Mr Pullin's eyes would bulge...

27th June 2003 at 01:00
...and he'd look around the room with his right hand outstretched. His sheer pride in our achievement came shining out of his face

Robert Pullin was my enigmatic music teacher at Hermitage Academy, a comprehensive secondary school in Helensburgh on the river Clyde about 25 miles north-west of Glasgow. I played in the school orchestra, which Mr Pullin conducted with unbelievable gusto, his mop of black hair flopping into his eyes. Sometimes, after we got through a difficult piece, he'd throw his baton across the room in celebration.

He was very ambitious with his choice of music for us. We had a go at everything, even the 1812 Overture. I was in the violin section and eventually moved up from third to first, and we had a huge woodwind section and a large number of strings and brass. Mr Pullin organised us to play public concerts and we did the usual stuff like Strauss and Stravinsky, and our party piece at the end was always the 1812 Overture, which we played at a considerably slower pace than professional orchestras.

Music practice with Mr Pullin was always great fun. He was a fantastic guy, everybody used to laugh and joke with him. He got the best out of us by the force of his personality, and when we finished a piece, his eyes would bulge and he'd look around the room with his right hand outstretched. His sheer pride in our achievement came shining out of his face. When we started on a new piece, he would have us sight-read very slowly through it, and I'll never forget the sense of accomplishment we felt when we got to the end. He would look at us as if to say, "You did it. Fantastic." He was a real inspiration.

He was very forward thinking in teaching us an appreciation of music. He was hot on the stories behind the music; it wasn't just a question of playing the right notes. In our second year, he asked each member of the class to bring in an album of our choice and give a 20-minute lecture on it. People chose anything from Bob Marley to ACDC. I picked Barbra Streisand's Guilty, the one she did with the Bee Gees. Mr Pullin was pretty clued up about pop as well as classical music. He was a huge Beatles fan. I was in class the day John Lennon was killed and he talked about Lennon's legacy and played us Beatles songs.

I was also keen on sport at school, and Mrs Waudby, who taught PE, was inspiring. She was a gentle woman who was able to get her message across with calmness and authority and she, too, showed the enjoyment she got from our achievement. Mrs Waudby was instrumental in my career as a hurdler; she spotted my talent and nurtured it. I represented the school in athletics and was in the hockey, netball and trampoline teams. Mrs Waudby drove us to matches in a white minibus with the school crest on it. She also encouraged me to write reports of how we'd done for the school magazine and the local paper, the Helensburgh Advertiser.

Mr Swanson, who taught me geography for my highers, was very dapper and quick-witted and had a lot of fun with us. He was probably one of the first teachers who treated us as adults, but he still managed to command a great deal of authority. There is a smartypants in every class who tries to pull up the teacher and Mr Swanson always had a quick, funny put-down that made everyone laugh, even the person who made the remark. He was very good on human geography, which I considered doing at university, but I finally chose English - and came home with a degree in art history. Mr Swanson loved his subject and he was passionate about it and, like Mr Pullin and Mrs Waudby, got real pleasure from seeing us achieve.

I kept in touch with all three teachers and have been back to the school several times.

Television sports presenter Hazel Irvine was talking to Pamela Coleman

Portrait by Peter Searle

The story so far

1965 Born St Andrews, Scotland

1977-82 Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh

1982-86 St Andrews University; represents Scottish universities at athletics

1986 First job, with Radio Clyde, as production assistant

1987 Joins Scottish Television as a reporter and sports presenter

1990 Joins BBC Scotland as sports presenter; works for BBCnetwork

1992 Youngest presenter of Grandstand

1998 onwards First woman to present BBC's Final Score results programme

1999 Voted best regional TV presenter by Royal Television Society June 2003 Presents Wimbledon for BBC

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