John Hutcheson

John Hutcheson

Memories of your time here:
Prior to going to Newbattle from ’73-’75, I was living and labouring in the West Highlands. Travelling to the College for the entrance interview, I was questioning whether I wanted to leave the Highlands and move back into an urban environment. However on discovering the impressive college building in its beautiful riverside setting with mixed woodland, manicured lawns and the Italian garden, my doubts readily evaporated. What a stunning, positive environment to start rebuilding my life.

Once started into the studies, my memory is of very challenging courses covering a lot of ground in a relatively short period. The philosophy readings got underway okay with Plato, but I soon found myself struggling trying to make sense of Descartes, Lock, Hume and Berkeley. Reprieve came with an old CND favourite Bertrand Russell before Wittgenstein took us into the real world with the common sense view that it was a mistake to confuse philosophy with science. How I got through that exam I’ll never know. However, having done so, I had gained enough confidence to take on the university exams that were to follow. English Literature covered a similar long period of history and again it was when we got to the 20th Century writers such as Elliot and Synge that I really started to relate to the writings. Thankfully I found sociology and history grounded in a world that I recognised.

Many members of the staff were out of the ordinary characters all very committed to providing support for the students. None more so than the historian Ian MacDougall with his staunch belief in the power of education to change lives for the better. Helpful accommodating attributes were also found in many of the admin staff, cleaners, caterers and groundsmen.

Where you are now:
After leaving Newbattle I went onto gain a Geography MA and a postgrad Diploma in Adult Education both at Edinburgh University. During summer holidays I was introduced to work as countryside ranger back at Achmelvich and Clachtoll in Sutherland. The West Highland Way opened in October 1980 coinciding with the completion of my studies and I moved to become full time ranger on the northern section of Scotland’s first promoted long distance walking route. There followed a very enjoyable and fulfilling working career with Highland Council as countryside ranger and access officer in Lochaber before retiring in 2009. I continue to live in Fort William, home for the past 33 years. In retirement I am enjoying trekking holidays to new corners of Europe.

Why was Newbattle special to you?
The student body consisted of a wide variety of interesting individuals all seeking a second chance to grow and build a new life. Being thrown together and living on top of one another was far from easy. Pressures and tensions simmered away and from time to time bubbled over in discord. Getting to know one another coming as we did from a rich diversity of backgrounds was an important part of the education. Looking back, it was a privilege to study at Newbattle Abbey College and get to know so many interesting and out of the ordinary characters. I look back on Newbattle Abbey College as the key turning point that opened up an interesting, rewarding and fulfilled life.