MEMORIES OF GORDON CRAWFORD, AN INSPIRING TEACHER AND FRIEND
Written by Eleanor Beaton
I’ve typed this piece about Mr Crawford using sketched notes prepared by our aunty Katie. – Eleanor Beaton
I was approaching ten years of age when Mr Crawford became headmaster of Hilton Public School. We soon realised that he was going to be a very different sort of master from Mr Watt who had held the post for many years before. There were changes afoot and we were all to benefit from the vision and determination of this kindly man who put his pupils first in everything he did. Mr Crawford lived in the fine, big school house which stood next to the playground. He was not married and was to remain so. He was a genuinely busy fellow, involved in so many educational and community related pursuits that he’d jokingly say, “he just didn’t have the time to even think about marriage.” His pupils were foremost in his life.
He oversaw improvements to playgrounds and allowed the pupils to play on the Sandy Banks, the dunes just opposite the school building on the other side of the main road. The school annexed part of a neighbouring field to allow the boys to play proper games of football or the girls to practice their athletics for sports day. Teachers took P.E. lessons in the field when the weather was good. For those aspiring to tennis fame, there was the chance to play tennis in Mr Crawford’s garden. School holidays were short, pupils did however get Christmas off, even when their fathers worked on Christmas Day.
Mr Crawford was known for his commitment to amateur dramatics, his guidance was sought by groups in Fearn, Nigg and Tain who would be encouraged to participate in competitions at Dingwall. He set up a Boy Scouts Group and took the lads camping at Evanton. Parents and friends were allowed to visit them there much to everyone’s enjoyment. Scouts concerts were also enjoyed by one and all. The girls weren’t to be left out, the two Miss MacDonalds got a Girl Guide Company established. My chum and I were to be two of the patrol leaders. There were joint parties for Guides and Scouts and joint concerts as well. Parents and friends who came along have fond memories of those events. I was unable to get to the first Guide Camp as I had started my first job, despite this I tried to arrange to be at home for the Guides’ sales. I can remember selling raffle tickets at different times, even after The War had started. I’d be there, wearing my WAAF uniform if I was on leave. My friend and I used to go collecting for the Poppy Fund and likewise, I collected for The Red Cross on my days off.
During the War Mr Crawford encouraged local folks to form a committee which would eventually work towards raising money to build a new village hall as a memorial to the young men and women who never returned to The Seaboard. He got all sorts of people involved in doing their bit. He even got some of the older men to volunteer for “Look-out” service. My father went to the meeting and I’ll never forget the pleasure he had when he was chosen to be Auxiliary Fire Man for the village, proudly showing off his stirrup pump, bucket and hatchet, I think he had a torch as well.
Mr Crawford saw the lack of local opportunities for lads leaving school, he felt he had to talk to the older boys about the possibility of obtaining entrance to the R.A.F. training school at Hilton. Two of my brothers went there before the war began and remained grateful for his good advice.
Singing at morning prayers, where the whole school gathered in the big school hall was a moving experience, Mr Crawford’s favourite hymn was “And did those feet in ancient times-“. Years after we all grew up my brothers sang songs made up at School or Scouts, like “There’ll always be a Scotland”. “Hilton, the school on the hill” is still sung by those who fondly recall Mr Crawford’s days up there.