Mark Beaumont

The record-breaking long-distance British cyclist was inspired by an economics teacher and his great anecdotes

Julia Belgutay

I grew up on a farm and was homeschooled until aged 11, when I went to Dundee High. My main passion and interest at school was art, but my favourite teacher was Mr McCulloch, my economics teacher. I took economics as a crash Higher in my final year, and he was the reason I went on to study it at university.

He made it such an interesting and fascinating subject. Economics doesn't inspire in its textbook form, but he was somebody who had a career in the oil industry before working out in the Middle East and travelling a lot, and he spent most of his time telling anecdotes of places and people.

He talked about getting stuck in a country and he had to get airlifted out, or he would speak about how they would get their beers in when they were in a country where they weren't allowed to drink alcohol. I don't feel he ever crossed a line, he was just very real.

He was absolutely alive with his subject, he loved what he did and he came to school with a spring in his step every morning. I was in a fairly small class, and you would think doing a crash Higher you would really need to knuckle down and study hard - I did get an A in it, but my only memories of the class are really just sitting there listening to this story teller. How that worked out, I am not sure. I think the whole class did well.

I had this wish to go on to art school and study art - that was my great passion - but with getting straight As and my dad saying: "You've got to get a career out it", it was Mr McCulloch who inspired me to do an economics degree. I turned up at university to find it wasn't quite as much fun or as interesting as he had made it out to be, but as a school teacher, he brought that subject alive.

He stands apart from other teachers because his approach was just so anecdotal. I remember lots of laughs. There was no real him and us, although we respected him. We just sat there and bantered our way through the class.

I learned a heck of a lot - interest in the wider world. I have gone on to travel extensively with my work, and the reason I studied economics and a lot of international policies was purely based on his very worldly view on politics and economics. I hadn't had that from any of the other subjects I studied at school. It planted the seeds for things I have gone on to do.

My favourite English teacher was called Tom Durrheim. Sadly, he died a few years ago, but he was fantastic. I really enjoyed writing at school. I hated it at university, but I have now published two books, and one of the first books off the press (The Man Who Cycled the World) I sent to Tom Durrheim.

The last thing he had read was my RPR in fifth year, and I did quite well at the time and really enjoyed his class. So it was a great pleasure to send him my first book, and he sent back his teacher's notes on it, which was very funny. He had a great rapport, and a great love for his subject.

The teacher I have kept best contact with since I left was Val Vannet. She was my geography teacher. It wasn't one of my main interests at school, but she was a great teacher whom I stayed friends with. When I went off to cycle around the world, she ran an online project called Geoblogging, that followed my journey and told the story in an interesting way as an educational tool. She has become a great family friend and when it came to planning the next expedition, she was actually very involved with all the route setting and the planning - being such a keen cartographer and geographer.

Mark Beaumont was speaking to Julia Belgutay.

Personal profile

Born: Swindon, 1983

Education: Homeschooled until age 11; High School of Dundee; University of Glasgow


Adventurer, documentary maker and author. He broke the world record for cycling around the world by covering 18,296 miles in 194 days and 17 hours in 2007-08.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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