Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Carol Smillie

'Academically, I didn't shine'


Carol Smillie, 46, presented Wheel of Fortune, Changing Rooms, Dream Holiday Homes and Smillie's People. She currently presents STV's Postcode Challenge. She also hosted A Brush with Fame, the ITV portrait-painting competition, and is a columnist and a model. She has just launched the Learning and Skills Council's "Skills Street" campaign, which offers advice on skills to the residents of a street.

My two earliest memories are of having my nappy changed – and, when put in my pram to go to sleep, of being frightened by the wallpaper. (Yes, even then!) I had a fairly idyllic childhood. We didn't have a babysitter because my parents didn't go out without me.

I lived next door to Simshill Primary School, Glasgow, and was desperate to go there. I loved it, but I remember getting into huge trouble for using an eraser, which you weren't supposed to do because they wanted to see where you'd gone wrong. I made a mistake, rubbed it out with a dirty rubber, then used a wet finger, making a hole in the paper. I couldn't sleep for worrying about it. I got hauled in front of the class and humiliated. After that, I just used a better rubber.

My friends were going on to the local secondary school, but my parents wanted me to go to the fee-paying Hutchesons' Girls' Grammar, aka "Hutchesons' Grammar School for Young Ladies". Were we young ladies? By today's standards, we were angels! I knew it was a huge financial effort to send me there, so I had to knuckle down. Academically I didn't shine, but I learnt confidence and a lot about life. There were some very bright children, but I wasn't one of them. The school guided them towards the professions, which weren't for me, but I didn't feel a failure. My children are now at Hutchesons', and I tell them, "I don't care as long as you give it your best shot".

I got seven O-levels – fabric and fashion was one – and I scraped some of them. I left the following year with three Highers, but I needed five to get into Glasgow School of Art, so I went to Langside College to get the other two. I only got one. There was too much freedom. So I went for another year to Cardonald College, where I didn't know a soul and got my head down.

I finally got to Glasgow School of Art when I was 18. I spent the first year not sure it was what I wanted to do. There were people with green hair and pink shoes, on another planet. I got a job in a cocktail bar and took up modelling, which fitted around my studies. My tutor was into abstract art, throwing paint at the wall, etc. I wasn't. Another tutor, a lovely man, said, "If I were you, I'd stick with this modelling malarkey. You can do art at any time". Maybe it was his way of saying, "I don't think you've got what it takes".

I left at the end of the first year. My parents, however, thought that modelling was a very dodgy career choice. Was I going on the game?

These days, I go to art school once a week, to do life drawing and portraits. The pressure is off, so it's purely for pleasure.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor