As part of “2017- the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology”, alumnus Stewart Beveridge, now living in Australia, shares his memories of studying in the 1950s, in Aberdeen and Auchincruive, to get his Scottish Diploma of Agriculture and his Scottish Diploma in Dairying (Husbandry).
It was 1953 and I had all the schooling I wanted (not needed but I would find that out later). I went picking raspberries when Chivers had farms in Montrose. I was then picking potatoes in October, with the squads at £1 per day, which was good money back then. I applied and was accepted for the Scottish Diploma of Agriculture course at the North of Scotland College of Agriculture (NoSCA). Then followed 12 months of being out in the fields five and a half days per week - rain, hail or shine. However, October came round and Aberdeen beckoned.
Life at NoSCA
I once read a letter in a magazine from someone wondering why her pet budgie hadn’t returned to the cage after flying out of the window, to receive a reply that all that blue sky must have had more appeal. That was me in Aberdeen being freed from parental, social and work restraints. The lectures were much less formal than school and you didn’t get the belt or have to write lines for misdemeanours. There was friendly interaction with the lecturers.
Class exams tested my memory. The anxious visit to the notice board for results was sometimes rewarded - and other times, less so. The Book Keeping Oral was stressful and when the external examiner asked what the term was for equipment that had become old and out of use, the only word that came to my mind was ‘decrepit’. Trying to help this obviously helpless student he then asked, “You know, growing old like Dr I… and I”. Well, it was obvious but they didn’t think that ‘decrepit’ was a suitable description, so the following September I got a booking (exam resit).
Most of the classes were in Marischal College downstairs in the Agri Museum or ground level in the tiered lecture room. This was most uncomfortable as the writing bench was forward of the seating and somewhat narrow. Still, it promoted wakefulness. The favourite lecturer was John Grant who did Vet Hygiene. Some of the details were legend, and we were primed in advance to be ready. The structures of the horse and the bull were particularly well received. Our class consisted of six young ladies and probably 20ish young men who had an agricultural sense of humour.
Botany and Agricultural engineering were at 41½ Union Street. Often it was a bit like a set of un-shepherded sheep meandering across the Union Street zebra crossing, to the dismay of the motorists. There was a lift but the challenge was to beat it up the stairs. Every so often we went out to Craibstone for practicals like Surveying and Equipment.
Second year begins
September came round and the two subjects I was carrying were satisfactorily disposed of. Then Second Year was upon us. The routine was pretty similar but I had changed digs, and I spent less time playing snooker and more in the library rewriting notes and swotting. However, even with less time socialising and additional studies, the diploma exams were still a matter for trepidation.
The diploma exams were carried out in the Great Hall at the end of the Quad, along with students from the university all looking pretty intense. I think the three hours for some of the subjects were not nearly enough for my memory recall, so I had another two bookings for September.
Off to Glasgow
By this time some of my friends were to head off to Glasgow for the Scottish Diploma in Dairying (Husbandry), which looked a good option. So in spite of September being a disaster, I was accepted on the course. The disaster was that when getting ready for the exams I looked at the previous September’s exam papers and decided the questions wouldn’t be asked again. So I concentrated on other aspects. When the papers were handed out, all that was different were the dates.
NoSCA 2nd year Diploma, 1954-1956
Seven of us males duly headed for Glasgow as students from NoSCA, as the ladies had gone at the end of the first year. Practical Bacteriology produced some interesting results when I tried to hurry the drying process of a slide by putting it on top of the microscope light and altered the shape of some Bacilli such that it took the head of the department to recognise what had happened. Practical Chemistry was more structured in our experiments as we got involved with freezing points with the Hortvet Thermometer, Rose Gottleib for butter fats and steam volatile water insoluble fatty acids. It was all good stuff.
On the social side we got on well and three of us joined the college hockey team. Our experience in this field was limited to a game in Aberdeen in order to qualify for an early bus trip to Glasgow as part of the sports team. No matter, our efforts on a Saturday mornings was a change, and as fixtures were few we frequently played the Dough School to their sorrow. By this time romance was in the air, and while waiting for this to happen, during the day I would spend time in the library rewriting notes and studying. It must have done some good as when I went back to Aberdeen for the diploma exams in March, I passed the two subjects without orals. I now had the Scottish Diploma in Agriculture! Then it was off to Auchincruive.
Meeting the Edinburgh contingent
We were well integrated with the Glasgow students by then, but had to get to know the Edinburgh contingent. Eventually all settled down after a game of ‘Cuddy gie way’ in our new Wilson Hall male student accommodation. The dairy studies began. We found the term 'Dairy Husbandry' somewhat of a misnomer. Our expectation was to be working with cows and milking and the like, but found that cheese and butter manufacture was or seemed to be the focus of the project. We were rostered on to the milking which felt a bit more what we expected and gradually became comfortable with the manufacturing process and wearing of white dungarees, which had to be hand-washed, which was a chore. The students who had been primed for this had managed to get white shirts and trousers, which were much preferable.
Lectures were in the Dairy Building, which again attracted some of the same class members we had in Aberdeen. Smoking was permitted during lectures and the ash trays consisted of lids from tobacco tins. On one occasion some of these were being flung around before the start of the lecture. One landed noisily on my desk and he looked up and made a comment about the fools at the back of the class. I protested that I hadn’t been doing anything but he mistook this for something else and I was told to get out. Big disgrace! After class I went back in and protested my innocence but it was a black mark on my record. Years later I was the secretary of the local Dairy Technology Society and the Prof, now retired, became a member. I discussed our previous problems and after that we got in fine. Good bloke!
The final exams
We entertained ourselves and didn’t get into too much mischief most of the time. However our carefree existence was drawing to a close and those brave souls who were doing the National Diplomas studied more intensely, while I was quite happy to aim for the Scottish Diploma. In those days I could sit up all night and study, get cleaned up, have breakfast and sit and pass the exam. However with a reasonably regular study habit this didn’t happen more than once or twice and there were no re-sits. I now had the Scottish Diploma in Dairying (Husbandry).
The next hurdle was to go home then find a job, but that’s another story.