Maybole Memories - The Inspector
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By George Davidson     

George D Johnston. Click on the image to see Mr Johnston with the rest of the teachers from 1946.Really great teachers are rare and it is a privilege to have been taught by one. His name was George Johnston, a short stocky man with a gruff voice.  His favourite saying was –You! This was normally shouted at the top of his voice.  He had the uncanny knack of making everyone within earshot believe he was speaking only to them.

He taught technical subjects at Carrick Academy, but specialized in metal work. His class was always filled with wonderful ideas.  He had a great way of presenting topics, like the place friction plays in movement.  His illustrations were marvellous. A love for his work was evidenced by the way he went about trying to instruct the group of dullards that were my peer group.  He taught me a valuable lesson that has helped me to learn ever since.

After weeks of preparation, the class were to be inspected by a ‘high heid yin’ from the Education Department in Edinburgh. Mr Johnston had put us through the mill trying to impress on us how important it was for us to make a good showing, for him, the school and of course ourselves.  The big day arrived and once the class was settled, in came this boy wonder.  He was a good bit younger than Mr Johnston, but carried himself with a definite air of importance. He began by introducing himself and telling us how important it was for him to come all the way from Edinburgh to inspect this group of twelve-year-olds.  He thanked Mr Johnston for his time and patience and then launched into some-what I assume he thought-were simple starter questions.

How he misunderstood our situation.  He may as well have been speaking a foreign language.  The first question did not draw any response at all.  Dead silence.  The second faired even worse- nothing.  I think he began to wonder if he in fact was speaking a foreign language.  The third and fourth questions were almost as bad.  It was then I took leave of my senses and put my hand in the air.  That lone hand attracted his attention the way a copper conductor attracts lightning.  It was fodder to his ego, I did not get one question right out of about six, but I was the only hand in the air. Mr Johnston’s expression never changed, the inspector got more and more frustrated.  The suppressed laughter of classmates sounded like thunder in my ears.  I kept at it, time and time again I raised my hand and I finally got one right.  Out of a class of twenty odd, I was the only person who attempted to answer any questions.  I only got one correct more by luck than knowledge.

The inspector was visibly exhausted by the end of the class.  As I left the room I heard him say to Mr Johnston, ‘I don’t envy your job with this lot.’  I felt sorry for Mr Johnston, he looked so downcast. 

The next week when the class met, there was a deep sense of foreboding among us. The buzz in the corridor had been that Mr. J. was on the warpath and heads would roll.  I knew there was only one head that could roll - mine.  What I would have given to have kept my hand by my side.  I was only trying to help; this was my sop to myself, to calm the fear within.

As we sat at our desks Mr J. let out a deep roar.  You!  There was distinct venom in his voice. I could not expect that he was directing the call to anyone else. As was his custom, he began to walk round the class. He was famous for walking quietly up behind a pupil and looking over their shoulder to inspect their efforts.  Many an unsuspecting lad has his ear clipped in the sweetest possible way.  Of course, this was always accompanied by the dreadful deep-throated shout.  You!  He was on the move now and getting ever closer to my seat.  I began to sweat and anticipate the worst.  It is not possible I know, but I was beginning to brace my ears for the slap that was sure to come.  He stopped directly behind me, the way the desk were set up I could see on the faces of those opposite that he was cocking his wrist for the strike. 

After a dreadful silence he let out a yell that was a mixture of anger and despair. I felt afraid and sorry for him at the same time.  He started to give the class a tirade of abuse about their lack of effort in attempting to answer the questions put to them by the inspector.  He castigated the whole lot, then he gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, except this man here, at least he made an effort.  Oh! He got most of them wrong.  ‘That’s not the point;’  ‘he made an attempt to answer almost all of them.’  ‘Well done!’, he said.  I was amazed, but greatly flattered.  That day I made a big leap in my desire to learn.  The lesson! You don’t need to be right you need to be willing to try.  That great truth has stuck with me all of my adult life.

It was a sad day for me when I learned of the death of Mr George Johnston, he had been very fair with me, and he knew I was a gypsy boy, but he never showed any hint of prejudice in all the time I was in his presence.  I remember distinctly the time when he helped me through another ordeal when a snob of a teacher did not think I was from the right background to perform some task of going out of school to buy something at the local store.  I heard him say to her something that encouraged me to become a Christian.  He said, ‘The finest person I ever knew was born in a stable’


Story by George Davidson 
Also see George's story about Tacketty Boots
and another story entitled
The Music Teacher

Shown at left are George and Meryl Davidson.

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