25th January 2019

On Monday morning, I took the opportunity to tell the story of “Nubs”, the mongrel dog that, amongst a pack of other feral strays, scavenged for food around the perimeter of a US Army Border fort between Iraq and Jordan back in 2007. Nubs stood out in the pack, not least because of the stumps where his ears had been, before being cut off by heartless locals who set dogs to fight each other, with gambling at the root of such cruelty. It was the US Marines who nicknamed him Nubs, and Major Brian Dennis grew particularly attached to this unsightly, waiflike specimen. It was Major Dennis who found Nubs seriously injured, having been stabbed with a screwdriver, and it was Major Dennis who persuaded the medical officer to operate on the animal to save its life.

With Oscar by my side in assembly, as a visual aid and to further emphasise the value of such a close bond between dog and human, I went on to tell how Major Dennis was then transferred to another base 75 miles away, and was not granted permission to take Nubs with him. A heart-breaking farewell, followed by a 75 mile journey across desert-like terrain, saw Major Dennis trying to come to terms with the separation. To the astonishment of the troops who were transferred alongside Major Dennis, Nubs appeared two days later at the new base perimeter, having followed on foot the scent of his adoring adopted owner.
Major Dennis was then granted special permission to fly Nubs home to his family in Florida, where he now exists as the adored and spoilt family pet. Quite a story, I am sure you would agree.
Having told this story, I then highlighted how the tale of Nubs and the presence of our beloved Oscar around school might lead to a false sense that all dogs are approachable, patient, and enjoy the attention of strangers. I reminded pupils that unless they know a dog very well, or have sought reassurance from an owner that it is safe to stroke a dog, they must never make that assumption.

oscar in assembly
Oscar provides great therapy around school, especially at a time of year when pupils and staff are deprived of adequate daylight. However, he cannot cure the sick, of whom we have had a significant number amongst staff and pupils this week. Thank you for your support in keeping those struck down with the vomiting virus off for two clear days beyond the last time they were sick.
An information evening about the proposed Form 7 trip this summer took place, and thank you to Mrs Hardie for organising that detailed session. Rehearsals have been ongoing and extra opportunities presented themselves as the fixtures on Wednesday fell victim to the frosted ground, both here and at away venues.

Not one to be kept inside and inactive, Mrs Bell headed off to Sedbergh on Thursday with a team of 24 cross country runners to take part in the Rawthey Run. Mr Inwood, himself a capable cross country runner, and Stefan, who runs around playing football all day, also accompanied the team. I am pleased to report our runners did the school proud. They did not quite cover quite distance Nubs did, but they did so in much harsher weather and on tougher terrain! Congratulations to cross country captain Libby B (4th out of 62 in the U13 race) and to her little sister Anna B (3rd out of 68 in the U11 race). Both U11 girls’ and U13 girls’ teams finished second in the tem events. However, all 24 runners, with another special mention for Caelan (18th out of 75), did St. Mary’s proud.
rawthey run

Today we welcomed Mr Geoffrey Stanford, who visited to give an address starting with the amazing feats of ultramarathon runner, Jasmin Paris. Jasmin Paris recently became the first female winner of the 268-mile Montane Spine Race on the Pennines, smashing the old record held by a male runner, Eion Keith. Her achievement should inspire anyone, but most importantly, she has taught us all that women are just as capable as men, and in this hugely demanding discipline, more capable. Mr Stanford then went on to describe his own experiences when he completed the Marathon Des Sables, a 251km multi-stage running event through the Sahara Desert. He used a PowerPoint presentation and some props, including the smallest fold-out stove imaginable. His message was, you can do anything if you set your mind to it… and he’s right!
We then had a second stage to assembly, with a birthday theme. This began with us singing Happy Birthday to our much-loved Gap student, Lily, and then an equally-loved Scottish Bard – Robert Burns (who was born 260 years ago).  In true Burns tradition, Mr Bell and Cheffy piped in the haggis, accompanied by Eliza, who gave a splendid Address to the Haggis. This was followed by a short reminder of how Burns measured the importance of people by the goodness in them, not by their rank and title in society. He wasn’t always a “saint” himself, but he was absolutely right in his poem “A Man’s A Man For A’ That” to mock the self-important “peacocks” that so many of Scotland’s landed gentry and Edinburgh “elite” were in the late seventeen-hundreds. As we all know, these types still feature in society today! Fittingly, assembly was closed by a young man of humility and bravery, whose courageous late father had also completed the Marathon Des Sables. Josh (after being persuaded to do so by many who believe in him, more than he believes in himself) gave a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the pipes. A fine conclusion to a very enjoyable assembly and a most productive week
Have a good weekend.    


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