Bell baxter lives section I former Pupils Contents



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M Muriel Dymock


(1928-

BBS 1940-46

Muriel Dymock is arguably the best known of all the FPs in this archive, at least among her fellow FPs. Muriel entered Bell-Baxter in 1940 and progressed smoothly and successfully through to sixth year becoming a prefect, winning the Lt Hair Pagan Prize for Best Linguist in School and the Balgonie Gold Medal as Dux of School. She continued her academic studies at the University of Edinburgh where she gained an MA Honours degree in Modern Languages. Following a course at Moray House College of Education, Muriel taught in Galashiels until 1954, when she returned to Bell-Baxter, becoming Principal Teacher of Modern Languages in 1966. She was appointed Assistant Rector in 1972 and retired in June 1988.

But what has set Muriel apart is her connection with the Former Pupils’ Association. The seed for the FPA was sown during the preparations for the series of Reunions held to mark the Centenary of the School in 1989. It was Muriel who took this idea forward, persuading others to get involved and eventually launching ‘the frail barque’ in 1991. She was the first to take the tiller as Chairman of the FPA, and once it became clear that it was not as frail as might have been imagined, she turned her attention to the twice-yearly Newsletter. The first issue to appear under her sole editorship was No 4 ̶ Issue 45 has just been published (November 2013) and she is still at the helm!

The Committee of the FPA conferred the honour of President of the Association in August 2008 to mark her eightieth birthday and to acknowledge the pivotal rôle she had played in its formation and development.

The following interview appeared in the Fife Herald at the time of the start of demolition of the old Westport bulding:

by LINDSEY ALEXANDER

l.alexander@fifetoday.co.uk

OVER the last few weeks, many people have stopped and stared as the demolition of the former Bell Baxter building at Westport in Cupar gathers pace.

Passers-by have gazed in awe as workmen remove parts of the building and massive bulldozers shift the tonnes of rubble left behind.

The sight of one of Cupar's well-known buildings being almost razed to the ground has provoked a mixture of feelings from local people, particularly amongst those who attended the school.

But there can't be anyone more likely to have their memories stirred at the moment than former pupil and teacher Muriel Dymock, whose family home sits opposite the former High School.

Miss Dymock was aged 11 when she began studying at Bell-Baxter, the school (extension – Ed.) having been officially opened eight years before by the Lord Lieutenant of Fife, the Earl of Elgin.

The school was built on the site of Sir David Baxter's Educational Institute for Young Ladies, established in 1871, which amalgamated with Dr Bell's Academy to form Bell-Baxter School in 1890.

In the session 1890-91 there were about 200 pupils in the school, and that figure rose to between 300-500 the year the new school building opened.

By the time Miss Dymock began her studies in 1940, the roll had risen to 729 pupils.

One reason for the sharp rise in school attendance was the abolition of school fees, although children could leave school at 14 so this lessened the roll by third and fourth year.

ABILITY


Explaining that Bell-Baxter was an 'omnibus' school, Miss Dymock said it was unusual because it accepted all children from Cupar no matter their academic ability, as well as taking pupils from areas as far afield as Markinch, Leslie, Newport and Montrave, who were excelling at school.

Miss Dymock recalls how different the education system was in the few short years between her being a pupil and returning to the school as a languages teacher.

"Boys and girls were taught separately - class 1A was for boys studying French and Latin while IB was for girls doing French and Latin," she said.

"Boys could also study French and technical, while girls could do French and commercial subjects.

"There were also separate entrances and the staff had male and female staffrooms."

Being schooled during the war also meant children of Miss Dymock's generation didn't have the freedom – or the money - to afford the pursuits that today's children enjoy.

"We didn't have the opportunies to do a lot of the things youngsters do nowadays," she said.

"Even though some of the staff had to go into the services, we had a very good standard of uninterrupted education and wonderful teachers.

"We were also very lucky to still be able to do a lot of sports and travel to places like Dundee to take part in events."

Discipline was also a lot different in those days, but Miss Dymock recalls that perhaps surprisingly, there were not strict rules on school uniform.

UNIFORM

"It was perhaps because it was war time and people couldn't be expected to afford school uniforms," she explained.



"The one that we had consisted of a knee-length navy gym tunic worn over a white blouse and a silver and blue striped tie.

"The senior gjrls were allowed to wear skirts.

"The boys didn't have to wear blazers and the uniform only really came into being in the 1950s after Dr Dunlop created a new school badge."

The increasing size of Bell-Baxter continued and a number of huts were added in the 1950s, slowly taking over the school playgrounds.

Upon leaving school Miss Dymcck studied at Edinburgh University and went on to Moray House teacher training college.

She taught languages in the Borders before returning to her alma mater in 1954.

Taking over from her own French teacher Miss Batchelor, Miss Dymock spent 34 years at the school, becoming assistant rector from 1972 until her retirement in 1988.

"The school changed monumentally in that time," she said.

"When 1 was a teacher the number of pupils in first year was around 400 - that would've been more than half the school roll when I was a pupil!"

To cope with huge influx of pupils a new school 'extension' had to be built and work began on the Carslogie Road building in 1962, but this 'split site' brought its own problems.

"First, second and third year pupils were taught at Westport and the older children in the new building," said Miss Dymock.

"Teachers would have to travel between and it could be very time consuming!"

AFFECTION

Looking back on her school years, Miss Dymock – who is honorary president of Bell Baxter Former Pupils’ Association - said: "I have really fond memories of Bell Baxter.

"I think most people who went there will feel the same.

"It is very obvious from being part of the FP Association that a lot of people have a great deal of affection for the school.

"It is quite astonishing that in the 1960s, 70s and 80s a quarter of the teaching staff were former pupils and so many Bell Baxter pupils remain in the area today."

Seeing the building being torn down does not, however, upset her.

"I have mixed feelings about it, but it really was past its best," she said.

"1 was able to see right into the gable end of one classroom I was taught in, and it did bring back memories, but the building had become a blot on the landscape."

Thirty affordable homes and one business unit will be built on the site, although the old school's façade on West Port will be retained.



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