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7th December 2018

At the time of writing last week, we were anticipating the inaugural Abbey Park Relay, an initiative of Mr Inwood’s, who himself was an exceptional runner in his school days. Congratulations to Home on winning the first Abbey Park Relay, and well done to all runners who took part, from Form 3 to Form 8.
 
As ever, it was a pleasure welcoming Reverend Pip Blackledge to St. Mary’s on Monday morning. Reverend Blackledge volunteers at the Galashiels Food Bank and he spoke of several characters and the unfortunate circumstances that have led them to rely on such a wonderful charity. Not one person, young or old, in the Morrison Hall could have failed to be touched by these stories, and I am heartened to report that the St. Mary’s community contributions to the Food Bank have been numerous throughout the week. On behalf of Rev Blackledge, I express my thanks.

In keeping with the community spirit, Miss McRae, Mrs Currie, Miss Renwick, Mrs Fresle, and Mrs Davis escorted Pre-Prep to Priorwood Court to sing Christmas Carols. As you would imagine, their visit was hugely enjoyed by the residents, who joined in and sang along with hearty gusto. It is simple acts like these that provide so much happiness to all involved, whether they be young or old, and the value of such a get-together can never be overestimated. 
Meanwhile, back here at school, Kindergarten prepared for their own Carol Service. Though it was many decades ago, I recall the build-up to Christmas as a 3-year-old. It seemed endlessly magical, and our Kindergarten staff, who will be working on through to the 21st December, are as energetic now as they were when they returned to school back on 16th August. They are truly marvellous, and who better to provide lifelong magical memories of the build-up to Christmas. To add to the excitement, a much fitter-looking Santa Claus than the traditional model called in to distribute presents amongst the Kindergarten children. We thank him for this minor detour from his extremely busy schedule. 

 priorwood court
 
An equally generous group appeared to discuss their children’s progress as we met with Form 8 parents later that evening. Our top year are striding forward apace, and impressing us with their hard work and the joie de vivre for which this form class are renowned.
 
Whilst there has been a minor flurry of sickness amongst some of our pupils, it made the decision to cancel Wednesday’s fixtures all the easier. A frosty morning with rain forecast meant the prospect of damp games kit in freezing temperatures was just too much to ask of already tired pupils. Instead of preparing pitches and putting out corner flags, Mr Bell had the privilege of erecting our Christmas tree in the Hamilton Building and putting up decorations in the Sanderson Building. Whilst this is not straightforward, I think Mr Bell appreciated the opportunity to carry out some work with enthusiastic company, and in a much warmer environment than usual. 
 
Thursday’s programme culminated in our Form 4s, many Form 5s and a range of senior pupils joining Melrose Primary School pupils to make up the cast of the Clic Sargent Nativity taking place in Holy Trinity Church. Also amongst our number were ponies, goats, and

dogs, including a one-eyed pug: these animals represented the 4-legged population that was reported to have been in attendance at the birth of baby Jesus. Reverend Blackledge, Miss McRae, Mrs Davis, and Mrs Robertson accompanied the cast on the organ and the piano whilst the familiar story unfolded. I am delighted to report that not only did all children, animals, and parents behave themselves, but that the standard of singing, narration, and acting was as good as we have seen at this now-annual event. Mrs Innes rightly glowed with pride that all her hard work in pulling this performance together paid off, and an appreciative Mrs Julie Miller from Clic Sargent spoke to the congregation about the outstanding contribution Clic Sargent Borders continues to make to this vital Children’s Cancer Charity. The broken floorboard and the odd new stain on Reverend Blackledge’s church carpet paled into insignificance when hearing of all the wonderful work the Clic Sargent people carry out. Reverend Blackledge also glowed with pride as his gamble in hosting the evening certainly paid off.
 

clic sargent

clic sargent 1

clic sargent 2

Photographs courtesy of Chris Strickland
 
This morning we spoke of the successful evening the night before, and I congratulated St. Mary’s pupils on their contribution, not least Emily D for her narration, and Imogen, Willa, and Lucy who gave a memorable performance of Silent Night. Miss Simpson gave an address on the traditions behind Christmas trees, and she spoke of quirky family traditions in the Simpson household: these stimulated knowing nodded responses from all around the Morrison Hall. It seems the Simpsons are not the only ones to hang generations-old decorations on their tree and apply a strict rota to the hanging of baubles and tinsel to avoid any pushing and shoving. Miss Simpson also went on to talk of how the tradition of bringing a Christmas tree into homes was possibly started by Martin Luther, who wanted his family to enjoy the sparkling light between the branches of a tree he had seen, as he walked home one dark night, the glimmering light representing Jesus. But Miss Simpson also added that bringing greenery into homes at winter time has been a tradition amongst many cultures, religions and countries for thousands of years. It is believed such a tradition serves as a reminder that spring always comes next after a hard winter.

As I write, Mr Mathieson’s “elves” are scurrying around the corridors as they prepare the Friends of St. Mary’s Winter Wonderland that will see our pupils benefit from this afternoon. I reminded the pupils in assembly that all the Friends’ hard work deserves their gratitude and a degree of composure, despite the inevitable sugar rush that goes hand-in-hand with children who have money in their pockets and free rein to spend it! Following the Winter Wonderland, we will gather outside Abbey Park next to the superb Christmas tree donated by the Greens and as ever, we will be joined by the Jedburgh Brass Band to accompany us in singing traditional carols.  
 
Most pupils will head off after the carols by the tree, but the intrepid Mrs Rawson and her tireless boarding team will then be coordinating the GAP Surprise. This will involve a fun evening activity, yet to be revealed, and an overnight stay for 37 boarders. They will be treated to a lie-in and breakfast before being collected by parents tomorrow morning, when I am sure they will enjoy recounting the exciting day and evening they have had since leaving home on Friday morning. 
 
This time of year always requires pupils, staff, and parents to call upon their energy reserves, and I never cease to be amazed at the endless supply of willingness our staff show in their attempts to make the lead-in to the end of term special. I am sure you will all join me in expressing your gratitude for their efforts. 
 
Finally, the elephant in the room is of course our country’s future, which may well be part decided on Tuesday. This is a nervous time for us all, and as best we can as educators, we have attempted to discuss Brexit and its implications with our senior pupils, from an apolitical standpoint. To lighten the tone somewhat, I referred to the comments of a friend of mine from Ulster recently. It was said that Ulster folk have a soft spot for those who pushed and voted for Brexit – it is a wee peat bog south of Crossmaglen!
 
Have a good weekend.
 
HM
 


Jules Birdsall, 07/12/2018

 

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