My Scotland Home



Charles Jones



Some thirty years or so ago I was persuaded by a friend that becoming a teacher might be a good thing.  My friend had decided to go to college and do the training course.   Being young and rather feckless I decided to chuck in my job and go too.   After all and at the very least it would get me out of the heavy engineering firm I worked for and most importantly it would be different.  Well the rest as they say is history.  My teaching qualification (and my engineering background) took me half way around the world and back…but not to my country of birth.  I returned to the UK but on invitation, landed at Glasgow Airport on a very cold March morning.  Yes, I had landed in Scotland where men wore skirts, were ferocious and women boiled up huge cauldrons of porridge and haggis over open fires and the like.  Or so the stereotype that was fed to me as a child had suggested.  Well, over the last twenty years or so I have made friends of plenty of proud men wearing kilts and just as many women have prepared and offered me the tastiest of dishes imaginable.  This only goes to prove that if you really want to understand a culture then you must go forth and experience it by living in it.   When first here I really thought that I might last a year or two at the most.   But that didn’t happen.  Scotland began to get under my skin.  And after a while I realised that I was not that desperate to leave.

My first job in Scotland was to be at an independent school called Loreto School.  This is still to found doing business in a delightful town called Musselburgh.  Anyone who knows Musselburgh will also be aware that it has the finest ice cream shop in the universe.   This was the first time I had worked in a private school and took the position as I thought it would be fun and all importantly, different.  As it turned out it proved to be all of these things and very much more. 

As well as teaching a full timetable, it was here that I was given the opportunity to work in a boy’s boarding house.  This is where interpersonal skills were important and I became very directly involved with the day to day lives of so many young people.  I was also encouraged to take groups of children further afield and I had the chance to really explore the great landscape and drama that is the Scottish Highlands.   Munro bashing became an activity that I enjoy even to this day.  My most recent one being another visit to the summit of Schiehallion.  Only this time I took my family with me.  I also had opportunities to sail, ski and horse ride. 

Sailing out of Fisherrow Harbour with an onshore breeze could be tricky at times and our school dinghies were not state of the art.  But great challenge and fun was to be had when trying to get the best out of what we had.  And that east coast could be unnerving at times but so rewarding at others.  More sailing took place at Port Edgar and to sail under the graceful geometry of the Forth Road Bridge and to gasp at the imposing size of the Baker Rail Bridge will live long in the memory.  The scale of the massively over engineered rail bridge can only really be appreciated when watching a train going across it.   But these great feats of engineering only served to show that here we did not have a society that was stagnant or in decline.  Here we had a society that was dynamic, thrusting and above all promising a great future.   As well as sailing I was to experience horse riding.  We did this at a place called Lasswade.   The countryside around Lasswade is perfect for hacking and this gave me more experience of the great outdoors that makes up so much of Scotland.  Ski-ing took place at Cairngorm but I also had great fun at Aonach Moor, The Nevis Range and Hillend where I polished up my skis and my skills.  But perhaps my most memorable times in Scotland were yet to unfold.  This they did close to the very heart of the Highlands at a place called Rannoch School near to the magnificent Glen Lyon and mystical Schiehallion.

By now I had decided to stay in Scotland.  And so, after seeking promotion I took up a position at the world famous Rannoch School.  This is where I really got to know what life would be like in a very special part of Scotland.  This is where I was to be tested to the limit both physically, mentally and professionally.  I lived on the edge of the great and ancient Caledonian Forest.  This is still a magical place close to Carie.   It was here that I saw an abundance of wildlife.   Fine examples of Snakes, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Deer, Wild Cat, Capercaille and all manner of other wild bird and plant life.  And yes on occasion I witnessed Golden Eagle and Osprey.   Whilst out walking alone sometimes in the undisturbed quiet of the forest in the evening it was indeed a treat to hear and see Barn Owls.  At times I saw them in the great Douglas Fir trees that surrounded my cottage and it was those same trees that really worried me on windy nights.    I often stopped and listened to the burblings of the Dall Burn as it passed by me as if in a terrible rush to get to Loch Rannoch itself and I remember with fondness and affection the self same burn that my children paddled and delighted in when they were wee.  We would take our children to Rannoch Station tea rooms at times.  Here they would eat locally produced confectionary and we as parents would take tea.  It was great fun to stand on the bridge at the station and wait for the approaching train.  For small kids this was very exciting.  Now and then we would take that train and go to Fort William.  Of course it was always tempting to get off at Carrour but we never did.  And it was from Rannoch station tea rooms that I was to experience one of the hardest physical and mental challenges.  It was unforgiving and could be brutal.  This was the famous Buachaille Dash. 

We ran across Rannoch Moor and on to the base of the Buachaille Etive.  We then ran up the mountain, had our photos taken and then started the slog back to Rannoch Station.  This was a gruelling challenge but earning the right to wear the coveted blue sweatshirt made it all worth while.  But perhaps one of the most memorable experiences was sleeping atop Schiehallion in a bivvy bag on a dry but clear night.  I remember that I began counting the stars in a deep blue and blackening sky and as quickly as I had started counting I slipped into a deep, untroubled sleep.  The view from the summit, in the morning, was breathtaking.  I could see the complete length of Loch Rannoch from the village of Kinloch Rannoch to virtually beyond The Barracks in the west.  Looking east I could see Loch Tummel where I had sailed extensively.  Scotland was indeed stunning and unique in that brightening early morning light.  I lived this kind of lifestyle and in this environment with my family, for over a dozen years.  I do believe that it helped to shape and inform me.  It certainly challenged many of my assumptions.  I believe I am a better person for it.

And that is what Scotland means to me.      

My Scotland Home