There I was in the Salmon Bothy, settling myself for my stint at the fantastic Portsoy Book Festival yesterday, when the Festival Treasurer handed me a mysterious package.
“This,” she said, “Is from the Lord Lieutenant. He says he knows you?”
I know my face must have looked blank and I didn’t want to appear rude, but for the life of me I couldn’t think who she meant. For those unfamiliar with the title of Lord Lieutenant, it’s a throwback to the days when the monarch appointed a representative for each of the old Scottish counties. In the past, the Lord Lieutenant had the power to raise a militia of local people in order to quell any uprisings. These days it tend to be a title bestowed on retired people with a good record of public or community service.
It was only when I opened the package that it all became clear, because inside was a book. It was the history of Elgin High School and there was a card marking the chapter about the BBC Scotland SoundTown project which set up camp in the school back in 2005. We built a radio station with the pupils and spent a school year organising a range of activities linked to the output of the BBC. The headmaster at the time was Andy Simpson and he, it now turned out, was the new Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire. In the card he offered apologies for not being able to attend my event at the festival but he also recalled how we had swapped jobs for a day. I’d spent a few hours shadowing his job as Headmaster at Elgin and he’d come to Glasgow to sort out BBC Radio Scotland.
I had often wondered if that SoundTown project made any difference to the schools we invaded over the years, but Andy put my mind to rest by writing:
“SoundTown was an important moment for Elgin High School. It undoubtedly raised aspirations amongst the pupils as well as the profile of the school both locally and across the country. We were able to build on this in different ways and subsequently saw exam passes and career progression routes develop in very positive ways.”
That was a really terrific thing to read. And from a Lord, no less!