Dr Iain A McCoubrey
House & Year at Fettes:
Qualifications & Career
MB Ch B; FFOM; FRAeS; MRCGP; DAvMed
Medical Officer, RAF 1971-97 – Air Commodore
Chief Medical Adviser, Waitrose Ltd, 1997-2004
Medical Director (London), Health Management Ltd, 2004-2007
2001 to date: Justice of the Peace in Oxford
What is your most cherished memory from your time at Fettes?
The camaraderie and the esprit de corps. The friendship and support of the vast majority of one’s fellows, and the making of friendships which, although they may go into abeyance, spring back immediately on meeting people again. I had cause to telephone on professional grounds a fellow sixth former whom I hadn’t spoken to since we left school. When connected, we went straight back to our previous relationship and it was only after chatting for about 20 minutes that we realised we hadn’t spoken for 37 years. Last year I went to Commem because it was 50 years since I had gone to Fettes. The (sadly, too few) chums who turned up all immediately carried on where we had left off. A bit sad, really? I don’t think so.
And your least?
I had some fairly bad bullying in my second year. One didn’t make a fuss in those days – it was “grin & bear it”. The bullies shouldn’t have done it, of course; but with hindsight I realise that at the time I was an insufferable prig. These things are seldom simple.
Were you awarded a scholarship at Fettes and if so, what did it mean to you?
Yes. I just missed a scholarship from prep school, and re-sat at the end of my first year, getting 4th place. Financially I didn’t notice the difference – though I expect my father did. But it was a great confidence builder for me.
What person or event left a lasting impression on you?
Freddy Macdonald – the archetypal public schoolmaster
JFK’s assassination (inevitably). I was sitting in my study during prep when Andrew Fletcher, the duty prefect, came in to dole out the cod liver oil pills we all had to take in the winter months. He told me about, and I and my fellow prefects all (unbidden) went to the prefect’s room to talk about what then seemed an almost impossible occurrence. By an extraordinary coincidence, I was already on the rota to play “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” to “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in house prayers that evening. Most apposite.
Prince Andrew’s birth. Mike Leslie, U4 form master, came in to form master’s period in a morning suit (he had been at a wedding) just as the church bells began to ring, and announced “it is a Prince”.
Dick Cole-Hamilton, my housemaster. He was a remarkably far sighted man who sneaked all sorts of modernisations into what was then a very traditional and stuffy society without it being obvious.
Were you a conscientious student?
No; something I have regretted for much of the time since.
Outside the classroom how did you spend your free time at Fettes?
Chatting with chums – endless cups of coffee in studies!
Music, various. Jam sessions in House, choir, orchestra etc.
Playing squash, shooting (small & full bore), reading (most of the fiction library by the time I left).