army. This guy was seriously dangerous. He used the belt really liberally, and was a good case for banning the belts from school. He bordered on the psychopathic, and was accountable to no one.
I remember the excitement of using phosphorus, of taking it out the water from the jar and watch it combust. I didn’t pass my science ‘O’ level, and never quite mastered physics and the calculations involved. As for the table of elements, pure double Dutch to me. As you may have guessed I didn’t pass Technical either.
A subject I absolutely loved was Geography, and my teacher was Mr. McKillop who had his classroom number 15 at the far end of the girls’ quadrant. He was a big ruddy man, with a shock of curly hair. He made it clear from day one that he didn’t stand any nonsense. He could really draw the belt and as a consequence, didn’t have to do so all that often. I found the subject fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyed the films we would be shown, which would be about farming, fishing and industry. Mr. McKillop also helped write plays for the school, and I remember one such character he created called ‘Bella McDougall frae Auchenshuggle’. Priceless.
I remember in second year getting a choice of languages, either German or Latin. For some reason I picked Latin, and so began my ‘amo, amas, amat’ education. It was a questionable choice on my part, but gave me a real understanding of how words are constructed, but of no real use in everyday life.
I can also remember when I was in second year I think, a crowd of us from the class all agreed to go to Ibrox. We all met up at St. Enoch’s Subway station and made our way to Copland Road. The match was against Hibs and we were all gung ho that Rangers would win. I remember a certain Peter Marinello had other ideas that day and totally destroyed Rangers. I think the score was 3-1 in favour of Hibs, but I’m sure some football historians will keep me right. I think Ian McDonald was at outside left that day, and may have got injured.
A real vivid memory I have of second year was 2BG being taken on an outing to Ayr by bus. I think it was because the class had done so well in exams etc. that the jaunt was laid on.
We were accompanied by Harry Boyd, and I think a Mr. Ross, who taught French in Room 4, if I recollect properly. It was a day of going to the carnival, walking about the town centre of Ayr, and later eating bags of chips. As we strolled around Ayr we bumped into Harry Boyd and Mr. Ross coming out of a pub, where they had no doubt enjoyed a quick snifter. The bus back home was full of songs, laughs and so on, and one of my fondest memories of dear old Rivvy.
Other outings I remember were to Hunterston Power station, again by bus, and another over to Dumbarton Road on a science trip. I remember we went into a building at the corner of Church Street and Dumbarton Road, and it had an elevator called a ‘pater nostra’ which was like a continual conveyor belt that you stepped into a carriage as it moved, and got off at your chosen floor in the same manner.
As the school term approached late May and into June the school sports day took place. I was never much of an athlete or footballer so I can never remember actually taking part in anything. We all had to take part in the trials beforehand, and we did stuff like 100 and 200 yard sprints, long jump and high jump.
We also did a cross country trial, which was twice round the football pitches, out on to Springfield Road, down the lane at the back of the school, on to the banks of the Clyde. Here, we followed the path all the way along to the side of Belvidere Hospital, and up the little lane on to London Road, the lane is actually known as Cairncraig Street (not a lot of people know that !). We went along London Road to the junction with Springfield Road, and returned back to the school, passing the Springfield Wire Works, premises of Begg, Cousland Ltd. It seemed like a 26 mile marathon to me, and as I had suffered from pneumonia in first year, and was frequently quite breathless, it was a real ordeal.
The school sports were held on the pitches, and also I think at West-thorn Park, where the big running track was put to good use.
Another escape from the confines of the school was on a Monday morning, just after the break, when we would be taken by bus, by the PT teacher Mr. McKnight to Whitevale Swimming Baths, where we were taught to swim. It was always the breast stroke we were taught, and consequently even to this day it’s the only stroke I can do. The baths were about 70ft long and about 25ft wide, with changing stalls around three sides. The best bit came at the end of the session. When we were dressed we would go into the foyer area and get hot soup from a vending machine. It was not the best tasting soup you ever had, but it certainly warmed you through after the cold pool.
We would also leave the school officially on visits to Calton Parkhead Church which was in Helenvale Street, for Christmas, Easter and end of term services.
The Minister was the Reverend Frank Grimstone, and quite a character he was. When he visited the school to do RE lessons he would arrive in a little beaten up Volkswagen Beetle. He was a really small man, even smaller than me, but had an impish way about him. I’ve got to say I’m not a very religious person, but I could listen to him everyday in the week. He later conducted the service at my father’s funeral, and was a great comfort to our family.
When we were walking to the church for a service, up Springfield Road, along London Road and turn right into Helenvale Street, it was not unknown for some pupils to jump up one of the closes at the traffic lights to avoid going to church.
I remember one time we were in church for a service, and we had agreed prior to it that when the first hymn was being sung, we would all sway in the style of the Liverpool Kop, much to the disapproval of Harry Boyd, who was definitely not amused.
I was never even in the dining rooms at Riverside, which were annexe huts at the back of the school. I would go home everyday, walking with mates through Buddon Street, across London Road, through the car park of Celtic Park and along the disused railway line into the back courts of Janefield Street where I lived. I would have my dinner (not called lunch in these days), and maybe get some money from my mother if she could spare it, and then return back to school for the afternoon, walking along Janefield Street, round to the shops at the traffic lights at London Road and Springfield road for crisps, sweeties etc.
I can honestly say that I never once ‘dogged’ school, although on a few occasions my Maw let me stay off to play Subbuteo with my brother. If you were off school, it had to be covered by a note from your parents, and I can remember my father would always refer to my illness as ‘a bout of….whatever’, and sign the bottom of the note with ‘And Oblige’.
I have always had a great passion for books and used to frequently borrow from the school library which was Rooms 6 & 7 on the upper floor of the boys’ playground.
My favourite subject was without a doubt English, and I’m sure this was because of the marvellous influence Harry Boyd had on me. He kindled my love of Robert Burns, and I fondly remember us doing Tam O’Shanter, examining every line and really painting a very vivid word picture. Rudyard Kipling was another, which Harry would read to us and bring the Army in India to life for us.
On other forums I have likened Harry Boyd to John Keating, the inspirational teacher played by Robin Williams in ‘The Dead Poet Society’. He was a really decent person, and I last met him in the mid 1990’s at the Pavilion Theatre, when I went to see ‘Only An Excuse’. He was standing at the bar with a younger man (maybe his son), and I went over to the bar and introduced myself. He appeared to remember me, although if he didn’t he was gracious enough not to admit it.
I offered to buy him a drink (he had a whisky in front of him at the time) but he politely declined. I thanked him for what he had done for me as a teacher, and wished him well. I never saw him again, but God bless him.
Towards the end of my time at Riverside, we were sitting O levels, and consequently we didn’t have to attend classes all the time, just going in for exams.
I do remember being sent to the Careers Advice office in Brook Street, where we got an interview. The guy on the desk said he had a job that might just suit me. It was a Commercial Trainee (which would be management trainee today) with Thomas Graham & Co., the plumbers merchants based in Kerr Street. I got the job and have remained in the construction industry ever since.
My biggest regret was not attending Riverside in my last week of 4th year, to properly say farewells. I just seemed to drift away from Riverside, there was no closure for me.
Internet sites such as Friends Reunited, GlesgaPals and Glesga Keelies provide a welcome forum, as a touchstone for us ex pupils of a very fine school.
On a recent visit to the Archives Department at the Mitchell Library, I got out the Admission Register for Riverside, for 1967 when I first attended the school. My intake was the Summer one, and as I describe above, we were lined up in the boy’s playground and allocated into classes. The Admission Register records the names of the pupils and the feeder school they joined from. The Register I viewed was for Boys only, and it read as follows for 29th August 1967;
Barrowfield Primary : John Campbell, John Greig, Charles Hendry
Camlachie Primary : Harry Brandon, Joseph Brown, John Jenkins, Kenneth Kennedy, Peter Mortimer
London Road Primary : Peter Cochrane, Russell Collins, Stuart Crymble, Gary Ferguson, Ian Graham, Henry Hawks, Andrew Kelly, James Law, James McCrohen, Ian McKenzie, Colin McLeish, James Marshall, William Murphy, James Paton, John Pilling, James Pollock, Alexander Rae, Michael Sweeney, Anthony Wark
Newlands Primary : Brian Allan, John Andrews, William Black, Peter Conlin, Kenneth Dorans, Francis Herd, Alexander Lloyd, Brian McGuiness, John Miller, Andrew Pearson, James Usher, Robert Wither, Allan Young
Springfield Primary : Stewart Ballard, Ronald Burns, William Burton, Gordon Clark, William Comrie, David Crawford, Steven Docherty, David Glasgow, Joseph Hamilton, David Hoggan, Robert Keay, Edward Kelly, Robert Lang, James Linton, Richard McCulloch, John McMillan, James Maxwell, Jack Maxwell, Thomas Morrow, Joseph Prentice, Donald Smith, Thomas Smith, William Steven
Strathclyde Primary : Robert Ewing, Douglas Finnie, John Lind, Brian Moffat, John Neill
Quarrybrae Primary : William Walker
Bernard Street Secondary : Michael Brown, William Brown
Barlanark Primary : Alexander Little