Tag Archives: Napier College

carry on campus (part 3)

George (disco) Cheyne: Glasgow, April 2021

You can just imagine the dulcet Geordie tones of the voiceover: “Day one in the Big Brother campus…and the classmates meet each other for the first time.


“Tension fills the air as they sit in the student union sizing each other up.

“Their first task is to nominate a social convenor for the group without using the Diary Room – it must be done by a public show of hands…”

That’s kind of what happened in the spring of 1978 on our opening day of an eight-week block-release journalism course at Edinburgh’s Napier College.

We were all sitting around after our induction on the Monday and I was trying to organise our first night out. Well, you can take the boy out of Glasgow…

Of the 16 in the class, only two were from the capital city and so – the reasoning went – one of them should act as social convenor.

Made sense to me. Straight shootout between Stevie and Alistair and, when you consider Alistair was sitting there in a shirt and tie and a briefcase on his lap, it became a one-horse race.

Stevie was duly elected social convenor by a show of hands and was set his first task of arranging a night out on the Thursday.

Fast forward 48 hours and we’re all together again – except Stevie – sitting in the union listening to the tunes coming out the Wurlitzer jukebox.


Yeah, it was that long ago. The favourite selections at that time were Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, Boney M’s Brown Girl In The Ring and the Bee Gees’ Night Fever.

Right on cue, Stevie came over to join us with a smile plastered across his coupon singing as he went:

Night fever, night fever

We know how to do it

Gimme that night fever, night fever

We know how to show it


Thankfully he spared us the flailing arm routine always associated with that tune and took his seat with all the confidence of Tony Manero hitting the under-lit dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

All eyes were on Stevie and we let him milk the moment. In the background you could hear:

Here I am

Praying for this moment to last

Livin’ on the music so fine

Borne on the wind

Makin’ it mine

There was no stopping him now and this time we weren’t spared the flailing arm routine as he grinned: “We’ll be giving it a bit of this tomorrow night then.”

I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction, but someone else asked: How’s that, Stevie?”

“I’ve only got us all on the guest list for the new nightclub that’s opened up in Princes Street,” he replied. “Free champagne, the lot.”

Stevie..social convenor..campus legend.

So the next night there were 14 of us – one of the girls had a pre-arranged family thing and Alistair had presumably found something more interesting in his briefcase – stood outside the club.

I’m pretty sure the place was called Fire Island, which I’m reliably informed is a Waterstones now.


We went down to the front of the queue, flashed our press passes and were escorted into the club by the head bouncer.

This was all new to me. Up till then I had only been escorted out of a nightclub by bouncers.

Our group, with Stevie out in front, were led to a little roped-off area close to the bar where there were a couple of bottles of champagne on the tables….
Lovely.

The head bouncer told us a waitress would be over to take a drinks order which was to be on the house.

Free entry, free bubbly, a free round of drinks and a VIP area to ourselves. If Carlsberg did nights out for young journalists…

Everybody was buzzing and there could only be one toast to make when the drinks arrived: “To Stevie, social convenor extraordinaire.”

He feigned a bit of humility but we all knew, deep down, he was loving his new-found iconic status within the group.

Then, booming out the speakers, came the intro to Night Fever:

Listen to the ground

There is movement all around

There is something goin’ down

And I can feel it

Everybody piled on the dance floor, only too happy to do the flailing arm routine as we all got lost in the moment.

Once we’d returned from the dance floor our friendly head bouncer came over to tell us the owner would be along to meet us in 10 minutes or so.

More free drinks? VIP passes for life? Could this night get any better? Well, no, as it turned out – it was about to go downhill.

The owner arrived, made some small talk and then asked which one of us was Stevie. All eyes whirred round to his empty seat and one of the girls said he’d gone to the toilet, adding rather unnecessarily: “Mind you, that was about 10 minutes ago.”

A frown appeared on the owner’s face before he said: “Maybe one of you guys can help – when’s the photographer coming?”

I did a quick calculation in my head. One missing Stevie and one missing photographer makes two and one pissed-off owner and one mean-looking bouncer makes another two. Put two and two together and you get…trouble!

I explained, as nonchalantly as I could, that the photographer must have been called to another job and would be along soon.

“He’d better be,” said the owner as he turned away.

Operation Great Escape was hatched immediately and we agreed to leave in three groups to avoid as much suspicion as possible.

I was in the last group along with two girls – who thought their presence might stop the bouncers giving us a kicking – and two other guys.

A full minute’s worth of nerve-shredding speed-walking later and we were out the other side.

We saw the others standing 50 yards along from the club, did a quick head count and discovered we had 14.

Eh? Yep, Stevie had bolted from the club at the first mention of the owner – but he couldn’t bring himself to abandon us completely.

Sheepishly, he admitted he’d told the owner there would be spreads in the Evening News, Scotsman, Daily Mail and Daily Record on the angle that his club was Scotland’s answer to Studio 54 in New York. No wonder we got the red carpet treatment.

You won’t be surprised to learn Stevie was stripped of his social convenor duties – and that we never went near that club again.

carry on campus (part 1)

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – March 2021)

Almost three years after leaving school to learn how to be a journalist in a local newspaper some bright spark thought it would be a good idea if I went to college to learn how to be…a journalist.

We were the generation that had slipped through the net, the ones who had gone straight into the job from school, and they wanted to teach us a lesson.

Well, lots of lessons as it turned out. The zealots at the National Council for the Training of Journalists clearly thought our minds had wandered off after two to three years of doing the job, rounded us all up and sent us to the concentration campus at Edinburgh’s Napier College.

It was an eight-week block-release course designed to make sure we attained the, ahem, high standards set by the full-time course.

But we all knew what it was…a jolly. Word had been passed down the line that the block-release course was a box-ticking exercise which served only to teach us the journalistic basics we’d already mastered.

It meant our college experience was always going to be more public house than Animal House but, hey, there’s worse ways to spend two months away from home – and work.

We were paid our full wages – plus a few extra quid in expenses – to be taught how to do what we already did every day. No wonder we went to the boozer.

Yep, you couldn’t make it up – except that’s exactly what we did. In our newspaper practice class we made up stories, lots of them.

And if you ever wondered where the majority of life’s dramas happened in the spring of 1978, I can exclusively reveal it was the Edinburgh suburb of Oxgangs.

The make-believe bank robberies, gun sieges, train crashes, high-rise fires, bomb-squad call-outs, hostage-taking and car smashes we wrote about all took place in EH13.

That was the “where” of our stories to go alongside the “who, what, why, how and when” you always need for any news tale.

Mind you, I often wondered what the good residents of Oxgangs would make of all these dramas on their doorstep. Those house prices would take a right dunt, that’s for sure.

The sleepy suburb was turned into something of a war zone as we wrote up our dramatic stories after being fed the imaginary information.

There was a siege at Oxgangs library after a gunman walked in and threatened to kill the staff. Presumably he wasn’t happy with having to pay charges on his overdue book A Beginner’s Guide On How To Be A Gun Nut.

Then we had a blaze at the high-rise flats in Oxgangs which would have given the Towering Inferno movie a run for its money considering all the dramatic goings-on. There were brave firemen, brave neighbours and brave policemen all around.

Oxgangs Primary School was the setting for a full-scale evacuation after the janny discovered an explosive device in the boiler room. The bomb squad were called in as the kids were moved to a nearby football pitch to carry on their singing lessons. Another Hollywood influence there, methinks

We also had a train crash in Oxgangs which made the movie Runaway Train look like an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. In our fictitious story the train – with dangerous chemicals on board – derails just before the station and ploughs into the school playground. That train story caused a bit of a stushie for three of us in the class after we took advantage of our lecturer Bill’s easy-going nature

Bill, who made his name covering the murder trial of serial killer Peter Manuel for the Daily Express in 1958, was a free spirit who insisted on treating his classroom like a newsroom.

This meant you could come and go as you please so long as you did the work. And it also meant a large window of opportunity opened up for the Three Amigos.

Our newspaper practice class lasted four hours from 1pm and the assignment for the train crash scenario was two-fold. Firstly, we had to hand in a 150-word story by 2pm and, secondly, a 250-word story by close of play.

We were given the information at the start of class to write up the first part – for an evening paper story – and were told we would be drip-fed other details for the second one.

It didn’t take a genius to work out we would have the best part of two hours after handing in the first story before we would even have to think about writing the second one.

What to do? A few surreptitious looks and nods between the three of us led us to the nearest pub which happened to be beside a Ladbroke’s bookies.

We had a wee racing syndicate going where I was the silent partner, entrusting the other two to make some wise investments on my behalf in the 2.30 at Plumpton and a few others to boot.

A good few pints and punts later, we headed back to college – richer for the experience in every way.

Our classmates were looking a bit frazzled and, judging by the amount of info slips on their desks, the drip-feed had become a torrent.

As we took our seats at 4pm, right on cue another slip was handed out telling us the train driver had died. A quick flick through the red-herring slips that had dropped while we were in the boozer didn’t change anything. Driver dies after train plunges into school playground kind of writes itself.

Anyway, the next day Bill takes the three of us aside before class to tell us we have the top marks for the train story.

Only thing is, he says, when I read them out in class you won’t be top three because it was pretty obvious you guys went to the pub and it’s not fair on the rest of them.

So much for Bill’s free spirit. But at least we got a free afternoon in the boozer thanks to our winnings.