To his former teachers at Inverkeithing High School in Fife, it seemed

like only yesterday that the shy Stephen Hendry had left them -- to take

the world of snooker by storm. BARCLAY McBAIN went back with the

now-wealthy but still shy 25-year-old as they met again . . .

PUPILS and staff eagerly anticipated the return of Stephen Hendry, the

man with the golden -- or should that be fractured? -- arm, who was

crowned world snooker champion for the fourth time this month.

He had overcome the nagging pain of that fractured elbow to lift the

#180,000 first prize money and guarantee delivery of a Bentley

Continental from his management company.

As we awaited his arrival at the school, rector Lindsay Roy wondered

if the limousine would fit in the car park. In the event, he need not

have worried, because Stephen arrived in a Mercedes -- not quite in the

Bentley league, but not bad for a 25-year-old who left school without


Not that the school holds his lack of academic achievement against

him. Mr Roy said: ''Stephen symbolises the qualities we are trying to

promote: justice, fair play, dignity, tolerance, commitment, mutual

respect and a determination to succeed.''

At the secondary he was known to be snooker-daft but, as retired

assistant rector Bill Livingstone recalled: ''He was so quiet that the

school really was unaware of his brilliance.''

Teachers remember an unassuming laddie who frequently seemed to be

sleepy because of the time he spent practising and playing. Stephen

confirmed: ''I was just playing snooker all the time. School was getting

in the way.'' So he left in 1984, at 16.

Today he can't wait to get out on the golf course -- to get his

handicap down to single figures. ''When I fractured my elbow, the doctor

told me to rest for three or four weeks, but I obviously used it all

through the championships, so I won't be able to play golf until next


Our school tour began in a second-year En glish class. Senior teacher

Hamish Ferguson recalled the ''quiet wee guy'' with whom he tried many

times to strike up a conversation.

To Stephen's embarrassment, he told the class: ''Before an awful lot

of you were even born, my sister used to work in the bar of the Queen's

in Inverkeithing. Stephen's dad and a few of his pals used to have a

drink there. One Christmas he was wondering aloud about what he should

get his son for Christmas. Then he had an idea to get him a snooker

table. That's how it all started.''

He went on: ''I remember having a chat with Stephen about snooker,

about which I know not a lot. He took me through all the competitions he

would have to play within the next two and a half years to take him to

his professional ticket. I remember sitting there and thinking, 'this

guy is going to make it.' ''

If Mr Ferguson got it right about Stephen, his old maths teacher, Mrs

Marion Reid, got it wrong -- as she confessed when she met up with the

world number one. ''He was just a shy little boy. He just hung his head

when I spoke to him. He told me he wanted to be a professional snooker


''I told him to stick in at maths, because not everyone made it to the

top. I've had to eat my words.'' So too has depute rector Fiona

Wilkinson. ''I remember telling Stephen to stick in at accounts, because

that's where the big money is!''

Mrs Reid and Mrs Margaret Sutherland, a senior learning support

teacher, started a lunch club to get the younger pupils out of the

playground in winter. A small snooker table was acquired, which Stephen

and his talent inevitably hogged. ''We had to introduce a booking

system. Otherwise Stephen would have been on it all the time,'' recalled

Mrs Sutherland.

We learned more about Stephen, snooker, and school during his

question/answer session with pupils:

Scott MacGillivray (third year): Do you have any particular memories

of school?

''Obviously, when I played snooker, I didn't study too hard.

Unfortunately, I left with no qualifications. I didn't learn too much.

That was my fault. I was too busy playing snooker.''

Fiona Rae (first year): What did you like most about school?

''I think the fact that you didn't have to wear uniform. Also, the

school didn't stand in my way if I had to have a Friday or Monday off to

play in a snooker tournament. I appreciated that.''

John Cairns (third year): What subjects did you enjoy?

''German. The only thing I regret about school is not learning the


Eilidh Murray (third year): Were you well behaved at school?

''Fairly well behaved. I was too shy, really. I wouldn't say 'boo' to


Stephen Drysdale (first year): Were you ever bullied?

''No. I was asked for money by some pupils, but I never gave in to

them. I didn't have much to give anyway!''

Kenneth Ross (first year): Did you do any other sports?

''No! I had all kinds of excuses for not doing PE, as Mr Livingstone

knows. I enjoyed football, but I didn't play for the school team.''

Kate Green (second year): When you were at school, did you think you'd

become the number one snooker player?

''No. I earned quite a lot of money as an amateur, but it was still

more of a hobby. When I was 16 I decided to turn professional.''

Darroch Snook (second year): Were you ever in any fights at school?

''No. I was a bottler. I stayed well away from that scene.''

Louise Oliver (third year): If you hadn't been a snooker player, what

would you have become?

''Well, I wasn't thick. I think if I'd stayed on at school I'd have

got qualifications. But I honestly don't know what I'd have become.''

Brian Cotter (second year): Did your parents and teachers support you?

''My parents were very supportive. When they saw I could earn from an

early age they didn't force me to stay in and do homework. I don't know

if that was a good or a bad thing!

''The school was also very supportive, although I don't think any of

the teachers thought I would do what I have done. I wouldn't advise

anyone to do what I did. You've got to stick in and get your

qualifications first so you have something to fall back on.''

Kate Green: How do you cope with the pressures on and off the snooker


''There are very few drawbacks. The privacy issue is something all top

sports people have to put up with. The worst thing is when newspapers

write things about you that aren't true. The best things are getting to

travel and earning a nice few quid. By and large it's not a bad life . .

. ''

Donna Porter (first year): What made you so determined to be a snooker


''I just practised hard. And the more I won, the more I wanted to win.

I've always been very hungry for success. I hadn't played snooker until

I got the small table for my Christmas. But I got the bug right away,

and the more I watched players on TV, the more I wanted to play.

''My dad's dad, who died before I was born, was a very good player.

Although it skipped a generation, my dad noticed I had a talent to play.

Fortunately, I had inherited it!''

In the maths class Mrs Reid produced Stephen's first-year report. He

got 78% for maths and 60% for arithmetic. She said: ''You were good at

maths.'' Mr Roy joked: ''She said you always got the angles right!''

He's been getting them right ever since.