I was deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of Bill Hutcheon who was a former lecturer at SRUC’s Aberdeen campus at Craibstone.
I was fortunate enough to be one of Bill’s students during my time there in the mid to late 1990s.
Bill was a super guy, highly intelligent, very approachable and with that rare talent of commanding total respect from all his students.
His specialist field in lecturing was on livestock feed rations – vital but unfortunately not that exciting to 19-year-old students, most of whom had probably been out in the bright lights of Aberdeen the night before.
In fact, any lecturer who had a class on either a Tuesday or a Thursday morning at 9am would have been as well talking to a brick wall, with half the class asleep and the other half absent but slowly trickling in throughout the lesson like stray sheep.
Having said that, at least it would be quiet and the lecturer wouldn’t get any cheek. Not that Bill got any cheek!
I can’t put my finger on this, but there were certain lecturers like Bill, Jim Marr and George Burnett who never got any hassle from students. They weren’t strict – in fact quite the opposite, but even the class nutters (and there were a fair few) would have enough sense to realise that these men were just trying to help you and you didn’t want to disappoint them.
There were a few lecturers though who just couldn’t command a classroom, and I felt for them.
They were generally experts in a certain field who would only have to do two or three lectures in a term. They were absolute masters of their subjects and probably had PhDs, but simply could not get a room of 30 teenagers to focus.
My fellow students would know this, they would smell the fear and about 10 minutes into the lesson there would be a general build-up of chatter and the occasional paper aeroplane launched – sometimes even hitting the poor lecturer on the back of the head as he wrote about photosynthesis in potatoes on the blackboard.
Usually these lectures would be in the afternoon, after most students had either sobered up , made it back home from the night before or had nipped down to the “four mile” pub for a couple of “shandies” at dinner time. By this time of day we students would be dissecting the shenanigans of the night before and setting out a plan for the forthcoming night out in Aberdeen – whether it was to an agri-ceilidh in King Street or heading to the Bobbin before seeing the night out at either Smart Alex, The Zuu or Amadeus.
I’ve got to admit my fellow students and I had some damn good nights out in Aberdeen, and got up to all sorts of high jinks, the details of which are not for printing in a respected newspaper such as The Courier. Take the annual agri “beering ’n’ teering” competition for example, let’s just say that the good people of the Granite City would have probably welcomed a lockdown on those particular nights.
Anyway, I digress. This is not an article about the social life of an Aberdeen agricultural student, it is to pay homage to those men and women who got us all through four years to graduation day. They should all get medals – big ones!
They did so much more than just teach us. On one occasion Bill, Jim Marr and a couple of others took us to Holland for the end-of-term trip. My goodness, they were brave! On the last afternoon we got a few hours in Amsterdam – you should have seen us pile out the bus, it was like that moment you open the float door to let stirks out to grass in May! How we all made it back to the bus for 5pm l’ll never know.
Maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on the social side of agricultural college – it wasn’t all beer and fast cars. I think we were fortunate we were studying a subject that we all loved, and the lecturers teaching us were very passionate about “fermin” as well, so that bond probably helped.
Looking at the graduation photo of ’99, many of my classmates have gone on to be very good farmers or have successful careers in agriculture and the likes of the late Bill Hutcheon and his colleagues with their abundance of knowledge, enthusiasm and patience have played a significant part in those achievements.
For that, we say thank you very much.