Tales from the old School

Strathblane Primary School Thorn of the Cuilt
Strathblane Primary School Thorn of the Cuilt

early history

In the late 17th century there had been two "adventure" schools, one at Duntreath and one at the east end of the parish. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century however that there was a regular parish school in Strathblane – that is a school under the superintendence of the Kirk Session of the parish and the Presbytery, with a master paid by the heritors
In 1714 the Presbytery of Dumbarton, at the suggestion of Mr Livingstone, Minister of Strathblane, ordained the heritors "to settle a school and a salary for the schoolmaster." About 1716 the school was held in the church. In 1731 the Kirk Session instructed the heritors to build a proper schoolhouse. The request was not complied with and for some time the school was taught in the little cottage to the east of the church gates - now demolished - then in the stables of the Kirkhouse. The School at the Thorn of Cuilt
About 1780, matters had reached crisis point and the Session resolved to build a school and schoolmaster's house 'betwixt the Thorn of Cult and Kirkburn and Church yard'. This time, plans went ahead and the school and school house were built on the site of what is now the old school. The school and the schoolhouse were never properly finished, however, and for a number of years after repairs were made but with little success. In 1818 it was described by Guthrie Smith as "a very airless and uncomfortable place". In 1854 it was demolished and the nucleus of the new school was built. A room for a girls' school was also added, with Miss Ann Auld as the first female teacher.
On the new education act coming into operation, the first School Board of Strathblane remodelled and extended the schoolhouse. The work was finished in 1875. The next School Board in 1878 further improved the school and schoolmaster's house.
The Coubroughs built a further extension to the school building in memory of their late father Anthony Park Coubrough. His sons erected a school plaque, that still survives, in his memory.

Schoolmasters Pay

It would appear that in these days, schoolmasters were not held in high regard and received a very poor salary. To supplement their meagre wages Guthrie Smith records that in common with other parishes in Scotland, the schoolmaster would arrange cockfights. Every boy who could brought a cock to school and on payment of 2 pennies to the master, the cocks were pitted together. The cocks that would not fight - "Fuggies" - were tied to a post and killed one after another in a brutal game of cock throwing at a halfpenny a go. The master got the halfpennies and the dead birds and, as an encouragement and reward to the scholars would give them cold punch or other spirituous liquor.
Scholars were also encouraged to bring gifts on certain fast days and during the cold season they had to bring a peat each day to keep the school fire burning

A Different type of school log !

Guthrie Smith also records the following story about the time when the stable of the Kirkhouse Inn was used as a school before the school was built at the Thorn of Cuilt.

It was in this place that a certain log of wood served as a prop to support one of the school benches. On the school being removed to the neighbourhood of the Netherton the log was thrown aside and for many years lay on the wall of the churchyard, whence it was removed by an old pauper woman to her house, where for some 12 years it was used by her as a seat. On her death in 1792, fuel being wanted when her clothes and the house were being washed up, the log was readiest to hand, and on being split up, at the first stroke it burst asunder and a quantity of money, consisting of coins of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, James VI and Charles I fell upon the floor. The value of the whole was about £40 sterling. It was found on examination that the log, which was about a foot and a half square, had been hollowed out through a small triangular hole cut in the side, and after the money was placed in it the opening had been neatly closed by a piece of wood fixed in its place by wooden pegs. Where the log originally came from no one knew, and its contents did no one any good, for the husband of the washerwoman, a worthless drunken character, got hold of it and forthwith decamped.

school fees

When Mr Cullen was appointed schoolmaster in 1813 the heritors had to make out a new scale of fees as he taught a wide range of subjects. The fees were as follows:
English 3s per quarter; English and writing 4s per quarter; English, writing and arithmetic 5s per quarter; English, writing, arithmetic and book-keeping 6s per quarter; Latin, Greek and French in addition 8s per quarter; and English grammar 6s per quarter.

When Mr Kesson was appointed schoolmaster after Mr Cullen his salary was the maximum allowed under the "Schoolmasters' Act" of 1803 as "the price of two chalders of oatmeal annually". Guthrie Smith records that the price per chalder was £17 10s 2 1/4d sterling.
The 1872 Education (Scotland) Act legislated for universal elementary education compulsory for all and put the cost of education on the parish rates, assisted by the fees of the pupils. A consequence of this was the creation of School Boards. The 1889 Education Act made education free for all. After the Education (Scotland) Act 1908; the higher schools both public and private came to be known as "secondary schools." A consequence of education being compulsory was that the headteacher did not have to collect fees. The school log before that time contains frequent records of fees being paid late or pupils being sent home because the fees had not been paid.

The School Board

Guthrie Smith recorded the members of five of the School Boards. It would appear that there was often a contest for election, as no doubt it carried some prestige. As a result, those who served on the school board tended to be pillars of the community - the village doctor, the stationmaster, the ministers, the printwork owners.

The first School Board of Strathblane was elected in March 1873 with the following members – Rev James Pearson, Major Graham Stirling of Craigbarnet, Mr James Reid, Mr Anthony P Coubrough and Mr Anthony S Coubrough.

The Coubroughs, the printwork owners, were very involved in parish affairs, and they served on four of the school boards. For the fourth school board in 1882 Mr Peter McKillop, the stationmaster and the Rev. T.F. Johnstone Free Church minister joined the Coubroughs. The chairman of this board was Mr. Anthony P Coubrough, clerk was Mr J.C. Murray and officer was Mr. Daniel McNeil. Anthony Park Coubrough died in June 1883 and his son took his place as chairman. The fifth school board recorded by Guthrie Smith has no note of any of the Coubrough family serving on the board.

Coubrough Plaque - Text

In Memoriam
This building is erected by the sons of the late ANTHONY PARK COUBROUGH of BLANEFIELD J.P. and presented by them to the SCHOOL BOARD OF STRATHBLANE of which he was Chairman at the time of his death 19th June 1883

This plaque was located on the wall of the primary 1 & 2 classroom, which was the building built by the Coubroughs. It has now been erected in the present Primary School.

The current school was opened on 24th October 1966 with the school chaplain, George Lugton, cutting a ribbon.

Head Teachers

Mr Gavin Cullen appointed schoolmaster 16th April, 1813 resigned 1818
Mr Andrew Kesson appointed 9th July 1818, left 1838
Mr Parland Macfarlane appointed 1838, retired 1862
Mr John McEwan appointed headmaster 1862, retired 1902
Mr Matthew Chisholm appointed headteacher on 11/8/1902 and left on 28/2/1930 to take up position at Kippen School.
Mr Webster appointed 3/3/1930 and left 29/6/1938 to take up a position at Cambusbarron School.
Mr Graham appointed 30/8/1938 and left to take up position at Killearn School.
Mr Andrew McAllister appointed 28/3/1949 and left to take up position at Dennyloanhead School
Mr George Allan appointed 25/1/1954 and retired 17/8/1971
Mr G Middleton appointed 10/10/1971 and retired 9/4/1992.
Mrs Jennifer Cunningham appointed 21/4/92
Mrs Sandra Logan appointed 2009

©Alison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2004