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FEATURES Archie Armour chatted to Flora Selwyn

Spanning the Century “I understand that the day I was born, 3 June 1920, I was held up by the out once women got the job, because “I don’t think there was a Latin nurse to see out the window the cattle going down the street to the cattle equivalent for a lady rector, so they started changing it to head teacher.” show in Paisley that day.” So began Archie’s eventful life. He reminisced, Archie was elected President of the Educational Institute of Scotland “I just had a normal childhood. I had my entire secondary education at (EIS) in 1976/7. As it was the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, “I got Camphill School. I went to Glasgow University for a year, hoping to get invited to umpteen functions. It cost me a lot of money for new hats for an Honours English, when the war started.” my wife Margaret!” Meeting the Queen, Archie A neighbour had persuaded Archie to join found her “the most interesting person to War service took Archie all over speak to; she’s very well up in everything … the Territorial Army before the official call-up, “because it might be safer than anywhere else the Mediterranean, North Africa, what she didn’t know about education was not if the war did come! So the pair of us were worth knowing…what she doesn’t know she finally the Far East mobilized 2 or 3 days before the war started. keeps asking…she’s a very delightful lady to I was in the Medical Corps for about a year I speak to, and very good looking!” think, and then I was sent on an intelligence course, and it turned out Archie has a pragmatic view of modern education. He regards it as to be what they called ‘a low-graded cypher course’. I did that for a nonsense to expect some 50% of the population to go to university. “My year, and then I was sent on a high-graded cypher course. This was father was an ordinary working engineer in Glasgow, and I often think much more interesting and much more difficult. That was my medical that people like my father could have run the country better than the career finished. Eventually I found myself transferred to the Royal Signal politicians. What these men had was a sense of duty and a big sense of Corps… I volunteered for the Parachute Regiments, and became a common sense. My father was a shop steward.” Archie’s mother, from parachutist for the rest of the war.” War service took Archie all over a big family, worked before marriage in the counting house of one of the the Mediterranean, North Africa, finally the Far East. When America Paisley Clark mills. “We need tradesmen. Who’s more important? Is it became involved, Archie found the plumber, or the headmaster himself picked with three other of a school? Or is it the guy sergeants to be under the who sweeps the streets and command of General Patton. In keeps us free of diseases…I Rabat, Morocco, the Americans don’t know.” Convenor of told the British soldiers that “many committees” as Union there was a café run by an Executive in the EIS, Archie English lady married to a was also involved with French Count. As soon as this discipline, “the only committee lady heard there were British that had no budget; whatever soldiers, she invited them to we needed to spend, we spent return regularly. “So we did, of it, because we had the power course, and we were introduced to consult a QC, so we had to all the young ladies who no limit to our budget. There worked there, all obviously very was no question as to the high-class young ladies.” finances. A teacher had to have It was then that Archie protection, if he/she was in the suffered acute appendicitis. As right.” he also developed pneumonia, In those days the Rev’d he was operated on with only Bill Henney, incumbent in St local anaesthetic. The café Paul’s Church, Johnstone, lady, and her assistants, visited before becoming well known as Archie in hospital, afterwards a minister in St Andrews, was inviting him to have tea in her joint convenor with Archie on “big house”. Here Archie learned that the lady was a cousin of King the Scottish Joint Committee on Religious Education (the EIS + Church Leopold of the Belgians, whom she referred to as “poor Leo”, as he had of Scotland). Coincidentally, Archie had become Session Clerk, initially a bad press for not resisting the Germans. She explained that he had for only one year (which became 17 years). Organist at his church in tried to save his country from being devastated as it had been in the First Elderslie, Archie had previously been asked to substitute for the St Paul’s World War. organist who became ill. Archie got to know General Patton. American soldiers saluted Archie first came to St Andrews at the invitation of his wife’s uncle, whether or not they wore a cap, while British soldiers were required to serving in the RAF at Leuchars. He recalled saving up 5/- (shillings) to salute only “if you wore your cap; otherwise it was an eyes R and an play golf on the Old Course. On Sunday mornings, “I used to go and eyes L.” Archie was walking towards Patton and sit down at the old harbour before they built all gave him a smart eyes R. “I kind of felt thunder in these high posh flats. I used to sit on one of the Today Archie divides his the air and then I heard him shout, ‘Hey you!’ So I benches just in front of them & smoke my pipe, about turned and marched smartly back, stopped in at ease with the world, thinking this was fantastic. time between St Andrews front of him to attention, and said, ‘Sir, the King calls There was nothing better than sitting there on a and Elderslie me Sergeant!’ He turned & walked away.” Archie Sunday morning on a nice summer’s day, puffing was certain he would be court martialled. “Sure on your pipe. Eventually my wife Margaret would enough I was summoned to the Presence, and he said, ‘thinking of that, come down with the bairns and we’d go somewhere. And I thought, this you were quite right. That was a bold thing to do.’ So every time I passed is paradise.” He joined the New Club, “I could never get any of the New him after that he said, ‘Hi there Sergeant!’ He may have consulted my Club members to tell me how much it was to be a member of the R&A, officer to find out what the protocol was in the British army, for all I know”. so I didn’t know if I could afford it.” Eventually, demobbed from Batavia, Archie returned to Glasgow Today Archie divides his time between St Andrews and Elderslie. University to finish his degree course in 1946. His first job thereafter Until last year he drove, but now his daughter or son chauffeurs him. was teaching English in his old school, Camphill Secondary, “and in He worries about machines taking over the world, and comments that the these days if you were an English teacher you also got history and whereas the Queen once sent out 400 cards to centenarians, she now geography classes to take, whether you knew the first thing about them sends 4000, but “can we feed the increasing world population for ever, didn’t matter, that was automatic. I had a qualification in history, but I wonder?” Nevertheless, he admits he thoroughly enjoys his own large what I knew about geography could have gone on the back of a stamp.” family, together with his 4 great-grandchildren! After a few moves in line with promotion, Archie was appointed Rector of Camphill for 10½ years. He remarked that the name ‘Rector’ died (Photo by Flora Selwyn)

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Article from St Andrews in Focus Issue 59 Jul / Aug 2013