Realschule Eslohe – journeys of the gratuating classes

by Wilfried Gundel

“Eslohes Secondary Modern School und St. Margaret’s Academy – a Catholic comprehensive school in Livingston – are currently developing relationships within the framework of the twinning.” This is what was to be read in the news­letter of the school in Livingston in November 1996 – one year before the first graduating class from the Realschule Eslohe travelled to Scotland to the partner district West Lothian.

The “Girl Group” from the graduating class that made the first Scotland journey from Eslohe in 1997

The “Girl Group” from the graduating class that made the first Scotland journey from Eslohe in 1997

It was in 1996, that the first contacts between both school have been made. This happened after the Eslohe school had cancelled a connection from the years before with a London school. After that, the pupils could choose a new travel target. “I voted for Scotland because I thought that You normally don’t get there, as it is so far”, a young woman remembered last autumn at a meeting of former class  members in Eslohe.

And so it came, that their English teacher Horst Vielhaber and his wife Helga made a private information journey to West Lothian in 1996. The contact with the St. Margaret’s Academy teacher in charge of foreign languages James  Forbes had already been existing.

It is mainly the small things the young women remembered meeting again in autumn last year. E.g. that it was a great secret to be lifted what the Scots wear under the kilt. During an Edinburgh Castle visit, one of the pupils came creeping up to a guard and kneeled down to unveil the secret. “But it didn’t work.” The guard left his post.

From 8th to 14th of May 1997, the first Eslohe visit in Livingston was to take place. Many personal, written and phone agreements between teachers, the Culture Offce of the district and the local partnership organization had been made in advance. The pupils had prepared themselves for the journey during the lessons.

And by bus, ship and bus again, the graduating class (10a) from the Realschule Eslohe, accompanied by the teachers Karola Bösing and Horst Vielhaber, traveled to the youth ho­stel in Linlithgow, where they were welcomed by Headmas­ter A.J. Gavin, Kathy McGrath, James Forbes and Godfrey Fairbairn (from the Twinning Association) – welcomed to a very exciting and interesting premiere with joint trips with  Scottish pupils and many other meetings.

While in the following year the school from Livingston sent a group of pupils for a return visit to Eslohe in Sauer­land, two other graduating classes from Eslohe visited the partner district West Lothian (in 1998 and 2000). Every time awaited with excitement, the project was not exactly cheap: The journey cost 500 Deutsche Mark, pocket money not included.

Talking about money: one of the pupils had lost her purse during a church visit. She went back to the church and tur­ned to the sexton with her problem. He had found the purse and asked the young girl from Eslohe to describe it for him. “It was really diffcult, as I needed words I didn’t know yet”, she remembers. But there was a happy ending.

As things are now, there might be another journey to West Lothian for Eslohe Realschule pupils in this anniversary year. Last year, the teacher Huberta Eickhoff travelled to Scotland with a group of people from the Partnerschafts­vereinigung – not only to get impressed by the country,  but also to prepare a graduating class trip for 2012.