6th March 2020

This time last week, we were trying to negotiate our way through what can only be described as a ‘whirlwind’ of a school day, and challenges and commitments kept coming thick and fast over the weekend.

Billy and Rachael Hamilton hosted a warm, welcoming FP Dinner on Saturday night at the Buccleuch Arms and an update on the ‘state of the nation’ was gratefully received by those in attendance.  Mr P added an amusing and informative brief on the school’s aims to celebrate St. Mary’s 125th year (which starts in September), and Billy stepped down after a solid three years as Chairman of the FP association.

It struck me as I looked around the room that several older members of the FP club all had a particular trait in common.  They demonstrate that true Borders grit that has seen this wonderful area of Scotland push on through good times and bad over the century.

How proud then, they would have been of our 34 cross-country runners who braved windy and challenging conditions at John Muir Country Park the following day.  Mrs Bell and Mr Inwood inspire the steeliest determination amongst this extra-curricular ‘club’.  These hardy pupils all have another defining factor in common, their supportive and proactive parents who turned out on mass to lend a hand.  Our runners were also lifted by Mr Rooney’s quiet, supportive presence; he is a constant, understated feature of what is best about our games, extra-curricular and boarding programmes.
Congratulations to all our runners, but particular mention goes to Aleshya for her individual bronze medal, which helped our U9 girls to a bronze for third team finish.
I suspect Aleshya may well be inspired by our U13 girls who, for the third year in a row, produced a proud and courageous 1st place team finish.  Well done to Daisy (4th), Anna (5th), Freyja (11th), Kate (14th) and Skye (26th).  Had they known about it, all might well have been inspired by Miss Simpson, who the day before was the third female finisher and 11th ‘human’ in an Edinburgh University 5K around the Meadows that saw 120 people compete.       
Over the weekend Mr Rawson drove forward with his Borders River Clean initiative. This involved over 400 people collecting over 2,000 kilogrammes of rubbish from the Tweed and its tributaries in 30 different towns and villages.  Mr Rawson has included a report below and the good work will feature in an ITV section of Border Life in the coming weeks.
Understandably, by Monday our attention turned again to Coronavirus matters, and we stepped up the process of focusing on Government advice and guidance, largely driven by the World Health Organisation and Health Protection Scotland.  Given political manoeuvres relevant to independent schools by certain members of Scottish Government over the last three years, you may be shocked to hear me speak favourably of the support we have been given in this different context.  Credit where credit is due, we are very grateful for the daily updates and advice given by Scottish Government. 
It was from this information that we made decisions about our off-site extra-curricular commitments and visits of various specialist tutors and teams to St. Mary’s throughout the week.  Form 3 went to Hawick Museum to take part in an Egyptian workshop, pre-prep enjoyed a drama workshop on Roald Dahl’s book The Enormous Crocodile with Barbara from West End Schools to Schools project, and Borders College Performance mountain bikers came in to run the first of a series of bike ability sessions with boarders and day pupils.
Whilst the middle school prepared for their fixtures, Kindergarten staff had a ‘Stay, Play and Learn’ afternoon.  This was very popular with parents and the Kindy staff said they behaved very well!

We were proud to host and honour fixtures against Craigclowan on Wednesday.  Our friends in Perthshire have shown fortitude, courage and huge dignity in pressing on with this week’s commitments after the tragic bicycle accident that saw their much loved member of staff Adam Pattinson lose his life last Friday.  If by restoring a semi-normal routine for their staff and pupils St. Mary’s helped in anyway, then that is something we are proud of.  Adam was liked and hugely respected by all the St. Mary’s community our sympathies go out to his family and to the Craigclowan community.

The start of a two-day celebration of World Book ‘Day’ began on Thursday with Forms 3 and 4 following ‘Mrs Trunchball’ and ‘Wally’ around the school, in various entertaining outfits.  The outstanding effort in my opinion was simple, and accurate.  Hector came as Tin Tin, and whenever asked where ‘Snowy’ was, he produced a toy version of him from under his sky blue knitted sweater!
The tireless Mrs Hardie headed took representatives of her debating team to Cargilfield to compete in the Prep Schools’ Debating Championship, on Thursday afternoon.  On return, our six had given a very good account of themselves and narrowly missed out on retaining the cup.
Here are some photos of the wonderful costumes – more photographs can be seen on the website

St. Mary’s had the considerable privilege of welcoming Mr Goodenough, Mr Dundas, Mr Walker and Mrs Marshall who brought with them the Fettes College Chamber Choir to put on a short concert in the Morrison Hall.  We heard excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem amongst other pieces, and our middle and senior school pupils could not have sat more still and quietly as the thirty something strong choir (including FP Alex Fraser) gave a sample of the full concert they will be putting on in a week’s time.  This will be at St. Cuthbert’s Cathedral, Edinburgh at 7:30pm and is free to get in.
This morning in assembly we welcomed; Spider Man, Goldilocks and her three bears, Cruella de Ville, Dennis the Menace, the BFG, two trolls, Oor Willie, Little Red Riding Hood, ‘Bunny Maitland-Carew (tentatively linked to Watership Down!), Asterix, Gussy Finknottle, the Crocodile that Couldn’t Swim, Dog Man, Peter Rabbit and many other famous characters from books.  I am pleased to say that all this temporary distraction was for a good cause.
We had insisted on Forms 3 and 4 delaying their departure for the Victoria and Albert Museum to take part in the Benedetti music workshop because it was important that they enjoy the dressing up efforts of others, as others had done of them, the day before.  However, the best reason for them being in assembly was to listen to Mr Brown’s address.  Our esteemed Form 5 Form Tutor and teacher of Geography, History, Games and Common Entrance Theology, Philosophy and Religion gave a moving, interesting and inspiring account of his own school, university and career journey to date.

For those of you who do not know, Mr Brown is an ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland and speaks movingly of the trials he faced as a schoolboy and how he overcame these.  As you might imagine, you could have heard a pin drop in the Morrison Hall, and the occasional tear in the eye reflected recognition of the journey this young man has travelled to become an exceptional schoolteacher.  He left us with three clear points to consider in all of our continued endeavours:
Take responsibility for your own learning.  Do not look to blame others.
If a career path is not for you, there is no shame in changing direction.
Accept that failure is part of finding success, and move forward identifying and utilising your greatest strengths. 

This message was not just for the pupils.
To come this evening and tomorrow – Boarders silent disco this evening. (keep the noise down!), and Good luck to Mrs Wright and her team heading to the P7 hockey tournament at George Watson’s College tomorrow.
Finally, we are proud to announce Geordie M has been awarded an Academic Scholarship to Fettes College.  Congratulations Geordie.


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