Mark Dunnachie profile photo

Mark Dunnachie

Lodge - 1977-1984

I started at St Lawrence in 1977 at 12 years old and went to Cameron. Mum and Dad had said that I could either continue my education in French at home in Belgium or I could learn in English.  The idea of learning in my mother tongue was just too enticing and they started looking for suitable schools in the UK. A number wrote back saying that my academic background was not what they were looking for as I had been educated in quite a few different countries in Europe as we moved around for my Dad’s work. One I remember to this date and I quote “It is not customary for (school name left blank to save embarrassment) to accept boys who are not of the academic standard required”. However, St Lawrence came to the rescue of this lost child and responded positively. I was interviewed by Peter Campbell in the Science Block who said that there were clearly gaps in my educational background but that they could see promise.  I have to say, the feeling was mutual – St Lawrence seemed a natural fit for me. A sign of a good school is one which takes not just the brilliant kids but also those with the potential to achieve and eventually produce the goods. I am eternally grateful to St Lawrence College for seeing beyond the obviously very scary Scottish European child!

Boarding made sense for me at the age of 12 and I was very happy there. Mum and Dad lived on the Continent but were very nearby geographically so I saw them pretty often.  Cameron was a great place to start.  It was a bit of a shock at first but I took to it like a duck to water.  We were kept really busy and I made friends for life.  Even though these are people who you may not see for one year, ten years or even twenty years, with your close friends you can immediately pick up where you left off when you do meet up again.  Sunil Mohinani was one of these – even though with his really dubious taste in music - as was Vighnesh Padiachy. There are many others and it is a regret that the years fly by so fast and contact cannot be more frequent.

My favourite subject was Geography.  I used to get teased by my school mates because I was very good at this subject probably because I was able to colour in maps with my special Belgian coloured pencils.  French was a natural subject too because I was a fluent French speaker.  It took me a year and a half to get knocked off the top position in French.   I have kept all my school reports.  One memorable quote said that Mark is still clearly challenged by the trumpet but nevertheless is making progress”. I let my sons read these reports just to reassure them that they are not the only ones who have experienced highs and lows in School!

There are many teachers that stand out in my memory but a favourite was David Fletcher in Cameron who had a real balanced approach in understanding me. Tom Lilley was a unique individual – very old School – but very protective of pupils in his house.  Wo betide any senior who considered pushing around a Cameron boy! Robin Crittenden was my Lodge housemaster and we became good personal friends. He always sought to bring out the best in me. I can share that on one occasion he and his family visited us in Belgium and when he arrived he asked us if “Uitrit” was a particularly large city since they had passed many signs indicating its proximity when we explained it was Flemish for “Exit” I knew it would come in useful to share one day, so I share it now!  But the one who really stood out was Ian Gollop.  We used to go to rugby matches together and I even worked for him briefly as a member of staff at St Lawrence Junior school which was a superb experience.  He was a larger than life character and a great friend. I even got him into a kilt for my 40th and second son’s Christening.  He lived the values that he instilled in his pupils.  So many other teachers had a positive impact too but Ian will always hold a special memory. Sadly he left us a few years ago, far too soon!

It was not all plain sailing though. I used to do the lighting for the superb Binfield productions.  On the day of the dress rehearsal when Mr Binfield asked us to practise the curtain call, my tie got stuck in the winding mechanism and I had to wind the curtain in the wrong direction to free myself before restoring its original destination. A voice boomed out asking who was doing the curtain. Timidly I replied from up in the galleries “Dunnachie sir!”. The voice boomed back; “What happened boy?”, “My tie got stuck sir!” I replied. John Binfield was always one to pass on sound advice and he duly instructed me to not wear a tie on the Production nights! Suffice to say I followed this clear instruction!

I captained Second XV rugby and 3rd XI for Hockey.  I hated cricket, just couldn’t get the hang of it. I loved Athletics, Tennis and Cross Country though.

Sunil Mohinani and Vighnesh Padiachy were my closest friends and Jonathan Whittle in my younger years.   Diversity was a big advantage of being educated at St Lawrence. Simon Chow was a great friend who sadly passed away very young following a heart attack when playing hockey in Canada. He was also a superb rugby player.

What I valued most at School was the religious foundation although I don’t profess to being deeply religious today.  However, the fact that it provided the backbone of our educational experience provided the basics that we all needed to live a good life, irrespective of whether you are a practising believer or not.  This includes sincerity, trust in others, loyalty and humility. We had a privileged education but we were taught to keep our feet firmly on the ground.  Not all independent schools do this very well. It is critical that you do not forget that you are privileged to have had a great start in life. There’s a real family spirit too. The camaraderie and motivation to perform to your potential but without undue pressure was very much part of the St Lawrence experience – it was a very balanced approach to education.

I went to University in Belgium after SLC but it didn’t work out for me initially. I went back to the Junior School working for Ian Gollop for two terms and applied to Cardiff University to study Maritime Commerce where I graduated with a BSc.

After leaving University I was determined to go into Retail Management for M&S but during the interview process I found out that they were incredibly inflexible so I walked out of their head office withdrawing my application. It was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. Instead, I went into the aviation industry.  A friend of our family started an airline from Rotterdam to London City and I did all the business planning and marketing for the venture. After a brief spell setting up this Dutch airline, I joined BAe doing Marketing followed by Business Development and ultimately Sales. I ended up in Toulouse in 1996/97 where I met my French wife, Jacqueline, and got married in 1998. In 2000 I moved to Paris to work for Embraer where I sold aircraft to KLM and Finnair, amongst others. I moved to Dublin as MD of Embraer’s Asset Management business, before moving to Singapore in order to manage Asia-Pacific, again still with Embraer. We have two wonderful sons; William and Maximilien. I have now gone full circle and returned to Toulouse with ATR, the market leader in regional passenger aircraft (a partnership between Airbus and Leonardo) as their Head of Region for EMEA. I have now also become a proud French citizen adding to my Scottish pedigree which must surely update my school nickname from “Jock” to “Le Jock”!  I have got St Lawrence to thank for having such a great career which continues to take me all over the world and for instilling in me values that I carry to this day.

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