Thoughts: In this week's Headmaster's Assembly, I shared with the School the recent photos of the week. I particularly like the photo taken by Andrew, as this duck has been a 'Merchiston inmate' for a long time! Often, he sits right outside Castle Gates, and this photo says it all with regard to the recent weather. However, the campus has been blessed with sunshine so far this week. The blossoms are out; the Pentland Hills are looking after us (metaphorically) as they watch over the School; and in the distance one can see Edinburgh Caste on the skyline. What a wonderful setting for boys and staff to undertake both a formal school education and a 'liberal education' outside the classroom!
Congratulations: This week's achievement was really extraordinary. Before I congratulated a pupil on the stage, I reminded the School that talent without a lot of hard work and application is just not good enough. The job of this School is to try and find talents in each individual in our midst, as each and every boy has different talents. That is how it should be. So, this morning, I congratulated Jay who recently became a senior athletics internationalist whilst he is still at School! Jay is in our Upper Sixth, and he competed for Scotland's senior men's athletics team at Loughborough University during the weekend. Jay recorded a personal best of 48.05 seconds, and ran against some of the UK's top 400m runners. Jay follows in the footsteps of Merchiston's last senior internationalist, Oli Hairs, who played for Scotland's senior cricket team in 2010. Before Oli, the School's last recorded internationalist whilst still at School was W G Neilson in 1894 for rugby. Jay secured his place at the Loughborough event by winning the U20 Scottish East District Championships the week prior, where he also finished second in the senior race in windy conditions. This is Jay's latest achievement, as Jay has already received a number of significant accolades including being named Scottish U17 Athlete of the Year in October 2010 and winning the Scottish U18 400m Championships in 2011. Jay has made sacrifices to achieve this success. He has had to make some tough decisions and he is also passionate about his academic work; it would not be wise for any young person to go into the world thinking that he will be a professional athlete, rugby player or musician without the building blocks of a lively mind reinforced by academic qualifications. However, what I really like about this young man is his modesty. Jay is quietly contemplating the prospect of endeavouring to earn a GB vest this summer...
Highlights: On Friday night, Mrs Hunter and I were invited to attend a function held by Craigclowan Prep School, Perth, held at Perth Racecourse to celebrate this school's 60th birthday! It really was a great pleasure for Barbara and I to be at this event, and we really enjoyed seeing so many former Craigclowan and Merchiston parents who were exceedingly warm about their Craigclowan and Merchiston connections. We have some wonderful boys at Merchiston from this school at present: Johnny; Guy; Jack; James; George and Ryan. Equally, we are looking forward to the prospect of welcoming six new Craigclowan pupils to Merchiston in September.
Secondly, I always think that there is a sense of ceremony, theatre and splendour around our Whole School Chapel Services which are held at Merchiston on certain Sundays. I acknowledge that it is a strange idiosyncrasy that Merchiston requires the presence of its day pupils at these services, but we do this as these events foster a real sense of the Merchiston community and family. Literally, it represents the bringing together of the boys, staff and parents for 45 minutes of spiritual reflection. This week, I again marvelled at the quality of the organ playing; the singing of the boys in the congregation; the singing of the anthem, Philip Ledger's Christ, whose glory fills the skies, by the choir, and the readings. I also particularly liked the address by Reverend David Campbell, the Chaplain of Fettes College on 'Compassion'. This fitted the theme of Ascension Sunday, namely 'Uplifting'. Reverend Campbell is an incredibly dynamic speaker who used no notes during his address. Indeed, Marlborough College is fortunate to have recruited him from September 2012 to be its Senior Chaplain. It was also a great pleasure for Barbara and I to welcome parents, staff and members of the Upper Sixth to a Gathering in Castle Gates, our home and in our garden after the Service. Yet again, I felt that this was just one of those special moments where boys, staff and parents were able to enjoy each other's company.
My third highlight this week involves music at Merchiston. As Barbara and I attended the Craigclowan function on Friday night, we were unable to attend two annual music competitions: the McLeod Cup and the Forbes Bowl. This was a pity because I think that this night is a wonderful occasion in the School's cultural calendar. Musicians have to be bold and courageous when playing in these competitions; they have to choose the right type of music and they have to present themselves well before, during and after their performance. Finally, the adjudicator will have his or her own criteria which the School cannot influence! Mr Dennis writes of the event:
"Personally, I really enjoyed Friday night's competitions; the boys all performed well (without exception) and a few gave some remarkable renditions of their pieces. All the boys received detailed thoughts from Mr Redfern, who was an excellent adjudicator. He not only encouraged each boy, but also made incisive comments for each boy to work towards."
The Forbes Bowl results are as follows: In joint third place were Benson and Ross (guitar and voice); second, Ying (Piano); and first, Ralph (violin) who we will hear from in due course. In the McLeod Cup, Benjamin (saxophone) came third; Angus (piano) came second and Ruaridh (drum) came first. It is unusual for a kit player to win, although Ruaridh was the deserved winner, performing with a real sense of style and sensitivity in his approach. It was a great pleasure to listen to Ruaridh perform in this week's Headmaster's Assembly. Again, I reminded the School that the '10,000 hours' concept of practice, practice, practice applies in this area as well. I reminded the School that the staff at Merchiston have one main goal throughout the career of each and every boy in the School. Our job is to inspire you to be aspirational!