Colin MacIntyre

7th September 2012 at 01:00
The multi-instrumentalist behind Mull Historical Society recalls an art teacher with a cosmopolitan touch of class

John Archbold was a really charismatic teacher. For a start, he had a leather man bag. Having a man bag in the Eighties was unheard of, but on Mull it was just earth-shattering - even now it's probably illegal. We all used to think he'd just stepped off the streets of Paris.

He had a Freddy Mercury moustache and was an art teacher and artist - he would exhibit his work on and off the island. That made him more interesting to us. He had a very distinctive style. Some days you would be walking home from school and you'd see him lurking in the shrubbery in someone's garden, trying to get a better view of Tobermory main street.

I'm actually looking at one of his paintings on my wall now. It's of the less photographed end of Tobermory main street. It's not the usual view of all the coloured houses, which is beautiful, but what you get in a lot of tourist-type pictures. I also have one of Calgary beach on the west coast of the island. It's a beautiful beach; I got married there. He did a painting of it for me, which my family organised.

His wife, Morvern, was the PE teacher at Tobermory High and she was also really passionate. Sport was something I was naturally good at and again she was a great encourager.

Tobermory High was next to a football pitch and John's class looked out on it. In the summer, near the end of term, he would occasionally give us the nod and let us run out the firedoor and play football. He's someone who, every time you go back home, is interested in and proud of what his pupils have achieved.

There was a lot of cross-fertilisation in his classes. My cousin is now a photographer and he learnt the beginnings of that in John Archbold's darkroom. John is also a musician and plays the banjo, I think. I always remember him talking to me about McCartney bass lines and how I should listen to them. I was writing my own songs by then, but music wasn't really something I did in school - I just hit a glockenspiel like everyone else.

I used my music report from first year in one of my album covers. It's just endless Cs and says: "Colin spends too much of his time showing off to fulfil any potential he might have." I didn't include it to stick the finger up. It was totally accurate - they didn't know about what I was doing with my music.

I had a plan to go to art school, but it didn't happen. On my albums or videos, though, I make a visual contribution - I don't just hand them over. I see music quite visually. My song books are full of pictures and colour. Even when I'm writing the words, every letter is a different size. I don't know why I do that.

I enjoyed school. There were two groups and I was in the group considered to be brighter, but I'm not quite sure I should have been there. I used to sit with a group of clever girls. My eyesight was always really poor and they would decipher the board for me, because I was too vain to wear glasses. But then we went to Oban High for fifth and sixth year and I lost my network of board-readers.

The Oban High boys did not appreciate the island boys coming over and showing an interest in the girls. One day we were playing on the football pitch and one of the island boys was shot in the leg with an air rifle. It was the Oban boys - they were all in the hills like snipers.

When I'm going home now, I just put the foot to the floor and fly through Oban and on to the ferry.

Colin MacIntyre's latest album City Awakenings is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings. He was talking to Emma Seith


Born: Tobermory, 1974

Education: Tobermory Primary, Mull; Tobermory High, Mull; Oban High, Argyll; Glasgow Caledonian University

Career: professional musician.

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