Lin Anderson

1st March 2013 at 00:00
An early influence on the crime writer and creator of forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod was the creme de la creme

When I was at Larkfield Primary we had a teacher who took us for Primary 6 and 7 - Miss Stuart. Funnily enough, we still call ourselves the Larkfield gang.

Miss Stuart had a profound influence on me. She was quite strict, but with a wonderful sense of humour - a bit like in the Muriel Spark novel, we were "her class". There are people from that class all over the world now and they all have the same feeling. She stood up for us. She gave us inspiration - a remarkable lady.

When I went into teaching, I thought that if I could come close to her I would have done well.

There were all abilities in that class at a time when no one was very well off in Greenock, but we had a sense that we were hers and, from her point of view, that we were special.

I don't know whether it's the chemistry of the individuals, the combination of the naughty and good and clever and not-so-clever, but for a teacher to knit that together is a real skill. I taught for over 20 years and had lots of different classes, and you realise that's what makes a classroom work - it isn't the subject, it's the sort of feeling that you're all in it together. That sounds terribly like David Cameron and his Big Society, but she said: "If you work as hard as I will work for you, we'll make it."

After we finished our qualifying exam in Primary 7, she taught us colloquial French - and that was unheard of.

Greenock people were really quite poor and their horizons quite narrow. The idea that we could imagine we could speak another language! We're talking about the days when you were not allowed to use Scots - you would get the belt if you did, except when we learnt a poem for Burns Day. One of my classmates moved to France and one is living in Germany. Our horizons were opened up in that little school at a time when it was not usual. It just shows you how the ability to give you the tools and the inspiration and aspiration of what's possible in life is just astonishing.

Everybody looked old to us then, but I think she was probably in her twenties. She was tall and very classy-looking. She wore these lovely soft sweaters and long straight skirts and she had an incredible presence. To us, she seemed very grown up. As far as I know, she never married.

When I went to secondary school I had a very scary teacher who was head of maths at Greenock High. I can't track her name down, but she was actually the one who persuaded me to do maths at university - in a very subtle way. I didn't think I was particularly good at maths. She was quite sarcastic - which I wouldn't actually advise teachers to be - and she said to me: "Can you really do as well as this or is this just a fluke?" I thought "I'll show you", and I really took off after that and ended up doing maths at university.

I also had a wonderful English teacher, Sheila Ferguson. I could have taken maths or English at university - people are surprised that I'm a writer and I didn't teach English. The thing I remember most about her was that she introduced me to The Lord of the Rings.

When I meet up with the Larkfield gang, it's fascinating to get other people's perception of what happened at that very important time. My memory is of Miss Stuart, arms folded before the bell went, and if we were a bit early she would say: "Linda, come out to the front and tell us a story." So I was spinning stories even then.

Lin Anderson is appearing at two events at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on 27 March: Death, Drugs and Dynamite and Our Wired World. She was speaking to Elizabeth Buie.


Born: Greenock, 1951

Education: Larkfield Primary and Greenock High; University of Glasgow, MA in maths; University of Edinburgh, master's in education; Napier University, master's in screenwriting.

Career: Additional support needs teacher, Hollybrook Academy, Glasgow; maths and remedial, Kirkwall Grammar, Orkney; two schools in Nigeria; then Grantown Grammar, Knox Academy, Haddington and George Watson's College, Edinburgh (PT computing). Left teaching 10 years ago to become full-time writer.

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