Jim Clark’s schooldays. Winter term 1949. The Clarks moved to Berwickshire in 1942 and for Winter Term 1949 sent the future world champion to exclusive boarding school Loretto. In 1965 Champion magazine’s Dessin de Boivent Duffar imagined a Dominie’s view: “As always top at running, winner at cricket and hockey but behind in English and Maths”. In the new edition of JIM CLARK, Eric Dymock quotes the late Bill Cormie, Jim’s room-mate at Loretto. “Jim was very self-sufficient. He had few close or special friends. He was quite taciturn but we shared an interest in cars. I was jealous when he came back after half-term and said he’d been driving at 90mph. We didn’t believe him. He was only 14.”
Loretto, founded 1827 with ochre-washed walls near Musselburgh, a fishing port along the Scottish east coast, was a profound influence. A strict school aimed at character-building and good citizenship, it believed that conformity to well-established rules was essential for good behaviour. Cold baths and 10-minute jogs were mandatory.
Aged 13 Jim enjoyed music, and went with the family to classical concerts in the Usher Hall where his sister Betty recalled Alexander Borodin’s epic Prince Igor, with its resounding Polovtsian Dances among his favourites. He was a member of the Loretto choir, took part in a performance of the St Matthew Passion, and once, to his mother’s surprise, sang a solo on Sunday in Chapel.
In 1964 on the BBC radio classic Desert Island Discs with Roy Plomley, Jim’s choice of records ranged from the mellifluous Glasgow Orpheus Choir through Chris Barber’s Whistlin’ Rufus, Billy J Kramer to Jimmy Shand’s Scottish Dance Band. Andy Stewart’s Muckin’ o’ Geordie’s Byre reminding him of the farm and Peggy Lee singing The Party’s Over of romantic occasions. He also elected for an excerpt from humourist Gerard Hoffnung’s famous address to the Oxford Union, and Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze which the school organist at Loretto used to play after evening service.
Loretto’s buildings included Pinkie House near the scene of a battle the Scots lost against Henry VIII in 1547. There was more bloodshed at Prestonpans in 1745, and casualties were taken to Pinkie House; bloodstains could still be seen in The Long Gallery. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie spent two nights in a room once occupied by the young King Charles I before entering Edinburgh.
Loretto’s motto: “Spartan nactus es: hanc exorna” means literally “You have achieved Sparta: adorn this”, but also translates as “You have acquired the privilege of living like a Spartan: show by your example that you have something worth having.”
Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion. Dove Publishing Ltd.
£22.50, Publishing April 2017