Monday, 25 May 2015

Reflections on Celtic Obsessions – Part 2

My Celtic Obsession continued... 

I went straight into primary teaching after leaving college. After a brief sojourn in an incredibly rough Glasgow school, a house move meant a change of school. The second school within my first year of teaching was in Westquarter, near Falkirk in the Central Belt of Scotland, which had a head teacher who insisted that Scottish history be taught in class. I was delighted because in the 1970s a thorough programme of Scottish History wasn’t being taught throughout Scotland. The head teacher, Charles Stewart, was very particular about all lesson plans but he seemed particularly interested how Scottish History was taught and each year group had specific targets to meet. 
teaching- minus the microphone 
This aspect of the curriculum was still very didactic, though learning maths and reading was run along what was at that time ‘modern’ group teaching lines. 

Yet, having history targets wasn’t the end of it! I couldn’t just have a lesson noted down on my term and weekly plan—I had to prove I was conducting that lesson efficiently when I said I would.

If a Scottish History lesson was on the weekly plan for the hour after lunch on a Thursday, I expected him to do a ‘drop in’ to class so that he could ensure I was giving accurate information to my pupils—though it was unpredictable exactly when he’d turn up during that hour or so. However, I never ever resented his visits as an intrusion. In fact, I actually looked forward to his popping in because he could always add to what I’d learned up on since he was a mine of information: a head teacher of the old school variety and one with an excellent memory.

With regard to my interest in Celtic Studies, the tiniest drawback was that I was teaching Primary Six, approximately 38 ten/eleven year old pupils, and I was expected to cover the period from Malcolm I onwards (approximately 900AD)— to around the Union of the Crowns in 1603. This was 'too late' for the early Celtic period or even what we still called back then…the Dark Ages. 

Malcolm I of Scotland
Image: "Malcolm I". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -"

However, when Mr. Stewart dropped in he often managed to add something local which harkened back to earlier times. It was always entertaining and educational. I just wish I had a really good memory but sadly, the information sifted through the colander that is my brain.  

Looking back, I realise his assiduous encouragement about teaching Scottish history fed my need to continue to find out more about it in general but further study of earlier ‘Celtic’ eras had to wait for quite a while.

My teaching of Scottish History ceased in 1979 when I went to live in Holland for three years and a ‘career break’ followed till 1989. During that time, I hadn’t totally shelved my interest in history since I’d started an Open University degree in 1987. The subjects chosen were culture based across the Arts and covered: Victorian studies; The Enlightenment; 17th Century England and a Shakespeare course. All had sound historical aspects of study as well as Art History (which I loved), Politics, Philosophy, Architecture and Popular Culture. 

All fantastic courses but not one of those was Celtic Studies!

After moving to Aberdeenshire, Scotland,  in 1988, I used the public library system to investigate the really ancient history on my new doorstep—standing stones which are plentiful; burial mounds and areas marked on the map which plot Celtic Roundhouse settlements. There were some local historical records available about written investigations re: pre-historic times; some of these only available for reading in the library and not able to be taken home. The Garioch Heritage Society also had reference only materials but sadly, my free time for research was limited. Teaching needs and finishing up my BA Open University degree took

Again, my interest in Celtic Studies was largely shelved for a few more years.

More of this long story to follow soon...


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