Belhaven History

During WWII Belhaven was evactuated to Dinnet House in Aberdeenshire.
EE has been tracking down anyone who spent time there while they were at Belhaven, to collect any memories of that unique period.
 
Here are a few brief extracts from a book of memoirs currently being written by an OB, William Clark-Maxwell, about his time at Belhaven when the whole school was evacuated to Dinnet House in Aberdeenshire.
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[After morning lessons and lunch] the afternoon routine varied. In Summer time wooding (collecting firewood for the school boiler) was sometimes replaced by ‘Mossing’. We would go to the wet parts of the moor and collect sphagnum moss which we would put into bags and send off somewhere to have the iodine extracted from it. We were told that this was a valuable medicament for healing war wounds.
 
On returning to the house we had one more lesson then High Tea. Once a week for high tea we would have the most delicious kippers straight from the smokehouses in Aberdeen.

Twice a week, before going to bed we had a bath shared with another boy in four inches of tepid water.
 
One bright afternoon, as some of us were waiting on the terrace before going down to the playing fields, Charles Moncreiffe-Wright picked up a small stone and threw it at a rabbit which was feeding on the grass below. The stone hit the rabbit and killed it (literally) stone dead, which enabled Moncreiffe Wright to go down and pick it up. No photographer could have captured the smile on his face as he came up to the terrace carrying his trophy.
 
We were allowed to make small gardens about four feet by six, cut out of the lawn. In this small patch we grew mustard and cress, which we made into horribly gritty sandwiches. Some boys grew flowers – nasturtiums were a great favourite – and one boy became aware that he had grown quite a large turnip, but it never increased in size as he pulled it up each day to see how it was getting on.
 
Boys, if they wished, could bring a photograph of their parents or family to school. Theses photos in their frames were stood on the mantelpiece in the boy’s dormitory. I recall the occasion when one boy running into the dormitory, kicked off his slippers. The slipper flew through the air and dislodged and broke the photo of Admiral Ramsay. There was no way to disguise the breakage and the broken glass. Who had done it? Nobody owned up. It was Ramsay’s photograph, so Ramsay was beaten.
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Another OB, Alastair Wallace – as remembered by his nephew Tom Beaumont.
 
The story goes that Uncle Alastair (while at Dinnet) was dared by his peers to go down to the railway track, lie on the tracks between the rails and wait for the London to Edinburgh Express to pass directly over him. This he did without incident.
 
When the boys started talking it was not long before the Headmaster got wind of this dangerous escapade. Naturally all hell broke loose and Alastair's father was summoned and an earnest meeting in the Headmaster's Office ensued.
 
"Weren't you frightened, Boy?!!" both his father and the Headmaster asked in unison.
 
"No, not about the train passing over me," he replied. "But I did suddenly remember that all the loos on trains were open to the track and I was terrified someone was going to do something on top of me as the train was going overhead".
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EE has also been contacted by OB Ian Hannah, (at Belhaven after the war) who sent a package of all sorts of treasures, including photographs, an old copy of the Belhaven Hill Magazine – the Coronation Number – and a page of answers, in beautiful handwriting,  to the infamous History  Chart Test, for which he received 40/40 and a ‘Commended’, signed by Keith Jones.
School-Photo
He added a couple of paragraphs of memories:
 
The Sweetshop (Lauderdale café, I think) which we pass on the way back from the Anglican Church Morning Service – If we were at the front, we could nip into the shop, buy sweets and join at the back hoping whichever master was in charge wouldn’t notice. If it was Martin-Jones and you were caught, the consequences were dire!
 
(There was an) extraordinary contraption that was used to tow the gang mower – it consisted of a rusty chassis with an engine and two gear boxes. It occasionally diverted from its duties to load sand from the beach which the deeds allowed twice a year. I also have a vague recollection of a bearded gentleman hauling a very fine handcart (it had oil lamps) up the drive; I never knew what he was delivering.
 
And, of course, Joe Lunn, who stoked the boiler (coal) and polished our shoes, who was always good for a chat and advice if needed.
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EE received the following by email from Tom Colville OB
I hear that no one has ever supplied any pictures of this fine old car for the school archives. 

Here are three old B/W snaps taken I suppose  perhaps during the summer in 1964 . Anyway, it has to have been before Miss Austin married Mr Potts and then they both left. 

Photo taken by Colin Mason I suppose 
OB-History-Pic-1
Miss Austin, later Mrs Potts, School Matron.
Seated on ground Left: Robert Gladstone
Seated right:  Simon Barclay
Looking over windscreen in striped shirt  ?Donald Munro, and myself Tom Colville  in grey pullover.
Seated on running board ?Ian Stevenson 

Photo taken by Miss Austin, I suppose.
OB-History-pic-3
Colin Mason, and same crew of boys 

Photo: taken on that same day.  Somewhere there was a deep ford "watersplash". It might have been near Stenton or Garvald, I forget now. I am soaked! Well actually we all are.
OB-Hist-pic-2
Also ?Ian Stevenson is looking over windscreen, Munro in striped shirt behind, next to Mr Mason

In return for keeping the car washed and polished we got the privilege some weekends of being taken for a drive out. That day I think we had been up to see the progress on the considerable  building works at the new Cistercian Monastery being built at Nunraw, near Garvald, at that time. This became the Sancta Maria Abbey when consecrated some years later.
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'As She is Wrote' is a letter home taken from the 1938 Belhaven Hill magazine, a precursor of ‘The Bugle’:

As She is Wrote for history se
War-time Memories of Belhaven Hill and Dinnet House

Peter O. M. Chitty

1938 -1942 Belhaven boys in su
January 1938 – July 1942:
Back Row: P. Chitty, J. Menzies, S. Menteth, R. Agar.
Front Row: C. Sanderson, M. Paton, M. O’Brien, W. Bell.

 
In the summer all four of us went to Scotland and were persuaded to visit my cousin Walter who was at Belhaven Hill Prep School in Dunbar. Whilst there the Headmaster - Brian Simms - spotted the Royal West Kent Regimental badge in my Glengarry and immediately offered my parents special terms for my education there, as he had served with the 20th Bn the London Regt in WW 1, and their badge was the Kent Horse.

All the boys save for one complete Sassenach - Paton - wore kilts and glengarries on Sunday together with Eton Collars which were itchy, especially in hot weather. Walter was still in the school when I arrived and made my life reasonably good hell in a sort of cousinly way. Whilst I played all games at Belhaven, shooting was naturally my forte and I was in the 1st VIII my first summer term in 1937 and we won the Lord Roberts Bowl open to all Junior Schools in the Empire, Aysgarth coming second. We won it again in 1938 and 1939 but then came war and it was not held again. Read more …



Memories of Belhaven Hill 1937 - 1942
Nigel G. S. Champion

I
was born in India on 13th July, 1928 where my father was a forest officer (and a pioneer wildlife, my parents arranged for a young lady who had come out to visit her brother in the Indian Army (as photographer) in perhaps some of the most beautiful country in the world in the foothills of the Himalayas, not far from the western borders of Nepal. The normal drill at that time was for the children of British officials to be sent home to the U.K. for their schooling at the age of 8.
 
Prior to that, however part of what was then, rather unkindly, known as the 'fishing fleet' and whose members were assumed to have come out in search of suitable husbands) to join our family, travelling with us and acting as a governess for me for perhaps two years as she wanted to see more of India. This proved an excellent move as she was very good in that role and became a lifelong friend of our family. The only problem of this arrangement for me was an almost total lack of contact with other children of my own age as we were constantly on the move while my father was inspecting the forests for which he was responsible.
 
So in September 1936 my mother, leaving my father with his work, took me down to Bombay (3 days by train) and we embarked in a rather elderly P and 0 liner called the Mongolia. There followed a very interesting three week voyage during which we saw several bombing raids on the coastal towns in Spain where the Civil War was in full swing. Then ultimately we crossed the Bay of Biscay in a very severe gale during which I claimed to be about the only passenger not laid low with seasickness, a factor which encouraged me later to join the Royal, Navy. On arrival in the UK I was brought north to Newton Stewart to be introduced to my grandparents, with whom I was to live in the school holidays. My mother then took me over to Belhaven, introduced me to Mr Simms (the headmaster and founder of the school) and departed to catch the next ship back to India. As a result of the War, I saw my Parents only very briefly in 1938 until after it was over. Read more ...


The Headmaster Welcomed Mrs Mary Whitely to Belhaven Hill
 
School Room previously large p
The School Room, which is now the large panelled Dining Room with no door, as seen on the left hand side of the photograph.

Last term the Headmaster was delighted to receive a request from Mrs Mary Whitley who asked if she might visit the school, as her relatives had been the final private owners of the House before it became a school.  She was very impressed at how much of the original building and decoration still survived, and was intrigued to see the Drawing Room still very much used as a Drawing Room, albeit in the guise of the Headmaster’s Study. She kindly provided the photos following the article, which for so long were all she had remaining from her family's time at Belhaven.
 
Mrs Whitely had written earlier in the year to say that her grandmother, Mary Marrow, was one of the last occupants of the school, then called Winterfield House, before it was sold to Mr Lewis to become Belhaven Hill School in 1923. Read more…