Heavy study goes oan for the 1973 Higher English exam
This is ironic given that, when ah sat mah Highers at the Grammar and asked Pete Logan the Rector whit mah chances o’ passing were, he answered: “You haven’t a prayer, Harris.”
This was efter an earlier misunderstanding when ah thoucht he’d selected me fur the school sports team when he telt me: “Harris.You’re for the high jump this time.”
Of course, in mah day we hud the excuse fur failing exams o’ oor classes being constantly disrupted by air raid warnings.
See yon Zeppelins. See yon Kaiser...
Onyway, ah hud a helluva time wae exams, habitually no’ ge’in a travelling person’s cuss fur ony subject that didnae personally interest me, a trait that’s continued through mah career. (Even though ah was born in the Royal Burgh of Lanark oan a Lanimer Day, yon annual festival disnae dae much fur me ither than remind me ah’m anither year aulder and nearer tae a pauper’s grave oot at Renstray Cemetery, Lanark’s very ain Siberia.)
Unlike the Grammar weans today, ah hud tae face mah exams withoot the support o’ God or Bryan, his agent in Lanark, and so ah turned tae the only alternative - drink.
Aye, ah can hear the dull thuds o’ Gazzy readers slumping tae the floor in a deid faint tae learn that alcohol passed mah lips afore ah attained the legal age but this wis an emergency situation.
Huving foolishly committed the rest o’ mah life tae being a newspaper hack, the English Higher wis vital tae mah whole future plan fur world domination and so the collywobbles kicked in big time as the test approached.
Mah pal Tam, as ever spotting when ah wis oan the verge o’ disaster, suggested that, jist afore the exam, we repair tae a nearby public hoose tae obtain a nerve soother in the form o’ a bottle each o’ Newky Broon. Turning oor school blazers inside-oot wid serve as a disguise cunning enough tae fool the slow-witted barman. (Aye, right; he kent fine we where schoolies but charitably turned a blin’ ee’ tae this).
Ah actually sank twa bottles o’ the Tyneside nectar afore staggering nimbly back tae the Assembly Hall tae sit the composition section o’ the exam which ah duly did no’ exactly stoashus but certainly feeling nae pain.
The result; a mark o’ twenty-nine oot o’ thirty and much-valued praise frae the man ah reckon wis the best English teacher in the education racket, Long Tom Harvey.
Says he tae me: “That was a highly imaginative bit of work Ronald; I wonder where the inspiration came from?”
Weel, Long Tom wis nae fool and ah reckon he knew d..n fine that mah inspiration hud come frae the public bar o’ the Corra Linn Inn in the Wellgateheid.
Of course, ah wis fu’ o’ masel fur this performance but the doonside wis that ah spent the first 30 years o’mah journalistic career deluding mahsel ah could only write weel wae a drink in me.
Onyway, recounting this tae ye hus suddenly made me feel awfy auld; baith the pub AND the school involved are noo baith gone!