Mr Pollock, Village Dominie

From Moriston Matters, Issue 7, June 1978.

When asked to write a short article for Moriston Matters my mind instinctively turned to our old Schoolmaster, Mr. Pollock, who taught at Invermoriston for several years in the mid-twenties. He came to us towards the end of his teaching career. Although the school was smaller than those he taught in previously he never for one moment dropped his professional standards, and he still appeared in the classroom wearing his starched wing collar, black 'swallowtail' coat and striped trousers. He was indeed the true pedagogue until the very end.

He held a Master of Arts degree and his utmost concern was to do his very best for the education of his pupils, even to giving free private tuition in his own time in such subjects as, Latin, Geometry and Algebra. He imparted his own enthusiasm as he read to us in Latin the epic stand of Horatious holding the Bridge. At other times he would take us on a trip into Greek Mythology, perhaps reciting by heart the Twelve Labours of Hercules. In Geometry, when we reached the Fifth Theorem of Euclid, he was soon reminding us that we were astride 'pons asinorums', (the 'asses bridge' or the 'path over which to guide the obstinate'.)

He had a fund of conundrums, such as:
What two towns in France describe a sailor's trousers?
Toulon and Toulouse.
Why is Berlin like a drunken man?
Because it is always on the Spree.
What city as increasing in size all the time?

Of course the pupils were not to be outdone and were quick to supply samples of their own, for example:
Austria was Hungary and took a piece of Turkey and dipped it in Greece;
or If a person from Poland is called a Pole, why shouldn't someone from Holland be called a Hole?

Mr. Pollock introduced us to horticulture, using his own garden as a base for experiments. He was very interested in 'double-digging' and gave us a first-class demonstration. This aspect of our work pleased him, but our weeding efforts brought severe comment, in particular when one of the boys pulled up all the beetroot plants, thinking for some inexplicable reason that they were only weeds. Perhaps the gardening day that caused the greatest commotion was when one of the boys, who was vigorously emptying a barrow of manure, caught his helper on the forehead with the prong of his fork. The victim gave a blood-curdling howl which caused Mr. Pollock to fly into the garden with all the school children following behind him. So relieved was he to see that the injured boy was still alive, even if covered with blood, that he immediately accepted the explanation offered and treated the whole incident as a pure accident.

Our essays and short stories may have lacked the imaginative and creative touch of the modern schoolchild, but nevertheless what was lacking in this respect was amply made up for in other ways, as, for instance, our native ingenuity when dealing with unusual or difficult words in spelling. Two howlers, which nearly sent our dear teacher berserk, readily come to mind. One was in the History lesson when a boy referred to the preacher, George Wishart, as a 'pear-pincher', and the other in a spelling test when someone wrote 'wooden-enemy' for the flower, Wood Anemone. Mr. Pollock belonged to the Lowlands, but he was truly loved in the Highlands. As we think about him the word 'personality' keeps recurring. He belonged to an earlier Scotland, when character seemed to be painted with a broader brush. Whenever his former pupils meet the conversation often veers towards their old teacher, and they recall instances of his pawky humour, discuss his eccentricities, and savour again some of his bon-mots. There are those in memory who have a measure of immortality and one such was Mr. Pollock. The mould from which he came has been broken; we shall not see his like again.