Memories of my time at Morrison’s Academy, Crieff by Archie Watt (1942-1948)
I went to Morrison’s Academy, Crieff in 1942 from the Crieff Junior Secondary School. Morrison’s is and was a fee-paying school. I did not have a bursary for Morrison’s like my elder brothers, William and Robert Ritchie, as it was war time and these were severely restricted if not totally stopped, and also for a considerable time the school was only on half day education to allow for war time evacuees from Glasgow and other parts to come and have some education. I wore the standard dress of blue short trousers, blue blazer and red knee-length stockings. I worked in my school holidays to earn enough to pay for my blazer and trousers and my mother knitted my stockings. They are probably worn to this day although I now understand they wear long trousers. I remember helping in 1943 to dig trenches during school time for the home guard in the grounds of Morrison’s Academy to assist in the event of a German invasion. They took a long time to dig but thankfully they were never found necessary to use. The main problem at Morrison’s was the fact that I had to follow my two brothers and I had, in the eyes of a couple of the teachers, to beat them or at least equal them. I think I objected to this and it affected all my time at the school and this was not assisted by the restrictions on schooling due to the war. For example we only had half day schooling for most of my senior schooling days, as mentioned before, and even the swimming baths were boarded over to make additional classrooms for evacuees from Glasgow. So I never did learn to swim and we were banned from learning from the river Earn that runs through Crieff due to rapid current and deep pools. My education also suffered but I was told in later years that I should consider that I had made up lost ground, from the point of view of progress made in adult employment! I went home for lunch each day. I do not remember having a coat and when I walked to and from school I dodged the rain in shop doorways. I carried my school books everywhere with me on a leather strap and I kept them dry under my blazer when it was wet. I used to go to the school rifle range which was contained in a long wooden hut and fired and Le Enfield rifle which was bored out to take .22 calibre bullets. They also had Russian Cossack rifles but they were not used on the firing range. I also remember going along the Muthill Road to use the commando climbing ropes located on a rock cliff further along the road from Dargill Farm. It seemed to be a massive cliff then but when you see it now it is not all that big! At Morrison’s I joined the Officer’s Training Corps (OCT) and then this was later renamed the Junior Training Corps ( JTC) and then the Combined Cadet Force ( CCF) after I left school. I reached the rank of Sergeant and attended quite a few training courses. I remember the cadet camps at Carnoustie near Dundee and one near Ayr and becoming a first class shot with the Bren machine gun, which was not all that difficult, certainly for an adult as it was a very accurate .303 inch machine gun. Not bad for a wee boy of probably fourteen. I could hardly lift it! I might have been only thirteen as I was friendly with the school janitor, RSM Mavor, who was also the regimental Sergeant Major of the school Cadet Force and he turned a blind eye to my age and I got on the camps much earlier than I should have been able to do so. I also attended a tank course in August 1945 with the Royal Armoured Corps at Barnard Castle in Yorkshire wearing my kilt, much to the amusement of the ATS Girls (ladies’ section of the British Army). I remember joining a queue at the cookhouse on arrival for a meal and found everyone laughing as unknown to me one of these girls had lifted the back of my kilt with a soup ladle! When I found out I chased her out of the cookhouse and through the canteen area to the cheers of several hundred soldiers having their meal. Apparently we just missed knocking down the Picket Officer and his staff who were visiting the canteen to ask “if the meals were alright”. There was no investigation but also no more kilt lifting!! I also remember being in the conning tower of Crusader tank controlling its movements through a hand microphone and
knocking down a stone wall in a deserted village and also unfortunately killing a few sheep when they allowed me to fire, from memory, its 88mm main gun a few miles away into the hillside. I was a member of the school’s first fifteen team at rugby in 1947-8. I had been in the seconds team before this. I was reasonable good at athletics and was in the school tug of war team but there were no trophies presented at the time, again due to war time conditions. A few paper merit conditions were won- there were no medals also during this period. We used to play at Dallerie and there were no baths to wash ourselves in the Pavilion Hut- I went straight home for my bath my mother used to scrub my knees with a scrubbing brush. I remember playing about 1948 for the school first XV against the old boys side when two of my brothers played for the old boys. One of my brothers, Bobby complained about my hard tackling and my other brother, th Billy, said I was a good blind side wing forward! I won my certificate “A” parts one and two on the 19 June 1946 at Morrison’s with the JTC. This was in drill, weapons training with the rifle and Bren gun, map reading, field craft, physical efficiency and section leading. I was able to wear a badge with crossed rifles on my sleeve. The war upset everything of course and restricted our schooling and movements. My house was the Campbells and I represented them at athletics and tug of war. I remember my mathematics teacher, J. Williamson (“Spuggs”), who used to throw blackboard chalk and sometimes the duster at us if we got a question wrong! I always tried to sit on one of the desks in the back row. I also remember my science teacher Captain Robert Husband (“Hubby”), who also was an office in charge of the JCT and we used to go on field excursions and training up in the fields around Crieff dressed in our kilts and sporrans. He was accompanied by his spaniel dog. The other officer was Captain AF Macrae both did a great deal for the boys and the JTC. We enjoyed very much our “skating holidays” when the loch was frozen over at St Fillans. From memory this happened about twice a year. Probably mainly due to the upset education at Morrison’s I did not do well in my examination and left school after form four. I decided at the last moment when I was 17 or was it early 18, to study for some months solid and I took in Edinburgh July 1948, the Oxford university local examinations as they were called to get my school certificate which would have allowed my entrance to an English university had I wanted to take this route. These examinations were common in the English schools of the time. I had a “very good” in art, a “credit” in English Language, French, Mathematics and a “pass” in literature and history. I stayed with the late Tom Gardiner (a senior civil servant at the Scottish Records Office at Edinburgh) and his family in Corstorphine, Edinburgh for the two week examination period. The examination was held in a hall in Haymarket, Edinburgh. Then came my period of National Service; before I went for my medical in the Caird Hall in Dundee RSM Mavor had said to try to get into the Scots Guards. I was of the three who were allowed in! Prior to this I had been “allocated” to join the Army Training Corps!” I then went into the army joining the Scots Guards at their depot at Pirbright which is now a housing estate, all the Guards having been transferred to their drill and battle training depot at Blackdown, near Aldershot, Hampshire. I was later transferred to the regimental headquarters of the Scots Guard at Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London and then when my period of service ended I got my first job in industry the steel tube pipe makers, Stewarts and Lloyds, Oswald Street, Glasgow.