Blackburn Academy – Medebach Exchange

by Godfrey Fairbairn

In the year Scottish swimmers came to Medebach for the first time, John Calder celebrated his 65th birthday

In the year Scottish swimmers came to Medebach for the first time, John Calder celebrated his 65th birthday

In 1978, a group of young footballers from the Sports Club of Medebach visited South Queensferry High School. They slept on the foor of the school gymnasium. The party was led by Josef (Jupp) Drilling and Bernd Hellwig. When I went to welcome them on behalf of the Twinning Association, it quickly became clear that there was great enthusiasm for an exchange on the German side, but they still lacked a long term partner in West Lothian.

Hochsauerland visit to West Lothian District Council, May 1987.

Hochsauerland visit to West Lothian District Council, May 1987.

In the following year, the swimming club of Blackburn Academy approached me with a view to setting up a link within the HSK. One thing led to another and in the Summer of 1979,  I accompanied a party of young swimmers to Medebach,  the visit being hosted by the town’s Sports Club (TuS).

It was decided then that the exchange should be placed on a reciprocal basis, with the young people being accommodated in host families. Much credit goes to the parents of Blackburn Academy pupils for their unstinting hospitality and innovative fund­raising.

There was enough time to enjoy the sunset (Linlithgow)

There was enough time to enjoy the sunset (Linlithgow)

With the opening of the James Young High School in 1982 and the massive reduction in size of Blackburn Academy, the organisation of the exchange transferred to the new school, together with many of the staff, myself included.

Over the next twenty years, the exchange continued to be popular, with wide and varied programmes being organised on both sides. In that time it is estimated that some 1500 young people visited West Lothian and Medebach. To this day, I still hear of contacts established in those years being continued to the present day.

Provost Joe Thomas and Chief Executive Alex Linkston presents the “Loving Cup” of the West Lothian Council to Provost Franz-Josef Leikop, June 2000

Provost Joe Thomas and Chief Executive Alex Linkston presents the “Loving Cup” of the West Lothian Council to Provost Franz-Josef Leikop, June 2000

Many party leaders on both sides (Jupp Drilling deserves a special mention in this regard) gave freely of their time – the visits always took place during the Summer holidays. Many parents also assisted in all sorts of ways – helping with bar­becues, farewell parties, arranging visits and so on. A tower of strength in all this was the late Forsyth Jamieson and his wife Margaret who could not do enough to help, whether privately or at the Mill Farm (Livingston Heritage Centre).

The exchange was wound up in the late nineties, making it one of the longest lasting and successful schemes in the history of the Twinning Association, with echoes continuing to the present day.