After eleven years in Motherwell, the McIntyre Family
moved to Edinburgh where the Rev John McIntyre took charge of St Mary’s
United Free Church. luckily with a manse in Inverleith Place.
At the age of forty-eight, John McIntyre had moved up
in the world and, in other tenus. this change brought about a
transformation in the family’s outlook.
So far as John, William. Robert and Anne were
concerned, a major change took place in their schooling. Anne went off
to Mary Erskine’s and the boys were enrolled at Daniel Stewart’s
College. The enrolment numbers are found in the ledger-like volumes
which the school still holds:
Robert attended Daniel Stewart’s for seven years
and, while it is difficult to gauge the exact effect on his character of
this school, there can be little doubt of its influence. It must have
been exceedingly strange to go from Motherwell and Hamilton to the
imposing structure of the Edinburgh school founded as a hospital by
Daniel Stewart, a Perthshire lad, who came to the city as a "wig
maker’s" apprentice in the mid-l8th century and, by dint of luck
and effort, succeeded in acquiring resources sufficient, on his death in
1814, to sçt up a Trust with the principle aim of establishing a
hospital for boys.
What we see today in the exterior of the present main
building differs little from the hospital which was opened in 1855. Ironically,
perhaps, the Trustee chose a building designed by the architect, David
Rind, derived from plans which came second when submitted in the
competition for the new Houses of Parliament.
In the 1920’s. Daniel Stewart’s had over 600
pupils presided over by Dr C H Milne, who had been appointed in 1911 and
who, by all accounts, was an aloof and austere domini who had little
rapport with the boys, and ii is surprising that his reign lasted until 1935.
Stewart’s, as a fee paying school, could be highly
selective. While accepting this element, Robert insists that, while it
was fee paying, "it was not a snob school".
Again the fees for four children must have been a
strain on a Minister’s stipend (Anne having joined Mary Erskine’s,)
which was only partly relieved by the brilliance of at least one of the
family, William being able to obtain a remission of fees by being an
extremely able scholar.
Robert admits that he was a "lazy" student,
but able, and, to some extent, this is borne out by his failure to get
the "Highers" grouping to enable him to fulfil his ambition to
do pure science at University.
While the overall influence of the school on Robert
and his brothers is hard to assess, at least one master made a lasting
impression on him, Dr John Oliver who taught English and History unusual
for the 1920’s. At the end, the master concluded, "All right.
Away you go." and put the tawse back into the desk.
Dr Oliver must have made an impact on many more
pupils than Robert. His character inspired the verse:
Beneath your curly pow, John
Where is there room to stow
Such learning, wit and kindliness
John Olive, my Jo
Not up to Burns, but indicative of the affection
and respect which teachers can arouse in pupils whom they might be
forgiven in thinking are not responsive in any shape or form.
What seems quite odd, in such a close-knit family of
the manse living in Edinburgh, is that the boys seemed content to
"gang their am gait". Some of this may be explained by age
differences, but there is little evidence that many of their
extra-curricular interests were shared.
Robert might have been a lazy pupil but he showed
great energy in a range of out with school activities. At this stage of
growing up, he developed a remarkable affection for the sea and boats,
part of which must have come from his father who, at this time (1928),
writes of his own boyhood experiences of boating on the Firth of Clyde
in an introductory passage in his book, "The Idealism of
Jesus". In this, he states, "The tide is rising. Where is the
Church? Is she ready and waiting for the tide, or high and dry on some
lonely beach, oblivious that the night is coming again and a weary
wester must cut her off from the homeward breeze".
But his son’s seaward urges were more experimental.
Robert’s ventures into naval architecture were adventurous to the
point of being foolhardy.
A group of school friends had a joint venture in a
"whaler" which was about 20ft in length - purchased for the
princely sum of about £2.10s. They repaired and painted it and were
able to make it sufficiently riverworthy to sail on the Forth.
Robert got hold of the plans for a canoe from the Boy’s
Own paper and set about its construction in the loft of the house. His
ingenuity in this deserves great praise. He obtained the canvas from an
Elder of the Kirk who happened to work in the Post Office and who had
access to the old mail bags that the Post Office discarded. The
completed vessel was adequate enough to be paddled on the Forth and to
take the Builder’s Mother and Father aboard, which shows their faith
in their son’s ability as well as in the Lord’s.
Later, during a holiday in Granton-on-Spey, he made
what can only be described as a coracle using materials growing near the
river, like alder. This craft was able to give the maker a break from
exam swatting by affording trips on Loch Garten. Sadly, it came to grief
under the bridge on the Spey at Nethybridge where spikes of wood fouled
the boat and punctured the Post Office canvass. However, nothing
daunted, the designer took the view that the experiment had been a
success, in that his construction had worked to his satisfaction and had
given him a great deal of pleasure.
While the idea of going off to sea did cross his
mind, his immediate goal was to achieve the necessary qualifications
which would enable him to enter university.