CANDLES shone from windows throughout Scotland last night as the nation remembered the 16 children and their teacher who died a year ago at Dunblane Primary as they prepared for morning gym.
The site of the now-demolished gymnasium, where the atrocity happened, was visited yesterday morning by bereaved families, who laid flowers close to where their children had lain.
Arriving in small groups to be met by the head teacher, Ron Taylor, they stood among the 26 wooden tubs filled with bright spring flowers in the temporary memorial garden, some comforting each other.
The school did not open for lessons until 10:30am to allow parents privacy as they stood in remembrance at the actual time of the atrocity.
About 90 of the school's 430 pupils were kept off school by their parents, but all staff reported. Supply teachers had been available if required. A support team, including an educational psychologist, was at the school all day for any pupils, parents or staff who needed counselling.
The media respected last month's appeal from bereaved parents to stay away "on what will be a very emotional day for us and for the rest of Dunblane".
A Stirling Council spokesman, Don Monteith, said that both the authority and the school wished to express their appreciation that the media had respected the wish for privacy. He added that several hundred cards and messages from all over Britain and overseas had been delivered to the school. Many of them were being put on display.
Bunches of flowers from all over Scotland and the rest of the UK, and from abroad, continued to be delivered to Dunblane cemetery during the day. An area of the cemetery, where teacher Gwen Mayor and 12 of her pupils are interred, had been set aside by the council.
At Dunblane High School, a minute's silence was observed at 9:30am, the time of the massacre.
A steady stream of people filed into Dunblane's churches all day, including the 13th-century catherdal where funeral services for some of the victims of the shootings took place. Churches throughout Scotland also opened their doors, some lighting candles in memory of the 17 who died.
The Prime Minister and the Labour leader, Tony Blair, paid tribute in the Commons to the dead. At Prime Minister's questions, Mr Blair recalled the "terrible events" and said: "We remember the little ones that died, we grieve with their parents and their friends and they will not be lost in the memory of this nation."
He told John Major: "Whatever our differences are, we are united again this time in sorrow and commemoration of those that died."
Mr Major replied: "I remember visiting, with you, the school and the gymnasium and I do not believe that either of us will ever forget the scenes that we saw there and neither will anyone else who visited it."
The Labour MP for Linlithgow, Tam Dalyell, has put down a written question asking the Prime Minister whether or not Thomas Hamilton, the gunman who carried out the massacre, was a police informer. Mr Dalyell said last night that the timing of his question was purely a coincidence.
Mr Major and his wife, Norma, lit a candle in the window of 10 Downing Street last night in a private commemoration of Dunblane. They lit the candle alone together in the flat in Downing Street at 7pm.
The Scotsman: 14 March 1997