Kilmuir and Logie Easter History

Kilmuir and Logie Easter Community Collage

Kilmuir and Logie Easter History - page 3

Chapter III - Schools and Schoolmasters
Following on the settlement of St Columba and his twelve disciples in Iona, monasteries had sprung up at different points all over the country. In Ross-shire there were at least three of these institutions. There is a vague tradition that one existed in Kilmuir Easter. Each monastery had a school attached to it, in which certain branches of knowledge were taught, including Latin, which was the language used in the service of the church.

At first the pupils were composed entirely of boys considered suitable for service in the Church, but gradually others were enrolled, as the value of education came to be recognised.

At the Reformation the Reformed Church took over the work of education, and aimed at having a school in every parish, but it was not until 1616 that this was embodied in an Act of Parliament. In 1633, Parliament found it necessary to re-enact the measure, with the addition of a clause that provided that the bishops should have power to impose taxation for the maintenance of the schools with consent of the heritors and the majority of the parishioners, and if the heritors should refuse to agree to this, with consent of the latter alone.

In 1641 a petition was presented to Parliament by the General Assembly for the establishment of a school in every parish for instruction in reading, writing and the rudiments of religion, and every minister was asked to report to his Presbytery if this had been carried out.

In 1646 an important Act was passed, which, with certain modifications, was revived towards the end of the century. It enacted that in every parish lacking a school the heritors should provide a schoolhouse and a stipend for the master, and if they failed to do so the Presbytery should proceed to nominate a dozen persons and empower them to establiah a school and tax the heritors for its maintenance.

With the Restoration this Act of 1646, along with all others of the period, were declared invalid, but in 1696, in the reign of William and Mary, its main principles were reaffirmed by the "Act of Settling of Schools", which ordained that "there be a school settled and established and a Schoolmaster appointed in every parish not already provided, by the advice of the heritors and Minister of the Paroch; and for that effect that the Heritors in every Paroch meit and provide a commodious house for a school and settle and modifie a sallary to a Schoolmaster which shall not be under one Hundred merks nor above two Hundred merks, to be payed yearly at two terms, Whitsunday and Martinmas, by equall portions."

This law, however, like its predecessors, was as a general rule disregarded, in spite of valiant efforts on the part of Presbyteries to awaken heritors in the country and magistrates in the towns to a sense of their duties and their legal obligations in the matter. Consequently, education was in a deplorable condition all over the country. In the Highlands it was hampered still further in many places, even when schools existed, by instruction being given in English to children who spoke only Gaelic.

In 1707, the minister of Kilmuir Easter, Daniel McGilligan, in response to an enquiry by the Presbytery regarding the position in his parish, reported that the schoolmaster had been removed, but that another was being sought for. McGilligan, indeed, made strenuous efforts to have a schoolmaster settled there at the legal salary. Following instructions from the Presbytery, he called a meeting of heritors and parishioners, but no one appeared. He then called on Lord MacLeod, who was one of the principal heritors, but MacLeod, on the plea of indisposition, excused himself from seeing him. Eventually, McGilligan succeeded in getting the heritors together and persuading them to agree to having a schoolmaster appointed at the minimum salary of 100 merks.

There is no record of the immediate appointment of a schoolmaster, but in 1715, John McArthur, who later became minister of Killearnan and then of Logie Easter, was schoolmaster of Kilmuir Easter.

About that time the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge became active, and did valuable work in supplementing parish schools. It decided that a school should be established at Balintraid, where there were seventy families, and that the school should be ambulatory to other corners of the parish. This meant that the teacher went from place to place teaching his pupils in any odd barn or shed available, and living in the houses of the parents. Even when a house was provided for him it was usually a mere hovel, consisting of one, or at most two, rooms. This building served as both dwelling-house and school, and in the case of a teacher with wife and family the condition of things may be better imagined than described.

The formation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was the outcome of a desire on the part of a small private group of Edinburgh philanthropists to bring civilising influences to the remote districts of Scotland.

After some not very successful efforts in the opening years of the century to set up one or two schools, the supporters of the cause in 1709 received "Her Majesty's Letters Patent, Erecting a Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge," with authority to use such money as might accrue to them, the members of the Society, "to Erect and Maintain schools to Teach to Read especially the Holy Scriptures and other good and pious books; as also, to Teach Writing, Arithmetic and such like degrees of knowledge in the Highlands, Islands and remote Corners of Scotland." Thereafter the Society was indefatigable in its efforts to establish schools throughout the country, not only for teaching scripture and reading, writing and arithmetic, but schools for technical instruction in agriculture, gardening and spinning.

The Society met with the greatest discouragement in the heart of the Highlands and in remote corners of islands where the Heritors were Papists or opposed to the stablished government; and the people themselves, not realising the benefits of learning, were slow to send their children to the schools. In some cases the tenants who did enrol their children received notice to quit.

But an appreciation of education and its advantages gradually grew, until it frequently happened that servants would leave their employment for a time so that they might be free to attend the school, or they would go privately at night to the schoolmaster, or to the more advanced of the scholars in order to learn to read, and the Society began to receive petitions from various parts of the country for schools to be set up.

Unfortunately, the men who were put in charge of the Society's schools were not as a rule very well qualified for the work. This is not surprising, considering the miserable payment they received.

Sir George Stewart Mackenzie, in his "General Survey of the Shires of Ross and Cromarty," published in 1810, while admitting the good work done by this Society in opening the minds and dispelling the ignorance of "the lower orders of people", describes the schoolmasters appointed by the Society as "weak, miserable creatures." He despises their methods of teaching and deplores the fact that their teaching of reading is entirely confined to the Bible, which, he remarks may be the best reading material, but is not, in his opinion, the only book necessary.

Many of the parish teachers, in order to earn a little more than their meagre salary, undertook other duties when these were available to which a small fee was attached. They might act as registrar of births, marriages and deaths, as precentor and as session clerk. Yet all these offices, combined with that of schoolmaster, seldom produced more than £10 a-year.

One luckless dominie who, at the end of the eighteenth century, was schoolmaster of Heriot, and, in addition, precentor, clerk, beadle and gravedigger, only succeeded in bringing his income up to a sum of £8.

Towards the middle of the century the teachers, feeling the hardships of their lot almost more than they could bear, decided to make an attempt to have their conditions improved. They prepared a statement, which in 1748 they presented to the General Assembly and to Parliament. They urged that the salaries of the schoolmasters of Scotland should be increased, and made a special appeal to the members of the General Assembly to support them, but the clergy, engrossed with their own affairs, paid no attention. Parliament also turned deaf ears to their plea, and as the schoolmasters possessed neither money nor infiuence, they were unable to bring pressure to bear on those in responsible quarters, and the effort which started with such determination had to be dropped.

In 1782 they renewed their endeavours to obtain relief from their poverty and degradation, but although the wages of all other workers had increased, they were again unsuccessful.

The conditions in Kilmuir were exactly similar to those in other parts of the country. The salary of the parish schoolmaster there at the earliest period known was about £5 sterling. The subjects he taught were the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic, together with English grammar, Latin and book-keeping. Between 1780 and 1803 the conditions had not changed.

In addition to the parish school, one had been erected in Kinrive, in the upper part of the parish, by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowleclge.

From 1769 to 1771 the schoolmaster of this school was John Davidson, who was paid at the same rate as the parish schoolmaster-about £5 sterling per annurn.

In erecting a school one of the conditions laid down by the Society was that a sufficient number of heritors and parents must bind themselves to make an addition for a certain term of years to the salary paid by the Society. At first the period was ten years, but in 1764 it was shortened to three years. This addition had to be paid in advance each year, and the receipt produced to the visitors of the said schools, who had to report to the Society. Failing this the school was liable to be removed to another district.

The number of pupils attending the school at Kinrive in 1769 was fifty-four - twenty-eight boys and twenty-six girls. The following year there was a drop in attendance to forty-seven - twenty-three boys and twenty-four girls.

Davidson's successor was Duncan Robertson. In his time the attendance dropped still further, the number on the roll in 1772 being forty.

Donald Grigor succeeded Robertson in 1773, and in 1775 the school was removed from Kinrive to a point lower down, somewhere on the site of the present farm of Calrichie [i.e., Heathfield]. Grigor's name is changed in the records to McGrigor, and then to McGregor, doubtless due to the repeal of the law against the use of the name McGregor. During his term of office his salary was gradually increased. From £5 it was raised to £7, and then to £8, and finally £10. He remained in office until at least 1778.

For a few years following this date there are blanks in the records relating to the school at Calrichie, but in 1783 it appears again with George Ross as schoolmaster. His salary was £10, and there was an attendance of forty-three scholars. In 1793 the two schools in Kilmuir-the parish school and the Society school-had in all one hundred and twenty pupils.

Although the cost of living had risen considerably, the salary of the parish schoolmaster had remained stationary at 100 merks Scots (£5 14s ld), which is described in the Old Statistical Account by the Rev. John Matheson, as "insufficient to provide the common necessities of life." George Ross, the Society schoolmaster, was more fortunate with a salary of £13 per annum, the number of pupils attending his school being seventy-five - fifty-three boys and twenty-two girls.

It was not until after 1802, when the Schoolmasters' Act was passed, that there was any mitigation of the sufferings of teachers. This Act provided that no schoolmaster's income should be under 300 merks (£16 13s 4d) nor above 400 merks (£22 4s 5.5d), and in addition the heritors had to provide a house, consisting of not less than two apartments and ground for a garden of not less than a quarter of a Scots acre. Where there was no garden ground, heritors might make an addition to the salary. Further improvement was made in 1861 by an Act requiring the house to consist of three apartments besides the kitchen.

In spite of the poverty of the teachers and the reluctance at that time of men with any claims to culture to take service in the profession, good work was done in many of the parish schools of Scotland, and the intellectual standard of the people rose. Many among the humblest classes in the country were prepared there for the University, where they brought credit to themselves and to their teachers. Among them were men who afterwards distinguished themselves in the learned professions and in other spheres.

The history of education in Kilmuir is, on the whole, like that elsewhere in Scotland, but while the schools in many rural parishes of Scotland, after their separation from the Church, became institutions where only elementary education was given, the parish school of Kilmuir Easter retained its original character, and provided instruction in the higher branches of learning. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century, when a scheme for centralising secondary education was brought into effect, and certain schools were selected at suitable points to provide secondary education for particular areas, that the classics and other advanced subjects ceased to be taught in Kilmuir Easter school.

A Sheriff's warrant of 1751 refers to the "Grammar School", Kilmuir Easter, thus indicating a school of advanced type. It reads:- "That whereupon . . . Wm. Ross, son of Alexr. Ross in Dalnacleragh, now prisoner in the Tolbooth of Tain, has been taken up and incarcerate for wearing and using the Highland dress and arms contra to and in defiance of the Act of Parliament . . . summoned Hugh Rose, teacher of the grammar school of Kilmuir Easter, and Donald Ross, Roderick Ross and Alexr. Mackenzie students at the said school, to bear leal and soothfast witness as they shall be speired at."

Here we have a vivid reminder of the law against wearing the kilt which was enforced rigidly until 1782.

In 1764, Mr John Matheson, who some years later became minister of the parish, appeared before the Presbytery as an applicant for the position of schoolmaster of Kilmuir Easter. He was examined regarding his fitness "to teach a Grammar School", and having satisfied the examiners, he was recommended by the Presbytery to the heritors and Kirk Session and forthwith appointed parish schoolmaster.

From a factor's report on the forfeited Estate of Cromartie one gathers that in 1768 the parish school of Kilmuir served both the parish of Kilmuir and that of Logie.

Matheson was licensed for the ministry by the Presbytery of Tain on 9th August 1769, and two years later he left to take up duties as ordained missionary at Kincardine and Creich; he returned to Kilmuir as its minister in September 1775.

His successor in the parish school of Kilmuir was Alexander Campbell, who in 1772 was transferred to Tain Grammar School.

In a history of Tain, written by Rev. W. Taylor, a native of the burgh, Campbell received the following high tribute:- "Of the quality of the teaching in the Grammar School in Tain in the latter half of the eighteenth century tradition speaks well. Under a teacher of the name of Campbell it was apparently very high, and from his school not a few boys were sent forth into the world with classical as well as other attainments, which enabled them to shine, and to rise to honourable positions in life."

By 1810 the salary paid to the parish schoolmasters of Ross-shire was not less than the maximum rate of £22 4s 5.5d. In Kilmuir, for the year ending in 1825, it was slightly more, being £23 7s 2d; school fees were £14 ls 6d; for acting as session-clerk the salary was £1, and there were fees in addition which amounted to £1 12s.

The house met the legal requirements. The size is given as "30 feet by 18 over walls, side walls seven feet six inches high, wing 23 feet three inches by 18 feet, and six feet nine inches high."

The fees were as follows:- Book-keeping, 7s 6d per quarter; Latin, 4s; arithmetic, 2s 6d; writing, 2s; English grammar, 3s; reading, ls 6d.

The average number of scholars in attendance was sixty.

Mr Donald Munro, who was licensed to preach in both Gaelic and English, was parish schoolmaster, while in the Society's school at Calrichie, George Ross, who had been there from 1783, was in charge, his salary being now at the rate of £18 per annum, with a house and croft furnished by the parish. He received scarcely any fees. The subjects he taught were English and Gaelic, reading, writing and arithmetic, the number of children in attendance being about fifty. Ross continued to teach this school until at least 1822, his salary remaining stationary at £18, but the attendance gradually fell off from eighty-one in 1816 to forty-three in 1822. An old gravestone in Kilmuir Churchyard tells of his death in 1824, aged 72, his wife, Janet Urquhart, having predeceased him in 1807.

Mr Donald Munro was still parish schoolmaster in 1838, the date of the New Statistical Account, of which he is the author. From the information given there one gathers that conditions had improved still further on those of a dozen years earlier. His salary had increased to £32. 2s. 9d, which, with the fees, brought his income to £40. The salary of the Society teacher had remained stationary at £18, but the fees he now succeeded in collecting amounted to £16. The total roll of scholars in attendance at both schools had increased to a hundred and sixty.

The fees at the parochial school were:-

Reading, writing, arithmetic 2s 6d per quarter
Latin and Greek 5s per quarter
Book-keeping 7s 6d per quarter
English grammar 3s per quarter.

The instruction was conducted in Gaelic as well as in English, and the children were taught to read in Gaelic. This conduced to more rapid progress than formerly, when Gaelic was banned, and the instruction given entirely in English to children who were unfamiliar with that language.

Following Donald Munro, John Forbes became parish schoolmaster. In 1844 he left to be schoolmaster of Edinkillie, but on his retiral he returned to the district. He resided in Invergordon, and for some years filled the office of Inspector of Poor for the parishes of Kilmuir, Alness and Rosskeen.

The parochial system of education was not at first in any sense denominational. It was only when divisions took place in the Church of Scotland that it took on that character. Even then, the scholars attending the parish schools were never restricted to those whose parents attended the Parish Church, but included children from other denominations.

In 1843 many teachers who joined the Free Church had to give up their positions in the parish schools. It was mainly in consequence of this that the Free Church Education Scheme was commenced, the aim of which was to have a school in connection with every congregation.

It is reported that in 1866 there were three schools in Kilmuir Easter with two hundred and eight children on the roll, and an average of a hundred and forty in attendance. The total number of children in the parish in that year between the ages of three and fifteen was six hundred and thirteen.

These schools were the parish school, the Free Church school, and a school which succeeded the one established by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. This last was situated in Delny Muir, and was suppposed to serve both the parish of Kilmuir and the neighbouring parish of Rosskeen.

Naturally a keen controversy arose between the parishes as to whether the minister of Kilmuir or the minister of Rosskeen had the right to conduct the examination. At that time the management of each school was in the hands of the Presbytery of the denomination to which the school belonged, the minister of that denomination in the parish being deputed to undertake an oral examination of the scholars once a year, usually in presence of a gathering of parents and others interested.

On the occasion of the last examination of the school the ministers of both parishes arrived to conduct the examination, and a heated and prolonged argument took place between the members of the audience representing the two parishes. At length one of the ministers, no doubt with the laudable object of introducing a more peaceable atmosphere and thereby closing the discussion, rose, saying, "Let us pray." But the spirit of peace was not so easily invoked. One of the disputants immediately jumped to his feet, angrily shouting, "There shall be no pray or preach here this day."

How the matter ended is not known, and, soon after this episode, the school was closed.

The last teacher in charge of it was Alexander Ross, who became headmaster of Bridgend Public School, Alness. His predecessor in the Kilmuir School was James Munro. Neither had any special qualifications as teachers.

In addition to the three schools mentioned above, was the school for daughters of employees on the Balnagown Estate, carried on in a cottage within the policies, and maintained by Lady Mary Ross. It was closed shortly after the passing of the Education Act of 1872 The last teacher of this school was Mrs Watson, a widow who, on leaving Balnagown, started a small school at Balintraid Pier, but not long afterwards was appointed to a school at Caputh, Perthshire. She subsequently married Alexander Wills, teacher of the General Assembly School in Scotsburn, and later Clerk to Kilmuir Easter School Board and Inspector of Poor for Invergordon.

In 1844, John Mitchell, a graduate and licensed preacher of the Gospel, became parish schoolmaster, his appointment being made on 14th September of that year. There had been several applicants for the post, and certain of these were selected for interview. One was from Dundee, another from Leven. On examination, Mitchell was the only one found to possess the necessary qualifications.

At one of the meetings of heritors and kirk-session, when the appointment was being discussed, there was some difference of opinion regarding the emoluments. One of those present proposed that £50 per annum should be offered, another moved that it should be £35. The final decision is not recorded.

Mitchell, who was the son of an Inland Revenue officer at Invergordon, and unmarried, remained in the parish as schoolmaster for twenty-five years, and for part of that tirne he acted as session-clerk. An old pupil tells that towards the end of his time he gave only one lesson per day, spending a great part of his time in friendly chat with an old gardener, who was one of his neighbours. This inattention to duty was due, no doubt, to physical disability, and eventually he intimated to the heritors and kirk-session that, owing to illhealth, he was unable to carry on his work. Submitting certificates to this effect from several doctors, he craved permission to be relieved of his office. This was agreed to, and in 1869, when only about fifty years of age, he retired on a pension of £40 a year. He left the district and resided in Edinburgh for a considerable number of years until his death.

His successor in Kilmuir was Thomas Guthrie Meldrum, a native of Tomintoul, Banffshire, where his father was postmaster and sheriff-clerk-depute. He was educated in the parish school there and at the Old Grammar School of Aberdeen, graduating M.A. at Aberdeen University in 1869.

The election of a parish schoolmaster was vested in the heritors and parish minister, who fixed the fees, regulated the hours of teaching, and settled the length and the dates of the holidays. His tenure of office was "ad vitam aut culpam" (for life if he continued to exercise the office without fault), and on retiring he was entitled to a pension amounting to two-thirds of his salary.

At the Reformation schoolmasters were required to sign the Confession of Faith and the Formula of the Church of Scotland. The General Assembly of 1700 confirmed this, and made the Presbyteries responsible for seeing that every schoolmaster fulfilled this obligation. On election he also had to undergo an examination by the Presbytery of the bounds.

The Act of 1861 abolished these provisions. He was no longer required to sign the Confession of Faith, and his examination was conducted by examiners appointed by the University Court of each University. For this purpose the schools were distributed into four districts, each of which was attached to one University. The schoolmaster, on satisfying the examiners, was entitled to a certificate as evidence of his competency for the office.

Some dissatisfaction existed among teachers over the fact that this examination was held after their election and not prior to it, for there was a danger of the teacher's losing both posts if the certificate was withheld, as, naturally, he was expected to resign from the one on being appointed to the other. This was known to have happened in one or two cases.

Mr Meldrum's appointment was made at a meeting of the heritors and the minister of the parish, held on 14th September 1869. Those present were Alexander Mathieson of Ardross, M.P.; Charles Robertson of Kindeace; John Forsyth, factor for Balnagown; and Donald Stuart, parish minister, Kindeace, being chairman, and Mr Stuart, clerk.

According to regulations, the schoolmaster-elect, on his appointment, had to appear at Aberdeen and undergo an examination by a professor or professors appointed by the University.

On this occasion the examiner was Dr Scott, known as "Hebrew Scott."

As the candidate was about to enter the room where the Professor awaited his arrival, two teachers there for the same purpose emerged, and one of them in passing muttered, "Don't be afraid. It's a proper farce." And a farce it was.

The first question was, "Where are you going ?" and on the candidate's replying, "To Kilmuir in Easter Ross." "Oh, I know that district. I was for twelve months Rector of Tain Academy."

The next enquiry was whether the candidate knew the Shorter Catechism, and on his replying, with becoming modesty, that he thought he did, he was asked to repeat the answer to "What is Effectual Calling ?"

This being done to the satisfaction of the examiner, he received the certificate guaranteeing his competency for the post !

I have before me a sheet of notepaper, stained and tattered, on one side of which is inscribed the time-table of Kilmuir Easter School, and on the other a list of the school fees charged. It was written by the Rev. Donald Stuart, the parish minister, who handed it to Thomas Guthrie Meldrum for his guidance on taking up his duties as schoolmaster. It may interest readers to compare the school timetables of today with that which obtained in Kilmuir in the "sixties" and "seventies" of the nineteenth century.

10.00am to 10.40am - Script. & Cat. and Slate
10.40am to 11.00am - Writing and Children's English
11.00am to 11.30am - Gramr. classes 1, 2, 3
11.30am to 11.50am - Latin and Prepare English
11.50am to 12 noon - "Little Play"
12 noon to 1.00pm -  English Classes 1, 2, 3, 4, & Prepare Geography & do.Arithmetic
1.00pm to 2.00pm - Play
2.00pm to 2.40pm - Geography Classes 1, 2, 3
2.40pm to 3.30pm - All Arithmetic
In Gramr., Geography, Latin and Arith. John Elliot to be alone. In Scripture, Writing and History to be with the others.

School Fees to be charged at end of each qr. as follows:-

Children on Fees
English and Slate 2s per quarter
Writing, Arithmetic and Catechism (Junr.) 2s 6d per quarter
Scripture and Geography 3s per quarter
Grammar and Senr. Geography 3s per quarter
History Senr., Gramr. and Geo. 4s per quarter
Latin 4s 6d per quarter
Greek 5s per quarter
Mathematics 5s 6d per quarter

An allowance to be made when more than 3 members from the same Family attend.

The schoolmaster was allowed to retain the fees as part of his payment, and he received in addition the Government grant and about £52 a year from the heritors.

He found, however, that it was one thing to draw up a scale of fees, but another matter to collect the money. Only about a third of what was due to him could he depend on receiving, and when those parents who were able and willing to discharge their obligations called at the schoolhouse to pay their fees, he and his wife, in their youth and inexperience, and being more hospitably than commercially minded, used to give them a sixpence back and a glass of wine! This may have done much to foster friendly relations between parent and teacher, but did little towards helping to balance the household budget.

To qualify for the Government grant the school buildings, the qualifications of the master, and the efficiency of his teaching had to satisfy the requirements of the Education Committee of the Privy Council. The amount paid depended on the number of children in attendance and the number who passed the examination conducted by the Government Inspector.

At the time of Mr Meldrum's appointment education in the district was at rather a low ebb. The schoolmasters showed varying degrees of proficiency for their work. One or two were graduates, others might have had a couple of sessions at one of the Universities, but many had no academic qualifications whatever further than having shown ability a little above that of their fellow pupils in the class-room. Discipline in many cases was weak and the teaching poor.

The new parish schoolmaster of Kilmuir was young and enthusiastic, and he soon gained a reputation for efficient teaching and strict discipline, with the result that the number of pupils in attendance at his school increased with lightning rapidity. There were twelve present on the day he entered on duty, but before the end of the year the number in attendance was a hundred and thirty.

The school building consisted of one long class-room, where children of all ages and stages of advancement were taught by the schoolmaster himself, witb no assistance whatever, the subjects of instruction ranging from the alphabet to the classics.

The building was in a deplorable condition. One morning, on entering, he found that the back wall had split in two, the inner part having fallen inwards, while the roof remained resting on the outer half. This was the inevitable result of the wall being of clay, the roof water having soaked into it for years.

The schoolmaster's dwelling-house was no better. After a rainy night it was not unusual for the inmates to find, on descending in the morning, the ground floor ankle deep in water. In places the ceiling was in a parlous condition, and small pieces were continually breaking off to the surprise and discomfort of anyone who at the moment might be underneath.

This condition of affairs was not exceptional, for in a report published in 1866 it is stated that in the north-east of Ross-shire there was a district where out of the five parish buildings, two were bad, one indifferent, one barely sufficient, and one good, the last mentioned having been built within the past year. This refers to the parish school of Logie Easter, the adjoining parish to Kilmuir, where a new school had been built by a railway company, to take the place of the old building, which had to be removed in order to allow the railway to be laid.

The report goes on to state that this district was "worse provided with educational machinery" than any other part of the country in that area, that the teachers were good, one of them excellent, but the appliances found elsewhere had no existence here. In one parish the parochial teacher had given up the sitting-room of his house for the accommodation of the younger children, and to qualify his building for the Government grant, was compelled to live in a garret, and arrange to have his meals when the children were out.

In 1846 the pupil-teacher system had been instituted, the object being to improve the instruction given in elementary schools by providing the over-worked schoolmasters with a little assistance, and to ensure a supply of students for the colleges which in 1841, with liberal aid from Government, had been started in Edinburgh and Glasgow for the training of teachers.

The most intelligent among the pupils were chosen to fill these posts, and they had to serve an apprenticeship of five - afterwards reduced to four or three years. During that time, under the supervision of the schoolmaster, they received practice in teaching, generally being put in charge of one of the classes, and out of school hours they continued their studies with the teacher. They received a salary which was generally on a rising scale from £10 in the first year to £20 in their final year.

In Kilmuir the rate of pay to pupil-teachers was below that in most of the other parts of the country, being £10 each year during the whole of their apprenticeship. They sometimes, however, received a small bonus in addition.

In 1870 two pupil teachers were appointed to Kilmuir School. They were John Mackay and Samuel Mackay, who both remained in the profession as certificated teachers, the former graduating M.A. at Aberdeen University.

The pupil-teacher system lasted for about sixty years, and turned out as a rule excellent teachers. It was felt, however, that to require young people to teach for the greater part of the school day, and keep abreast with their studies was putting too heavy a burden on them, and the system was abolished.

It will be seen that, however strict the discipline and however successful a master might be in obtaining obedience and orderliness from his pupils, instruction given by two or three teachers in the same room at the same time presented difficulties. A certain amount of simultaneous work was necessary in the younger classes, and this interfered with the concentration of the older scholars on their work, and even prevented the voice of the teacher from being heard. To avoid this the kitchen of the Kilmuir schoolhouse was utilised for the younger children in charge of a pupil teacher.

It is unnecessary to elaborate the disadvantages of this arrangement-hygienically, educationally, and from the point of view of the comfort and convenience of the schoolmaster's household. It continued, however, until a new school was built in 1876.

Shortly after Mr Meldrum's appointment he started an evening school during the winter months, which continued for many years, the average attendance being usually about forty. Besides youths in their teens, the pupils included bearded men from the farms, who had been at work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Conquering their inclination to spend the evening with a pipe at their own firesides, or to tumble into bed and sleep the heavy sleep of the open-air worker, they hurried over their evening meal, washed and dressed, and arrived punctually at the school, to sit uncomfortably for a couple of hours on the hard, narrow benches, in order that their knowledge of English and arithmetic might be improved. They paid no fees, the schoolmaster receiving for his services the Government grant.

In 1872 an Education Act was passed, by which the State charged itself with the entire responsibility of providing primary education for the people. It took from the Church all right and power of controlling and managing schools, thus abolishing the parochial system, which had done so much for Scotland, but was now inadequate for the needs of the times, and transferred to School Boards, appointed by the vote of the ratepayers of the parish, the powers and duties formerly held in rural districts by the Church, and in cities by the Town Councils.

The two principles on which this great Act is based are provision for the education of every child of school age in the country, and compulsion on the guardian of every child to take advantage of the education thus provided. Those who failed to comply with the provisions of the Act were liable to prosecution.

It abolished for future appointments the "ad vitam aut culpam" tenure, and made no provision for pensions to retiring teachers. They had now no protection against unreasonable prejudice on the part of School Boards, who had the power of doing a good deal of harm to the school, and could dismisa a teacher on very slender grounds. The rights of parochial teachers who were in office before the passing of the Act were protected. They still held their appointments "ad vitam aut culpam", and were entitled on retiring to a pension amounting to two-thirds of their salary.

It was fortunate for the parochial teacher of Kilmuir that this was so, for his relations with the first School Board were far from being of the most pleasant character.

This Board was elected on 27th March 1873. The members were Charles Robertson of Kindeace, William Gunn, factor for Cromartie Estate; John Forsyth, factor for Balnagown; the Rev. Donald Stuart, parish minister; and the Rev. Donald C. Macdonald, minister of the Free Church.

The new era began quite auspiciously. At the very first business meeting, held on the 9th day of April 1873, when all the members were present, it was decided that the precarious system by which the schoolmaster's salary was allocated should be abolished and a rate of salary fixed, equal in amount to the sum which the schoolmaster ought to, but did not always, receive, from the joint sources which hitherto provided him with his income. This was reckoned as £150 per annum.

Before a year elapsed certain of the members were attempting to overturn this decision.

At a meeting held on 25th February 1874, there was a notice of motion to this effect, and that the former system of payment should be restored. At a meeting in the following April it was decided by a majority that this should be done. Mr Meldrum refused to agree to this, and a heated controversy followed.

Just at this time the Court of Session was dealing with a similar dispute which had arisen between the schoolmaster of Mochrum in Wigtownshire, and the School Board of that parish. The result was anxiously awaited in Kilmuir, and when judgment was pronounced in favour of the schoolmaster the matter was promptly and finally dropped. But unpleasant relations had been created between the School Board and the teacher, and it was long before harmony was restored.

When any expenditure of money was concerned the members showed a grudging spirit. It was with great difficulty that they were induced to provide maps and other equipment necessary for the instruction of the pupils. For considerable periods the schoolmaster had to supply coals for the school at his own expense. It was almost impossible to get repairs done. Roofs might leak and chimneys fall - and did - to the danger of human life; the wind, the rain and the soot might go whirling through the rooms, but over such trivialities the members of Kilmuir Easter School Board refused to be hustled.

The following letter from the schoolmaster to one of the members gives an idea of the condition of things:-

" Schoolhouse,
"Kilmuir Easter, 5th July 1875.
" Sir,
" I have to inform you that I have repeatedly within the last few months repaired the school desks with my own hands, but they are now entirely beyond my power. Perhaps you would be kind enough to order their immediate repair. Otherwise I shall be obliged to put them outside the school as encumbrances and report accordingly to the Board of Education.

" I am,
" Yours truly,
In order that the school might be eligible for the Government grant the girls in attendance over the age of seven had to receive instruction in "sewing, shaping and knitting", and for a period the schoolmaster's wife undertook this work. She received no salary. When later, at a meeting of the School Board, the appointment of a teacher of sewing was discussed, it was moved, seconded, and carried (one member dissenting) that the teacher appointed should be paid at the rate of one shilling per hour, this amount to be deducted from the schoolmaster's salary.

In time a better spirit prevailed, and conditions improved.

In 1876 new school buildings were erected and equipped according to the most up-to-date ideas of the time. A certificated assistant was appointed for the junior pupils.

The old school premises are still in existence, but have been converted into cottages for farm workers.

In 1921, with a record of fifty-two years' service in the parish behind him, Thomas Guthrie Meldrum retired - one of the last of the

In the year 1658 a library, for the benefit of the teachers and pupils, was established in the High School of Edinburgh on the recommendation of the headmaster, the Council, as "and favourers of nurseries of learning, approving of the good and commendable notion of Mr John Muir". This library grew until it contained 7000 volumes.

About the same time the Magistrates of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Montrose took steps to institute libraries in connection with the grammar schools of these cities.

Other councils followed. But by the beginning of the nineteenth century many of those collections of books had disappeared or were little used.

A merchant in Tain left a sum of money to Kilmuir Session, and part of the money was used to purchase a collection of books for the school and a cupboard to hold them. Later, when the schoolroom became too crowded, it was transferred to the vestry of the Parish Church, and subsequently disappeared.

In 1838 the writer of the New Statistical Account of the parish remarks on the absence of a parochial library, but adds that "many of the more respectable inhabitants are connected with a district library, which affords many valuable works."

In the "nineties" some progressive men and women in the parish formed a committee for the purpose of instituting a library and reading-room for the use of the parishioners.

Concerts were held in order to raise money for the purohase of books, and with the proceeds from these and by donations from generous and interested people a considerable collection of books was acquired. It was housed in a small hall in the village of Milntown.

Before Carnegie libraries were planted up and down the countryside this was a great boon, educationally and recreationally, to the community, old and young. In these days there were no Rural Institutes to relieve the dull routine of the everyday life of country women, no Scout and Guide movement for the pleasure and profit of the young people Therefore, many an hour which would otherwise have been empty and aimless was occupied happily in the perusal of the much-thumbed pages of the treasures from the shelves of Milntown Library.

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