At my school in Glasgow, I wore a neat, three-piece suit with an Eton collar and bowtie. Polished shoes and the school cap and badge completed the ensemble. My books were carried in an attaché case and I was one of 15 or 16 kids in my class who all dressed alike.
The first day at Dalmuir School, I found I was the only kid in school dressed up that way. Dalmuir was a rather rough-and-ready place, compared to Dennistoun, with no finesse and certainly no gentility. I was ragged unmercifully that first day and had to fight my way home. Needless to say, I went to school the next day with a sweater and old pants and boots the same as the rest!
That was not really the worst that happened to me at Dalmuir School. The teacher was a real sour old prune with a temperament to match. I think one of the things that bugged her a bit was the fact that in Dennistoun, we lived in a rather genteel neighbourhood, and always spoke very correct English; not the "Lowland Scots" dialect which was common in parts of Glasgow and which I found in Dalmuir. I remember being appalled at hearing two kids in the street arguing about something. I have no idea what it was about as I only heard part of it. One was saying to the other, "YE UR SO". The other said "NAW AM URNAY". Translated : Number one said, " YOU ARE SO", Number two said, "NO I AM NOT" or "NO I'M ARE NOT."
As I have described previously, after my early well-ordered years in Haghill School, it was a culture shock arriving at Dalmuir School in the late winter of 1926. Having to discard my school clothes for the less dressy, everyday casual wear affected by the scholars at Dalmuir, was the first manifestation of this shock. The second was the casual speech and grammar in common use. It was an amalgam of English, Lowland Scots dialect, and a good mixture of local idiom and slang current at the time.
My parents' origins were in different parts of Scotland. My dad's roots were in Forfar and Carnoustie and the East Coast; my mother's roots were from the Border country, Bemersyde, Melrose and around. My dad had gone to school in Carnoustie, Dublin, and Glasgow, and my mother's schooling was in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. So it was, that at home, I was accustomed to a wide mixture of idiomatic dialect from both parents. But it was used by them with a refinement and naturalness not apparent in my fellow students at Dalmuir. At Haghill school, scholars and teachers always spoke very correct, concise, well- articulated English, and "Glesca" was rather frowned on.
When I spoke in class to give answers or to read aloud passages of history or poetry, apparently I sounded a bit too refined for my listeners. Even the teacher, "Granny" Stewart, interrupted me to tell me to speak clearly. So I suspect I gradually made adjustments in my reading style to conform to the expectations of teacher and class. Later, I found that the older members of the Fraser family, who attended Alexandra Parade School in Dennistoun, all spoke with that same concise, articulated English. Helen, George, and Bessie all spoke different than the younger ones who went to Clydebank schools.
The year after arriving at Dalmuir, the dreaded "Qually" exams were held. One had to pass these exams to go on to supplementary education, Junior High in Dalmuir, or for professional courses to Clydebank High. I passed the exam handily enough and opted for a technical course, with French as my language course. Technical drawing and math were almost second nature to me, but to my surprise, I excelled in French and won several prizes. The lady who taught French actually looked very French, but, in fact, came from Annan, in Dunfrieshire. Her extra-curricular activity was tennis and she held tryouts among the students to see if any of us had any aptitude for the game.
To everyone's surprise, including my own, I was one of the half dozen she chose for further coaching. So one afternoon each week, and on Saturdays, we went to the public tennis court to learn the rules and hone our skills. Miss McCulloch was a good teacher of French and tennis and we all made progress. At one period, she gave me a present of three new balls. So after a rather unpropitious start at Dalmuir, things were improving, and I now had teachers in several fields who thought I had some promise.
The following year, 1928, was when everything came to a screeching halt. I was delivering milk in the morning, groceries in the afternoon and part-time bus conducting in the late afternoon. In the following pages, I have described the outcome of all that and the end of my working career for a time, and, of course, the end of playing tennis.
Before I leave this chapter about school, there was one fundamental difference between Haghill and Dalmuir which was important. At Haghill, we had to buy our own books, although, in the case of readers and textbooks or other reusable books, they could be bought from outgoing students. At Dalmuir, these were all the property of the school and had to be returned after the term was ended.So, as you can see, I found myself making lots of adjustments and adapting to a few things just to survive. I tried to compensate by going back to Dennistoun as often as I could raise the tram fare, but eventually, I had to let go and forget my old friends. In May 1927, my sister, Mary, was born. She was another chubby, little cutie with blonde hair and blue eyes. She, like I, had a mind of her own and we developed a rapport which I didn't really feel with any of my other siblings. To this day, I feel very close to her.