Staff Spotlight: Deputy Head Groundsperson Paul Black

In our Staff Spotlight series we will be speaking with our fantastic Gordonstoun staff, exploring their lifetime highs and lows and getting an insight into what makes them tick. Meet Paul Black, Deputy Head Groundsperson. Paul spent his early years in Jamaica before returning to Scotland, eventually training in Greenkeeping before he joined the team at Gordonstoun in 2006.

Tell me a bit about yourself, what you do, and how long have you worked at Gordonstoun.

I’m a qualified greenkeeper and I was formerly head greenkeeper at Gogarburn Golf Club, from 1990 right until I came up here in 2006. When I moved here I went back to college and did an HND in Sports Coaching at Moray College. I did do some coaching and I even helped some of the girls here (Gordonstoun) to become cycling champions, but, I decided in the long term it wasn’t really for me. I then got a job with Moray Council in Land and Parks before the job came up here at the school.

I have been part of the grounds team now for 13 years and we oversee and maintain all the grounds outside the building, everything, grass, trees, everything that you see. In my role I could be laying slabs, I could be cutting down a tree, I could be cutting grass, all in the same day. Everything outside the buildings, across 200-acres.

What is currently happening in your department?

We’re just coming to the end of leaf collecting, so today’s probably our last big collection of leaves. We went from grass cutting at the end of September, to all our hedge cutting which takes four to five weeks, and then the leaves arrive. Thankfully this year it's been quite a quick autumn, suddenly there’s been quite a big dump of them, so we’re hoping we’ll do the last big clear of leaves today.

Then we will be going back into the woodland to start doing thinning and clearing - it lets new life and regeneration of our woodland, and it also means we can get into stuff needing to be maintained and made safe. We’re also keeping an eye on how the new classroom area comes on because we’ll have our role to play in that once another new building goes in, we’ll be looking into landscaping and things like that. So there’s any number of things we could be doing.

We have all our teachers and other colleagues who look after the children's learning, but we look after their environment, what they see outside.

What is the best thing about working at Gordonstoun?

I’ve always liked working outside. Right from when I left school, I’ve always wanted to work outside. Within four years I was the youngest Head Greenkeeper in the whole of Scotland at 21. I developed Gogarburn, and you can go down there now and see all the trees I’ve planted, so I’ve left my mark there. Here, again, there's hints of what we’ve done everywhere. I’ve been part of a team that’s worked on a number of things over the years. I like when I do a job to see a difference, whether I’ve built a bunker, or we’ve re-turfed an area or we’ve put in a new pathway.

I love interacting with the kids - although we don't have lots of contact with them, they always wave, always smile, because we’re here for them at the end of the day. I like grass cutting, and my daughter told me the Junior School nickname for me is ‘The Grasshopper’, because I literally do jump around the school cutting grass.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I love riding my bike, and I love building my models and constructing my own little world. That really is my escape. I was a competitive cyclist for nearly 30 years. I only just recently stopped doing that. My perfect world is riding my bike and playing with my train - my retirement is sorted!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I have five Scottish Championship medals on my bike for time trials. I did road racing, time trials and I did track racing. Time trials is what I excelled at, I was in the top 100 in the uk, and I also have over 20 regional championship medals. I’ve ridden 263,000 miles on my bike.

Which living person do you most admire?

I’ve looked up to different people over the years. I like people who can inspire, I like watching our olympians. I met Heather Stanning when she came here, she was one of our students after all, and you think, this is what this school does, it builds people like that. Although I’m not an OG, I still feel like I might be one of those people. I think I would have loved to have come here if I could have when I was younger.

What is something surprising about you?

I think I’m probably the first person ever to build a model of Gordonstoun House, Round Square and Michael Kirk.

What talent would you most like to have?

I think I’ve probably achieved what I wanted to achieve. When I started cycling I never knew how far I would go. I had no sporting background when I left school, and I only really started riding my bike when I was in my mid 20’s. I went from 1991 just a starter, in 1996 I won my first championship, and in 1998 I was suddenly a regional and national Scottish champion. I just loved riding my bike, I didn’t have a coach but I read a lot and I learned.

Is there a quote or saying you live your life by?

Aspire to Inspire.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?


Thanks to Paul for taking the time to chat with us!

Join us for a Virtual Taste of Gordonstoun webinar and see firsthand how our dedicated staff work together to create an enriching environment for every child inside, and outside the classroom.