(Drafted from a recorded phone interview with Iain Barraclough, by Steve McCrae, then edited by Iain.)
(Iain Barraclough - a lifetime member of the Aiglon Association - was at the school 1964-1967, and later contributed to the school by helping out in entertaining prospective parents/children at presentations held in the SCGB premises in London, and in acting as a trustee for a period, for the Aiglon UK Charitable Trust. He now lives in New Zealand, having emigrated from the UK in 1982.)
Q: (Asked about Iain's recollection of JC.)
Iain Barraclough: I didn't really know him all that well. Didn't have much to do with him. It was JC who introduced me to a new way of listening, and listening very carefully, to classical music. It was the Musical Appreciation Society - I think it was called that - that assembled in JC's quarters in Clairmont each Wednesday/"culture" night. I knew him as the principal and that he was sponsoring the Musical Appreciation Society.
In the Musical Appreciation society, we got to listen to classical music on JC's QUAD brand hi-fi gear - pre-amp, amplifier and electrostatic speakers. I had never seen this equipment before, but I later discovered that it was absolute top-of-the range, leading edge hi-fi gear. (QUAD stands for "Quality Unit Amplifier Domestic", made by the Accoustic Manufacturing Co. in the UK.)
I knew him as "The Boss" or "JC," as he was variously nicknamed. I had been told that he was an architect. I never did figure out how he got to set up the school. That’s something that I never explored. It has often puzzled me how he got there.
My memories of the place are those of a child who came from a grammar school in North Wales, UK, where I had been the only English child in the school. I was used to being picked on by bullies because I was different - I sounded and behaved differently to the other children, many of whom spoke Welsh at home. I had been taught by my older brothers to never back down if a fight was threatened, because I would regret it, and so I used to face up to a potential threat and go in with fists flying to do max damage, even if I wasn’t likely to fare well, on the basis that the bully would not usually come back for more, preferring to pick on an easier victim next time.
So I was actually - I had learned to be - quite aggressive when I came to Aiglon. My initial response on arriving at Aiglon was “what a bunch of softies”. It took me a while, but fortunately my mother taught me to be somewhat thoughtful, and so I eventually started to see that the boys were working in a closed system – a community - and that it worked better if we all cooperated and pulled together in the community. Once that penny dropped, I started moving up the ranks. Standard Bearer Candidate, Standard Bearer, then Councilor then House Prefect, then Vice-House captain. I didn’t seek these things, I just became more responsible without realising it. I never sucked up to anybody or had ambitions to be one of those things.
I think it was quite a good system - the school's ranking system.
MY FIRST COUNCIL MEETING:
Like all systems in a community, there was corruption. I saw this when I was invited to become a councilor. The day I was elected, I was invited to sit in on the last part of the council meeting that had elected me. They were discussing some of the boys and whether they should be promoted. There was one boy (Brian Diaz) who was up for standard bearer candidate, I think, and the doubt was raised, “It is still not certain whether he is smoking.”, and the councilors agreed that there couldn’t be a promotion if there was a suspicion of smoking - which offence was punishable by expulsion. I was puzzled by this as I knew which of the boys on the council were themselves smokers.
I asked, “Is the only reason for his not being promoted the suspicion that he might be a smoker?”
They agreed that that was the case.
So I said, “People who are in this room could also be supposed to be smokers, isn’t that so?” (there were students and teachers there).
There was a deathly silence in the room. I just thought that they were a bunch of bloody hypocrites - and this was my first meeting.
I went at it fairly logically like that and said something like, "I would hate to be the one to suppose which of the boys in this meeting might be smokers."
The upshot was that Brian got a well-earned promotion, which he had very much wanted. It would have been very de-motivating not to have promoted him otherwise.
Q: That was an empowering moment for you because you stood up for the kid.
Iain Barraclough: Well, unfortunately I had by then developed the tendency to stand up for the underdog - e.g., for those who are not present/able to defend themselves, and I detested hypocrisy.
In my first term at Aiglon, I shared a room with another boy, on the top floor of Clairmont. There was a very nervous boy who occupied a single room on the same floor. Me and my roommate had been teasing him with a silly made-up story about there being the ghost of a boy who had died of an ashmatic attack in that very room, and that his ghost resided in a water tank in the room and came out to haunt the room periodically. I concocted a story about how the dead boy had had a club foot, and that when his ghost appeared "You can hear him wheezing and clumping/scraping his club foot down the hallway at night.” Me and my roommate then conspired so that one night, one of us made the clumping/scraping noises down the hallway at about 2 a.m., and the other attempted to enter the boy's room with a bedsheet over his head, wheezing and moaning. It was very funny and we (me and my roommate) were laughing hugely about it afterwards.
But then CR (Christopher Reynolds) took me aside the next day and told me to put an end to this and made me see that what I thought was teasing and joking around was psychological bullying and that it could make the victim's life a misery. He made it clear that there was no place for bullying in the school and that if I kept it up, then they would have to consider asking me to leave.
That hit me hard because there was no way I had intended to bully the boy - I already knew that I detested bullies. I subsequently apologised to him for the teasing, and also made a special effort to be friendly and helpful towards him henceforth. He developed a trust in me such that, when I became a prefect, he would sometimes come to me for advice/help if he was being bullied by other boys (he was a natural victim). But the thing is, CR's approach - the school's approach - was to help the individual student to nurture the positive and push out the negative aspects in their own behaviours.
I wasn’t a model schoolboy at all. Having been raised in the Welsh hills of the Snowdonia National Park, I loved walking in the mountains and hills, but I didn’t like being organised to do so by others. I would never be a good military person. So I didn’t really look forward to the expeditions we went on - anything that was compulsory meant that you were being organised by others. I tried to make the most of them (expeditions) when I was on them though, especially the beautiful alpine scenery.
I would have been expelled along with three other senior boys. We went on a long expedition where we should have walked up some mountains near the valley around Gstaad. Collectively, we had knowledge of all but one of the mountains that we needed to walk up, so we only needed to walk up that one and reccy it. We drew straws or took a vote (I forget which), and the other three boys went up the mountain while I stayed in Gstaad wth my girlfriend (I was in love), at the swimming pool. I think the three of them were walking up a ridge on the very day that we were supposed to be walking that section, and apparently DB (Derek Berry) happened to be on a mountain somewhere nearby. He apparently used a pair of binoculars and counted one person walking up to the col - the object of the expedition - and noted that two others had stopped and were sitting - they were actually too tired to go any further and were having a fag, and were waiting for the solo walker (he was very fit) to reccy the col, make some notes and return. The fourth member (that was me) was missing.
At the debriefing - which I didn't need to attend, as I was not the leader - DB or someone avoided us having to tell the prepared lie about the details that we "remembered” from the ex by saying that he knew we had not done the ex. The outcome was that we were told that we should really be expelled, but, as we were all very senior boys (including the head boy) and we were less than a year away from "A" levels (we were all to take Oxford Local exams), the school would not make a fuss, but we were not to be given any points from that ex. Nor were we to publicise this but to keep it secret.
Q: Are there any meditations that stand out in your recollection?
Not really. I think Group Captain Watts’ meditations got me thinking quite a bit along the lines of principles - standards and moral principles. The act of trying to understand what meditation was and why we were being asked to do it got me thinking. Going through that questioning process - what was it supposed to give me? Then I realised that it was giving me an opportunity to do something for my SELF-discovery - to discover something that I otherwise probably wouldn’t be doing.
(There was some discussion about the Google Knol that Iain had set up for Aiglon College, and the Wikipedia article for Aiglon College that he had contributed quite a lot of material to. In a report that Iain had come across, the head of Round Square had talked about the contribution of Corlette to Round Square.)
Iain Barraclough: Corlette is frustratingly under the radar. His history and motivation - I’d like to know more, because he (and his school) played an important part in my life.