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The Dinwoodie Interview

THIS story begins with Gerry Devine, a Lanarkshire Catholic who gained entry to Glasgow University in the 1930s but found that dark era of austerity limiting his graduate job opportunities to hawking the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

He married a miner’s daughter who had lost her mother and taken over the household at 13. Then came the war against Hitler and Gerry served, being wounded in the North African campaign and invalided out. He became a teacher in Lanarkshire for the rest of his days and laterly his former pupils would show total respect to “Wee Gerry” as they saw him around Motherwell, many looking older than their years as Devine aged well.

But Gerry Devine told his son, Thomas, that he did not think he would make a good schoolteacher. Tom was using his extended summer months at Strathclyde University as an uncertified teacher, recalling. “It was the 1960s, the days of corporal punishment and I borrowed my father’s old weapon. It was quite obvious he had hardly ever used it. I told him I was going to belt a boy on Monday because he was driving me insane. ‘Thomas,’ he said. ‘you can’t go into teaching because you have got to be completely fair and impartial. I suggest you go into university.”

The son recalls: “There was another incident that showed how completely naive I was. I had a class of girls and I was giving them a test at the end of the week and this group of three girls said, ‘Sir, we don’t have any pencils.’ I said it wasn’t a problem, they were to go down to the voice and get some and we’ll wait for you. They were quite a long time coming back and they said, ‘Sir, the headteacher belted us for not having pencils.’ I was 19 and said to them, ‘you sit down wee girls and I’ll go and see him.’ I told him it was a disgrace, what he had done and he replied, ‘I never laid a finger on them, Mr Devine. I think you should go into university teaching.’”

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