Scotland's referendum: Catching up with the class of '79

A class of primary school pupils talked politics to the BBC in 1979

In 1979 eight school pupils were interviewed by the BBC as part of a special programme on that year's Scottish devolution referendum.

We set out to track down the group, with your help. After seeing the footage, you told us the school was Mount Florida Primary on the southside of Glasgow and you named all eight children.

Six have spoken to the BBC again and a number were interviewed for a 1997 programme called "The Ghost of '79". Peter is the only one we know very little about, (we'd still love to hear from you Peter, so do get in touch).

Here is the class of '79.........

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Russell Speed

"I can't recall much of the day but the footage has cropped up a couple of times over the years. Grigor Milne was a good friend and John Milne, the BBC Scotland presenter who did the interview, is his dad. I'm sure it helped that I knew him before he interviewed us.

Russell Speed Russell Speed, how he was then and how he is today, said: "I am the one who is pouty and rolls his eyes."

"Seems like one or two of us had figured out that humour would get us screen time.

What did Russell say in 1979?

Interviewer: "When you're big, what do you want to be?"

Russell: "A tennis player."

Interviewer: "What do you know about Teddy Taylor?"

Russell: "That he's got a bald patch on the top of his head."

Interviewer: "Do you know what party he belongs to?"

Russell: *Very long pause*

Interviewer: "No?"

Russell: "...Labour?"

"Family and friends are envious of my childhood stardom. I'm told many of my expressions and mannerisms haven't changed.

"I was clearly ahead of my time, being Scottish and wanting to be a tennis champion. Growing up I was much better at table tennis.

"The Conservative offices were near our house in Mount Florida, so I should have known what party he [Teddy Taylor] was in. As others indicated on the film, he's the only Glasgow MP you would have recognised in the street.

"Devolution always felt like a stepping stone to independence.

"However, it's interesting that Donald Dewar was totally opposed to the idea. Living and working in London, I've mixed views.

"I'm sure the country can sustain itself economically and it would remove suspicion of Westminster's priorities.

"However, separatism doesn't feel like a particularly multi-cultural idea and Great Britain has its advantages, even if 'Dave Snooty' isn't one of them."

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  • How did the story unfold? Have a look at this Twitter timeline showing where we started and how you helped us in the writing of this piece.
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Grigor Milne
Grigor Milne Grigor in 1979 and as he appears today, working for CMS Cameron McKenna LLP

"It was my dad who ran it [the interview], so that was slightly bizarre, I have to say.

"I do remember a bit of coaching from my mum either the morning of the interview or the day before. It was an interesting day.

"And a bit embarrassing as well with my dad [John Milne] coming in to see all my class mates.

What did Grigor say in 1979?

Grigor: "We've been with the English too long."

Interviewer: "Why's that?"

Grigor: "Because I think we can manage fine ourselves."

"About a year after that interview, my family moved through to Edinburgh. So I was at secondary school at Edinburgh and then university at Edinburgh as well - I did law.

"I've basically worked for a law firm for 10 years in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, which was where I was interviewed by the BBC for 'The Ghost of '79' in 1997.

"It's quite funny looking at that because you forget you were just talking about devolution in '79, so it was never the full real separation going on. It was just a case of having a bit more influence over what goes on up here.

"Personally and professionally you need to keep on top of these things [the referendum]. My views have probably mellowed a bit since '79 I guess.

"It's nice seeing what the rest of the class look like now and seeing what they're all up to. As I said, I left the school about a year after the interview, and apart from Russell who I saw a couple of times in Edinburgh because he was a student here as well, I've not really been able to keep up with any of them at all.

"So it's interesting to see where they've all ended up."

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Linda Paterson
Linda Paterson Linda, as a child and pictured again in 1997, said: "I was the one with the gap between her teeth you could drive a train through."

"My husband thinks it's hysterical. He does like to remind me that it was 1979 and he wasn't even born the year I was doing that, so that's quite embarrassing. I think everyone finds it quite funny that my hair looked as if my mother had been using tongs on it for about 20 years and that I was so politely spoken.

"I think someone said I was angelic.

What did Linda say in 1979?

Interviewer: "Do you not want to be a politician?"

Linda: "No."

Interviewer: "What would you like to be instead?"

Linda: "Hmm...a nurse."

Interviewer: "If we had a prime minister in Scotland, who would you like it to be?"

Linda: "Eh...Teddy Taylor.

"Marion was one of my best pals at school. And I used to chase Graeme [Atkins] about, I fancied him. He was my crush at primary school, I totally loved him, I was like 'oh my God!'.

"I haven't seen any of them since probably 1997 when we did the follow-up. I think we all kind of dispersed.

"All I knew was Teddy Taylor, I didn't even know what party he was in. His [Russell's] answer was classic, it's the eyes rolling back! I think I kind of went along with the flow, because we were on telly and this guy Teddy Taylor's name's been mentioned a few times, I think I'll just say him as well. I think I just liked the fact that his name was Teddy.

"No, I didn't become a nurse. I've got a complete phobia of anything medical. I've been in financial services since 1997, although I've recently been made redundant so I'm now training to be a driving instructor.

"I'm definitely a 'Yes' person, was in 1997 so I've not changed my views on that. Whether that's the right thing or not, I don't know."

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Graeme Atkins
Graeme Atkins Graeme, in 1979 and as he is today, says: "I'm the one with the two front teeth that Buggs Bunny would be proud of."

"Prior to the day itself we had all been given the choice as to whether we wanted to participate or not. I had been happy to opt in but then got quite worked up about it the night before and wanted to pull out.

"My parents talked me round and, in the end, I absolutely loved it. It was all very exciting and lots of fun.

What did Graeme say in 1979?

Interviewer: "Who would you like to be Scotland's prime minister?"

Graeme: "Teddy Taylor."

Interviewer: "Why?"

Graeme: "Because he's the only one I know."

"Immediate family and a few friends have seen it so far. It prompted some nice reminiscing.

"I particularly remember Peter's comment about wanting more sweet shops to open, and Russell's description of Teddy Taylor. He was the local MP at the time and was pretty well known, even to nine-year-olds, although that was probably largely due to him being called Teddy.

"That's my excuse anyway for saying I wanted him as prime minister.

"I have actually seen the clip since it was originally broadcast. It was the days before video recorders were common so my Dad cine-filmed the TV as the programme went out. It was exciting to watch afterwards, although it did lack something without sound.

"After Mount Florida Primary it was off to King's Park Secondary then onto Strathclyde University. I moved to England in 1992, worked in industry for a couple for years, then went into teaching, becoming a head teacher in 2009. I've been living in London since 1997 but will be relocating to Northumberland in the summer.

"I'm married now with one son of 22 months and number two is on the way.

"Regarding the referendum, I am watching proceedings with interest despite being unable to vote. I'm not unduly concerned about this as I don't have a particularly strong view either way. What will be will be."

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Norma Hutton
Norma Norma, as she was in 1979 and as she is today, says: "I am the one with the big eyes looking for the escape route"

"I found the experience of the interview very daunting, I had opinions but always believed I had nothing constructive to say and maybe had a little stage fright.

What did Norma say in 1979?

Interviewer: "What do you know about devolution?"

Norma: "Nothing really."

Interviewer: "Have you heard about it at all?"

Norma: *Long pause* "Yes? I think."

"I went onto Kings Park Secondary School but moved away from Glasgow approximately 23 years ago and I now live in Christchurch, Dorset. I am currently working for Bournemouth Borough Council.

"I like bestowing my culinary skills on others and would have preferred to have had the opportunity of running a restaurant or bed and breakfast, cooking and just simply making a small difference to people's outlook.

"I got married to Quintin, whom I met in 1996. We don't have any children, only our cat - Tinkerbell.

"Scotland has grown since 1979 and although not independent has devolved power and control over some of its affairs through an elected parliament which I believe is gradually increasing.

"There are so many changes to be made if the majority vote 'Yes'. What will they be saying 'Yes' to? Without even considering the bigger picture the day-to-day aspect could have a devastating consequence on Scotland's economy.

"I do wish that I had the option of voting, in order to make the right decision, one should have all the facts for and against. I would prefer Scotland to have more devolved power, standing on its own but still part of Britain."

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Marion Carpenter
Marion Wickes Marion Carpenter, as a school girl in 1979 and in 1997, says she was: "The goody two-shoes with the pigtails."

"Do you know what, it's absolutely dreadful I cannot remember the day itself at all. I looked at it last night online and that's the first time I've ever seen it.

What did Marion say in 1979?

Marion: "They want to do things by themselves."

Interviewer: "Do you think that's a good thing?"

Marion: "Yes."

Interviewer: "Would you like to be in the assembly when you grow up?"

Marion: "No."

Interviewer: "Why not?"

Marion: "I don't know."

Interviewer: "What would you like to be instead?"

Marion: "A nurse."

Interviewer: "If we had a Prime Minister in Scotland, who would you like it to be?"

Marion: *Long pause* "My Dad?"

"We moved abroad within a year of that programme being made, to Saudi Arabia, as my father was a doctor, and that rather eclipsed my childhood memories of time at Mount Florida Primary School.

"I sort of remember not knowing very much about what was going on in the wider world, being quite naïve, so when I made that line when they asked who I wanted to be Prime Minister - and I said my dad - that was purely because all the other children had said exactly the same, and I was very thrown and didn't want to give the same answer as them. He was the only other man I could think of.

"The '97 programme was really nice actually. It would be nice to see them all again.

"Well, I hope I know a little more about politics than I did in 1979. In 1997, I was probably the lone voice that was anti-devolution. I was proved wrong on that one so what do I know?

"Now I'm a bit ambivalent about independence. Obviously I now live in Dorset, so I have a slightly different view. I can't see the need for it. It's often couched in a sort of anti-English ethos and if I felt like that I wouldn't be living in England and married to an Englishman, so I don't have that vociferous view, parochial view, where I feel it needs to be independent.

"And I'm slightly intrigued to see how the practicalities will pan out - in terms of passports, and borders, and that kind of thing.

"I would like a vote. I do find that really frustrating."

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David Ferguson
David Ferguson David Ferguson appeared in the 1997 programme 'The Ghost of '79'

When David was interviewed in 1979 he was asked if he wanted to be a politician, serving in a Scottish assembly. He gave a blunt "no", adding that he wanted to be a policeman instead.

The BBC caught up with the Glasgow school pupil in 1997, ahead of the Scottish devolution referendum of that year.

At the time David said: "I think we should give it [devolution] a try, see what happens. The only thing that worries me is if it doesn't work, what would happen then? We'd be stuck with an assembly that isn't working. That's my only real worry about it."

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Peter
Peter Vail The BBC spoke to Peter in 1979, and he hasn't been on camera since

In 1979, schoolboy Peter's contribution to the political debate was that Scotland needed more sweet shops. Did the politicians of the time make his wish come true? Get in touch Peter and let us know......

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