The Ghaist o A' Flair
Noo at the back en o the nineteen saxties Kilmaurnock Academy hid a big chinge. The schuil gaed comprehensive. Until then it hid only been those an sich as those wha gaed to the Academy. It was kent in the toun as the schuil for poash folk'. Ye hid ta pass yer eeleven plus to gae to the Academy and if you failt it, ye wir sent to wan o the ither schuils in the toun the Grange, the Jimmy Hamilton or Shoartlees which in thae days wis a secondary schuil as weel as a primary. They were kent as Junior Secondaries an' ye juist bidded yer time in them until ye were fifteen when ye cuild leave the schuil an' maybe get a joab in the Glenfield or the Saxone or wi Johnny Walker. They wir daecent enough joabs they paid weel eneuch fur ye to get a cooncil hoose in wan o the schemes an rear a femily there.
But if ye gaed to the Academy ye cuild stay oan until yer were seventeen, near enough a grown man, an gae to the varsity an get a degree. Then ye cuild maybe become a teacher yersel an earn a big salary that's hoo ye kent it wis a poash joab, fur ye earnt a salary, no a wage like ither folk - an then ye cuild afford wan o the poash hooses in Dundunult Road or the Lunnin Road juist roon frae the schuil itsel. But yer folks hid to be able to afford to keep ye oan at the schuil, an ye needit the brains to pass yer eeleven plus in the furst place. So it wasnae onybody wha cuild stey oan, an that's why it cam to be callt the schuil for poash folk.'
But last century in the nineteen saxties as I've said, the schuil gaed comprehensive. That meant that the eeleven plus wis did awa wi an onybody cuild gae tae the Academy if ye stayed in the richt area o the toun for the schuil, an the Grange an the Jimmy wur made into comprehesives an aw . That's when Shoartlees became juist a primary schuil. But they built a braw new bigging for the Academy. It took ower hauf the muckle big playgrun the Academy hid up until then. Gif ye stood in the boatum playgrun ahint the Auld Tech, the New Building - as it cam to be kent hid fower flairs an the rooms wir bricht, fur wan aw the wa's in each cless was near eneuch aw gless. It wisnae dreich like the auld Academy building, which o coorse wis noo callt the Auld Building . But the silly eejits built the New Building wae a flat ruif, an the rain wis aye comin in a richt scunner it wis for aw the teachers an the weans in the winter wi dreep, dreep o watter in the middle o aw the lessons.
But the teachers hud been yast to aw the poash weans an aw the brainy yins, an whit a stert they goat whin wee hard men frae aw the schemes o Kilmaurnock began to rummle them aboot an frichten the living daylights oot o aw the poash weans. An the Academy wis stappit fu o weans at the time I'm talking aboot, fur the Grange an the Jimmy wur also to get new biggings, but the daft fuils hadnae goat roon to building them yit. Thir wur fechts in the Academy playgrun near eneuch every day, an some o the weans wha goat intae the Academy wir gey cheeky. Nae wunner the teachers goat aw grutten face't an crabbit , they wir that scunnert hivin tae stoap the stooshie that gawin comprehensive hid meant. No that some o the teachers hadnae been soor face't auld bags in the furst place that wid belt ye as soon as luk at ye, but they wur even mair carnaptious efter the schuil gaed comprehensive. It wis like a pot on a hot stove the mair ye tried to haud the lid doon, the mair the watter scailed ower the stove.
Aye, an they hid the belt in thae days, an some o them yaised it mair than they needit tae. The belt wis a muckle big leather strap that hid twa-three splits at the en. It wis gey sair, especially in the winter if yer haunds wir cauld. I mind wan teacher that likt to play a wee game wi ye afore thumpin ye. He'd kid oan that ye wurnae staunnin in the richt place, an he'd move ye aboot an tak a practice swing or twa at yer haund afore wallop! he'd hit ye a richt sair yin that left yer haun gaupin . It wid be stoonin aw the rest o the day.
But wan o the wurst wis a wee wummin that taught in the A' corridor o the New Building . Miss McHardy wis her name an her cless wis aboot hauf wey alang the corridor which didnae hae aw thae swing doors that thur ur noo. She cuild see up an doon the corridor frae her door an at the chenge o period she wid stan oot at her door an yelp at aw the weans as they gaed by. An a richt skreich she wid let oot her gif ony wean daurt rin or shove onybody. She wis lik a wee terrier dug, wi a wee soor puss , an her hair wis aw fizzy an coorse lik a dug's, an kinnae gingery coulert, jist lik a terrier as I'm saying. She wore a jaiket lik a man which wimmin didnae dae in thae days an she kept her belt unner the shooder o the jaiket an she wid whip it oot an rin ye intae her cless and thump ye wae it if ye daurt as much as luk at her the wrang wey. Awbody wis feart tae gae alang the A' corridor, an aw fur that wee McHardy.
But Watty Sim in the secont year claimt that he wisnae feart, an that wan day he wid show wee McHardy whit wis whit. Watty cam frae Kilmaurs the weans frae there cam to the Academy in thae days an he wis built like the gable en o a hoose, he wis big an sapsy . He hid a grudge again McHardy, fur in furst year she hid wance taken his English cless when his ain teacher wis aff wi the smit . He hid thocht he'd be smairt an put a bit o chuggie oan her chair when he gaed oot tae shairpen his pincil at the bin. She wis up the back o the cless at the time helping wee Sanny Jamieson. Wee Sammy wiz a richt wee an shilpit . Aw the teachers hid tae learn him aw the time fur he cuild hardly read nor write, he wiz richt glaikit a real gomeril . Aye, it wis chenged days fur the Academy. But wee McHardy hid een in the back of her heid, an here, did she no see him puttin it oan the chair. She let oot a skelloch that made the cless loup in thir saets. She rin doon the cless an cloutit Watty in the lug the teachers in thae days wid lift thir haun tae ye, an pity help ye gif ye went hame an telt yer mither aboot it, fur she wid juist gie yer anither wan tae jine it an tell ye that ye must hae bein daein somethin fur the teacher tae skelp ye. Weel, wee McHardy wallopt Watty an then she oot wi the belt an gied him six o it.
So ever since thon , Watty hid it in fur McHardy. He wis a big blaw though an nane o us believt a wurd he said. He claimt to huve ordered up a cairt o dung frae a ferm an hid it delivert to her hoose. He said he'd hid ahint a caur an watched the fermer argy-bargying wi her aboot the dung, an the man wis real sair aboot hivin tae tak it back to Craigie Hill. But gif ye believe that, ye'd believe onything fur awbody kent that Watty wis a richt lier an gif he'd din whit he said, he'd a telt us aboot it aforehaun so that we cuild aw see it.
But wan day Watty wis walkin doon the A' corridor by wee McHardy's door when he pusht Tam Wilson richt intae the wa. Wee McHardy wis oot watching aw the weans gae by as yaesul an she grabs Watty bi the airm an pu's him intae her room. But Watty hid grown sin furst year an he shakes her aff.
Keep yer haunds aff me, ye wee tyke , he seys.
Weel wee McHardy went daft at that an she whips oot the belt.
Hold your hand out boy, she seys. Six of the best for impertinence.
Naw, seys Watty. I'm no gawin tae. Ye hit me an A'm gawin tae tell the heidmaister oan ye, fur you're no allowed tae hit us.
Put your hand out! wee McHardy bellows lik a bull.
Naw! seys Watty. An you're naw gain tae mak me!
At that wee McHardy loast the place awthegither an diz she no hit Watty oan the heid wi the belt. Weel Watty went doon like he'd been felt. Wee McHardy tuik anither hit or twa at Watty as he lies there, but he disnae cry oot or move. Wee McHardy wis gettin worrit.
Get up boy! she shouts, but still Watty doesnae move. He wis oot cauld. The schuil nurse comes an hiz a luk at him, an she sends fur an ambulance. Weel they did aw they cuild fur him at the hoaspital, which in thae days wis in Hill Street, juist oapposite the Johhny Walker's. But Watty wis deid by the end o the day. It seems that the wey wee McHardy had caught him oan the heid wi the belt she'd caused a blood clot oan the brain an Watty never woke up again but sank intae a coma an deed.
Of coorse there wis an awfu stooshie aboot the hale affair. Wee McHardy wis sacked an thrown oot o the teachin. Thir wis a big inquest aboot the yaise o the belt in Scottish schuils an new guidelines wis brocht oot. Nae mair teachers runnin aboot hittin weans aweys . An that seemt tae be that.
But folk began noticin funny things in the A' corridor. A cless wid be daein thir lessons, an the door o the cless wid suddenly swing open. Naebody hid chappt an thir wis naebody there. Wance a teacher went to yaise the wee teacher's bog at the en o the corridor an fun the door lockt. When she goat back up tae the staffroom aw the ither teachers were there an naebody hid left sin her. Ae nicht a pupil was walking alang Braeheid Street , an when she keekit intae the schuil she saw through the mirk a body staunin at the blackboard in wee McHardy's auld clessroom although the schuil had lang been empty an the rooms aw daurk. An when they pit up the twa sets o new swing doors near wee McHardy's auld clessroom, it made a wee daurk bit in the corridor that wid gie ye the willies, an a wean passin through it by thirsel wid feel a cauld haun at thir thrapple that wid leave them feelin fuinert fur the rest o the day.
Wance when thir wis a disco oan, a boay an a lassie crept oot o the Assembly Ha intae the A' corridor tae hae a wee fly snog. The corridor wis daurk in a kinna hauf licht, an thir fuitsteps made a kinna ringing soun, an when they whispert it seemt that thir wir twa-three mair folk in the corridor whisperin an aw. But it wasnae oany o that sent them frae it wi thir herts thumpin in thir breests. It wis the feelin that juist when they gaed to gie each ither a cuddle, thir wis somethin or somewan atween them a big hoose en o a body that pushed an shoved them apairt. They ran frae the corridor back intae the disco, an they niver went back oot wi each ither fur the thocht o cleekin each ither, an that muckle big body pushin atween them, wis mair than they cuild thole .
Weel, folk say it's the ghaist o Watty Sim that haunts the A' corridor. An Watty is juist the kin o boay wha wuid be blythe at ither folks fricht. But when ye think o the wey he deed, his life cut aff hardly afore it hid begun, wha cuild blame him?