In this, the 250th anniversary of his birth, our most famous author requires little further introduction, but there have been many other fine volumes produced by Former Pupils (FP’s) which deserve at least a little celebration. Except for the birthday boy, the qualification is 20th century or later. This list is in the order of most-recent publication, and while others will emerge, please do not be offended if your work(s) are not included. As of January 2022, no poets have been included, but that might change, and Robert Fergusson and Norman MacCaig inter alia may grace these pages. Contact us if you feel we have made major omissions.
- Return to Rwanda – December 2021 by E J (Jim) Hunter
- Aberfan: government and disaster – 2020 by Iain Mclean (+other books)
- The Golfing Life of Jock Kirkcaldy – November 2019 by Frank Crowe, designed and edited by Alastair Allanach
- Edinburgh Revisited – October 2019 by Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham
- The Sins of Jack Saul – 2016 by Glenn Chandler (+ another seven books) – Article coming soon
- Devil’s Demise (2014), Porcelain, Flesh of Innocents (2017) and Demon’s Fire – 2018 by Lee Cockburn
- It’s only a joke Comrade (2018) by Jonathan Waterlow
- Social Science, Rational Choice and Taxation – 1980-2020 by John Kay, Iain McLean and Gordon Burt
- VWSM (Values, World Society and Modelling) – 2014-2021 by Gordon Burt
- The SuperJam Cookbook – 2010 by Fraser Doherty (+ another two books)
- Dancing in the Darkness – 2009 by Frankie Poullain
- Wings on my sleeve – 2006 by Eric Brown
- High Hopes – 2005 autobiography by Ronnie Corbett
- The Railway Man – 1995 by Eric Lomax
- Rebecca’s Vest 1984 by Karl Miller (and other books)
- The British Tax System – 1978 by John Kay (with Mervyn King) + another ten books
- The Brave White Flag – 1962 by Jim Ford (also Season of Escape – 1963)
- The White Blackbird – 1935 by Andrew Young (plus more than 30 other books of poetry)
- The Waverley Novels (24) – 1814-1831 by Sir Walter Scott (knighted in 1820) + another 40 works of poetry, novels, short stories and non-fiction
Return to Rwanda
E J (Jim) Hunter (2021)
This book was published recently, the author being Jim Hunter, elder brother of Gordon whose book is also featured in this article. More details in due course, but in the meantime we’ve included an image of the dust cover.
The Amazon website advises: E. J. Hunter served in the British Army for twenty-five years, much of it with Airborne Forces. Upon leaving the military, he worked in the City of London for a short period before starting his own consultancy business. He retired early so that he could concentrate on his long-held passion for writing. With his rich and eventful experiences in the army, Hunter had a wide array of things about which to write. He chose the setting of the refugee crisis in Rwanda and Eastern Zaire for his fiction novel ‘Return to Rwanda’.
Aberfan: government and disaster
Iain Mclean (2020) with Martin Johnes
Iain McLean was third generation Royal High, and attended the school from arriving at the Jock’s Lodge ‘Prep’ school in 1951 until leaving through the Regent Road memorial door in 1964. He was both school captain and dux. In rugby, he reached the 6th XV (maybe once the 5th). Not being able to see didn’t help.
School influences included the legendary ‘Jock’ Dewar for Latin and Greek and Tom Fairlie for maths. In his own time and at his own expense Mr Fairlie tried to wrest Iain from the arts stream by preparing him for an extra O grade in Applied maths.
Iain’s career has been interdisciplinary since then, as a historian and political scientist, mostly at Oxford. His books include The Legend of Red Clydeside (2nd edn 1999); Classics of Social Choice with A. B. Urken (1995) Aberfan: government and disaster (with Martin Johnes), 2nd edn 2020)), Rational Choice and British Politics (2001), and What’s wrong with the British Constitution 2nd edn 2012.
The Golfing Life of Jock Kirkcaldy
Frank Crowe, designed and edited by Alastair Allanach (2019)
Two former RHS Club Presidents merged their golfing experiences and talents (?) to produce a volume of twelve original short stories and essays, complemented by a variety of supporting material, including a number of original illustrations.
Gary Player provides a foreword, where his dedication includes the following: “I’m pleased to see the publication of a golf book which encompasses a number of golf-related components – short stories, reminiscences and golf equipment among them. I’m pleased that the game which has given me so much pleasure and fulfilment (and of course occasional frustration) can be shared by so many others through the medium of print. I’m also pleased to note that donations will be made to charity from the distribution of this book, which I understand will have a limited print run. I can only encourage those of you who are acquiring the volume to give generously to the nominated charity. Most of those who can afford to play this magnificent game can afford a little extra to support those less fortunate than themselves”.
A website has been created to augment the publication, and gather further short stories and articles for the next publication:
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham (2019)
LIFE-LONG friends Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham (both leaving in 1976) have combined their photographic and poetic talents to produce Edinburgh Revisited – a sumptuous book celebrating the capital’s enduring splendour in photos and poems. Gordon and Don have been friends since childhood, growing up close to each other in Portobello. Both attended the Royal High School in Northfield Broadway from primary one, and both have strong connections with the Borders – Gordon having been born in Hawick, and Don in Galashiels (oops).
A chartered surveyor, Gordon’s Ashkirk Properties company advises institutional investors, fund managers, property companies and banks. Gordon is well known in local rugby circles, having turned out for Selkirk and been a member of Scotland’s 1984 Grand Slam-winning squad. His love of photography has grown over the past 20 years, and he now possesses an extensive portfolio of images. Gordon and his wife Nancy live near Ashkirk. Don’s career in education and leadership saw him serve as Deputy Head of Selkirk High School and Headteacher of Dunbar Grammar School. He was also director of education with two local authorities, and now heads up Ceannas, an international leadership consultancy. His passion for poetry stems from early school days when his Primary 6 teacher, Miss Simpson, introduced him to the work of Norman MacCaig. He and his wife Gill live in Langshaw, near Melrose.
Edinburgh Revisited picks out many of Edinburgh’s iconic views of the city, putting a twist on them, both in terms of the accompanying photographs and themed poems. Over a three-year period Gordon and Don made frequent visits to the capital. Sometimes the poem came first, while on other occasions Gordon captured an image without ever quite knowing what it would stimulate in terms of a poem from Don.
You can listen to the BBC Scotland interview with Grant Stott, also to the poems, three of which are available here:
- The Scott Monument – The Gothic Rocket takes to the skies
- The Cow and the Photographer – beware the three-legged coo
- The Old Royal High (close to High Scholar’s hearts…) – the text can be seen here
The poems are read by 6′ 8″ ex Scotland rugby international Andy Macdonald (who sadly played for the nails….)
A news article with a gallery of photographs was published in this website to coincide with the Edinburgh book launch in January 2022.
Demon’s Fire, Porcelain – Flesh of Innocents and Devil’s Demise
Lee Cockburn (2018, 2017 and 2014)
Lee left school in 1986, and has had a career in the Police (currently as an Inspector), as a Rugby player and Author.
Lee’s sporting prowess was evident at school, winning prizes in swimming and athletics. She went on to represent Scotland at rugby for over a decade in a distinguished career that saw her win numerous international championships. Working in the police force has provided Lee with the experiences to pursue another talent by writing gripping crime novels. Lee joined the Police in 2000, and interspersed that career with International Rugby (77 Scottish and 4 ‘Classic Lioness’ caps) and her authorship, and is also known as a very popular after dinner speaker.
Lee has also featured as one of the recent ‘modern’ biographies which are hosted on the RHS London Club site. Click here to see the content.
‘It’s Only a Joke Comrade’
Jonathan Waterlow (2018)
Jonathan was (joint) Dux in History and Proxime to Dux of School in 2003, having been joint Dux of form 5 the previous year. He was also prominent in the School Fencing team. In the book featured here, he acknowledges the powerful influence of his History teacher on him: “My high school History teacher, Philip Mackenzie, inspired me and many others, not only through his passion for History, but for life and the living of it. Without him, this book simply wouldn’t exist.” Generous recognition indeed.
He received his PhD (DPhil) from the University of Oxford in 2012. He went on to hold a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and was a Research Associate at the University of Bristol from 2016-18. He’s also been a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto, and studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, and the Herzen State Pedagogical University in St Petersburg, Russia. He’s a founder at Voices in the Dark (voicesinthedark.world), where he writes and podcasts.
‘It’s Only a Joke Comrade’, Humour, Trust and Everyday Life under Stalin (1928-1941) was published in 2018. One reviewer wrote: This is a very well researched book on Humour, under Stalin-specifically in the 1930s. It comes across as the book one would write as the outgrowth of a PhD and I suspect that was the case. I first heard of the book on the “SRB Postcast” by Sean Guillory when the author was interviewed. (the podcast is a great source of Russian culture, history and books). On the continuum of a popular literature at one end (such as a list of Russian Jokes) and full-on academic work this sits squarely towards the academic side, but not so much that a non-academic cannot enjoy it. But being a non-academic I kept thinking, “More jokes (anekdoty)”.
Social Science, Rational Choice and Taxation
John Kay, Iain McLean and Gordon Burt (1980-2020)
When the editor asked his old schoolmate Gordon Burt for an article about his publications (including ‘Football and Mathematics’), it quickly became apparent that three High Scholar authors were interconnected with the subjects. A decision has been made as a consequence to include this group entry (which includes many links) along with separate entries for each of the three authors. The following article has been compiled by and agreed upon by the three.
John Kay, Iain McLean and Gordon Burt were near contemporaries at the Royal High School in the period 1957-1965 (after attendance at the Prep School at Jock’s Lodge). They learned mathematics from Tom Fairlie and English from Hector McIver and Sandy Forsyth. (McIver and Forsyth are both mentioned in Kay’s speech in accepting a Saltire Literary Award in 2016). McLean also mentions the legendary ‘Jock’ Dewar for Latin and Greek. It was a rich interdisciplinary mix, both arts and science. It is a mix celebrated in the school motto: Musis Respublica Floret, ‘The State Flourishes with the Muses’. Significantly Kay and McLean both highlight a dialogue at school between the Muses: Forsyth trying to win Kay over to poetry – and Fairlie trying to win McLean over to mathematics. It is a dialogue which has lasted throughout their careers. Recently in a blog in 2018 for the British Academy McLean discusses with Diarmaid MacCulloch what distinguishes two modern ‘Muses’: the social sciences and the humanities.
In the post-war world the new area of ‘social science’ was developing fast, in many ways bridging mathematics and English. Kay studied economics, MacLean studied modern history and politics and Burt studied mathematics and later psychology. Kay and MacLean became professors at Oxford University and Gordon Burt started at the newly established Open University in 1970. Their respective careers were quite separate. However in retrospect one key idea was common: the notion of ‘rational choice’. The notion was central to the discipline of economics where it was becoming increasingly mathematicised and somewhat later the idea became increasingly attractive to political scientists. During the 1980s and1990s McLean and Burt were both members of the Rational Choice Study Group of the Political Studies Association. In 2001 McLean wrote Rational Choice & British Politics: an analysis of rhetoric and manipulation from Peel to Blair. In 2010 Burt wrote Conflict, Complexity and Mathematical Social Science. Early on in his career Kay had written a book on taxation with Mervyn King, who was later to become Governor of the Bank of England. And many books down the road, just two years ago, in 2020 at the onset of COVID, Kay and King published Radical Uncertainty: Decision-Making for an Unknowable Future in which they present their alternative to the dominant rational choice framework. Burt meanwhile notes that values are a key aspect of rational choice and has espoused the framework of Values, World Society and Modelling with Yearbooks for 2014, 2015 and 2017.
VWSM (Values, World Society and Modelling)
Gordon Burt (2021)
Gordon started at Northfield Broadway in 1953.
He is frequently shown playing in chess tournaments, and as the 1963 Annual Report quoted “Gordon swept the board in the Edinburgh junior Chess congress and was chosen to represent Scotland in a tournament in Yugoslavia”. After leaving school in 1963 (having been proxime to Dux of form 5 on the way) he studied mathematics and later psychology. He spent his working life at The Open University. His involvement in Peace Science stemmed from his international relations background combined with his interest in Mathematics, resulting in the publications featured here. See several of his Yearbooks at 2014, 2015 and 2017. Gordon’s extensive web pages which include many publications are available here.
The SuperJam Cookbook
Fraser Doherty (2010)
Fraser (leaving year 2006) delivered the FP address at the 2014 Prize Giving, thus almost certainly becoming the youngest person to do so.
In his 5th year (2005), Fraser won the fifth-year prizes for Accounting and Finance, and Economics, also Open Prizes, for Dux in Business Education and the Prize for Business Management. He obviously wasn’t starting slowly, and surely was no stranger to the Memorial stage. Fraser is a Scottish entrepreneur from Edinburgh, founder of SuperJam, Envelope Coffee, and co-founder of Beer52. He is also director of the registered Scottish charity, The SuperJam Tea Parties. Fraser, through SuperJam, has invested in various charitable projects. The SuperJam Tea Parties, which runs tea parties for lonely elderly people who live alone or in care homes, was established by Doherty in 2008.
Fraser’s website says; Fraser Doherty is the founder of the 100% Fruit jam company, SuperJam. He started the company at the age of fourteen, using his Gran’s recipes. Since then, SuperJam has grown to supply over 2,000 supermarkets around the world, selling millions of jars along the way. SuperJam has been entered into the National Museum of Scotland as an ‘Iconic Scottish Brand’, has won over 20 innovation awards and launched in seven countries around the world. As well as sharing his story at hundreds of speaking engagements, Fraser is a regular contributor to magazines and an author of three books; SuperBusiness, The SuperJam Cookbook and 48 hour start-up. He has won numerous awards, and was made MBE in 2014 for services to Business. In his Prize Giving address in 2014, he recounted how he had started selling eggs at the age of 11, before being taught how to make jam at his Granny’s house in Glasgow. His parents soon found that there was no space in their kitchen for anything except jam making equipment, and Fraser recounted how he sold jam at School and via his parents’ friends, and that a major influence at school was his Business Education teacher Anne Laing.
Dancing in the Darkness
Frankie Poullain (2009)
Francis Poullain-Paterson left school from form 6B2 in 1985 presumably wondering what his career was to be: in the event by 2000 he had become the one Scottish member of the rock band Darkness (the others hail from Lowestoft) which has, with the exception of four years between 2007 and 2011 endured to this day with Frankie as the bass player and backing vocal singer. Examination of the annual report during his school life shed no light his future stellar career.
The dust cover of the book describes his biography thus “This is one man’s guide to begging for s**, smuggling drugs and pretending to be rock ‘n’ roll…The one time pirate bass warrior of cock rockers, The Darkness; offers an illustrated alternative self-help book based on the philosophy of disaster: ‘How To Be A Bass Player With No Sense Of Rhythm’, ‘How To Be A Tour Guide With No Sense Of Direction’, ‘How To Get Into The Closet’, ‘How To Go From Chateau To a Mess’, and so on. Just take up what you are worst at, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride! In this off-beat, hilarious, hare-brained manual on fame, fortune and the universe, Frankie offers a unique slant on the bigger questions in life in an attempt to help readers (and himself) arrive at a greater understanding of the world through the excesses of soap, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Thanks to a revolutionary process called the ‘Mind Sweeper’, devised by his Polish cleaner, he is able to make sense of his life before, during and after ‘that band’ he played in…
Wings on my sleeve
Eric Brown (2006)
Eric Melrose Brown left school in 1937 as Proxime to Dux, Athletics champion and member of the 1st XV.
While studying for a degree in German (which was to prove very useful), he headed to Germany just before the War, escaping by the skin of his teeth, enabling him to embark a stellar career in aviation which would see him described as the greatest test pilot ever produced by Britain. Eric addressed both the School Prize Giving and Edinburgh and London annual dinners, holding the audiences spellbound as he described his often hair-raising exploits initially in wartime then latterly in peacetime.
The book dustcover explains its splendid contents: “In 1939 Eric Brown was on a University of Edinburgh exchange course in Germany, and the first he knew of the war was when the Gestapo came to arrest him. They released him, not realising he was a pilot in the RAF volunteer reserve: and the rest is history. Eric Brown joined the Fleet Air Arm and went on to be the greatest test pilot in history, flying more different aircraft types (487) than anyone else. During his lifetime he made a record-breaking 2,407 aircraft carrier landings and survived eleven plane crashes. One of Britain’s few German-speaking airmen, he went to Germany in 1945 to test the Nazi jets, interviewing (among others) Hermann Goering and Hanna Reitsch. He flew the suicidally dangerous Me 163 rocket plane, and tested the first British jets. WINGS ON MY SLEEVE is ‘Winkle’ Brown’s incredible story”.
He is immortalised in a fine bronze statue at Edinburgh airport, unveiled in 2018, shown here (with RHS Club President Ian Cowie and School Captain Megan Aitken) at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2019.
Ronnie Corbett (2011)
Ronnie Corbett attended the Royal High from 1936 to 1948, winning prizes for swimming throughout his schooldays. Little needs to be added about his huge entertainment talents
Amazon once again says…”Son of an Edinburgh baker, Ronnie rose to fame as one half of the infamous Two Ronnies alongside Ronnie Barker. Known for his versatility, quick-wit, family-friendly dialogue, and meandering monologues, Corbett was a staple of British television for more than 50 years. In his autobiography, he tells the complete story, from his school technique of estimating the height of a girl before daring to ask her to dance, to his days as a night club barman in London, and finally, to his decades long career as a stand-up and sitcom star. Including tales of how he first met David Frost, John Cleese and Michael Palin, this book is written with all of Ronnie’s trademark warmth and wit. Celebrating his life and career, this is Ronnie’s own honest and definitive account of his truly dramatic journey”.
The Railway Man
Eric Lomax (1995)
Eric Lomax left RHS in 1936 after his fifth form. Wikipedia says…
“Lomax is fascinated by railways and spends his holidays trying to spot rare locomotives near his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. During the war, Lomax serves as a signals officer and is captured when the Japanese conquer Singapore. At first, the Japanese are unable to efficiently control the large number of Allied prisoners captured when Singapore falls, but eventually the prisoners are dispersed into smaller camps. The prisoners in the camp where Lomax is being held build a secret radio receiver, which is discovered by the prison authorities. Lomax and several other prisoners are severely beaten, and two of them die from their injuries. Later, when guards discover Lomax has drawn a detailed map of the Siam-Burma railroad, which the prisoners are being forced to help build, he endures intense questioning and torture, including being waterboarded. He and the others are found guilty of anti-Japanese activity and are sent to a harsher prison, where they are starved nearly to death.
Eric is psychologically damaged by his treatment and, after the war, suffers from severe psychological problems and is only able to discuss his experiences as a POW with other former POWs. He eventually seeks treatment at the urging of his second wife.
He eventually makes contact with one of his Japanese interrogators after the war, and receives counselling to control his urge to hunt him down and attack him. Lomax discovers that the man has spent his life trying to make amends for his actions during the war by speaking out against militarism. Lomax eventually goes back to Thailand to visit the area of the camps where he was a prisoner and meets his interrogator. Lomax is able to forgive him, and both men find the experience extremely moving”
Karl Miller 1984
Karl Miller was Dux of School in 1949, winning every prize for English on the way, and Dux or Proxime each year in Senior School, so it wasn’t perhaps surprising that the English language featured so highly in his future life. He also wrote and directed several plays while at school.
In his splendid obituary in the Guardian in 2014, he is described as the ‘greatest literary editor of his time’. He wrote two volumes of autobiography, Rebecca’s Vest (1984) and Dark Horses (1988) along with three others volumes including The Electric Shepherd (2003), a study of James Hogg, like Miller a Pentland man. He studied English at Downing College Cambridge, and went on to be literary editor of the Spectator (1958-61), and the New Statesman (1961-67) before co-founding and editing the London Review of Books (LRB) from 1974 to 1992 while simultaneously working as professor of English at University College London. The LRB elicited articles from such literary luminaries as Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, Angela Carter, Martin Amis and Hilary Mantel.
In 2017, his son Sam published Fathers, an account of his father and his family. His biography has featured for several years in the RHS digital history, and on the biographies page on the RHS London Club site.
The British Tax System
John Kay 1978 (with Mervyn King)
John left school at the end of his fifth form in 1965, having been Dux of form and several other subjects.
He went to the University of Edinburgh to study mathematics, but, after taking a subsidiary course in economics, decided that he wanted to be an economist. After graduating, he went to Nuffield College, Oxford, where he worked under James Mirrlees, who was in due course to win the Nobel Prize for his contributions to economic theory. On Mirrlees’ advice, he applied for and to his astonishment got a permanent teaching post in the University of Oxford at the embarrassingly early age of 21. Oxford is a collegiate university – members of the faculty generally have both University and College appointments. This post carried with it a fellowship at St John’s College, an association which he has maintained and enjoyed ever since. John was Knighted in the 2021 Queens Birthday Honours List for services to Economics, to Finance and to Business. More on John’s career at www.johnkay.com/about/ where you can read about John’s eleven publications (and visit his ‘Shop’). His first book was ‘The British Tax System‘, co-written with Mervyn King in 1980, with whom he shared a further publication ‘Radical Uncertainty‘ in 2020. In 2016, John won a Saltire Literary Award for ‘Other People’s Money‘, in which he mentioned Hector McIver and Sandy Forsyth as important literary influences.
The Brave White Flag and Season of Escape
Jim Ford (1962 and 1963)
Brave White Flag is a story was related by James Allan (Jim) Ford MC (RHS leaving year 1937) who was taken prisoner at the same time as his elder brother Douglas Ford GC and was in the same camp until September 1942 when Jim was sent to Japan.
Douglas was executed by the Japanese in 1943, but Jim was repatriated at the end of the War, rising to a very senior post in the Scottish Civil Service. He died in 2009. Jim wrote a series of novels (1962 and 1963), two of which were about the fall of Hong Kong and prison camp life. ‘The Brave White Flag’ recounted the story of the fall of Hong Kong, while the ‘Season of Escape’ was a fictional story of Douglas’s period in captivity based on accounts from many sources. Jim gave the Former Pupils address at the 1971 Prize Giving, his title at that time being Director of Establishment at the Scottish Office.
Jim was not only a novelist, but also a celebrated poet. In 2011, a plaque commemorating this part of his life was installed in the Makars’ Court in Lady Stair’s Close, off the Lawnmarket in central Edinburgh. He joins the celebrated band of Scottish poets immortalised in this very special place.
The White Blackbird
Andrew Young (1935)
Andrew Young was a distinguished poet and naturalist whose precise, profound and deceptively simple poems deserve a far wider readership. Andrew Young gained a scholarship to The Royal High School in 1896 where, according to his own account in the ‘The New Poly-Olbion, he truanted as “a matter of principle”.
He never forgot the roaring voice and raging temper of John Marshall, the Head Master, nor how he played truant on several occasions. According to Leonard Clark, while enjoying the free air on Arthur’s Seat on probably the last of these occasions, he was unfortunately picked out by the chance telescope of one of the masters. He was nearly expelled for this escapade….
Andrew Young’s 1903 classmate Norman Macleod, winner of the coveted Macmillan prize for Dux of English that year (featured in an article at royalhigh.co.uk/editors-blog/), apparently vied for supremacy in the subject. His repeated truancy led to the revocation of his scholarship but this did not prevent him from carrying on at the school, graduating and moving on to the University of Edinburgh (in 1903) where he took an arts degree with the hope of ‘becoming a poet’, graduating with an M.A. in 1907. He became a minister, firstly Presbyterian then Anglican, blending his time in the ministry with his first love, the creation of poetry. With the outbreak of war, though, Young decided that he should enlist and spent much of the war providing religious comfort to the soldiers behind the front line. He retired from his ministry in 1959, by which time he had received a number of awards including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1952. To view a composite biography, click here.
The Waverley Novels
Sir Walter Scott, 1814-1832
Walter Scott attended the High School between 1779 and 1783, leaving for Edinburgh University at the age of 12. He disliked the Classics-based delivery of education at the school, wishing to broaden his education into the sciences and liberal subjects.
He is perhaps best known for the Waverley Novels, but wrote many other volumes, including forty works of poetry, novels, short stories and non-fiction. There are many descriptions of the Waverley Novels, including this one from Britannica, which also provides a biography.
This article has been created with many references to the publications gleaned from websites advertising the books for sale, also Wikipedia and a variety of other reference websites. Tom Bacciarelli has been extensively involved in research into and editing of the content.