13th October 2017

At Assembly on Monday, having handed out three or four mini rugby medals won the previous day at Berwick Rugby Club, I recounted a personal tale with a very clear message. As an 8-year-old, I was one of four boys from Coldstream who went down to play mini rugby for Berwick, and thoroughly enjoyed being part of a thriving junior rugby set up, run by so many brilliant and willing volunteers. However, I remembered my personal anxiety building relating to one particular warm-up routine, which involved giving a partner a fireman’s lift and running the length of the field, then swapping over and running back. This routine always made me feel very sick when being carried, and I was so worried about actually being sick, that I ended up wanting to avoid going to the sessions on a Sunday morning. At this point in my assembly, I used Archie W from Form 1 to demonstrate what a fireman’s lift is. This was particularly apt given that Archie’s dad is a fireman, and thankfully he was far more at ease with the demonstration than I would have been at his age. Getting back to the mid-1970s, I eventually plucked up the courage to tell my dad why I did not want to go anymore, and he suggested a very straightforward solution: just do the carrying and ask not to be carried. It was as simple as that. I returned to Berwick mini rugby, and loved my two years playing down at Scremerston every Sunday morning. The moral of the story is how important it is to speak about one’s worries, no matter how ridiculous they may seem, as very often there is a simple solution.
Throughout the week, some wonderful and not-so-wonderful tones have been emanating from various rooms around the school as squads conducted covert practices ahead of last night’s Squad Singing. Staff have been witnessed scurrying to and from costume cupboards, and have been moved away from the vicinity of their opponents’ official practices in the Morrison Hall. There is so much more to this competition than meets the eye!
On Tuesday, as part of their studies on Sir Walter Scott, Form 3 visited Selkirk Sheriff Court. Within the court building there is a museum dedicated to Sir Walter Scott’s time as County Sheriff, and part of the tour includes a look at the cells. Mrs Kirkness, Mrs Harvey, and Mrs Barr were very impressed with the standard of questions the pupils asked, and with their level of knowledge on their return. I called in to the class to hear of what they had learned, and left the room far wiser than I was when I entered. The progress this class has made over the last six weeks is very pleasing indeed.
On Wednesday, Pre-Prep visited Priorwood Court to celebrate Harvest Festival with some of the town’s elderly residents. Miss McRae, Mrs Davis, Mrs Currie, Miss Renwick, and Mrs Fresle reported that the Pre-Prep were wonderful, and provided most uplifting songs with actions when entertaining their delighted audience. 
Fixtures took place back here at school, at Cargilfield, and at Belhaven with mixed results, but very positive fixtures all round. Please see the website for details.

On Thursday, Form 5 took part in the Merchiston Science Day, and their enthusiasm for the activities stood out. We are most grateful to Merchiston for hosting such an enjoyable morning, and for inviting St. Mary’s. 

merchi science 

In the afternoon, the final activity session took place, thankfully avoiding heavy downpours, and concluded a fabulous six-week programme for which I would like to thank Mr Purvis, and all the staff and parents who have helped with the running of the 13 activities. That evening, the much-anticipated Squad Singing competition took place in the Morrison Hall. The black market and Facebook have been awash with skulduggery and bordering on absurd, irrepressible attempts to acquire tickets. Ms Birdsall in the office deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for her patience in dealing with the high demand over the last few weeks.
Whilst the appetite for a seat in the Morrison Hall has been difficult to manage, the standard of entertainment on show goes someway to explaining how popular this evening has become. Each of the eight soloists performed to a very high standard, and particular congratulations go to Ollie de G, the junior soloist winner, and Tegan, the senior soloist winner. As our knowledgeable and courageous judge Mrs Sarah Massey, Director of Music at Loretto, acknowledged in her summing up, the standard was extremely high. And then came the squad singing competition, in which staff played their part amongst the pupils. Whilst the standard of singing did not quite reach the heights of the solo competition, unquestionably the level of entertainment did. The greatest achievement on the evening was from the pupils who managed to contain themselves as the “responsible” adults amongst them did their utmost to win the judge’s favour and, in some cases, catch the judge’s eye! Scott were the eventual winners with their performance of ‘St Elmo’s Fire’. It was lovely having Lord and Lady Sanderson attend the evening, and not just because they donated the Squad Singing Andrew Sanderson Salver in memory of their son Andrew. 
I recounted what a fabulous squad leader Andrew was here at St. Mary’s, and how he led by encouragement, example, humour, and unfailing positivity.  It seems particularly apt that the salver in his name is attached to such a fun event in the school calendar, and it was a privilege sharing my fond recollections with Lord and Lady Sanderson present.

 squad 1

This morning in assembly, Mr Brown, who has made it his responsibility to address the school every assembly that takes place on Friday the 13th, characteristically turned bad luck theories into good luck stories. Very typical of his upbeat nature, he listed many good luck emblems and attached several stories to them, such as why acorns are good luck and why ladybirds bring good fortune. His assembly was interesting and uplifting. I then had the pleasure of handing out badges provided by Mr Gibson to our “Hill Hounds”. Mr Gibson had 18 pupils take part in his fell running activity on Thursdays. Mrs Bell had also assisted, and thoroughly merited her Hill Hound badge, also presented in assembly. 
I then went on to carry out the second Accelerated Reader Scheme raffle, with 175 tickets in the pot. Particular mention of Abigail in Form 3, who had nine tickets for completing nine quizzes with no errors. Freya M is the first middle school pupil to read more 100,000 words, closely followed by Christian and Isaac B, and Maria is the first pupil to top 500,000 words, closely followed by Dicken and Antony. Miss Simpson is particularly thrilled that boys feature so strongly in all Forms in this process. Since the start of term, St. Mary’s pupils have read 8,017,298 words. We are all thrilled with this total.
Form 3 are receiving a visit from the dental nurse as I speak, and good luck to Dandylion trialists in hockey and rugby this afternoon. I sign off this half term by congratulating all our new starters on making such a positive contribution to St. Mary’s, and wish you all a very happy holiday.

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