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Headmaster's Headlines 04-02-2020

Visitors to Merchiston will often notice the variety of ties worn at the School. Each tie represents a different achievement, ranging from leadership roles to achievements in sport, arts and academic performance. The idea behind this is to try and give every pupil the opportunity to be inspired and be motivated to achieve. At the Whole School Assembly this week, the Chaplain spoke on the subject of ties:

I chose this morning’s hymn, “Who would true valour see” because it talks about being a pilgrim. I have said before that this is a lifelong journey; we are pilgrims journeying through life. But what can help us on that journey? Here are just one of many attitudes that WILL help.
Many of you are receiving ties this morning for long service. Some of you have been here 6 years and will receive the Magno Beneficio tie, and some of you for 10 years and receive the Legends’ tie.

I wear this tie sometimes. No one knows what it is or means except me (although now you will all know). I am not really entitled to wear it. It was my father’s tie – it is regimental, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, in which he served for 24 years, 1944 to 1968. But I wear it because even as a grown adult it makes me feel close to him and remember some of his advice. One occasion I want to share with you. About 10 years ago I was 40 and he was 83. We were sitting together in the kitchen in our house and I started fishing for compliments. Like most military men my father was not often gushing in his verbal praise; he often kept his thoughts to himself. I said, “Dad, you are 83 and I am 40. I have 3 good kids now (the youngest had just been born), blessed with a good wife, and I have a decent job which I enjoy. Tell me, do you think you have done a good job as a Dad?” I suppose I hoped for something along the lines of “You are brilliant!”, or “Well done!” Instead, he paused … for a long time … sipped his drink and said, “Have I done a good job as a father? Well son, it’s too soon to say!”

At 83 he was still on the job, still wanting to impart wisdom, still wanting to help me improve. The message perhaps to me, “It takes a lifetime to build a life, a lifetime of learning, correcting, being corrected, forgiving and being forgiven. No one is ever the finished article.”
So I wear another tie sometimes (at this point the Rev Blair takes off his father’s tie and starts to put on another). This tie I wear sometimes. No one knows what it is except me (and, of course, you now). It is my school tie (half colours) from the Coleraine Academical Institution. It is the very tie I wore in Sixth Form at school. I wear it to remind myself that, despite 50 years on this planet, 29 years in youth work, including 16 years at this school, I am still a student; when I stop learning, I stop truly living.
Am I a good pupil? A good teacher? A good leader? A good son? A good parent? A good person? Whatever the question you ask yourself, perhaps the answer is “It’s too soon to say, but I AM a willing learner.”

I have a book titled “Letter to my Younger Self”, a collection of interviews that The Big Issue have done with inspiring people, asking them to share the advice they would give themselves with hindsight. Here are a few quotes from the book:
“But the young Jon would be amazed by all the things I’ve done … ‘If the daydreaming 16-year-old Jon could see me now …’ It would be great to go back and tell him that not fitting in, being picked on, being shoved to the side to observe, to look at the world in a different way – that it will all help when he comes to make a career.” Jon Ronsen, author.
“I’d tell my younger self that when you’re really uncomfortable, that’s often when you do your best work. Jamie’s School Dinners and Jamie’s American Food Revolution were the hardest things I’ve ever done. Having to go into a place and bring up that world people hate, ‘change’ – you have whole communities of people hating your guts for about two months, before they see some benefits from what you’re doing.” Jamie Oliver, chef.
“I’d say to the teenage me, and I think the Dalai Lama said this, ‘If something good happens to you, embrace it and let it go. And if something bad happens to you, embrace it and let it go.’ I think that’s a good way to live your life, right in the centre of the Yin and the Yang, so you’re always ready for everything. I wasn’t like that kind of person naturally and that lesson came hard to me, but you have to learn to trust that things are going to work out.” Danny DeVito, actor.
Of course, our hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it cannot shape the experiences we are living right now. Where do we get our advice and inspiration in our daily life? And do we listen/heed that advice? Perhaps if we did, our letter to our younger self would be less advice and more about reflection …
In the Whole School Assembly this week, we recognised the drive, imagination and commitment of a group of pupils.

The lamp was a pupil-led project made in response to a request from Admissions. During a tour, Mrs Wilson and Miss Aitken had seen other lamps made by the Lower Sixth Product Design class and commissioned one for their department. The commission was to represent ‘Merchiston’ – its sports, music, academic subjects and our ties! I’m sure you will agree it is quite a result.
Well done to all the pupils who participated in the planning and making of this lamp. Thank you to Ollie (DT&E Prefect), Nick, Tom, Christian, Harry, Archie, Thomas, Alasdair, Cameron, Angus, Max, Jack, Fred, Charles, Lincoln, Kit, Rohan, Matthew and Jon.

Another example of teamwork and commitment is the charity fundraising that pupils do in their Houses. In this week’s Whole School Assembly, we congratulated the efforts of Laidlaw North. On the suggestion of Jakub, the House selected the Edinburgh Cat and Dog Home as their charity. Through a variety of initiatives as well as collecting via the Charity Ball, they have collected a magnificent total of £850. Well done Laidlaw North!

The Magno Beneficio tie is awarded to a pupil who has been a pupil here for at least 6 years. A few years ago, the Classics Department helped rename what used to be called the Long Service Tie. “Magno beneficio” is not a well-known Latin phrase, but we think it has a certain ring to it which conveys tradition and dignity. The words are also rich in meaning. Magno, of course, means ‘big’ as in Magnum ice-cream or a magnum of champagne; six years is quite a long time. But it also means ‘great’ as in ‘magnificent’ and that is appropriate because commitment over the long term is in itself a thing of value and deserves to be celebrated. Beneficio means literally something done well. It implies service, bringing benefit to others, and kindness. The pupils and young men receiving this tie today have not just been here for six years; they have contributed to the life and being of the school. Beneficio also means a distinction or promotion. I was very pleased to present Magno Beneficio certificates to the following boys: David, Lewis, Kit, Archie, Sai, Callum, Robbie, Christian, John, Fred, Thomas, Freddie, Tom, Rory, David, Oscar and Josiah.


This week we also awarded those pupils who have achieved the Legends’ Tie. This tie is for Sixth Form pupils who have been with us since J4 or J5. The Legends Tie is to recognise and say thank you to those pupils and their parents and guardians who have been a part of Merchiston from the very beginning. We are very proud of our J4 and J5 forms. At Merchiston, you are able to experience the best of primary education with access to senior school facilities.
Our J4 and J5 forms are very much part of the story and success of Merchiston and so we want to celebrate that. Every pupil at Merchiston is part of the Merchiston Story and has his own Merchiston Journey, but for those who wear the Legends’ Tie, Merchiston has been a large part of their life. Some might say they are “part of the brickwork”! Now we can say that they are Merchiston Legends! And, for those of you in J4 and J5 sitting here today, just think that in 7 or 8 years’ time you too could become an official Merchiston Legend! We welcomed the newest Merchiston Legends onto the stage at assembly: Matthew, Antonio, Matthew, Toby, Niles, Marcus, Alasdair, Angus and Max.

In Rugby, the 2XV, 3XV, U16As, B1s, B2s, U11As and U11Bs won. The C1s drew. The 1XV, U16Bs, C2s, D1s, D2s and D3s lost.
In Hockey, the U14s won and the 1XI lost against Loretto. All junior teams lost against Cargilfield.
In Swimming, the U13s, U14s, U16s and U18s competed well in their joint gala with St George’s and Stewarts Melville. The U10s also finished 3rd in The Compass School Gala.
In Squash, the U16s won and the U18s lost against Fettes College.

Jonathan Anderson