Coatdyke Primary School (now demolished) was an old-fashioned, no nonsense seat of learning. Apart from teaching the three Rs, its aim was to get the academically more able pupils through their Qualifying Exam (11+). Those who 'qualified' proceeded to the superb Coatbridge High School, where the aim was to get the most academically gifted pupils onwards into University. I was fortunate to have been in the 'academically gifted' group, though I never stopped to ponder it at the time.
In both schools, corporal punishment (the tawse) was used regularly by both male and femal teachers. I had and still have no objections to use of the tawse. I experienced numerous 'beltings'; it was far better than being given a hundred lines to write out. However, I am not in favour of caning on the backside; that seems to have sado-masochistic implications.
My aim at school was to qualify for officer entry into the Royal Navy. That demanded similar academic entry standards to universities plus a three day interview process. Coatbridge HIgh School did not let me down. At sixteen, I won a scholarship to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. To this day, I thank my wonderful teachers for the great start they gave me.
My main interests at school were football, running, cycling, tennis, badminton, debating society, school opera, Citizens' theatre club, the excellent 2nd Coatbridge Scouts, Cliftonville Community Association Youth Club, camping, youth hosteling and, of course, the girls, some of whom I had known since primary school.
Alas, Coatbridge had one great social fault line: religious sectarianism. Due to the number of Catholic Irish labourers who came to the town during the Industrial Revolution, 60% of the town's population was of Irish Catholic descent and the two communities did not mix. We lived in parallel worlds. I grew up in the Protestant community. I was entirely ecumenical in spirit but mixing with the Catholics was virtually impossible. We went to separate churches and separate schools, even to separate Scout groups.
As secretary of the school debating society, I broke this mould by inviting St Patrick's High School to join us in a joint debate. On the football field, it was a different story; that was like a juvenile Rangers v Celtic match. Coatbridge High School was then one of the top footballing schools in Scotland and reached the final of the Scottish Schools Senior Shield competition in both my fifth and sixth years, the finals being played at Hampden. Tragedy upon tragedy, in both finals we were beaten by Catholic schools (St Mungo's Academy of Glasgow and Our Lady's High School of Motherwell)!!
Ironically, my first friends in the Navy happened to be Catholic. I only discovered this when they fell-out from Sunday divisions to attend the Catholic church service. 'I didn't know Catholics were like you,' said I to Roger and Tony. 'What do you mean?' they asked. That brought home to me, the nonsense of having religious apartheid in our schooling. (For the record, it was the Catholic church which demanded separate education).
My Coatbridge upbringing gave me the firmest of foundations for life, a fantastic childhood and the moral compass that has guided me safely ever since.