Sandra Moir
Primary: 1948-49
Secondary: 1949-55
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I was born in Dundee of Dundee parents but my early years were spent at Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie, where I was regarded as an incomer and a townie! Kilspindie School was a one-teacher school with a total roll of 17 pupils. No-one else was my age. By age 10 I’d completed the village school syllabus and had passed the “Quallie” for a 5-year course at Perth Academy, but my parents decided to move to Dundee instead, and the very sensible rector of Morgan Academy placed me in Miss Chalmers’ class of 42 apparently identical girls, where I was regarded as a country girl!

After that one primary year I progressed through secondary leaving from 6th year in 1955 to go to Queens College in Dundee, a college of St Andrews University at that time, graduating B Sc with honours in maths 4 years later.

Fellow Morganites might be interested in knowing how I came to marry one of our most attractive and interesting teachers. Well! It started by me failing my first year Physics exam. And having a chance meeting at a fairground in Arbroath when my mother let him know this embarrassing fact and he offered to help me revise for the resit. This was successful and he continued to be a frequent visitor to our house, letting us see his new car, letting me drive it when I passed my driving test, “borrowing” cement and tools for building for the observatory at Powrie Hill, in other words a family friend. In 1959 the very week I was sitting those 7 honours exam papers I invited him to accompany me to Avril Millar’s wedding and later that year he took me to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Then the romance started. That year I also decided not to accept a post at the Meteorological Office in Dunstable nor a position to train as an actuary in a solicitor’s office in Edinburgh, but to train as a teacher in Dundee.

I taught mathematics at Harris Academy for 3 years, spent the next 10 years bearing and rearing our 4 sons, and then we moved to Carnoustie and I taught mathematics part-time at Carnoustie High School. I was not offered nor did I seek promotion since I had plenty responsibility at home. During this time Bill Dow was at the Teacher Training College first as a lecturer and then as Head of Department, teaching students by day and running courses for serving teachers and overseas educationalists in the evenings and during school holidays.

I retired from school at age 55, Bill was already retired and our eldest son, Ken, was ill with paranoid schizophrenia. He’d been diagnosed some 8 years before while studying as a post-graduate in Aberdeen and has had some good spells and some very difficult periods since, many hospitalisations, some quite lengthy, and I needed the time to spend with him and separately with Bill who was by then 70 years old.

Retirement has been and still is very satisfying and I feel I’ve made the right decisions for me. Bill is still well and active at age 87(albeit somewhat breathless and rather slower) Ken has a little home of his own, is on the latest medication, Clozapine, drives his own car, and so has some quality of life. All 4 sons have university degrees and the younger 3 are in employment, the youngest 2 are married and have given us 5 grandchildren, 3 of whom are girls. I’m still involved in Carnoustie High School annually as Chief Invigilator at SQA exams. I enjoy the responsibility.

Because of Ken’s Mental Illness I was invited to be on a Project Group with The Clinical Standard Board set up by the Scottish Government in 1999 to improve standards in the NHS (Scotland) for people with Schizophrenia. (Standards for Cancer and Coronary Heart Disease were on the go at the same time.) Once the standards were written, this project group planned “peer-review” visits to every NHS trust in Scotland including the State Hospital at Carstairs. It was challenging, demanding work but a great experience as was contributing to the reports after each visit. I took part in over a dozen visits for schizophrenia, going to some places like Shetland and the State Hospital twice. Then I joined a project group for Breast Screening and took part in peer-review visits for that, including one to Northern Ireland.

In 2001, The Clinical Standards Board was merged with some other agencies and became NHS Quality Improvement Scotland and I became a Public Partner with them. From then I did a few visits each year meeting many interesting people, staying in great places and learning a lot about a wide range of conditions and the way these are managed in different places till my involvement with NHS QIS ended in 2010. I found the experience was really good for my self-confidence, self-esteem and such like.

When the Scottish GPs’ contract was rewritten to include cash incentives I joined NHS Lothian as a lay-reviewer. I have visited GP practices and also reviewed some teaching practices in the Edinburgh area for NES the education branch of the NHS.

Nearer home I’m taking part in the Angus Mental Health Forum to input a carer’s perspective. All the stakeholders at the forum listen to each other but we’ve yet to be convinced we’re making a difference! This is an encouraging development.

From playing the organ at Kilspindie to being an elder at Carnoustie the church has been a bit of an anchor for me throughout my life. We don’t know what the future holds but should we be spared till next year together Bill and Sandra Dow will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in July 2011.

Carnoustie, August, 2010