Dunfermline College of Physical Education: A personal connection

While I was off on strike I was able to spend some time finishing a project I’ve been working on for a couple of months; editing the Wikipedia page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education.  I was inspired to update the existing page by the recent Body Language exhibition at the University of Edinburgh Library which delved into the archives of Dunfermline College and the influential dance pioneer Margaret Morris, to explore Scotland’s significant contributions to movement and dance education. And the reason I was so keen to improve this page, which was little more than a stub when I started editing, is that my mother was a student at Dunfermline College from 1953 – 1956, and when she died in 2011 my sister and I inherited her old college photograph album.  

My mother was not a typical Dunfermline student. Unlike many of her fellow students, who were privately educated and went straight to the college on leaving school, my mother was educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, and after leaving school she took an office job while working her way through the Civil Service exams.  She’d been working a year or so when the college came to the island to interview prospective students, and her father suggested she apply.  Her interview was successful, and she was awarded a place and a bursary to attend the college, which at that time was in Aberdeen.  Having experienced a degree of independence before going to Dunfermline, my mother chaffed at the rigid discipline of the residential college, which expected certain standards of decorum from its “girls”.  She didn’t take too kindly to the arbitrary rules, and it’s perhaps no surprise that her motto in the college year book was “Laws were made to be broken”.  She did however make many life-long friends at college and she went on to have a long and active teaching career.

My mother worked as a PE teaching on the Isle of Lewis, first as a travelling teacher working in tiny rural schools across the island, and later in the Nicolson Institute.  She passionately believed that all children should be able to enjoy physical education, regardless of aptitude or ability, and she vehemently opposed the idea that the primary role of PE teachers was to spot and nurture “talent”.  Her real interest was movement and dance and many of the children she taught in the small rural schools where convinced she was really just a big playmate who came to play with them once a week.  Sporting facilities were pretty much non-existent in rural schools in the Western Isles the 1970s. Few schools had a gyms or playing field, so she often organised games and sports days on the machair by the beaches. The first swimming pool in the islands didn’t open until the mid 1970s and prior to that she taught children to swim in the sea, on the rare occasions it was sufficiently calm and warm.  None of the schools she taught in had AV facilities of any kind and I vividly remember the little portable tape recorded that she carried around with her for music and movement lessons.  She retired from teaching in 1987, not long after the acrimonious national teachers pay dispute.  Despite being rather scunnered with the education system by the time she retired, it’s clear that the years she spent at Dunfermline played a formative role in shaping not just in her career, but also her personal relationships and her approach to teaching. Typically, she was proud to be known as the rule breaker of her “set” and I think she’d appreciate the irony of her old pictures appearing on the college Wikipedia page. 

In order to add these images to Commons, I’m having to go through the rather baroque OTRS procedure, and I’d like to thank Michael Maggs, former Chair of Board of Wikimedia UK, for his invaluable support in guiding me through the process.  Thanks are also due to colleagues at the Centre for Research Collections, which holds the college archive, for helping me access some of the sources I’ve cited. 

One last thing….when I was producing our OER Service Autumn newsletter I made this GIF to illustrate a short news item about the Body Language exhibition. 

Garden Dance GIF

Garden Dance, CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

The gif is part of a beautiful 1950s film featuring students from Dunfermline College called Garden Dance, which was released under open licence by the Centre of Research Collections.  The film is described as “Dance set in unidentified garden grounds, possibly in Dunfermline” however when I was looking through my mother’s college album I found this picture of the very same garden, so it appears it was filmed in Aberdeen. If you click through to the film, you can clearly see the same monkey puzzle tree in the background. It was obviously something of a landmark!  I wonder if my mother is one of the dancers? 

 

There and back again

Elias Pipon’s memorial to the Droits de L’Homme, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

I’m just back from holiday and, against all the odds, our aged VW camper van made it all the way to Finistère and back without even a hiccup.  Sadly the same can’t be said for myself. I came down with a very nasty kidney infection while travelling and had to spend the first half of my holiday in hospital in France 🙁  Thank god for EU healthcare.  And thanks also to the medical staff aboard MV Armorique and at Centre Hospitalier de Pays de Morlaix.  Due to their exemplary care my holiday wasn’t a complete wash out and I made it to the beach before the week was out.

I also managed to visit Audierne Bay, the scene of the Droits de L’Homme engagement, the 19th century frigate action that was the starting point for our research into the 1797 crew of HMS Indefatigable and our subsequent book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates: The young gentlemen of Pellew’s Indefatigable.  It was a beautiful day when we visited and the beach was crowded with families enjoying the sun and children playing in the sea.  It was hard to remember that so many men lost their lives in that exact spot after the Droits de L’Homme was wrecked on the shore following the engagement.  Elias Pipon, an English artillery lieutenant who was a prisoner aboard the ship at the time, wrote a harrowing account of the shipwreck and 40 years later returned to Audierne Bay to erect a monument to the event. The beach now takes it’s name from Pipon’s memorial: Plage du Menhir.

Anyway, I’m now back at my desk and facing the inevitable post holiday e-mail backlog (967) and I’m also starting a new role at the University of Edinburgh today, but that deserves a separate blog post of it’s own!

Gaelic Wikimedian Opportunity – Tha sin direach sgoinneal!

The National Library of Scotland and Wikimedia UK yesterday announce that they are recruiting a Gaelic Wikimedian to promote the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia, Uicipeid.  The Gaelic Wikimedian will work throughout Scotland to promote the Gaelic language by training people to improve or create resources on Uicipeid.  This will include deliver training and events in the Western Isles, Highlands and central Scotland.

Uicipeid logoThe Gaelic Wikipedian will be responsible for designing and delivering a range of activities which will encourage young Gaels to improve their language skills through editing Uicipedia. They will deliver events and workshops and work with Gaelic organisations and communities to increase knowledge about Uicipedia and increase its size and usage. They will support the development of open knowledge and open licenses and prepare progress reports to assess the impact of their work on the development of Uicipeid.

~ WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian

As a Gael, a member of the Wikimedia UK Board and an advocate of open education this is a project that is very close to my heart.  I was born and brought up in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides but sadly I have very little Gaelic.  I can talk fluently to sheepdogs and very small children, but that’s about it!  I am typical of a generation whose parents and grandparents thought there was little point in passing on their language to us.  My father and my granny spoke a lot of Gaelic to me until I was about five but once I started school the Gaelic stopped, and during the 1970’s and early 80’s there was very little provision for Gaelic medium education in the Hebrides. I did one year of Gaelic in secondary school but that was it.

I now have a daughter of my own and as soon as she was old enough to start nursery I decided I wanted her to have the Gaelic medium education that was not available to me.  She is now in in her sixth year at Gaelic school, fluent in the language, and loving every minute of her education.  She also rolls her eyes in embarrassment at my woeful language skills but I can live with that.

Like many school kids, whenever my daughter is doing research for her school projects, Wikipedia is her first port of call, which obviously is something I encourage. She finds the information and references she needs and then carefully translates what she has learned into Gaelic.  It’s a bonus to find an article written in Gaelic in the first place.   It goes without saying that if Uicipeid could be expanded it would be an enormously important resource for Gaelic medium education, not just for primary school children to find facts, but for older students to gain valuable digital literacy skills.

Not only is this a wonderful opportunity for a Gaelic speaker to get involved with Wikimedia and the open knowledge community, the project also promises to be of enormous value to Gaelic teachers and learners and, perhaps most importantly, the future generations of young Gaels.

You can find out more about the post from Wikimedia UK, WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian and Obraichean Gàidhlig, Gaelic Wikipedian.

And here’s my own little contribution to Uicipeid, a photograph of Stornoway, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and  tagged in Gaelic 🙂

Stornoway Harbour

Steòrnabhagh, Eilean Leòdhais

Hearing Voices

Earlier this evening I cast my vote in the Scottish referendum.  To be honest, I’m not sure I ever thought this day would come. I felt slightly woozy when I stepped out of the front door to walk up to our polling station.  The first step on a new journey perhaps?

I was ten years old at the time of the last referendum, two years older than my daughter is now.   My memories of growing up in the Outer Hebrides and later in Glasgow in the 1970’s and 1980’s are a jumble of images and events; The Cheviot The Stag and the Black Black Oil, the oil boom years when Stornoway was filled with Norwegians gambling impossible sums at private poker parties, Scotland’s mortifying 1978 World Cup campaign, the bitter disappointment of the 1979 referendum, the Cold War and military build up in the Western Isles, the despair and disenfranchisement of the Thatcher years and the injustice of the poll tax.

But the thing I also remember is the glimmer of hope that never quite died, and the voices that still spoke out.  I remember trespassing the NATO base, Monseigneur Bruce Kent speaking passionately for nuclear disarmament at a packed public meeting in Stornoway, I remember Peter Watkins filming our local CND meeting for his magnum opus Resan, and going to watch his banned film The War Game in a packed darkened room in the QMU at Glasgow University, I remember Dick Gaughan playing Songs for Scottish Miners at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, I remember the poll tax riots, and the Glasgow Phoenix choir singing The Red Flag at The Big Day in Glasgow in 1990 and later, I remember the day that Thatcher finally went.  I’m sure one of my colleagues in the Archaeology Department had a bottle of champagne at work that day.  I also remember the day that Donald Dewar announced “There shall be a Scottish Parliament.  I like that.”

Nelson Mandela’s quote “May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears” has been widely used by the Yes campaign, while the No campaign has been overwhelming in its negativity.  For me that’s what it’s all about, having the courage to choose hope over fear.  What has inspired me most about the referendum, is the passionate political engagement of the Scottish people and the myriad voices that have spoken up for their beliefs on both sides of the campaign. I hope that whatever result we wake up to tomorrow morning that engagement will continue and those voices will still be heard.

photo

George Square, Glasgow, 17/09/2014