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Scotian News

May 2012

Edition 87


Congratulations to the following Former Pupils who have reached milestone birthdays this month:-

70 James Graham; Peter Burke;

65 Peter Slepokura; Michael Whiston; Francis O’Rourke; Ian (John) Edie; Christopher Walls; John McKay;

60 None

50 Timothy Walsh; John Riederer; 

 School News

Paul DiRollo’s mother died recently. Condolences are offered to all the family.

Change of e-mail address: Paul Casci; Alex Kempton-Smith; David Pia; Raymond Ross;

Remo Lanni has had a massive heart attack, and is recovering in the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. We wish him well.

We had contact from one of our FPs who had an operation at the old school. He wrote as follows:-

I hope you are well. I am recovering from a hernia operation - 3 hernias actually.

I had a strange experience in all of this that I thought might amuse you.

I had the consult at the Murrayfield Hospital which took over the old Scotus Academy land and buildings, as you know. I had the unnerving experience of sitting in the waiting room which was my old primary 7 classroom - the one at the far west end of Beechwood House with the white door leading onto the sloping playing lawn. It had been at least 40 years since I was there. I said "sitting", but in reality I just paced up and down. I then went upstairs to the consult which was in brother Ambrose's room. I had only ever been there once before and that was to get a stern talking to from brother Ambrose although as always he ended this with his gentle smile.

I had an examination and scan in a building which was inside the perimeter of brother Hastings walled garden - although the wall is mostly demolished. The last time I was in that space I was retrieving a football that someone had kicked over the wall and my heart was beating in case brother Hastings caught me. It was the beating of my heart in the exam room that brought back the experience with the ball.

I had my operation in a room which I think must now sit above the upper yard - the gravel playing fields to the north west of the senior school room huts and adjacent to the walled garden. I spent the night in a room, for post op recovery, in the walled garden space which had a view onto Beechwood House and the sloping playing field. Could I hear my school chums letting off steam between classes or was it the anaesthetic running its course?

What a mixture of memories and emotions this experience threw at me.


Raymond Ross has written a new play about a subject a lot of you will remember:-

PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release

Theatre Objektiv in association with the Scottish Storytelling Centre presents

Wojtek the Bear by Raymond Raszkowski Ross

Directed by Corinne Harris: Scottish Storytelling Centre June 6th – 9th

  • A bear takes to the stage in Theatre Objektiv’s new production. A unique bear: Wojtek the Soldier Bear who fought with the 2nd Polish Army Corps at the Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944 and who was welcomed to Scotland in September 1946 by thousands of cheering people. A legendary bear who loved Scottish music and Scottish beer as well as puff candy and the occasional cigarette.
  • He arrived in Scotland with his adoptive mother, Lance Corporal Piotr Prendys, who had reared him from a cub. Their relationship, the central focus of the play, was as close and loving as it was complex and troubled.

What bonds a man to a bear? What prompts a soldier to mother a bear and then take him into a war? And what might a bear’s view be of humanity? Of war and politics? Of love? Which is closer to nature and to God? Man or Bear?

In Theatre Objektiv’s new production we meet Wojtek the Bear, a Son of the Sky God, a Forest Brother and a Four-Legged Human, as he travels through war and peace with his adoptive mother Piotr, a Polish soldier and Gulag survivor.

Forever haunted by the fear of rejection and of desertion, Wojtek knows he is bonded with this man in a way Piotr cannot perhaps understand. Equally, Piotr is haunted by the idea that he betrayed what was his duty to love and defend.

As they re-enact their life together in an attempt to reach a true understanding of themselves and each other, we are taken on a journey from a war-torn Poland, through the Soviet slave camps and the Middle East, into bloody combat at the battle of Monte Cassino and, finally, to post-war Scotland.

Wojtek is a rapscallion of the first order, a wayward child always up to no good, as loveable as he is comic. But he is dangerous. He is wild and a soldier subject to discipline; a soldier, like any other, who smokes, drinks and wrestles with his comrades.

Thousands turned out on the streets of Glasgow in 1946 to welcome Wojtek to Scotland as he marched behind the regimental pipes and drums. He was already a legend – “The Polish Soldier Bear” – and his love of Scottish music was to become another part of that legend during his brief sojourn in the Scottish Borders.

Wojtek died in Edinburgh Zoo in 1963. Lance Corporal Piotr Prendys, his mother, died five years later.

As our show opens, these are two spirits in search of each other, longing to re-live the good times, the madcap adventures and their comic trials and tribulations; but fearful of what they know lies in store for them as they seek love and understanding – and forgiveness.

A Playwright’s Thoughts

In the post-war Polish community in Scotland, everyone and their father (Polish mothers being fewer) knew something of the story of Wojtek. I was lucky to be schooled just over the wall from Edinburgh Zoo and grew up with Wojtek as a neighbour. He’s always been a presence in my life; and very much a growing presence in recent times.

It’s some years now since I had a conversation with Tomek Borkowy of Universal Arts about writing a play for this uncanny creature, about putting him on a stage and giving him a voice. ‘How are you going to put the bear on?’ he asked. My answer was instinctive and immediate: ‘An actor. No bear mask. No bear costume. The bear himself.

And that is the single, most important idea around which this production has been built.

There’s no doubt the real Wojtek had “human” attributes just as there’s no doubt he follows in the footsteps of bears who mothered humans, who were often honoured and even worshipped; and who were traditionally seen as a link between humankind and its Creator throughout the Northern Hemisphere for thousands of years.

Of course a bear can speak. It would be silly to think otherwise.
And if a bear speaks, tradition tells us it would be wise to listen.

Why write about Wojtek? How could you not? Wojtek was, and remains, a symbol of the Free Polish Forces and of a Free Poland which only came into being when the last Soviet combat troops pulled out on the 29th October 1992. For Poland this marked the end of World War II.

Wojtek’s been waiting in the wings for some time now and I hope I’ve done him some credit.

Raymond Raszkowski Ross




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