Nostalgia: ‘You never, ever spoke without permission’

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Margaret Hamilton talks about her early school days and going back to study in her 60s.

Born on May 12, 1921 in Dalkeith, she attended Dalkeith High until the age of 13, when her family moved to Bonnyrigg.

Mrs Hamilton, 91, said: “It’s fair to say I detested it. At that time far fewer professional people such as doctors sent their children to private schools, so there were a lot of girls there who really looked down on those of us who were not quite so posh!

“Children can be very cruel and they really were not very nice to us at all. The teachers weren’t much better – I remember at parents night my mother was told I was best suited to a career in service, even though I had better marks than other children whose parents were being told they should go to college.”

Mrs Hamilton left school at the age of 14 and did work in service until the end of the war, before becoming an 
upholstress. But she decided to give school another go when she retired at the age of 60 in the early 1980s.

She said: “My sister-in-law kept saying how bored she was since retiring, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. So I started taking night classes to get my ‘lowers’ as they were called in those days, before moving on to Highers and Advanced Highers. It’s no exaggeration to say it was the best time in my life. I loved the fact that students were encouraged to ask questions and discuss things – when I was their age you never, ever spoke without permission and were told just to accept whatever your 
teacher said.”

Mrs Hamilton eventually achieved three Highers and one Advanced Higher before taking further classes in art.