There has been a lot of talk this week about Proms. On Woman’s Hour there were interviews with Year 6 leavers who talked about being in tears at leaving their Primary School, about the sadness of leaving lovely teachers, of frocks and limousines and all the rest. It was quite a revelation to me.
Let me tell you about the Quali Dance at James Gillespie’s Primary School, for yes, it was not called a Prom in the 1960s. In my day it was the Qualifying Dance (known as the Quali) and I assume it was for those who had qualified to get into the Secondary School. I don’t remember anyone who didn’t qualify but there was a test which was very scary. Did anyone fail it? I don’t know. Of course we left at the end of P7 and I’m not quite sure if it is the same as the current Year 6. Anyone know?
Although there was a James Gillespie Primary School for Boys there was no joining up for the Quali so it was girls only. I remember I wore a coffee coloured dress which was painful to wear. It had a sticky-out skirt and it itched. I hated it. With a passion. Frou-frou it was. I’d rather have worn my lovely cat-suit and no, there are to be no photographs. No way. There may have been white socks too. Lovely. (Not long white socks, by the way, as those were only worn by the Roman Catholic girls at the Convent next door – ours had to be short, or long grey or fawn.)
Now, my memory of the actual Quali Dance is rather hazy. There must have been dancing but I’m assuming it was of the Scottish Country variety. With girls, yes. That was my life until I left secondary school and then there was a joint dance in 5th Year with the boys of George Heriot’s, but that’s a whole other story and involves Vodka in handbags. The Quali Dance was not nearly so exciting. I don’t remember teachers dancing but perhaps they did.
Nobody cried, that I know of. There was no procession with the whole school waving farewell and parents crying into their iPhones. There were no limousines – I walked over the Meadows as I did every morning and every afternoon. It was held in the gym and perhaps there were balloons but that was probably all the decoration. Most of my friends were coming to the same secondary so we knew we’d all see one another after the summer holidays, so there were no tearful separations.
And if any of my old school friends are reading this and remember it completely differently and were awash with tears then that just goes to show you what a tough nut I was in those halcyon days.