At Hunters Tryst Primary School I had three main teachers-Mrs Berwick; Miss Sulley who I've written about; and Mr Hoddinott. And also for a short while we had an interesting young teacher called Miss Bateman. Miss Sulley was the most interesting and influential, yet it is Mr Hoddinott that I recall most immediately.
Over thirty years after leaving Hunters Tryst in 1968 I came across an article in the Edinburgh Evening News about Mr Hoddinott's wife, a lady called Jenny (Jan). She was about to embark for a very special funeral to be held in the Dutch town of Wins for three brave airmen who had gone down with their RAF Bomber plane over wetland in the Netherlands thereby avoiding hitting the local town. The plane had been returning from a bombing raid over Germany. On the flight was Mr Hoddinott. I came across the under-noted remarkable story:
This story stopped me in my tracks. I was completely unaware that Mr Hoddinott had been a war hero, fighting for Canada and therefore Britain as a young man. I am full of admiration and gratitude for what he did for Britain and the future generations who have been able to enjoy a life free from Nazi German suppression.
It was fascinating too to discover that he came from a well known family in Newfoundland where he was raised; several of the young men from the island signed up. It's strange the way life pans out-if there had been no Adolf, then Howard Hoddinott would never have gone to war, never met his wife, never have come to Edinburgh and perhaps never have trained as a teacher and of course never taught at Hunters Tryst Primary School.
Unfortunately, at best I had a very mixed relationship with Mr Hoddinott; at worst, one where I suffered under him. He was our class teacher in P6 and P7. In some respects I really enjoyed his classes, particularly during P6. For example, the class would regularly listen to the Schools Radio Religious Service BBC Broadcast first thing in the morning. Immediately after the broadcast he would facilitate a class discussion for half an hour or so. He would take a point from the broadcast and with contributions from the class skilfully develop the particular to the universal-the point to the principle. This was a fantastic approach to education, because it's what education is partly about-drawing out children rather than just informing them. The discussion could end up going in any direction and I found it to be very stimulating.
As Mr Hoddinott ran the team and was quite an authoritarian figure there was no way to appeal his decision. My sense of impotence, frustration and disappointment was endlessly drummed into me each week. The football strips were stored in plastic bags in a long cupboard in his classroom. Every Friday each boy would come into the classroom at lunchtime to collect his strip. I may be wrong, but I sensed Mr Hoddinott noted my dissonance-this is more instinctive than intellectual but I also sensed he seemed to enjoy an element of Schadenfeunde in this matter.
Undoubtedly I was on occasion, but the punishment felt gross and out of proportion. I was a keen pupil and always very prepared to contribute. He of course had to teach to all standards of ability. I was relatively bright and picked things up quite quickly. I was certainly no more disruptive than many others and those often tended to be kids who were less able. It was easy to get bored if one had finished exercises early. A better approach today would be to use kids who are good at particular subjects to work with kids who are perhaps less able.
I was ready to leave primary school and both excited and daunted at the prospect of going there. Even getting the bus to school had a certain appeal to it too. My father, Ken Hoffmann must have been pleased because it was his alma mater, but he seemed to take it in his stride as if it were expected.
Although Mr Hoddinott extracted a modicum of revenge in my final year at primary school, I felt the real victory was mine. What remains in the memory, when we returned in the late summer of 1967 to Hunters Tryst School is that sweet moment, on a glorious Friday lunchtime in late August, when I discovered I had been re-selected for the school football team; and of Mr Hoddinott reading out the teams and announcing through gritted teeth, that I was playing at Number 10.
Did one of us or indeed both of us have a Pyrrhic victory?
Postscript: This is of course my remembrance and interpretation of Mr Hoddinott-I'm sure others had a very different experience and in the interest of balance I would greatly appreciate any others' views.