High School

Secondary school followed - first Coltness High and then the brand new Garrion Academy where, in fourth year, I was selected boys' captain of Scott House - named after Scotland's most-celebrated novelist Sir Walter Scott.

I relished the role and, together with the girls' captain, Anne Gass, we set about making Scott the best house in the school. We won all the prizes for three years but on entering sixth grade, I still had one ambition to fulfil - to sing on stage.

I had been acting and producing stage plays since my early teens, but I was the worst singer in the world. And when it came to music classes, the teachers would gently - or even forcefully - suggest I get on with homework rather than participate in singing.

I got round my dismal lack of vocal talent by staging the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, and grabbing the Major General's role for myself.  His famous rhyming song "I am The Very Model of a Modern Major General" was just perfect for a musical dunce like me.

We made a recording of the show, so that the world would never forget our triumph, producing 100 double LPs which all sold out. However unlike the old Beatles LPs, which have been released on iTunes, I doubt whether our version of the Pirates of Penzance will ever become a favourite download.

Newspapers Beckon

By this stage the outside world was beckoning and my parents wanted me to go to university. I thought Edinburgh University would be OK and reckoned history and politics would not be too boring. However, my friend David Syme, a reporter with the Motherwell Times, told me about a junior reporter's job which was coming up at the Wishaw Press.

Covering murders, bank robberies and football matches sounded much more exciting than studying ancient wars and political intrigue at university. Without telling my parents, I decided to apply. The interview went well and, lo and behold, I got the job.

"You will regret it for the rest of your life," snapped mum. "On your own head be it."

I never regretted it for a second. Had I gone to university, I would have gained a mediocre degree and would probably have ended up as a teacher.

Instead, I had a glorious time in the real world covering football matches, council battles and interviewing one or two Miss Worlds. Life was a bitch!

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