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In 1954 I started university, joined the Air Squadron and had to shave off my beard – it wouldn’t fit in the mask! Geography, geology and social anthropology in first year, then geography with plenty of fieldwork.


I went to Canada in 1956 with my girlfriend and another student to work on Highway 11, the only road from east to west, and did fieldwork in Scotland, Austria and Germany. I graduated in 1958 and went to Moray House for teacher-training – dreadful. Pam and I married.


In 1959 I left the Air Squadron and was appointed head of a three teacher primary school on the island of Whalsay, Shetland – delightful. In the first week I was ‘bidden to a wedding’ in the classroom by two large islanders; the children were not surprised. I accepted with pleasure and was given a dram!


In 1962 I became a founding member of Atlantic College, an international sixth form college, later expanded world-wide as the United World Colleges. There I was head of geography and geology and senior housemaster. As head of the College’s Cliff Rescue I attended the Aberfan disaster where a coal tip buried a school. In 1964 I worked with the International School in Geneva on the International Baccalaureate. Our son born in 1965.


1972 Appointed deputy head then head of Firrhill High School newly elevated to comprehensive. Pupils now went into jobs or further education, one even rejecting a place at Cambridge. I was responsible for Scottish secondary heads joining the UK organisation: no love for independence.


In 1993 I retired and went to Saigon by train and have also travelled to Peru, South Africa, round Europe, Scandinavia and the Balkans. I loved flying as a pilot and hate it as a passenger today.


The Air Squadron was a superb experience, one not to be missed – meeting people from different disciplines and in the real world. I have great memories and thank the RAF for the opportunity.



From John Grant-Wood 1954



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