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          27 Jun 2009 - Sir Jackie Stewart - President of Dyslexia Scotland         

Sir Jackie Stewart awarded freedom of his childhood home
(West Dunbartonshire)

From an article in the Daily Record (Sat 27 June 2009)

Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart received a special 70th birthday present yesterday - the freedom of his childhood home. And when he visitied his former schools in Dumbarton, he opened his heart on his battle with dyslexia. At Dumbarton Academy, he told fellow dyslexia sufferer and Formula One fan Harry Watters, 14, he could "be the next Lewis Hamilton".

And the three-times world champion was thrilled to find out about Dumbarton Academy Seniors Against Harassment, an anti-bullying group set up by 17-year old pupil Katrina Sheerin. Sir Jackie said: "I wish you guys had been around when I was at school. It's fantastic kids with problems can contact their peers anonymously for advice if they don't want to approach a teacher. Back in my day, you never went to a teacher for an issue like harassment. If you were like young Harry here, you were told you were dumb and thick - simple as that. It was quite painful visiting my old primary, Knoxland Primary, earlier because my schooldays were the unhappiest of my life. They were humiliating and left me with an inferiority complex.

I was ostracised by the clever children because I wasn't able to read and felt like a dummy. If you didn't pass your 11-plus test, you were identified as stupid. And that attitude spilled out of the classroom into the playground. Children considered stupid didn't have as many friends because the clever ones didn't want to be seen speaking to you. Sport saved my life. I was a Scottish then British clay pigeon shooting champion, which gave me confidence. But some dyslexics turn to drink and drugs to escape, which can lead to unemployment and crime. It's no coincidence a large percentage of our prison population can't read or write. I wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until I was 42 - the same time my sons Paul and Mark found out they had it. The support given these days to children like Harry here is a million times better but we still have some way to go."

Briony Waddell, 14, who also has dyslexia, told Sir Jackie she was being helped by a specialist learning support teacher. Sir Jackie assured her she would find ways to cope. The granddad-of-nine said: "I still can't say the alphabet or the Lord's prayer and when I received my knighthood, I had to hum the national anthem next to the Queen because I didn't know the words. But you develop ways round things and the key is to find something you're good at and stick at it. Einstein was dyslexic and if I hadn't won three world championships, I would be the world's best window cleaner - seriously.

My son Mark is a talented film director who had three BBC shows on the same night last weekend and Paul successfully runs racing teams. But I would also say to the majority of people who are not dyslexic - don't ignore or ridicule those who are, because they can think outside the box and you might end up working for them one day."

Sir Jackie said it was a "huge compliment" to be made a freeman of West Dunbartonshire.







A Branch of Dyslexia Scotland - Scottish Charity No. SC000951

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