Aileen Campbell

A well-known geographer and a well-built primary teacher both made a lasting impression on the newest education minister

Tes Editorial

The teacher who stands out was my geography teacher, Kenneth Maclean - he was just fantastic. I had him every year from second to sixth year. He's the reason I did Higher and Sixth-Year Studies geography. My friend also did geography at school but she didn't get Mr Maclean and she was so jealous.

He was so engaging and made geography fun and appealing - he got you thinking beyond the subject. I briefly had a spell as planning minister and that brought back some of the lessons he did on how important geography was in areas such as planning.

He wrote some textbooks for geography and geography teachers across the country knew him. When I moved to Clydesdale after I won the seat, I was talking to some geography teachers about him. They said: "You were very lucky - he was really well regarded across the breadth of Scotland." But none of us realised that as pupils.

My S2 geography class wasn't streamed in any way, but everybody got something from the class. He was great fun and used to make jokes about living in Maclean Towers and referred to his wife as Lady Maclean.

I got asked at the summer past to speak at the Perth Academy prizegiving, so I talked about the happy experiences I had had at school and that one of my favourite subjects was geography, primarily because of Mr Maclean.

He retired fairly recently - when he taught me he would have been in his 50s. He was grey-haired and wore glasses and there was quite a sparkle about his eyes. He used to wear a Bugs Bunny or Disney- character tie all the time.

I studied social and economic history at university, which is very closely linked to social geography, talking about the way people live and the history of towns - that type of thing. He encouraged us to do our own projects and I did mine on Collace Quarry nearby and its impact on the villages around. My university project was on the cultural history of the north-east, focusing on bothy ballads. Mr Maclean was always keen to make you aware of where you grew up and your surrounding area.

I loved my primary school. My granny and grandad and dad were all at Collace School and then me and my sister. It was a tiny little school set in the hills. There were 16 pupils when I started and 33 when I left. It was surrounded by farms and there was lots of green space to play in and get muddy in. We were encouraged to be active every day.

One of my favourite teachers there was Freda Cummings. She was headteacher for the last wee while that I was at school. She was very musical and got us singing in the Perth Festival, really to make us think about things beyond what a typical country school would do.

Collace is a model of what a school could be. We had our own garden and grew vegetables. Mrs Cummings was always very focused on making us achieve our potential and recognise that we could all aspire to things.

She was quite tall, and well-built. She had really blonde hair and was a matriarchal figure in the school - quite a strong person.

Philip Alexander was my oboe teacher - a great big Welsh guy, with a big black moustache and bushy, black, curly hair. He was very Welsh - he used to talk about his granny telling him "not to go down the pit, boy". I didn't practise as often as I should have, but music at the academy was always a great thing and the wind band was really good. I haven't managed to keep up the oboe - it was too expensive to purchase one when I was at university.

Aileen Campbell was talking to Elizabeth Buie

Personal profile

Born: Perth, 1980

Education: Collace Primary; Perth Academy; Glasgow University, MA hons in politics with economics and social history

Career: Editor, Keystone (construction magazine); editorial assistant, Scottish Standard; parliamentary assistant to Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison; 2007-11 South of Scotland list MSP; May 2011 elected MSP for Clydesdale, appointed minister for local government and planning; December 2011, minister for children and young people.

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