Attribution: Photo copyright S. Fraser
In the 1930s the Lemlair farm workers cottage on the right became Lemlair Side School, designed to cater for farm workers’ children in the area from age P1 to P5. By the end of the Second World War the (sole) teacher was Miss Margaret Mackenzie, from Tain, who travelled each day by train to Foulis Station where she collected her bicycle and pedalled the 1½ miles to the school – in all weathers!
By that time the adjacent cottages, although occupied, were in a severe state of dilapidation. Water came from an outside tap and, in winter, Miss Mackenzie would make cocoa for the pupils, using a paraffin stove in the entrance area. The one room classroom was heated by open fire and pupils used slates for writing and arithmetic. The children’s playground was either the area in front of the cottages or the adjacent wood. The chemical toilets were in a two-apartment hut in the wood, one for Miss Mackenzie and the other for all pupils. In two corners of the semi-rectangular wall surrounding the cottages were open “middens” and a rat-infested burn ran under the playground area. On Sunday afternoons the Rev Archibald Campbell (Cof S) or the Rev John Macdonald (FC) conducted services. Health and safety came into play (in the 1960s?) when the school was closed.
Despite the Dickensian conditions, Miss Mackenzie ensured that her pupils received excellent tuition.