Kevin McKenna: How posh schools work hard to remove any trace of pupils’ Scottishness

Last week the Scottish Council of Independent Schools moved to assuage some parents’ concerns that their children might pick up a Scottish accent during their studies.

The Herald has received a leaked letter from one of the institutions the council represents.

Dear Lord and Lady Trumpington-Henley,

Thank you for your letter seeking clarification about certain aspects of the education and formation your son will receive at Glenfuddily Academy.

We note especially your concern about the potential for the lad to pick up some idiosyncratic habits of speech. May we allay these fears immediately? At Glenfuddily Academy we pride ourselves on taking la mayonnaise de la mayonnaise of British youth and returning them to their parents shorn of all defining characteristics of speech, apparel and movement.

How can we put this delicately? Although Glenfuddily is in Scotland it is not of Scotland.

When young Archie completes his education there will be nothing in his speech and general demeanour to suggest he even spent a minute in Scotland.

It is for this reason the school has produced 863 UK Cabinet ministers; 10,876 senior UK civil servants (including 25,000 personnel serving in the overseas diplomatic service) and 3,800 Grand High Carpenters of the Ancient Masonic Lodge of England and Wales, should his interests ever lie in the esoteric trouser-leg department.

In addition to this we have provided 28,768 officers of the British Army and hundreds of our young gels have secured aristocratic titles by marrying into the royal family. We also strive to encourage a diversity of interest in political systems that might differ from our own.

Which is why we’re proud of the fact that several former alumni of Glenfuddily have gone on to achieve high-ranking status in the Russian and former Soviet Union security services after finding that the British way of life was not to their liking. So, if young Archie ever feels like betraying his country we can source expert career guidance for the lad.

While we strive to ensure that your child benefits from a high-quality academic education this, of course, will never be the main purpose of his years at Glenfuddily.

Our connections and pedigree ensure that even the thickest and most lumpen offspring of our client families are guaranteed a high-flying career in government, finance and the media. So you don’t need to worry about any of that.

Certainly, we go through the motions of intellectual inquiry and curiosity to satisfy the tiresome national standards malarkey. But, in common with all of Scotland’s other independent schools, the thrust of our academic approach is governed by the cutting-edge modules from the school of radical memory and thought transition techniques (RMTR) under the tutelage of the renowned neurologist, Dr Hfuhruhurr.

Some ill-informed critics have said that this literally numbs the mind, leading to profound mental health problems in later life. And that these were key factors in unfortunate episodes like the Charge Of The Light Brigade, the international credit crisis and some of England’s worst mid-order batting collapses. But you simply can’t argue with our unmatched record of achievement and career progression at the top of British society.

At Glenfuddily we strive to avoid any associations with the world outside. Not for nothing is our ancient school motto Muros stringendo et custodiento punters (Building walls and keeping the punters out).

We note your concern about Glenfuddily’s proximity to the west of Scotland and the unfortunate fact that Glasgow is within an hour’s drive. You needn’t have any sleepless nights, though, about the little chap picking up any unfortunate mannerisms or affectations pertaining to this wretched city.

We have put in place an elaborate suite of security measures to ensure that nothing Glaswegian can ever last for long in our rarefied environment. Sadly, we haven’t yet managed to produce an antidote for Aberdonianism.

The inflexions and distortions of speech in this dialect are so pronounced and complex that it may take several more years before we can successfully remove all traces of it in an infected child. Until then, sadly, death by lethal injection is our only option.

Occasionally, we organise essential field trips which require us to be in the vicinity of Glasgow but we take great care not to expose our pupils to any live Glaswegian people. On their return to Glenfuddily they are subjected to a linguistic de-lousing procedure to ensure that no traces of the highly contagious and fast-acting Glaswegian tongue have taken root.

Please note also that while great care is taken not to admit children from anywhere but the most perjink postcodes a few do slip through under the Assisted Places Scheme. We have no option but to comply with this to maintain our charitable status and keep your fees down to a manageable £50k a term. Please be assured that any children from dodgy west of Scotland neighbourhoods who do get in via this route are subjected to intense accent reduction therapy. If this fails then it’s off to the laboratory they go.

We attach a check-list of suspicious words, phrases and mannerisms to watch out for when your child returns home for Christmas and summer holidays.
Chief among these are a propensity to deploy unnecessary adjectives such as “big” and “wee” when discussing friends or acquaintances. Do also watch out for rogue definite articles creeping into his speech. 

We have recently discovered a variant of this during the pandemic. The tell-tale sign is if he starts to say “the Covid” rather than simply “Covid”.
If your child suddenly seems prone to exaggeration when describing recent experiences or you find that he embarks on long, rambling discourses when a simple Yes or No is required then this too may be an indicator of the Glaswegian variant.

The use of extravagant hand gestures can also be a giveaway. In later years please also monitor your child’s activity on the internet. If he is seen to be showing an interest in unusual gentlemen’s outfitters specialising in Mediterranean-type brands possessing more than the recommended two colours then it may be a cause for concern. We usually find in such cases that a 10-day period of quarantine is sufficient to do the trick.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992