Alex Massie

A view to a kill in the morning*

Text settings

Ah, August. Season of twits and sillyness. How else would the papers ever be filled? Even so, I confess to being mildly startled to discover that a story headlined "'Chav Chasing' public schoolboys criticised" concerned my own dear old alma mater.

But yes, as this video demonstrates, it seems some public spirited members of the college community been spending their time clearing vermin from the woods (home of many a fondly remembered smoking den back in the day). This will appeal most to the decent working class and the smugger elements of the state-educated middle classes who can have the pleasure of scoffing at the toffs and chavs alike... (Clive? Pootergeek?)

Watch More Videos        Uploaded by

The school, naturally, is embarrassed. All this makes it rather more delicious that Glenalmond recently announced it was letting a film crew loose upon the premises to make one of those This Always Turns Out Worse Than You Think It Will fly-on-the-wall-documentaries. As the Warden said, defending this recklessness:

[The Warden]is not expecting to "convert people" to the boarding school ethos and he knows very well Saltire "are not there to make an advertisement for Glenalmond", although the Perthshire scenery shots should be good. His aim is simple: "To break down the perception barriers surrounding institutions such as Glenalmond". The programmes he says will "not be about the school's exclusiveness, but about its ordinariness"

"Although they are in a special setting, these are young people with young people's emotions," he says. "Yes they get up to things, but the programme will be about the professionalism and dedication with which the staff deals with any problems.

"Saltire's proposition to us was to portray the life of pupils and the staff of a professional institution at work. They want to make something that is going to demystify some aspects of a boarding school life. Our view is that, in showing Glenalmond as it is, we can display the strength of what we do, the skills and experience of the staff and the humanity of the institution."

Should work brilliantly.

On the other hand, when I was there I exaggerate only a little if I say only a film-maker dedicated to the destruction of the public schools or the entire bloody class system would have wanted to make a film at Glenalmond. Life were tough and brutal and barbarous back then, don't you know? Sometimes seemed place had scarcely evolved from Harry Flashman's times. No warmer, that were for sure...

*Title reference explained here

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyeducation