The Gordonstoun Campus: A moment in time
In July of 2012 the Gordonstoun Association approached noted landscape architect, James Byatt, to produce a drawing of the Gordonstoun estate. It was to show Duffus House, first residence of the school, which will be vacated soon and rebuilt within the school grounds.
James’ family has a long association with Gordonstoun. As well as being an Aberlour House student himself, his great uncle Keir Campbell was one of the first masters at the school in 1934. His grandmother, Keir's sister, came to live in Elgin the same year and knew Kurt Hahn well, sending all three of her sons to the newly established school.
James' father, David Byatt, was a pupil both at Wester Elchies and Gordonstoun and was Guardian in 1951. He returned to the school in 1971 as Second Master and finally Warden in 1991. Both James' parents taught biology and retired in 1993.
Research for the drawing began in the autumn, a time of cold winds and rain showers. Considerable time was spent sitting in the car waiting for the weather to improve to enable sketching. During this time James became very familiar with the car parks next to Cumming House and the Sports Centre. The final work on site was carried out wearing woollen mitts – a definite first for James!
The drawing was produced in four stages.
Firstly, a pencil sketch was made based on an Ordnance Survey map with individual trees, shrubs and particular landscape features drawn and annotated. This work took considerable time and involved long walks around the estate to areas not visited by most students such as the sewage reed beds and Coronation Wood. Hugh Brown, Financial Director, was of enormous help providing background historical information such as the Gordonstoun Historic Designed Landscape Management Plan of 2006.
Security, too, came to know James; a Duffus boy reported a man in a strange hat walking the grounds! Other staff appeared not to notice him and he was able to walk backwards and forwards across Sweethillocks for some two hours without being questioned by a man marking out white lines for the pitches. James was pleased to accept the occasional lift on the estate team’s golf buggy.
The sketching took many months to complete and was interrupted by inclement weather and, more significantly, the death of James’ father, David Byatt. A memorial service was held for David in St Christopher’s chapel on 3 October 2012.
Having completed the detailed sketch of the estate, a black ink copy was made by overlaying the pencil sketch with tracing paper. Additional drawings were added of the houses, Ocean Spirit and other features of special interest.
Stage three involved copying the drawing from tracing paper to plain paper and colouring the drawing with Letraset Promarker pens. The colours used indicate the different terrain, with paths, trees and water being coloured appropriately. Finally, the drawing was scanned and printed with ultra-violet light resistant inks to improve longevity.
The completed drawing was first shown at the GA weekend in May of this year and was enthusiastically received. It is a highly detailed work of art and will remind all OG’s of their time at Gordonstoun.
The drawing has been reproduced in three sizes [515 x 980 mm £75, 415 x 800 mm £50, 215 x 410 mm (A3) £20]
It can be purchased at the school from the shop or ordered by post from James Byatt www.jamesbyatt.com (postage £6.99)