Friday, 19 November 2010

Oakbank School

Oakbank was, to people of a certain age in Aberdeen, the great threat. Used by our parents to guarantee our good behaviour, the threat of 'Approved School' (let's call a spade a spade: 'borstal') was weilded, Damoclean above our heads, as the place we'd end up if we didn't "learn to behave".

Oakbank main building.
I can just, if I strain, remember visiting Oakbank on an fundraiser open day in the 1970's (most probably the centenary celebration). A family outing to a borstal. Nice. All I can really remember was the celebrity guest of honour performing his tombola obligations. That guest of honour was local superstar continuity announcer Jimmy 'Spunky' Spankie, steadfast and redoubtable stalwart of Grampian Television's 'just like your living room' in-vision continuity suite. A man who's fame was compounded by his trademark plaid trousers, which he always wore. Those were the days.

Jimmy - wearing slippers and looking a bit 'tired'.
Oakbank was founded in 1878 and sited high in the Stocket Forest off Midstocket Road. When it was new it was then what was known as an 'Industrial School'; the class of institution which became know as 'Reformatories', then 'Approved Schools', then 'List D Schools'.  All just euphamisms for children's prison - though these institutions did have an open regime, which set them aside from the pure 'borstal', which is a tougher and more enclosed kind of youth prison.

Midstocket Road at entrance to Oakbank.

Latterly, Oakbank was classed as a 'List G School'; an establishment which catered for the needs of young people with emotional and behavioural disorders and specific mental health issues. We're gratified that over the decades the emphasis and aim of this institution changed from that of disciplined reform of the character to recognising that many of the troubled inmates were in need of intensive support - not punishment. Fees ranged from £93,600 to £179,400 per pupil per year.

The Governor's Lodge - a listed building.
However, nothing good will last forever, and we wonder about the fate of the institution's final pupils who were receiving that support In 2008 when it closed it's doors, the charitable trust which ran it collapsing amidst reports of mismanagement leading to "serious concerns about many aspects relating to the school". 100 jobs were lost. We hope that the skills which were embodied in that staff have not been dissipated and are still being used to help young people who need the support of our society, in order that - in turn and in time, they might become productive, active and supportive members of that society themselves.

Since the closure of the school, there has been all the usual now-you-see-it-now-you-don't bad things made to look good and good things made to look bad real estate dealing bullschist going on about getting the school rennovated to maintain its function (no chance!) or redeveloping it as 'aspirational, exclusive' housing (ker-ching!) or as a business park (the 'park' bit meaning 'carpark', of course). The local press report concerns of anti-social behaviour and vandalism at the abandoned site. There are also reports that dangerous chemicals and personal files are stored on the site. There has, it is said, been fire-raising. Local residents, it is reported, live in fear.

Document box-files plainly visible in office.
All very nasty, we're sure, and local councillor Bill Comrie has lead calls to have the school demolished, saying that the "huge amount of fear" suffered by his residents justifies the indescriminate destruction of the buildings by new site owner "Carlton Rock Ltd" (they don't appear to have a website). Thus conveniently clearing the site and clearing the way for planning consent in the spring (housing, we reckon being favourite). Yes. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

But at present, the site is lying vacant and derelict.

Pull up a seat...

And admire the views...


Ruth. said...

Good article and great photos for posterity before the bulldozers move in!

geoffrey thomas croft said...

when I was there in 1955-1957 my mother paid £1 and some shillings and pence not sure exact amount for me being there sad in a way to see the place now I was there 2years 8 month I have some happy memories and some bad ones but life must go on but not for the better at oakbank no wonder it closed. there were 145 boys who slept in dormitories named Kelvin.Lister.Scott. in the 3 wings nearest the main gate and Simpson.and Watson in the other end, approx 30 to each house I was in Scot house my number was 64,after I left classes at 15 I worked in the gardens the the Paint shop till I left December 1957 when I was 16 and 1 week.The place was better run then,it taught me self discipline if nothing else and I will always be greatful for that Geoff Old Boy

james.stewart108 said...

hi Im looking for some of my family going back to 4th Oct 1895 when two older boys named Robert white and his brother David or Daniel White was at Oak Bank School at Aberdeen, the boys Mother was Jessie white born on the 22th February in 1866 and she died in 1903 her father was Hugh White b 100 he was marred to Agnus Cockburn Agnus Cockburn and Hugh White they were my great grand aunty and uncle Hugh that Stayed up in the Cabrach by Huntly thanks for your help if you can help me find my family roots thank you so mutch from James Stewart

Anonymous said...

I would like to think more people would be intrested in this page,i,v just found it and i think its great .but we need more comments,i was there in the 70s if i can help anyone remember the 70s there i.ll try my best,maybe you can remind me,please leave a comment it was,nt all bad.the sports day lovely green green grass,days out,we were took to the pictures,etc etc..i could write a book on my experance if i could spell.come on thousands went though those big doors,i know people like to forget and leave alone,but this is a great idea for those who want to remember,even finding someone you,v been looking for, its possible come on post a comment today.dose anyone remember mr rob. buggie.uncle ritchie gym teacher. can you remember any teachers names?

Anonymous said...

great pic,s.i was there in the 70s till 81,i help build the swimming pool,great sports days,Mr Rob was my house master,great man.i have to say i know it may seem strange to some,but they were the best days as a teen,they treated you like a young man not a silly kid,it change my life,for the best,i,d just like to thank all the staff for putting up with me,it coud,nt have been easy.....Brian king....1970s to 1981..

Anonymous said...

My name is Brian king,I attended Oak bank school late 70s till early 80s,as a boy from glasgow growing up in the 70s i was a bit of a lad,from Lachgrove asesment center Glasgow,to oakbank Aberdeen they said there was no hope for me as they did in the 70s,And i thought the same. till i went to oakbank the staff were great always there if you needed them nothing was a problem,to me that was strange in my day kids were seen not herd,I would like to thank all the staff with my heart,to many name,s to remember now,But Mr Rob I would like to thank him the most he is a great teacher and house master,thank you so much for teaching me the right way to go in life,i,am what i,am because of him if your reading this Mr rob i still know the chop stick on the piano. i would like to take this opertunity to say thanks to a staff member cauld buggie,thanks for trusting me to go to the shop for your cigars, (King Edwards) if i remember right? i could have run away but you said i trust you Brian, Buggie if your reading this i was going to take your money and run,but could,nt because no one had ever trusted me before and you did thanks,besides you gave a sore knuckle on the head.anyway thank you all. Mr rob. buggie.Mr Ritchie gym.uncle Sam. Mr Ackins .sorry my memory cant remember anymore names but you,s know who you are.once again THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. BRIAN KING

Anonymous said...

Hi I was at Oakbank about t1964-1967. I was in Lister house my number was 36 and my house master was Mr Gallantry.
The headmaster was Mr McCloud and his deputy was Mr Noble.

I did not find it a hard life I got on with most teachers and most boys. But I did have a reputation on being a runaway, I think about 9 times in my time there.
It was not because I hated it it was just in my make up to want to travel, it was the reason I was sent there.
Do you remember the summer camps Balmedie, Munymusk, Kemnay and Tarland, I remember we had to climb Moven a big hill near Tarland and that was before breakfast lol.
We had a Gardner can’t remember his name now, but he was a tall man with a gruff voice as I remember. There was the nicest off women called Miss Crawford she was the nurse , she had a heart of gold, as I remember her ready for everything was a salt gargle.
Regards G. Gallacher.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the anonymous but not sure how to have my name on. George

Anonymous said...

well george,just leave a comment and take from there,it will flow out mate.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if any body can help. There used to be a little cottage ruin near here and a little burn?river.. Just wondered is any one would know where or what it is now. I was hoping that they could not have been able to build on the burn?river thing so I would have still been able to find it. My dad went here in the 60's ish. HIs name was Charles Melvin and his brother Robert. Although would have been Charlie and Rab or Strebor. x

Anonymous said...

hi my is andrew dyce i was in oakbank
in 1970 and was treated well by all teachers it was then an approoved school for boys

Andy Campbell said...

I was there all through 1974. Happy days indeed. Maybe the best 14 months of my life. Mr Dunphy was the 'Guvner' and I think his son had a role there too. I recall most teachers. Pa` Bonner, Snash, Hutchie the bricklayer, Alex the night watchman who used to let me use his bullworker. Ma Cowie the matron, Sam McBrearty the convicted child abuser was in charge of the 'Unit'. Mr Stanger, Mr Cowie was the gym teacher. Wee-mannie Craig in charge of the boilers. I was number 26 and in Kelvin house. I can`t remember the gardeners name but he had a funny voice and spoke broad 'Doric'. Us Southerners had trouble understanding him. If anyone was there at that time and needs more info, I`ll try and help.

Andy Campbell said...

'Bev' Beveridge was the jack of all trades. He used to take us grouse beating, to the Bon Accord baths on a Monday night, fishing and drove the boys home on a Friday and back on the Sunday. My house master/social worker was Alex 'Snash' McCleod.I was also the fist boy to chair the 'boys hearings' on a Thursday night. Everyone hated the hearings. Not for the threat of losing weekends at home, it was it clashed with Top of the pops.

Andy Campbell said...

I`ve just remembered the gardeners name. I`m sure it was Mr Middler. There was also Mr Clunie who I think we were all a bit scared of. We used to go cutting logs near Fettercairn (or maybe that was for the grouse-beating) in Winter and take bags of them to the pensioners in the city. The boys who cleaned at Pittodrie on a Monday had the prime job. Always finding wallets/money and fags.

Andy Buchan said...

I was in Oakbank around 1979. I remember the night-watch man as being a convicted killer by the reckoning of some boys. I never feared him for that because I found him the to have best temperament of all.

The other staff were normally very good Budgie was a lazy B. so i think his name sometimes meant that also to some of the boys.

I would agree with most that Oakbank was the best of all the homes I was in but then I think it was because it was run mainly by men.

The other homes I was in were far from that but I just recently got my child care files and I have discovered that I was being medicated there. It was because of me being sexually abused by female staff at St Marthas and Coblehaugh.

I remember the boy who was beaten occasionally by other boys because he would talk rubbish about the jersey Home. He spoke of a concrete or stone bath and fire arms in his stories to me.

I hardly ever saw him compared to others as he attended an outside school and he was told that it was best not to speak of things like that.

But it was practice to have boys beat up on other boys and girls in all of the homes I was in if they spoke of abuses in any of the homes.

Some children were from damaged homes or had turned to prostitution.

John Mains was diagnosed with HIV I believe now when at the Unit above the Tennis Courts. He was a drug addict.

In 1987 he was last reported to be dying of AIDS and the council refused him and his girlfriend a furniture grant because they felt it was a waste of time giving them anything at all. I had returned from the Foreign Legion about that time.

I have seen Raymond Sim Daffy and one other who was at the time living in Arbroath.

When I was there it was better than the other homes and I feel that Mr Bryce Budgie and other male staff knew what I had experienced in the other homes. Tattie was the Gardeners name.