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, Berkshire. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Another project was the distribution of fleas. There were some newspaper articles in the P & J and the Northern Scot about “Madman collects fleas!” in the early 1970s. Disused birds’ nests and road corpses were good sources. The fleas were put in glass files with alcohol and sent to an expert called Bob George. Other investigations were wasps and crane files. Basically David found someone was looking for X and they went looking for it. This could take place in the evenings and weekends. They went on cycle trips and school minibuses.
One day David found road kill of a red squirrel. They searched it for external parasites, skinned it, gutted it and prepared the skeleton. One boy prepared/cured the skin, stuffed it and mounted it on a piece of wood. Others prepared the skeleton using UHU glue. It took over the work for the day and beyond.
When David first arrived at the school there was no central heating. There were some old radiators downstairs. The windows were left open at night because the fresh air was thought to be good for them. In the winter the children could wake up with snow on their blankets. A parent donated central heating to the dormitories for the boys and the blankets were replaced with duvets.
There was no Highland Games until the closure of Blairmore , an independent school in Glass nr. Huntly, which closed in 1993. This led to the Games (“Blairmore Gathering”) moving to Aberlour House in the same year. The Highland Games were known as the Aberlour House/Blairmore Highland Games.
The North of Scotland Rubik Cube Championship was held at the school through the 1980s. David created one with textured faces and a blind person was able to solve it. Hamish Thomas and David were able to solve the same cube blind-folded.
Speyside Microcomputer User Group (SMUG) was created in 1981 with the purchase of a 10K pack. The ZX81 came out. The children were able to exchange games and swop programs.
April 2013- Cockroach Breeding program
Additional memory from David prompted by a comment by a former pupil (see comments below). David and the children came up with the idea of collecting and selling cockroaches as a way of raising funds for science equipment. This was before EBay so they collected live cockroaches and sold them through Exchange and Mart. Live Cockroaches are fed to certain reptiles as food. The cockroaches were collected by David, the children and the Headteacher too sometimes. The little business had a number of repeat orders. One customer wrote that the female had died in transit and could they send another one. This was a problem initally as they didn’t know the difference. After some research it was discovered that the female had an egg pouch so they were able to satisty this particular customer order. It wasn’t a really high value enterprise but they raised sufficient funds for two microscopes.
David’s Current interests/activites included collecting interesting objects and a shop in Dufftown and writing maths text books for Galore Park Publications. He has also been the Chieftain at several Aberlour House Junior Highland Games.
Other Mathematics and Science publications
Information about Aberlour House within Aberlour village.
RCHMS record of Aberlour House in Moray with numerous photographs of the building
International Bird Pellet Group-academic reference
Flea distribution map from Bob George’s Atlas of Fleas
Northern Scot Archive information about SMUG! which was based at Aberlour House.