Out of the Camp

Out of the Camp Ch. 31 – The Leaving (2)

The day came for me to go to London for my audition at the London Academy of Modelling. My recollections of this are very hazy. I travelled down to London on the overnight train – second class, of course – which meant I had to share the cabin with another passenger. Fortunately, I arrived first which meant I got the choice of berths, and I went for the lower one. I did this trip a few times back then and for some reason always remember being woken up by the steward opening the door, holding it with his foot, while he’d pour a freshly brewed cup of tea which he’d pass to you with two biscuits in a packet. The head end of the bunks, of course, were right by the door and so, when the morning tea arrived, all you had to do was prop yourself up on one elbow and take it from the steward as he passed it in. Lovely!

The Academy was located on Bond Street in Mayfair and up one flight of stairs. It was run by a man called gordon eden wene, the first time I ever encountered anyone not capitalizing the first letters of their name. He was a very thin middle-aged man who dressed impeccably in very high fashion togs. He also struck me as being a little odd and very likely was somewhat eccentric but probably a brilliant businessman. At the audition there were probably around twenty young hopefuls looking to be taken on to do the training. Among the tasks we were set were reading a brief script of a TV commercial into a camera, getting on the catwalk, and just walking up and down without trying to effect any kind of swagger or perceived trendy gait. We were broken up into groups of four to take turns performing a four-person sketch of a mock-up ad that we carried out ‘cold’. Finally, there was the interview in which you were faced with four or five people asking questions about you and just engaging you in general conversation. At the end of the day, we were told that we would receive our results with 10-14 days.

That same evening back home in Edinburgh, the Dollyrockers were playing at the Casablanca Club in Rose Street Lane and so I’d somehow raised the cash for the airfare home so that I could make the gig. I honestly don’t remember how I got to Heathrow; back then they hadn’t yet built the tube extension, so I’m guessing I must have caught the BR train from Paddington unless that hadn’t started either. I don’t know!. Anyway, I’d never flown before and, in fact, I didn’t know anyone else who had either. I realized that the flight I’d have to take arrived in Edinburgh shortly before we were scheduled to start the gig and so I’d have to go straight to the club from the airport as time was very tight. The plane was a Vickers Vanguard, a turbro-prop operated by British European Airways (BEA) before their merger with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) to create British Airways, and I was so excited I was a total bag of nerves fearing I was going to do something wrong, and they wouldn’t let me on. Oh yes! I’d been trained well; I knew my place and flying around in aeroplanes wasn’t for the likes of me, so I’d better watch my step! When the flight was called, we walked out of the terminal building and across the tarmac to the aircraft and climbed the staircase. Heathrow in those days was a tiny fraction of the size that it is now; none of those fancy jetways back then. The flight was pretty uneventful so far as I can recall; I remember the seats weren’t anywhere near as comfortable as they are these days. They were very narrow, and I don’t think they reclined much if at all. Also, you could hardly see anything out of the tiny little windows and the noise of the engines was deafening. There were prominent notices in the restrooms requesting that you wipe down the surfaces around the sink and mirror in consideration of the next person to use the facilities and, believe it or not, in those days people actually did it!

When I got to the club, the guys gave me this big buildup along the lines of, “And here he is just flown back from London, etc. etc.” It was great, I was on top of the world, and we went on and had a great gig that night.

Preparations were well under way for my 21st birthday party. My Dad had hired the Gilmerton Village Hall and lots of relatives and friends were coming from different parts of Scotland, and many from my Mother’s side of the family were travelling up from England. The Dollyrocker Band was going to come and play and I, of course, would be singing, and this event although two to three weeks prior to my leaving, was a significant marker in my life, almost a rebirth if that’s not too hyperbolic. I go back in my mind to my first trip away from home at age 12, when I went to my first Boys Brigade Annual Camp in Comrie, Perthshire, recalling the euphoria I experienced getting away from home and the suffocating control of my adoptive mother. Now, ahead of me I could look forward to a life where this state of mind would be permanent. As you can see, I had a lot of growing up to do, but at the time I enjoyed the anticipation. The next two or three weeks of waiting to leave were going to be an eternity.

Following the collapse of PTC Electronics, I wasn’t back at Tynecastle Radio long before I was handing in my notice. Unless I’m mistaken the owner’s name was Bill Crombie, anyway, he wasn’t bothered one way or the other which was surprising to me, or maybe just the fact that he couldn’t be bothered to pretend he was sad to lose me. It hadn’t been a bad job, I’d had fun there and learned quite a bit and, more importantly, had made a good friend, Alan Murphy, who came to my wedding in 1971 but whom I lost touch with years ago. It hardly seems possible, but he’d be in his late 60s by now. So…, if anybody knows an Alan Murphy who lived near The Meadows back then, please let me know.

I had my train ticket for London – one way! – and I was packing my stuff, such as it was, and making preparations for my departure. I had a PA System that I bought at Clinkscale Music in Melrose that I’ve got no idea what happened to. I guess I must have sold it. Anyway, I had my guitar, and I took that with me along with my reel-to-reel tape recorder, both of which were essential tools for my songwriting. My Mum and Dad came to the Waverly Station to see me off along with Tam Chervick, one of the Dollyrockers sax players and his girlfriend. And that was it! I was off to London to start my new life.


(1) Casablanca Discotheque Poster. (2) Waverly Station with floodlit HQ and dome of Bank of Scotland Head Office. (3) North Bridge on right, Waverly Station roof below with the floodlit former North British Hotel in the background. (4) Cabin interior on a 1960s Vickers Vanguard 710 turbo-prop aircraft used on domestic and European routes. (5) Additional shot of the interior on a 1960s Vickers Vanguard 710 turbo-prop aircraft. (6) 1960s Vickers Vanguard 710 turbo-prop aircraft. (7) May 1967: My Mum and Dad came to the Waverly Station to see me off along with Tam Chervick, one of the Dollyrockers sax players and his girlfriend. (8) May 1967: My Mum and Dad with Shandy at Waverly Station. (9) London Academy of Modelling brochure.