Teaching at Aberlour House by David Hanson

Link to George’s Welsh’s memory>>

David began his teaching career in Slough at the age of 22 in 1963. His first school was William Penn County Secondary School, Buckinghamshire. He had achieved a degree in Physics and Chemistry at Sheffield University prior to his appointment. He was inspired in his career choice by his French teacher. His first job paid £70 per month. He set about the development of a science laboratory in the school. Went to Eton College to talk to a man about making Science benches. He used tubular steel and sheets of plywood. Had to allow space for the gas taps. The school did a study on water voles on the Thames, which was unusual. He taught all the Sciences and was self-taught in Biology, teaching up to O’level in this subject.  Got a reflecting telescope but it was difficult to open it in the evening as the school system would not pay for a caretaker to open and lock up. It was frustrating. Stayed in the school for a year.

Aberlour House gate house

Aberlour House gate house

Moved then to Aberlour House in Moray, which was a total change. Applied for a job as a teacher of Mathematics and Science (8-13 years). Accommodation was included. The head, Toby Coghill (1964-1989) came up to Slough. Meeting him was an inspiration. David was invited to come and look at the school. He had decided to take the job as the train came up to Craigellachie and he saw the beautiful landscape. Prior to this he had only been as far as Aviemore. The school was for boys only until 1973 when it became co-educational.

He was able to organise a wide variety of activities for the children. There were numerous expeditions and field trips. David and his classes started a study of bird pellets from Barn Owl Roosts and other birds of prey. As the Recorder of Mammals for Moray the findings were reported to the National Mammal Society. David founded the International Bird Pellet Study Group and started communicating with people all over the world including museums and universities. the children’s role was making observations and recordings.

Porcellio spinicornis by Jomegat, Contributor  Creative Commons License source http://bugguide.net/node/view/315584/bgpage

Porcellio spinicornis

Another study was the distribution of woodlice during a given year e.g. 1970. With the children, David found one woodlouse in a holiday cottage in the Cabrach and sent it to a Scottish Woodlouse Expert. It was a Porcello Spiniconis (related to Porcellio Scaber) and had not been seen in Scotland before. It had a black head and yellow spots. They went looking for it every 10 sq. km. and found them everywhere including the mortar of ruined cottages. A distribution map was created.

Click here to continue reading about David’s teaching work including cockroach trading, flea collecting, setting up a bird pellet group and solving rubik cubes…………

Memory contributed by David Hanson from Dufftown


5 thoughts on “Teaching at Aberlour House by David Hanson

  1. We also had a cockroach breeding program where we sold/gave the cock roaches away through scientific publications. I remember getting up in the middle of the night to hunt cockroaches around the house.
    Topher Scheel

  2. Mr Hanson was inspirational – although if you got on the wrong side of him his temper could be severe (but it was usually warranted). One project I did with him was making nettle wine…I don’t think it was very alcoholic, but aged 10 or so I was allowed to drink it all! Feeding live mice to the resident snake population was interesting; taking bets on which mice would last the longest. I can still remember the smell of his classroom/science block – unique mix of bunsen burner gas, mice/gerbils/masters/photographic chemicals, plaster moulding, wooden instrument making, and small children…

  3. Darren Nicholson on December 6, 2012 said:
    David Hanson was the most influential teacher that I ever had the fortune to meet and be taught by. I have very fond memories being taught hockey by him, running alongside him on morning runs aside the river spey and all to often being told off far to frequently for my misadventures.

    My Expedition with David to Cape Wrath was a highlight of my Aberlour years.

    A truly inspirational man.

    added from another copy of David’s memory in First Jobs section

  4. J Findlay on April 16, 2013 at 10:39 am said:
    Wholeheartedly agree with Darren Nicholson. He saved Aberlour in a very dark time. I would dearly love copies of the mathematics investigations that he wrote. Missed out on Cape Wrath due to an injury. Maybe one day…

    Added to the First Jobs section version of this memory

  5. Nicholas West on April 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm said: Edit
    David Hanson taught me in the late seventies early eighties. His science cards were legendary and just the ticket to inform any young scientist. I remember putting this early knowledge to good use during my housework. We would always pass the science mobile on the way to our housework in an isolated octagonal building (The Octagon). We would always pop in on our way past and as long as Mr Hanson wasn’t there help ourselves to what ever chemicals our new found scientific knowledge informed us would produce the most interesting results when thrown into the Calor gas fire housed in the Octagon. Result varied from the mundane to a little too exciting. On one of the more exciting episodes we managed to burn the carpet tiles, however thanks to our mathematical skills we managed to shuffle the tiles around the regular shape to avoid detection.

    Other episodes included distillation using a Liebig condenser and a potato, bottle digging and guitar making. I only hope that the spirit of Aberlour House lives on and it is not just a name in a new location.
    Thank you for being different Mr Hanson.

    This comment was added to the First Jobs section version of this memory
    Please add additional memories to the other version. Thank you

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