The retiral of Mr. Gemmell after such a long period in office inevitably presented a problem and a challenge to his successor. The impact of a strong personality on a school is evident in all phases of its work, and the withdrawal of his inspiration may well prove crippling, if not disastrous. The school, however, was fortunate in its new Rector, Mr. William Braid Taylor.
Mr. Taylor, the antithesis of Mr. Gemmell in many ways, a quiet, persistent man who shunned the lime-light, had known the school intimately for many years and now returned as Rector with the added experience of five years as Headmaster of Johnstone High School.
The School, when Mr. Taylor took office, was growing in numbers but accommodation was not unduly taxed. The curriculum showed little change, and the balance between the Classical and Modern sides was nicely maintained. Under the quiet but firm stimulus of Mr. Taylor school life settled to a steady rhythm which enabled both Staff and pupils to give of their best. Few, if any, periods in the school’s history have produced such successes in the University Bursary Competition. In the period 1931-41 Academy pupils won one first and three second places in the Glasgow University Bursary Competition. The “annus mirabilis” was 1935 when the Academy had the first, second and ninth places. High University honours were also gained by ex-pupils, and yet another Academy boy won the Snell Classical Exhibition to Oxford, In games, too, the school prospered, with special success in cricket and hockey.
Behind the scenes, meanwhile, changes were taking place. Administration was making ever heavier demands on the Rector’s time, and at last in 1935 a telephone was installed and, later, a second clerkess was appointed.
The increase in the roll (702 pupils in 1935) emphasised the inadequacy of the accommodation in the school: the one gymnasium could not satisfy the requirements of the Education Department for physical training, nor were full courses in Technical subjects and Home- craft possible. Thus there began that pressure upon the authorities for further accommodation which was not adequately met until 1950.
The last years of Mr. Taylor’s Rectorship were clouded by the threat, and later by the outbreak of war. Emergency measures, the evacuation to safer areas of some of our pupils, the requisitioning of the Infant Annexe by the R.A.F., and the call-up of members of the Staff disturbed the work of the school.
The Blitz in May, 1941, left the school materially little damaged, but greatly increased the difficulties of a war-time regime. That the standard of school-work was to a large extent maintained, so that the percentage of L.C. passes was almost normal, reflects great credit on the Staff, who in addition to their responsibilities in Civil Defence also served on the various panels for the L.C. examination.
In June, 1941, Mr. Taylor retired. Quietly, as the rigours of wartime demanded but, in all probability, just as he would have preferred, he left the school he had served so devotedly for twenty-eight years. “Semper honos. nomenque tuum, laudesque manebunt.”