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Chapter 14: The Club and the School

One of the objects of the Club, as set out in its Constitution, is “to assist the School in whatever way may be deemed advisable”. Over the years, the Club has always been ready to help in whatever way seemed best in the School’s interests at any particular time, and that help has taken various forms. Several examples have already been mentioned. The purchase of Rubislaw Field and the provision of its fine Memorial Pavilion, the former being in part financed from Club funds and the latter paid for by subscription raised by the Club, are early instances. Even earlier than that, the Club came to the aid of the School in opposing plans to build an elementary school partly on the site of the present Westfield School, and partly in the grounds of the School. The struggle was in part successful, and the new school was built on a much reduced size. Its ground floor included a Gymnasium and a “Manual” Room solely for the use of Grammar School pupils. Twenty-five years later the number of pupils in the Grammar School was so much increased that the School took over the whole of the adjacent building and was thus in the end very grateful for it.

It has already been noted that a Swimming Pool was considered as a possible means of marking the Sept-centenary before that project was abandoned. This was not the first attempt to obtain such provision. In June 1937 the Chairman of the Executive voiced concern that there had been suggestions from time to time about the provision of a pool for the use of present and former pupils of the School, and a Sub-Committee was formed to consider the matter afresh and report. In February of the following year the Sub-Committee reported on costings and other relevant information, and after extensive enquiry, and some lobbying of Councillors, it was decided in November 1938 to urge the Education Committee to provide such facilities in connection with alterations and extensions to the School which were then planned. The Executive then learned with satisfaction in February 1939 that the Education Committee had agreed in principle to include a Swimming Pool (quaintly referred to in all these deliberations as a “Pond”) in the currently proposed extensions. It is a matter of history that Hitler intervened a few months later, and it was to be nearly another quarter of a century before the Swimming Pool was a reality.

In 1941 the Education Committee for the first time turned its attention to a proposal to abolish fees at the Grammar and Girls’ High Schools, and the Executive, in consultation with the Rector, arranged to keep a watchful eye on the situation, on the view that such a development might adversely affect the future of the School. Such were the other ramifications of the plan that the issue was dropped, only to re-surface after the War. The question arose again in 1948 and dragged on over a few years, the problem being the admission of pupils from outwith Aberdeen on payment of fees, although fees were in general now abolished under the new Education Act. In the end, a new zoning system was introduced instead.

The next issue to engage attention in this context was the proposal to abolish the Primary Departments in the same two schools, and the Executive was heavily involved in the discussions about this and in organising opposition to the plan. Such opposition was not just from the School community and the Club, but also from a wide range of academic opinion in University and other higher education circles. Acting with the full authority of the Club, the Executive was engaged, as were individual FPs, in the preparation and submission of memoranda and petitions, the arrangement of public meetings, and the obtaining of Counsel’s Opinion on the proposals, all of this, however, without entering the political arena. Dr. Gilbert Hamilton, already mentioned in connection with the Grammarian Fair, was one of the leaders of the “Save the Primaries Campaign”. This fight, too, was lost.

With the advent of comprehensive education still more changes were to come, which vitally affected not just the School but could also have had serious implications for the FP Club. In 1970 the unthinkable happened, and the time-honoured name of the School was changed to “Rubislaw Academy”. The Executive wisely decided to bide its time and not to react too soon to what was, of course, nothing other than a piece of political vindictiveness. In 1973 the first intake of girls entered the School. The Club’s attitude to these developments was nothing if not pragmatic. Two changes were made to its Constitution. The first, in 1972, enabled all male former pupils of Rubislaw Academy to be admitted to membership, and the second, a mere two years later, deleted the word “male” which then opened the way for girls to join on leaving School. Then in 1976, fired by the enthusiasm of the Chairman, Neil Meldrum (1925-37), the Executive took the first steps to secure the return of the School name. With support from School staff, pupils and parents a submission to the Regional Council was successful, and the Chairman, as he demitted office on 28th March 1977, was able to tell the Annual Meeting that the change was due to be confirmed by the Council on the 31st.

A glance at the School Prize List shows that a large number of these prizes are funded by the FP Club, including the All-Round Trophies for both boys and girls. The Prize List is kept under regular review so as to keep up with changing academic emphasis and the changing extracurricular pattern.

The most outstanding help given to the School must surely be the establishment of the Amenities Fund referred to above. More recently the Club was quick and effective in its offers of help to the School in 1986 when fire struck so disastrously. FPs worldwide had only one reaction when they learned the news – “How can I help?” The Club Secretary received numerous offers of donations in cash and in kind – books, works of art and objects of interest to replace, as best might be, some of the treasures lost in the blaze. The Club was able then to hand over a useful sum of money to the Rector to assist with the many “extras” so necessary to the refurbishment of the School.

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