Colin O'Riordan Trust

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:35 pm on 24th January 2002.

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Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 5:35 pm, 24th January 2002

I congratulate Angus MacKay on securing the debate and am pleased to support the motion.

I, too, did not know Dr Colin O'Riordan personally, but I knew of him from educational circles, from people in the City of Edinburgh Council and from music teachers, all of whom spoke well of him. I support the motion for several reasons. First, I am from Edinburgh and, as an Edinburgh citizen, I pay tribute to Dr O'Riordan's extraordinary achievements, not least of which was the foundation of the City of Edinburgh Music School.

Secondly, as Conservative education spokesman, I pay tribute to Dr O'Riordan for all that he did for music tuition in Scotland. Thirdly, I attended Portobello High School, where the music department provided some of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of my education. When I saw Angus MacKay's motion, I knew that the debate was important. We should remember not only the fine man of whom we have heard tonight, but the work that he did.

I remember my teachers—Mr Dempster, Miss Noble, Mr Pow and Mr Morrison—fondly. I remember particularly the time that I wore a cassock and sang at Old St Paul's church and the school operas and music competitions that were the highlights of everyone's year at Portobello High School. That was quite an achievement for a music department: after second year, not everyone chose music, yet throughout school, whether people played instruments, sang or painted scenery, the music competitions and the opera were the highlight. I am sure that Colin O'Riordan would look for such things in a school, which would bring people together and inspire them.

Since that time, I have been keen to advocate the important role of music, not only for its own sake but because it provides a rounded education. Much more can be done. The foundation of the Colin O'Riordan Trust will be not only a fitting tribute but an effective way of improving access to music tuition.

One of the trust's roles will be the provision of instruments, which is crucial. Both my sons attended a local primary school in Edinburgh and were interested in playing the violin. Like many in their class, they were put through an audition to find out whether they had some sort of ear for music. Both were found to have some ability, but what could be done was limited by the number of available violins. The teaching by the musical tutors was free, but once those who could take up the instrument were isolated, they still had to participate in a ballot. The provision of instruments, which will ensure that more people have access to musical tuition, is fundamental.

It is one of those strange coincidences of life that, after the debate, my first appointment will be to return to my old high school, Portobello, to attend a teachers evening on music tuition so that we can hear what the next stage will be for the sons and daughters who attend the school. I can think of no better way of honouring Dr O'Riordan's memory than pupils and teachers working with the trust to learn music and play in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland. We should ensure that his name is remembered.