Tales from the School Log

Children at Strathblane Primary School

A School Log has been kept since 23rd May 1864 and provides a fascinating account of the day to day life of the school as well as proving that there is "nothing new under the sun!" Pre School Board Days
In the recordings prior to the 1872 Education Act, there are several references to non-payment of school fees. Children would be sent home if fees were not paid and could only return with payment. One unfortunate boy was punished not only for spending his school fees but also for playing truant! The collection of fees must have been a headache for the headteacher Mr McEwan, as he would record whether or not school fees had been paid promptly!
The subjects taught were scripture, history, catechism, arithmetic, geography, latin, grammar and writing. On the 17th May 1865 there is a cryptic entry that "geography was well prepared but parsing was a failure and all were kept in". Catechism was another subject that could strike fear in the hearts of many pupils and Presbyterial examinations were a feature of the school year. Teaching was very much by rote and pupils were expected to bring a slate with them for copying letters from the blackboard. Multiplication tables, in particular Mansons Table, had to be learned by heart in preparation for visits by local dignitaries such as the Minister.

It is obvious from entries in the log that the pupils were not angels though it is unlikely that their behaviour warranted the punishment that was meted out. The method of punishment for boys was flogging and one poor boy succeeded in being flogged two days running. Children were cautioned against leaving the schoolyard at playtimes and also for being noisy if the teacher was out of class. One boy was flogged for wrong spelling whereas ten boys were only punished with lines for throwing stones.

Absenteeism Absenteeism was common too but for a variety of reasons. Local fairs such as the Campsie Fair, the Killearn Show and the Strathblane Fair would attract the interests of pupils, as would sales at local farms. Some would be absent because of curling matches, others to gather brambles or plant potatoes. Holidays were given for ploughing matches, heritors meetings and what was known as Communion Holidays. Christmas Day was not automatically a holiday and appeared to be given on the whim of the headteacher.
The weather in those days appears to have been more extreme than it is today and the log indicates that in summer the heat could be very hot and in winter many were absent because of snowstorms or the fact that curling matches were being held because the lochs had frozen! Heating was by fire and the recording of the 31st October 1870 notes that the fire was put on for the first time that winter.
The number of children attending appeared to vary. The "Teerers" who worked with the block printers in the printworks did attend but were withdrawn in April 1867 probably to attend the school provided for them in the printworks. The number on the roll varied from 50 to 102.
The School Master was John McEwan who was appointed in 1862. It was common for assistants and pupil teachers to be appointed. One beneficial task undertaken by the First School Board was to draw attention at long last to the state of the school building. It was not unusual if the weather was stormy for the school to be closed on account of damage being done. On the 13th of March 1875 the new school room was opened. Following the death of Anthony Park Coubrough chairman of the School Board on the 19th June 1883, the school was further extended in his memory.
In April 1913 the Stirling Observer carried the headline "Strike of School Children". The attendance at school had dropped to a dozen despite the fact that there were some 120 on the roll. The reason for this, the paper continued, was that some time ago the school board had decided to abolish the usual holidays at Easter and give an extra week in the summer. This move created much resentment and the parents demonstrated their feelings by keeping their children off school. The school log recorded that the school had closed on the 20/3/13 and re-opened on the 25/3 with 13 present and 104 absent. This state of affairs continued until the 4th April when attendance was recorded as normal. What the comments of the HM Inspector who visited on the 3rd April and the chairman of the board who visited on the 29th March to check registers is unfortunately not recorded.

First World War

The outbreak of the First World War did not prompt any comment in the school log. As the war progressed, however, the pupils became more involved in the war effort. Parma violet sachets were sold by the pupils in aid of the Belgium Famine Relief and on the 12th March 1915 two Belgian children were enrolled. Pupils were also encouraged to take part in the War Savings Movement. The ending of the Great War was marked with the following entries in the log:

12.11.18 School closed for general rejoicing.

All in the Parish rejoiced with the ending of the war and no doubt the children appreciated the unexpected holiday
Piece of paper in School Log
Copy of piece of paper inserted in School Log which is now in the Council Archives

New Education Authority

In September 1919 the new education authority displaced the Parish School Board. One of the first issues that they had to face was a matter of alleged brutality by the schoolmaster to a pupil. In 1920 for a number of months a correspondence continued in the Stirling Observer over this incident. One letter, signed "Residenter", stated that the boy deserved any punishment that he got and expressed the view that "the deterioration of manner and indeed morals among children in certain parishes is melancholy and bodes ill for the future! "A good spanking when required is absolutely necessary if our boys and girls are to grow up decent citizens". The reaction of the readers was varied, but concerned. The school log is strangely silent on the whole matter!
Between the Wars life at the school progressed normally. Pupils were now travelling to Balfron High School to complete their secondary education if they had passed their qualifying exam.
The inspector's report of 193-35 states that there were 73 pupils on the roll taught by two teachers and the headmaster. The report complimented the staff on dealing well with the task of teaching so many children at different stages but requested an improvement in counting and mental arithmetic. On the 3rd December 1934 the "Milk in School Scheme" commenced and by the 21st December 1934 37 gallons and 7 pints had been consumed. The scheme was obviously a success and continued for a good number of years The 7th October 1935 saw the introduction of broadcast lessons due to the loan of a receiving set from the BBC. After that it became commonplace for pupils to listen to broadcasts of momentous State Occassions.
The inspector's report of 1937-38 stated that the lighting of the building had been greatly improved by the introduction of electricity and the heating which had now been extended to the staffroom by the installation of an automatic stoker. The teaching was also satisfactory!

The Second World War

The start of the Second World War had a more profound effect on the life of the school than the First World War. In September 1939, 89 evacuees arrived from Maryhill, Glasgow with four teachers and outnumbered the local pupils by one and the school was closed for a few days to make the necessary arrangements. With the increase in numbers the Co-operative hall was used as additional accommodation. After the initial "phoney war" scare, many of the evacuees began to return to Glasgow and in April 1940 two of the teachers who had come with the evacuees terminated their duties at the school and returned to Maryhill. A note was kept of the number of evacuees during the War years. For some time the number was static around the mid twenties and it is likely that many of these evacuees were relatives of people living in the village. By the end of the war only 2 or 3 remained.
The pupils took part in the various War Weapons Weeks that were organised. In 1941 the pupils had an unexpected week's holiday when a landmine fell at Sunnyside and the resultant blast blew in all the windows at the school. With so many away at war, pupils would also be kept off for the potato lifting or 'tattie howkin' as it was commonly known. On the 15th August 1945 the school was closed for Victory in Japan Celebrations and on the 17th September of that year an extra day was given for the Victory in Europe Celebrations.

Post War Years

The Inspector's Report of 1947-48 recorded that the tone of the school was very pleasant and the good manners of the children, and their diligent application in written exercises created a very favourable impression. The service of mid day dinners had recently started and a separate dining room had been authorised. Major events such as the death of a King and the Coronation featured in the log. In June 1953 all the pupils were taken to Milngavie to see the film "A Queen is Crowned." Other events were the annual collection of rose hips for processing into rose hip syrup, talks on road safety and the annual school trip .
By the early 1960's the question of a new school was raised due to the poor state of repair and the cost of refurbishment. The present school was opened on the 24th October 1966 with the school chaplain Mr Lugton cutting a ribbon tied between the gates and declaring it open for teaching .

ŠAlison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2004