11th October 2019

Many of you will have seen BBC and ITV coverage of the Tweed Forum River Champion Award.  For those who missed it, the proud and worthy recipient was Mr Rawson, for his ‘outstanding commitment’ to protecting the river (Tweed).  Mr Rawson organised and coordinated 200 people working to clear the river banks of litter and plastics.  This is part of Mr Rawson’s wider initiative ‘The Great Borders River Clean’ scheduled to take place later this month across 20 towns and six rivers in our region. 
Volunteers in Peebles, Cardrona, Galashiels, Melrose, St. Boswells, Kelso, Coldstream and Berwick upon Tweed have collected two tonnes of litter.  Chair of the Tweed Forum Mr James Hepburne Scott recognised Mr Rawson’s vital contribution to fighting plastic pollution in the river.  Mr Rawson stated that ‘plastic pollution is very much a product of our lifestyles but we are also the solution to this local and global issue’.  The school are right behind Mr Rawson, not just in providing many of the volunteers, but assisting with resources and planning time during his working week.
Another loyal servant of St. Mary’s, Mr Alan Mathieson stepped down as Chair of the Friends of St. Mary’s on Monday.  Alan has coordinated this band of superb volunteers with good humour, patience, an understanding ear and he has fostered the sense that the support of the school is paramount.  This support is not insignificant but rarely gets the publicity all the volunteers and their hard work deserve.  It was an honour presenting Alan with a gift from the school, to show the appreciation we feel for all he has done in his time on the committee.
This week’s education programme has again been packed with additional activities and field trips; Form 5 visited Merchiston Castle’s science day, Pre-Prep sang at Priorwood Court to help the elderly residents celebrate Thanksgiving, and our Thursday afternoon activities programme concluded, with another 3.5lb rainbow trout being caught, this time by Finlay one of our fly fishers.  It has been a ‘bumper’ season for Mr P’s intrepid hunters.
We are extremely grateful to Morag Dalrymple, Family Support Service Officer who came to speak to staff about young people with Down’s Syndrome.  Many staff, some of whom are part-time attended the session beyond their working hours and the main purpose of the talk was to raise awareness amongst staff who work to help young people with Down’s Syndrome realise their potential.  The session also included challenging inappropriate language and tackling negative stereotypes, as well as offering support.  The session was informative, enlightening and uplifting.
And, then came Thursday evening.  The Squad Singing competition never fails to entertain and this year was no exception.  Our junior soloists; Fergus C, Aleshya, Abi K and Miranda gave Mr Will Ogilvie Jones a fine introduction to the tone of the evening, and he was clearly impressed by the standard.  The step up to our senior performances also had him waxing lyrical.  Isaac S, Imo, Elena and Kirsty M held the audience beautifully as they sang their solos with skill, composure and a touch of humour in the case of Isaac.  Abi K and Kirsty M were the deserved winners of the two Findlay Quaichs.
We then moved on to the section of the evening that sees black market ticket ‘sales’ rocket.  Our squads, interspersed with very competitive staff put on performances of Electric Dreams, Kids in America, Mary’s Prayer and Walking in Memphis.  Pupils love having staff involved and, as I said in assembly this morning, we should recognise that amongst the staff there are natural entertainers (the ghost of Elvis) and there are those who do their bit for the Squad cause, despite significant stage phobia. 

Thanks to all pupils, staff, Miss McRae and sound technician, Dave Angus.  Particular thanks goes to the courageous Will Ogilvie Jones and congratulations to Douglas whom he chose as winners of the much-coveted Andrew Sanderson Salver.  Andy would have loved all the performances and the fun surrounding the whole evening.
As Thistles hockey and rugby trials unfold at Loretto and here at St. Mary’s this afternoon, I reflect on a splendid assembly given this morning by Fettes College Director of Teaching and Learning and St. Mary’s School Governor, Mr Alastair Armstrong.  He had researched a former St. Mary’s and Fettes College Former Pupil – Tommy Ross – who had excelled in both our schools as a sportsman and as a person, before losing his life near the end of the First World War.  Tommy Ross’ poppy features in our memorial frame that hangs in the Hamilton Building, and his name sits proudly under the memorial clock in The Morrison Hall.
Having touched on this more sombre matter, Mr Armstrong then drew the talk in to more recent times and imparted on the school that failures in sport often lead to great achievements amongst the most determined.  These ups and downs are part and parcel of the journey to excellence.  He highlighted the recent performance of 1500m athlete Jake Wightman in the final of the Athletics World Championships in Doha, and pointed out that as a school boy this formidable Fettes College former pupil had all the ingredients to go on and excel on the world stage.  The Q and A Mr Armstrong then put out to the pupils proved stimulating and interesting.
Mr Armstrong the spent time visiting classes and chatting to pupils and staff.  We are very grateful to him for his thoughtful address and for spending time getting a feel for the teaching and learning around school for a time afterwards.  

Jules Birdsall, 11/10/2019

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