I left Bolton School in 1966 for University in Scotland – Dundee, although I am so old it was part of St. Andrews when I started there. I stayed on after my first degree (Geography) to work for a PhD and also did some university teaching.
After numerous failed attempts to obtain a full time academic job, I applied for a research post in local government and to which, much to my surprise, I was appointed. Cutting a long story short, that resulted in a career of 25 years in local government, 13 of which were as Chief Executive in Fife. By the late 1990s, and past 50 years old, I decided it was time for a change and was about to embark on a second career in consultancy when I was appointed to the post of Chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage. I spent a wonderful 7 years there. This was a part-time post which gave me some time for consultancy work and I also became a Governor of the University of Edinburgh, spending 5 years as Vice Convener of the University Court, the Senior Lay Governor.
I am currently a Trustee of the Gannochy Trust in my present home city of Perth – this is the legacy of A. K. Bell (Bell’s whisky), a Trustee of a Care Home and a Trustee of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles – which defies rational explanation as to how I arrived there, as I can’t even thread a needle! Indeed many things defy logic in my CV; for someone who struggled to pass O’ Level Maths and has two degrees in Geography, I have been Chairman of three Audit Committees in separate organisations.
What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?
I was a pupil from 1956 to 1966. My brother, Peter, was three years behind me. Completely coincidentally my eldest daughter, Mrs Anne Robinson, was Head of Economics and Business Studies in the Girls’ Division for a number of years.
What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
I think it would have to be the character building experiences of Clifford Ingham’s Trek Camps which were highly unpredictable and just about on the right side of what today we would regard as significant health and safety issues.
Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?
Derek Shaw for making Keynesian Economics more or less understandable, Ronnie Booth for doing his best to stop me bowling consistently down the leg side, and Clifford Ingham for returning to Bolton with the same number of boys he set out with (as far as I know).
What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?
A proper sense of values and how to treat one’s fellow human beings.
What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?
Follow your own intuition about what it is you want to do. Avoid being pushed into something that doesn’t seem right. Be confident enough to change if you are not enjoying what you do. Ideally, hope to be in the right place at the right time.
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
The 100 Campaign deserves all our support. I can look back on my days at Bolton School when virtually everyone was there irrespective of family income, and that’s the way it should be. I don’t often think we should look back to a ‘golden age’, but on this occasion it might just be correct to do so.