Peter Scott, Canada, Dec. 2002,
Street School in the 1930s
Bernard Street School was
in the heart of Bridgeton, and in the tenements overlooking the school, on
most days you would find the housewives engaged in their favourite pastime
of "hingin' oot the windae", and on the street below, the usual
greeting was not "How are ye?", but that almost imperceptible
shake of the head known as "The Glesga nod".
An outsider, on observing such behaviour, might think that the inhabitants
were persons of low quality and inferior intellect - but they'd be wrong -
dead wrong! - for in spite of the extreme poverty and the hardships they
endured in the depression, the average Brigtonian was a bright,
considerate individual who would give you the shirt off his back - it
can't be said any plainer than that. And in education the student in Bridgeton
enjoyed the benefits of an education system that in its day was among the
best in the world -No question!
In 1938, in pursuit of learning at Bernard Street School, I
took my seat in Mr. Paterson's music classroom one Friday afternoon. The
lesson that day was tonic sol-fa and Mr. Paterson proceeded to sketch on
the blackboard a series of notes, quavers, crotchets, semi-quavers,
minims, and the like, and, starting in the back row put the question
"Name that tune". No success so far, and now it was my turn. I
stood up. "Celeste Aiida," I said. "What!" thundered
Mr. Paterson, staggering backwards against the piano. "Celeste Aiida,
sir" I repeated, putting added emphasis on the "SIR".
"Do you mean this?" and he sat down at the piano and began to
play and sing. "Celeste Aiida forma divina," I confirmed that
that was indeed what I meant. After he had recovered his composure, he
asked how I came to be acquainted with such "heavy stuff"
(Verdi is heavy). I told him that sometimes on a Saturday afternoon I'd
listen to opera on the radio, and I'd also heard that aria sung by Richard
Crooks at the pictures.
Now for the punchline of the story - about time too, I hear you say!
Anyway, it turns out that it wasn't "Celeste Aiida" after all,
but "Charlie is my darling", which, if you are familiar with
both melodies, you'll know that the notes are about the same - it's just
the timing that's different.
From that day on, I was Mr. Paterson's favourite pupil, and each Friday
after class, I was invited (ordered?) to stay behind, when he would put a
classical record on the radiogram and explain the piece being played. A
cultural feast indeed for a wee lad from Brigton!
I often wish I could have met Mr. Paterson later in life to tell him about
my visits to the Opera in Italy in the three years I served there during
and after the war..........
of Hope story