Nostalgia: ‘I sat qualifying exam for Bathgate Academy’

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WITH thousands of students across the Capital receiving their exam results this week, celebrated calligrapher Tom Fleming, 91 – whose work is currently being displayed in his hometown of Armadale – recalled his school days.

He said: “I had to leave school at 14 so I could go to work and help support my family, but I do remember in 1932 when I was 11 years old and attending Armadale Public School I had to sit the qualifying exam for Bathgate Academy. About 32 of us sat the exam in our classroom. I’m pretty sure it mainly just covered English and maths.

“It must have been very important to my mother. She had a leather strap put on a small watch of hers to make it into a wristwatch I could wear so I would be able to keep track of how long I was spending on each question and how much time I had left. I don’t remember ever having it at any other time so she must have taken it back straight afterwards – it would be very unusual for a child to have a watch like that in those days.

“We had to wait about two or three weeks for the results. They didn’t tell you these things privately, the teacher read everyone’s results out in front of the whole class, which was rather nerve-wracking.

“Two helpers at the exhibition of my calligraphy work at Armadale Library actually found the ledger from Armadale Public School with my class’s exam results in it and brought me a copy of the page. They said I must have done well because I had ‘Bathgate Academy’ written next to my name and a lot of other people didn’t. So I must have done fairly well, but drawing was always my best subject.

“Though, having said that, a couple of years later when I was actually at Bathgate Academy, one of the lowest percentages I ever achieved was in art, believe it or not. I think I was just a bit bored by the class – the teacher there would just put some pots and pans or a bowl of fruit on a table and ask you to draw it. There’s no real creativity in that, in my opinion.

“He was quite an elderly man though. He was the same art teacher my sister had when she was at school, and she was 21 years older than me.”