The aim of the academy was to produce decent chaps, pure of unnecessary book-learning and inured to hardship, and thus ready to take up the White Man's Burden wherever it had been carelessly left lying around. The day commenced at 6am with a cross-country run and a swim in the frigid waters of Loch Enlode, followed by a breakfast of salty porridge. The rest of the syllabus consisted of outdoor team games, survival training, parade-ground drill, the history and geography of the Empire and shooting, and Oriental and African languages - a McDuff boy should be able to order pink gin, shout commands to a company of native troops and requisition daughters in fourteen different tongues; or fifteen, if you count English.
Bonds of friendship that would last a lifetime were forged at that school, except of course in the case of The Hon. Rufus "Sausage" Rolles, whom we cooked and ate during a particulary hard winter. Among fellow pupils who would feature in my later career were young Scott "Scottie" Scott, a boy with a mechanical bent of mind and an unhealthy interest in mauve daguerrotypes, and A.U. "Get Off" McLeod, who courted popularity by setting up an illicit still under his bed. Scott was later to join - and be dishonourably discharged from - the Royal African Engineers a record 17 times. McLeod - to everyone's surprise, including his own - joined the Church of Scotland by mistake and ended up as garrison chaplain in Tanjung Kot in the Federated Malay States.
When I was 13, the academy shut its doors for the final time after McDuff - a man long given to marinading himself from the inside with sherry - was found in his bed, gibbering softly, and having smothered himself with custard. A local doctor was summoned, who diagnosed him as "a trifle mad", shortly before being struck off by the British Medical Association's Punchline Committee.