kilquhanity jubilee
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text taken from Kilquhanity's Jubilee book
(Kindly donated by Morag Aitkenhead)
Kilquhanity's Jubilee
Reflections and Creations
1940 - 1990

Two years ago, John wrote a piece in The Broadsheet about the future of the school that prompted me to write to him, outlining some of the impressions the school had made on me when I was a pupil there in the 1970's. I suggest to him that other past pupils and staff might be able to give him an idea of the lasting effect of the school if they were asked. I offered to contact them. From there, and discussions over the next months, all of which were preceded with Morag saying, "Do you know what you're taking on, Claire?" this book, in time for the Jubilee celebrations, was born.

We immediately hit a problem, however, when we realised that there were no adequate records for the first 20 years. Morag valiantly tracked down Christmas card lists and tried to identify kids in old photographs. We asked every person we contacted to tell us who they were still in touch with and where they might be found, but even so we failed to find addresses for all, or even half, the past inhabitants. Even fewer responded to our circulars. But our thanks go to those who did. As John frequently says about Kilquhanity, "Small is beautiful".

I was keen from the beginning to include every shade of opinion about the school and not merely to produce a glorious commendation of the practice of progressive independent schools. I wanted to reflect the "breathtaking honesty", as once ex-teacher puts it, of everyday life at Kilquhanity. The success of this has depended, of course, on people's willingness to be critical on paper. Some have, and I am grateful. I have tried to be a minimalist editor, leaving contributions more or less untouched. Where writings from The Broadsheet are used I have inserted the year of publication.

I am thankful, too, to several other people who have helped me put this together: Lois, who trawled The Broadsheet (and her own childhood) and uncovered fifty years of photographic records; Morag and John, who were supportive from the beginning, and amazed that anyone wanted to do it; and two friends, Janet and Mike, who guided me through the technical processes. I am indebted to Sheila McKay and Sam Booth for the cover drawing and the map of Kilquhanity.

Claire Cameron

It was a cold January day that my wife and I arrived to join the staff at Kilquhanity. Disillusioned by the political and educational scene, we met John and Morag by chance in the late 1930's to find an immediate rapport. Inspired by Neill and Homer Lane we listened to John's plans for a new school.

In 1943 we were faced with a difficult decision. In the same week we had two invitations - one an attractive offer of a job in youth work, the other from Kilquhanity. John's tremendous drive and commitment to persevere against all the odds made it impossible to have any doubts. We chose Kilquhanity and have never regretted it.

Living in a community where young people had freedom to make choices and take decisions and where communication was open and honest confirmed our belief in their potential. We made mistakes, but we internalised a view of young people based not merly on theory but more firmly on the day to day experience of living in freedom.

We owe a great debt to John, Morag and Kilquhanity for the insights we gained that subsequently dovetailed into our professional life. Eventually it enabled me to establish a school for delinquents that incorporated the Kilquanity ethos.

It's not only the kids who learn at Kilquhanity; the staff learn too.


Chapter One
Founding a Free School in Scotland
by John Aitkenhead

" were boys and girls of all ages and several colours and nations, living together and learning freedom, helping to make the rules of their small community. It was a new world in the context of schools, and to me it was intoxication."
John, after visiting Summerhill School in 1938

Countless visitors to the school have suggested that what is being attempted at Kilquhanity should be recorded. Dr W.M. Boyd, who instituted the degree in Education at Glasgow University, warned me in the 1940's that I was doing only half a job unless I was saying in print what we were doing here. On a visit during the war, when his son was a pupil at the school, J.F. Hendry, the Scots novelist and poet, thought he would come back one day and write about it. He never did. The late lamented R.F. Mackenzie, possibly the most visionary of headmasters within the state system of schooling in Scotland, suggested the simple title for a book he thought I should write:
The Kilquhanity Story. Like A.S. Neill, he somehow or other found time to write and publish several books about his ideas and work. Maybe I've always been too close to the trees to see the wood, too busy in the life of the school to stand back and write about it.

Anyway, the following pages are not The Kilquhanity Story; and this contribution to a joint effort is not so much an introduction to an account of what we have been promoting here as a background to a composite statement of the Kilquhanity experience.

There is a kind of family feeling shared by people who have come up through the school together, and of course this will be stronger in a boarding school. I don't think Kilquhanity is unique in this respect, but there is no question that something quite special was engendered and enjoyed here in the early years, and seems to have continued, in spite of inevitable changes. On the face of it this something should be worth exploring. In fact it has proved elusive; perhaps the method employed in compiling the material published here will help in the search.

Two years ago Radio Scotland broadcast a profile of The Rebel Dominie. The piece was almost wholly taken up with my life and work here since 1940, and was occasioned by the proximity of the Jubilee year of the school. However, the producer, Terry Anderson, a skilled and sensitive Irishman, had done his homework and contacted men and women who knew me from before the days of the school as well as from within and without Kilquhanity, in order to flesh out the bare bones of the life story or the likeness. And of all the observations and opinions expressed, I think the simple statement by Richard Jones was the most significant in the context of the present publication. What he said looks back to the start, it states the present position and probably spells out, even if unconsciously, the conditions that will attend any future which the school may have. "Quite simply," Richard said, "considered rationally, what John and Morag did in 1940 was impossible. What's more, it's still impossible, given the same point of view." Now, not only are we not boasting of what we have done; in fact I dare say we frequently despaired. Yet here we are, completing a stint of 50 years and with hopes that what we have established will continue.

In my opinion the truth of the matter is, as frequently the truth proves to be, something of a paradox: impossible situations are not only possible, they are inspiring. The rational view is very much less than the whole or complete picture. Moreover, inspiration is infectious. The human situation that emerges from difficulty and hardship is potentially rich in friendship. In general, the human spirit turns out to be the force that can move mountains. But one needs help; human beings need one another, and I doubt if a clearer example of this could be found than our early experience here and our experience since.

That people were inspired to help establish a free school in the war years was evidence of a general idealism abroad. Men and women in the armed forces were similarly inspired. Young people joined up in what many of them must have thought was a moral crusade. Anyway, with no promise and little likelihood of material reward, men and women, hearing about a new international school promoting the arts and eschewing violence, found their way to Kilquhanity, inspired or challenged by the war situation. And, almost unplanned, the school that started with no pupils at all soon had half a hundred. Exciting, exhilarating, stimulating times, learning times. Academic skills found their real level, their true worth, and we worked together and learned to live together, young and old, male and female, schooled and unschooled, skilled and unskilled. It was like a village, or, rather, an extended family or clan. Only there always seemed to be a specially high input of positive happy creative energy, the hallmark, in my opinion, of youngsters who are trusted, particularly when, for lack of money and the usual hardware of schools, improvisation is the name of the game.

On reflection I am realising that in those days we were almost a working model of the London experiment in human development that had excited me in the 1930's. In Peckham, at his pioneer Health Centre, Scott Williamson, a Scottish biologist and doctor, had been finding out by trial and error the optimum conditions for family health, that is, the growth and development, physical, emotional and social, of all the members of families, from infant to adult. I remember his own shock and surprise, and that of his colleagues, when they discovered after patient investigation over many months, that their swimming pool and gymnasium could have twice as much use and, further, be wholly accident free when unsupervised in the ordinary sense, without instructors. His surprise, and my own excitement on reading his account at the time, come back to me. He does not use the word freedom, or free, but he was spelling out real freedom, with responsibility and accountability embraced by concerned adults as well as by children. And that was the key. Their term was "strict anarchy" and the whole story is told in The Peckham Experiment. 

Back to our own experience at that time - quite a parallel actually. Suddenly, the small radical school, the smallest (by a long chalk) really "comprehensive" school in the country, more or less collapsed. This was when, as they say, hostilities ended. Children who had come to Kilquhanity, we supposed, for education, had in fact been sent here for evacuation, and were now removed. The remainder numbered only a dozen or so boys and girls, and of course we should have shut up shop, sold up, closed down. Why we did not is still something of a mystery. Schumacher's "Small is beautiful" had not yet been presented as a slogan but there must have been some germ of survival at work among us.

The years between the end of the war and 1962 saw no official history of the school (except, perhaps, in the ever expanding dossier built up by visiting inspectors!) but that year saw publication of The Independent Progressive School and the invitation for me to contribute a chapter on Kilquhanity. This let me accept Dr Boyd's challenge and say in print what we had been doing (and finding out) in our first 21 years. That chapter was the first published statement of any length about the school and as such provides an authentic background for these memories of former pupils and staff members.

The story of those 21 years is one of survival, actual material survival. What emerges, however, seldom suggests a grim struggle, but rather, on the contrary, enjoyment. Another paradox: the chapter actually finishes with a definition of education I had come to accept and which I still think of as the simplest and yet most profound statement in this context about human beings of all ages. "Education is the generation of happiness". It is not the pursuit of happiness; it is the involvement in activities and relationships, the creative work that nourishes the human spirit. (The word education is from the Latin word educare, to nourish.) Real, demanding situations abounded throughout these years. Kids frequently found themselves faced with the planning and building of the school. All the arts and crafts and skills involved made for real learning situations. The school farm was real. Adults and kids shared all kinds of work on a basis of equality. The weekly meeting was real, dealing with actual living situations. All this was conducted in an atmosphere of freedom and underpinned by the principle of freedom, so that learning proceeded in relaxed situations - an essential for success.

I find this has become a statement of first principles, which, well established by the time we came of age in 1961, continues to guide us. I think it worth remembering that the central idea is very much older than school.

A quote from the Scots poet, Barbour, of the 14th century, seems appropriate here:

"Freedom is a noble thing.
Freedom makes man to have liking"

In 1962 I wrote, with apologies to Mark Twain:

"Once upon a time there was a group of kids and grown-ups
who lived in a lovely old house in the country, with a farm;
and they had a 'free' school: and it was all fun and games; but
it was a long time ago and I forgot what country it was in"

Chapter Two
Getting Going on the Business of War

"The school started 21 years ago. It started with one kid, then two, then three, and so on. In the art room was a big haystack. Mike's room was the duck house. The Kindergarten was a garage. Toto and Bob's room was a coal house. The stable was a stable and Bill's room was a workshop. The junior's com was the pottery. The pottery was the store room. With so few kids it was more like a family and the kids could have more freedom than they have now. There was no door in the top landing kitchen, so the kids ran around the house. The upstairs was up was Bill's office, where he did the book-keeping. In the summer they would run short of water, so they had to pump the water from the pump in the old sand pit in front of the red house."

Elizabeth Carmichael 1962

A Brief Autobiography
by Hedley Drabble

I was born in 1919. To save you calculating, that means I was 70 last year. My father was a school teacher of the old traditional sort. When he married at 38 years of age he was 16 years older than my mother. He was my mother's second choice - her first, I think, a true love affair prohibited by her father. My father used to say he had released her from bondage into freedom.

These parents were relatively progressive for the 1920's. They were Humanists. They read Shaw. They joined the John O'London's Literary Circle (through which I later met some quite revolutionary friends). At one time they followed Eustace Miles and we were vegetarians for a while. I was brought up on Dickens, Ballantyne, and R.L. Stevenson. But Freud, Jung and Adler were relatively unheard of. The word psychology wasn't in our vocabulary. Academic achievement was the be-all and end-all in the rearing of myself and my two younger brothers. We didn't have sisters. Sex wasn't exactly a dirty word but it was taboo until I qualified academically for a profession.

Morag and John offered an atmosphere of freedom to staff and pupils alike. I have often wondered if they knew what they were letting themselves in for. All important social decisions, rules and regulations were made at the weekly Council Meeting on a Saturday evening. (I have no doubt they still are for this was the foundation of Kilquhanity's educational philosophy.) The Council Meeting, followed by the week's activities, were a very futuristic version of what nowadays might be known as group therapy, except that it was so much more worse than that. It didn't just indulge in hourly sessions once or twice a week, but was a way of life which went on all the time.

The three years I spent there, partly as farm hand, partly as teacher of math's and science, and for the last few months as cook, were the most momentous of my life. I was introduced to Wilhem Reich's Function of the Orgasm, a revolutionary new theory and outlook on psychological behaviour. I painted and decorated. I milked cows. I thumped the dining room piano for the Saturday night 'hop' after the Council Meeting. I made 'crunchie' rabbit pie and real porridge (cooked overnight in a haybox) all for 30 or 40 residents. I edited a weekly wall newspaper in which I wrote people's horoscopes under the heading Professor Phosphoresco Forecasts, composed of the most ambiguous drivel. This was the first thing ladies of the staff used to rush and read. Do you remember - Morag, Nan, Isa? You were the only 'fans' I ever had. All in all a conglomeration of memories and experiences, some light-hearted but many personal, painful and heart searching.

And now an autobiographical epilogue. Kilquhanity has to be judged by its results. I left, eventually, feeling that I had become part of the furniture. I had reached that point where I had absorbed all that Kilquhanity could offer me and given all that I could to it. After experience of a travelling theater company and another progressive school, I went to Goldsmith's College for a formal teacher training course. I had lost my exam phobia and achieved a first class certificate in 1952. I married Joan in 1953. In 1958-9 I took a year's course in Child Development at London University's Institute of Education and again had little difficulty in earning a resultant Diploma. In 1959 Joan and I adopted an 18 month old daughter who proved to have a personality disorder. Together Joan and I reared her, backed by the psychological insights I had learned at Kilquhanity. Today Joan knows more and has read more about psychology than I have. She says it was I who introduced her to psychology. I repeat in turn that it was Kilquhanity who taught me about it.

With insight it has been interesting for me to discover that I have had a lurking subconscious ambition to get even with my father. The way to do this was to become a better headmaster myself. My father died in 1960, when I was deputy head, and it was not until three years later that I did get the headship of a south London primary school under the ILEA. One member of the board who appointed me had knowledge of Kilquhanity and I am convinced that my experience there contributed very much to my success at the interview.

I held that post for 18 years and retired in 1981, three years before I had to. I was fairly progressive, conventional head who loved children and, I like to think, understood the needs and to some extent the personalities of the staff. I had a bias towards the understanding of underprivileged children. I enjoyed my 18 years and had no ambitions beyond that post. I retired early partly because the present sad climate in state education was beginning to rear its ugly head.

I began by saying I was 70. I have just referred to my retirement. John and Morag must be in their late 70's and after 50 years have still not considered retiring. Out of the fullness of their lives they have, in the last 50 years, added a great deal to the fullness of many other lives. I was at Kilquhanity for some five years in its first decade. No doubt many material things have changed in the meantime. But the spiritual things of the mind and heart obviously have not. Thank you, John and Morag, on behalf of the hundreds of people whose lives have been as enriched by your inspired enterprise.

Arthur Harrison
Kilquhanity, a small private school in Galloway, has changed the lives of many people, and in my own case restored my faith in education. From a shipyard background in Tyneside it was my ambition to be a teacher, and having taken an arts degree at Durham University I took a teaching diploma and did a year's student teaching, which convinced me I'd rather starve than teach. A Franciscan organisation, The Brotherhood of the Way, otherwise the Tramp Preachers, were holding meetings on Newcastle Town Moor, basing their teachings on the Sermon on the Mount, with its emphasis on pacifism and anti-capitalism and I was happy to throw in my lot with them and live by this gospel, holding meetings at market places and street corners, mainly in Scotland. Through Mrs White of the Peace Pledge Union I heard that help was needed to prepare Kilquhanity House to become a school. I went down to give practical help, cleaning and painting, and was there when John's American partners arrived. Shortly after I was asked to join the staff and as pupils gradually arrived, my interest in teaching revived. Later on I found the teaching so satisfying that I refused to be directed to work on a neighbouring farm and for doing this eventually went to prison in Dumfries, for what was to be a year but was later shortened to three months. I always remember the kindness of our local village bobby, Tom Tait, who even paid my bail on one occasion and who also showed great sympathy to Dorothy Nadin, another staff member who had to go to prison I Glasgow as a conscientious objector.

Though, later, near the end of the war, we decided to move down to another and much bigger progressive school in Kent, started at the same time as Kilquhanity, and years after that came on a holiday visit to the school in the Cotswolds where by then Bill and Kate were working and accepted an invitation to join the staff there, liking the look of the countryside so much, never regretting the decision in spite of some difficulties afterwards. I always remember the Kilquhanity period as a happy and creative time when we made many good friends. Now it is a pleasure when to return to Galloway, though Bill is sadly missed.

Forty-four Years ago
by Roger Bardwell

Castle Douglas could be reached by rail in those days and it seemed a long journey from the south of England. Then a taxi was needed for the final stage. Arriving at Kilquhanity just before the start of the 1946 summer term, I really had no idea what to expect. There had been some preliminary correspondence, leaving a vague impression that I would teach English, French and Music, but it now appeared that different services would be required. "Can you do anything practical: decorating, carpentry, gardening? Anything domestic: cooking, cleaning, washing-up?" Rashly I revealed that I had taken a catering course during the war and that I had recently been employed as cook at another school. This sealed my fate and I spent most of the next few months in the kitchen, with an occasional change of scene while I carried buckets of water from a pump near the Wee House and tipped them into a storage tank at the top of the Big House, prolonged drought having interrupted the main supply.

Food rationing was still in force and unrationed items were expensive, so the provision of adequate meals demanded ingenuity beyond the range of normal culinary skills. One favourite dish was a sort of toad-in-the-hole made from a few bacon rashers chopped up and stirred into a batter consisting solely of flour, salt and water. This situation resulted in what I believe was the only departure from the community's basic principles of individual freedom and mutual trust - the larder was locked.

Meanwhile, other members of staff were also resourcefully overcoming problems in their own special fields. The work was very hard and the hours were long, but we looked forward to our remuneration of ten shillings at the end of the week. In spite of the practical difficulties, education went ahead and even the cook found time to teach his chosen subjects. As before during great moments of mankind's history, the fight for survival became a source of inspiration to writers and artists and the consequent flowering of creative activity was nowhere more evident than in the main hall of the Big House. Here two 'wall newspapers' faced each other: The Gargoyle edited by John A; and The Blarney edited by me. The editors maintained a friendly rivalry in their search for talented contributors, and published many sensational items, including verses in Latin, French and Gaelic, and strip cartoons that extended over weeks and yards. The lines reprinted above give a vivid and comprehensive account of what life at Kilquhanity was really like in those hectic and pioneering days.

That far-off time remains memorable also for personal reasons. A young woman named Leland joined the staff the same week as I did, and one year later we married. Although we then left Kilquhanity, I returned in 1953 to make the first film about the school. After that I didn't se Kilquhanity again until 1981, but I kept in touch through the intervening decades, and when in 1962 The Broadsheet began its remarkable career, I became a regular reader.

It gives me a feeling of security to be associated for a long time with a successful creative enterprise, and when that enterprise is an educational establishment inspired by life-enhancing ideals one must believe that there is hope for future generations.

As staff meetings and Council Meetings reveal, we don't all agree with every aspect of the Kilquhanity set-up, but few would not rejoice at the way the school has survived and gone from strength to strength, often despite fearful odds. Of course this survival must be largely attributed to the faith and stamina of the two people who launched the enterprise 50 years ago and who are still wonderfully at the helm. In June 1965 John wrote to me: " ... we are 25 years old this year. To celebrate this Morag and I would like to run away for a couple of weeks inside this term. Maybe we'll manage it. Or run away, full stop!" And in October 1989: "I'm so busy I can't believe it. No regular teaching, but in spite of that reduction in commitment, what with one thing and another I'm up to my eyes. So is Morag. We can't of course go on for ever or even indefinitely. But how does one manage the escape?" Latest reports suggest that they have, after all, decided to go on indefinitely, if not for ever.

Jacqueline Mckie
I suppose I could be said to be a product of free school education as, apart from a very short time at a private school in London, my school life was all within the free school orbit. When I was 10 years old I started at the Russell School, and went on to Dartington two years later - because there were few older children at Beacon Hill. I was sent to Kilquhanity when my father felt that Dartington was a dangerous place in those war time days of invasion fears. Scotland seemed safely remote. I was not greatly pleased with the move at the age of 15.

Now, nearly 50 years on, I am delighted that I had the chance to experience Kilquhanity, particularly in its beginnings. Of the staff who were there then, half a dozen and their descendents are amongst the people I care most about in the world. Academically I learned a bit and could probably have learned more had I applied myself more; but I learned things about living and about other people I hadn't thought about before. This was partly due to the personalities of a dedicated and gifted group of young teachers, and partly from the real attempt to live as a small community.

The parts played by John and Morag Aitkenhead have been unique. John's ability to relate to inspire children of all ages, over so many years, has been wonderful and would not have been possible without Morag's quieter, but just as essential, organising and administrative ability.

Among its positive virtues Kilquhanity has a real talent for celebration. The memories of those mid-summers and Hallowe'ens is a joy. To see the kids and staff preparing for these is to see a real outpouring of creative energy and co-operation - a pretty rare thing in the world today. Is Kilquhanity still needed? I would say that it is, particularly in this Thatcher Ice Age. The world needs magic, and that is what, at its best, Kilquhanity has always had.

A thing which I have never entirely understood is that although I have never overcome a fear of the dark, at Killy the darkness held no terrors and I always felt safe.

I felt almost adult when I first went to the school and I think all experience and hereditory factors makes us what we are, not just part of the experience. But I do think that the things I learned at Kilquhanity have helped me, particularly in teaching and relating to kids.

Of course Kilquhanity had its imperfections. I was fortunate in the fact that there was a fairly stable staff group. That the school has not been able to pay enough or have the kind of career structure to keep young teachers for long has been a weakness, and has added difficulties for the future. It is now essential to look at financial possibilities. It is obvious that the ideals and educational values of Kilquhanity are the most important things but it must be made possible at least for the staff to have their National Insurance contributions paid. People can choose to do a job that they love for very little money, but to ask them to jeopardise any security in their old age is asking too much. Nevertheless, it would be a tragedy if means were not devised whereby this unique approach to education could be maintained within the Scottish education scene.

Nan Harrison
After a year of wartime, the idea of coming to help John to start a school on Summerhill lines was exciting, especially as my family on both sides were from Galloway. I was born in Castle Douglas and reared in Ayrshire, so I had a feeling of home coming. This was a bit upset by my first meeting that day with John's proposed partners, Felix and Argyll, I suppose it would be called a culture shock now. But Arthur was there too, having been enlisted to help in cleaning up the house, and he was reassuring. Then next day John arrived with Morag and small Neill, and life became normal since they were old friends. It had been an act of faith, for my six year old son, Beris, was the first pupil and not a paying one except for my work. At first we all worked just for our keep, later for five shillings a week, and finally by the time Arthur and I left about five years later, it was up to ten shillings.

The first school tradition was soon made in the Hallowe'en party, always my favourite, maybe because it also celebrated Morag's birthday and mine. That first New Year party was mainly memorable for the effect Argyll's sloe gin had on everyone! Then the first spring brought the thrilling sight of masses of snowdrops and then the little daffodils all over the grounds, such riches. I sent off shoe boxes of each to my town bound parents.

Of course the first visit by A.S. Neill was also memorable. He said he envied us being at the start of a school project, with all the idealism that reminded him of his own early days. He told funny stories in his lovely voice, the only stories I have ever remembered. But his theory that perhaps we were pacifists because we disliked our fathers seemed wide of the mark. Besides Neill, an early New Year celebration brought Chris Grieve and Jankel Adler and that certainly stands out for exciting talk, song and poetry, though I had known Chris and Jankel already in Glasgow.

The first senior group was one that I feel must have been hard to beat at any time in the school's long history. As well as Michael Grieve, there were Jackie Gordon and Ian Richardson, both coming to us from Dartington, Val Mitchison from Carradale and Hilda Higgons from a pacifist community in Yorkshire; great debaters all, and quite intimidating really. Then the three Black children were a strong group. Their parents took strong interest in the school and their lives were quite changed by it I'm sure. Jimmie Black helped in financial matters, being a banker.

I was housemother to a group of boys that had at its core my son Beris, Mac Black and Eric Jamieson, the Three Musketeers, I think they called themselves. This job was a pleasure, though I was sorry no girls of the right age turned up. I was also in charge of the library, and became very good at discovering bargain books to augment it. Later I did all the school washing too, by choice, liking a job I could do on my own. No washing machine then, nor have I ever wanted one. My centre was the Blue bathroom, a peaceful haven.

The work was tiring but we seemed to have lots of energy then, even for table tennis for hours after the children were asleep. For the first time I enjoyed a competitive game. Bill and Arthur were experts and the pace furious. Bill always hoped to convert Morag and me to team games but he never managed that. One of his few failures I imagine. He was a great person in the school in so many ways, acting, singing, teaching English and math's, as well as being expert in games of all sorts. Also he was universally loved for his fairness. Personally I found even washing up with him a real pleasure, enlivened by sea shanties in the tiny pantry. Kate came later, and her German classes for staff mainly by the way of songs that I still remember so well, were also a pleasure. So were Arthur's classes in carpentry and wood carving. One day a huge tree fell, nearly reaching our fragile garage home, and it happened one day when I'd just run round there for something during break; most scary. It turned out to be a walnut tree, and this set Arthur off on a most unexpected wood carving career. Such activity with the children, and some staff wanted to learn too.

This garage, opposite byre, Arthur made good to live in but I always missed having a real fire, and only achieved this much later when we moved into the nursery for an impending birth.

Before that, though, I recall the time waiting for Morag's child to be born upstairs in the top flat. A midwife had moved in and visitors were barred. At last John ran down to announce it was a girl and was to be called Val; either for the day or after Val Mitchison, I never really knew which.

What a pleasure it was to get to know Naomi Mitchison then. Her books were great favourites of mine, especially The Corn King from which I had chosen my son's name, Beris. I told Naomi this shyly, and she said, "I did wonder" and seemed pleased.

One hot summer afternoon, I recall I was the only staff member around - because of a long night discussion people had decided to have naps - not a usual situation. So I had to entertain a young officer, an Englishman, Hilton Stowell, who appeared, having just gone through the ordeal of opting out of the army and declaring himself a pacifist. He came to work in the school later and there met Jessie Grant who had come for the New Year party with Jankel Alder. Over washing up of the New Year glasses it seems she and Hilton fell in love. They were such different types. Jessie was a great asset to the school, and the only person I have met who could study Russian grammar while doing vegetables.

The only things I did not enjoy were the weekly Saturday night dances - the only person in all the school's history who didn't, I expect - and the porridge.

In spite of later complications I wouldn't have missed going to help at the beginning for anything. Once would have to write a volume to cover all the memories adequately. It is difficult to believe how long ago it all happened.

Fermain Milne
Spending eight years at Kilquhanity gave me the opportunity to grow up with the need for independent thinking. It encouraged me to look at different views of life and assess them for myself rather than going along with the majority view. This has stayed with me as an adult and has proved to be both a blessing and sometimes a problem.

The first hurdle after leaving was a conventional day school. Here everyone tried to conform with their peers and I found it hard to fit in at first, appearing very naive and too trusting. Their rules for living seemed wrong to me: they had no team spirit. After the initial shock I enjoyed being with my new companions and go on especially well with the teachers. But I never came to terms with the need for competitive learning, which often produced cheating and insecurity.

By the principles of self-government Kilquhanity teaches people to be tolerant and to accept that other people do have different opinions from one's own. We all have a right to make our own decisions and to be responsible for our own actions. We learn this through example in our social setting. Democracy is the key to good staff/kid relationships.

Kilquhanity fosters concern for others. As an adult this no doubt led to my long-term jobs being ones caring for others, such as counsellor to disadvantaged families. Being a member of a team and sorting things out is second nature to me because of the experience of weekly meetings at Kilquhanity. These meetings were examples of positive thinking.

Kilquhanity has given me a love of art, the need for a peaceful environment and the contentment to do without many material trappings. The time, care and love shown by John, Morag and staff to the kids created a happy family. I think fondly of Killy for it is always a precious part of me.


Not yet complete - please call back to this page, as more material is still to be added from the Kilquhanity Jubilee book. Not every word will be reproduced, but I hope enough to give a flavour of the Kilquhanity experience. It is now May 2002, and will take me some months to add all the information from this fine book.

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