Headmaster’s Headlines

Headmaster’s Headlines

13th March, 2019

On 25 February, we held our Senior Debating Competition, in which four teams, each representing a different clan, argued over topics relevant to them. The topics discussed were – “In sport, winning is everything” and “This house would legalise the use of drugs within sports”. Even though the debaters were relatively new to debating, the quality of the debate was impressive, showing raw talent as they debated their topics.
clan logosOur winners were Findlay for Dreghorn clan and Kaan and Cameron for Redford clan, who were commended by the teacher panel on their depth of research and ability to answer challenging questions. Other representatives were Caleb and Olly for Spylaw clan and Henry and Hamish for Pentland clan. We would like to thank Mr Thompson and Mr Robson for helping judge the debate, as well as the debaters for providing such an entertaining debate. There are opportunities for interested pupils to join in on Monday nights for Seniors and Thursday afternoons for Juniors. The final will be held on Monday 25 March in Laidlaw and we welcome anyone interested to come along and watch.

When typing the word ‘scholar’ into Google, the first result displayed will be for the search engine ‘Google Scholar’: a search engine with the tag line ‘Stand on the shoulders of giants’. This phrase expresses the meaning of “discovering truth by building on previous discoveries”. It is a search engine that will present findings only from Peer Review literature, a body of literature that represents the collective findings of the world’s leading researchers on pretty much any topic.
Frontiers for Young Minds is a journal that makes cutting-edge science discoveries available to younger audiences and enables young people and scientists to work together to create articles that are both accurate and exciting.
Working scientists are invited to write about their discoveries in a language that is accessible for young readers, and it is then up to the young people themselves – with the help of a science mentor – to provide feedback and explain to the authors how best to improve their articles before publication. This is a great challenge for pupils as it requires thought and consideration of who is reading and how best to express complex scientific ideas.
subcasA small number of Pringle pupils recently reviewed a paper on the subject of a novel piece of Scuba diving equipment, ‘The SubCAS: A Pressure Chamber for Fish’, which can be read online and is also on display in Gibson House. The boys who reviewed the first paper were Benjamin and Ali. Additionally, Farrell and Lyall will be reviewing a paper entitled ‘The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Javan Rhino’. The journal Twitter handle is @FrontYoungMinds, and the opportunity to be a reviewer is open to all aged between eight and fifteen.

Merchiston Pirates of the Curry BeanJUNIOR PLAY
What a wonderful example of what can be achieved with hard work and commitment – many congratulations to the entire cast and team of pupils, prefects and staff involved in the production of a very entertaining show: Pirates of the Curry Bean. It is amazing to think that about half of those who could be involved from Pringle were, and were juggling this commitment with a huge array of other activities and events these past few weeks. The choice of script, the comic timing, casting and skills on show warmed the heart, amused and reminded us all of the special role drama has to play in life. It was so clear that everyone involved was enjoying this experience and there was a real sense of ‘team’, Merchiston Pirates of the Curry Beananother wonderful community and team performance from a Merchiston Juniors group. Well done all. It was a wonderful way to begin weekend leave. In Tuesday’s Whole School Assembly, thanks and congratulations were expressed to everyone involved:

Staff: Dr Mayoh, Miss West, Dr Steen, Mr Nicholls, Mrs Darling and Mr Burt
Merchiston drama pupilsCast and Crew: Krish, Andrew, Harry, Ahmed, Hamish, Nicholas, Alec, Aonghas, Ali, Benjamin, Zaydan, Ismael, Farrell, Kyle, Nathan, Fergus, Lyall, Finlay, Lewis, Archie, Richard, Lewis, Oscar, Euan, Lucas, Hamish, Krish, Charlie, Robert, Sean, Daniel, Ben and Bassam

Merchiston CharlieCongratulations were also given to Charlie, who has been competing in the Alien Rock indoor climbing Winter Series in Leith, and has compared very favourably not only to his peers but also to those in the adult category. He has also competed in the Scottish National Bouldering League, travelling to Aberdeen, Fort William and Glasgow to do so and won the junior (16-17) competition with a round to spare. His current standing of 355 points gives him an unassailable lead going into the final round at Eden Rock on Saturday 16 March. He is going to compete in the final round regardless and awards will be made on the day. Congratulations to Charlie on this achievement and we wish him all the best for the remaining events this season.

SPORTS REPORT (presented by Jamie, Captain of School)
In Rugby, the C2s and U16Bs won against Levenmouth Lions. The U12s won against Dean Park School. The U13 Sevens squad attended the Terrington Hall tournament in York. It was a very successful day with the boys winning all their group stage matches. After progressing through to the cup competition they performed well against St Olave’s, Aysgarth and Sedbergh. They finished in 4th place overall, with 16 teams competing.
In Basketball, the 1st V have progressed to the final of the Scottish Schools Plate after beating Lasswade High School, 79-40. This is the furthest the school has ever progressed in this competition. They will now face Braes High School in the final on Tuesday 19 March. Mr McCann will be in touch with all boys regarding an opportunity for boys to support this event and we wish them all the very best of luck.
Merchiston JamesIn Football, the 2XI played against Fettes home and away, winning both fixtures 7-0. Three boys scored hat tricks during these matches over the past couple of weeks. Well done to Pablo, Caleb and Angus. Our Captain of Football, James has been selected for the Scottish Independent Schools squad to play against Aberdeen: this is a well-deserved recognition for a leading footballer in the school. Outside of school James is also training with the Edinburgh City U20s squad.
In Cross Country, we hosted our annual MCS Juniors Relay Competition. This is a super event which includes over 140 runners across three age groups. Our U9s finished in second place, our U11s finished in 12th place and our U13s won their relay. Well done to the U13 squad: Ruaridh, Harry and Teo.
In Golf, the U14s won against Loretto.
In Hockey, the U11s lost against Cargilfield and the U14s lost against Stewarts Melville.
In Squash, the U18s won against Fettes College. This is the first game this team has won this year. This is a notable achievement for this committed squad of players. We hope this provides some positive momentum going into their final match against George Watson’s on Thursday.
Finally, Ryven in LVI, competed in the Senior East of Scotland Weightlifting Championships over Weekend Leave. This is his first senior event and he has only recently taken up this sport under the guidance of Mr Noble. He enjoyed the event and finished in third place overall.

Headmaster’s Thoughts
Reflecting on last week’s assembly with our focus on World Book Day and preparing for this week’s, my thoughts drifted, as they often do, to reading and the art of sharing information. I was reminded of the readers of the cigar factories in Cuba – it is amazing where your thoughts can sometimes take you!
If you haven’t heard of the cigar factory readers of Cuba, let me tell you a little about them, or one in particular. Lara is a “tobacco factory reader”. It is a profession unique to Cuba that has, since December 2012, been designated a part of the country’s national heritage. There are over 100 active “readers” in all of Cuba and Cubans are seeking to have UNESCO declare it a part of our intangible world heritage, because it is such an important long-standing cultural tradition.
The reading tradition began in the nineteenth century, says Lara, who has been a “reader” for the past 18 years. It was aimed at the proletarian masses as it occurred to the authorities to send someone to read the newspaper to workers at a tobacco factory in Havana. The practice of reading out loud to people unable to get their hands on books or unable to read at all, began in Cuba’s prisons. It was meant to make prisoners’ lives a little easier to bear. That is why the rooms where tobacco workers are gathered are called galleys, “galeras” in Spanish, because in Cuba the term applies to prisons. Lara explained how the profession of reader resurfaced in the twentieth century, following the Cuban revolution, and how it came back with “renewed strength”.
According to Cuban culture, “the reader’s profession was, and is, sacred”. The material read in tobacco factories is wide ranging: the reader reads from books by modern and classic authors and also from press sources. Works by Shakespeare, Dumas and Emily Bronte are some of the fiction Lara recalls having shared with tobacco workers. She has also read many novels by Colombian Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, including “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “No One Writes to the Colonel”. Garcia Marquez is very popular and Lara thinks she may have read practically all his books.
There are about 360 workers in the “La Corona” factory. They listen to the reader whose voice emerges from speakers on the walls. Workers can produce 80, 100 or up to 135 cigars per day, depending on the type of cigar being made.
“If it were not for the reader we would not be informed”, says Yamille Piz, who is 40 and has worked at the factory for 20 years. “If it were up to me I would have her read all day”, chimed in another worker, who gave only her first name, Inesita.
Some cigars have been given names inspired by famous literary works, for example, Romeo and Juliet from Shakespeare and Montecristo from The Count of Montecristo by Alexandre Dumas.
It would be fair to say that our School Assemblies are our communication equivalent of the tobacco factory readers: sharing of information, news and congratulations. Unfortunately, time prevents us from having the chance to have readings from great novels, but that should not stop us finding time to read, both for pleasure but also to stay informed. How many of you find time to catch up on the news nationally and globally? This week is shaping up to be a significant week in British politics and I wonder how many pupils, outside those studying History, Politics or perhaps Economics, have chosen to follow what is going on in Westminster and Strasbourg.
Knowledge of the world around us is vital if we are to be able to contribute positively to our ever-changing global society. So, in a nod to last week’s encouragement to read, don’t forget that newspapers, journals and scholarly articles are there too for you to broaden your horizons, develop your understanding, stimulate debate and help you form opinions and views. I will leave you to read the article for yourselves.
In our internet age, don’t forget that it is more than just the internet that can feed our imagination and expand our knowledge. Again, I urge you to find that time in your week to pick up a book.

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