Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter XII - Third Period (1696 - 1872). Burgh and other Schools

IN dealing with the second period we saw that between the Church and Town Councils a modus vivendi as to their respective rights in the patronage and appointment of masters to burgh schools had been found, which was, as a rule, but not always, satisfactory. The Town Councils had begun to take a more lively interest and to exercise greater influence in the management of schools, but they had the good sense to ask the cooperation of the Presbytery in filling up vacancies in their  grammar schools, such as Ayr in 1710, Kinghorn in 1725, and St Andrews in 1728 [Burgh Records of Ayr, Kinghorn and St Andrews.]. In other cases Kirk sessions acquired a right to a share of jurisdiction by contributing to the salary of the master, as in Crail in 1716 [Burgh Records of Crail.].

In yet other cases the patronage was transferred by the Town Council to trustees, as in St Andrews in 1831, where by the munificence of Dr Bell the Madras College took the place of the grammar school [Burgh Records of St Andrews.]. The case of Leith High School in 1835 is very similar.

We cannot but admire the zeal shown by the municipal authorities for the promotion of education from the Reformation to the Union in 1707. It is true that a number of subjects, now regarded as essential branches, had either no place or a very subordinate one in school curricula. It cannot be said that in any true sense arithmetic formed an element in education till near the end of the 17th century. The same may be said of mathematics, navigation, science and book-keeping. The places where arithmetic was first recognised as part of the curriculum are Aberdeen, Irvine, Wigtown, Dunbar and Stirling. The earliest notice of mathematics is in Glasgow in 1660 [Burgh Records of Glasgow.]. There is no further mention of it till the next century is reached. Geography was not a branch of school work till the beginning of the 18th century. It is first mentioned in Edinburgh High School in 1715, and not in Aberdeen Grammar School till 1834 [Burgh Records of Aberdeen.] It was taught to some extent in a number of the smaller grammar schools. In 1732 we find the council of Stirling ordering "two geograficall maps to be put up in the grammar school for the edification of the youth, the expense not exceeding 24 Scots [Burgh Records of Stirling. This would be about 2 sterling. They would not be much cheaper now, but money was very scarce in Scotland then, and its value very much higher.]". Such expensive material must have been largely prohibitive of its general introduction.

About the middle of the 18th century there was in many quarters a desire for schools with a more liberal and practical curriculum than that in use in the old grammar schools. "Academies" was the name chosen for such institutions. They were meant to supplement grammar schools by introducing commercial and science subjects, but in many cases they superseded them or became their rivals. Perth has the honour of being the oldest academy in Scotland. It was founded in 1760. In less than thirty years Dundee and Inverness followed the example, and a year or two thereafter Elgin, Fortrose, and Ayr had each their academy, all with a very advanced curriculum. That of Perth is surprisingly complete. Languages are not mentioned, the grammar school and academy being separate. Being the most ambitious and at the same time typical of the rest, its curriculum is probably worth giving in detail. "It consisted of the higher branches of arithmetic, mathematical, physical and political geography, logic, and the principles of composition; algebra, including the theory of equations and the differential calculus, the first six books of Euclid; plane and spherical trigonometry; mensuration of surfaces and solids, navigation, fortification, analytical geometry, and conic sections; natural philosophy, consisting of statics, dynamics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, optics and astronomy; and subsequently chemistry was added, consisting of heat, light, including spectrum analysis, chemical affinity, laws of combining proportion, atomic theory, nomenclature, and notation, the gases, acids, alkalies, &c. [Grant's Burgh Schools, p. 119. "This Academy has in a large degree carried out the original intention; chemistry has been taught in it during the last seventy years, natural philosophy in all its branches, at least a hundred years, and the elements of geology and botany about thirty years, so that the claim of Perth to the honour of having been the first burgh school in Scotland to introduce science classes into our public schools is well founded": Conference on Education, p. 29.]"

While one may reasonably suspect that a curriculum like the above was in many respects showy rather than substantial, and that a number of the subjects were probably either not taken up, or touched with a light hand, it is matter for surprise and of good omen that a programme, which would do credit to a fully equipped science school of the 20th century, was even sketched as being within the reach of the ambitious lad of nearly 150 years ago.

Acting of plays was encouraged by Town Councils to promote elocution and confidence in public speaking. This was the case in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Perth. It has probably disappeared from the list of school subjects owing to the discovery that modern Town Councillors' confidence in public speaking stands in no need of stimulation. Early in the 18th century it had come under the ban of the Church, such plays as George Barnwell being thought to have an immoral tendency [Chambers' Domestic Annals, III, 584]. In the Kirk Session records of Perth we find an overture in serious condemnation of lascivious songs, dancings and stage plays.

As these schools were usually established by voluntary subscriptions their constitution was largely proprietary. This was not so in Perth where the patronage was always in the hands of the Town Council. In others such as Elgin, Inverness, Tain, Dundee, Arbroath, Ayr, Kilmarnock, Irvine, Dumbarton, Paisley, Greenock, Dumfries, &c. the directorate varied. In almost all cases the Town Council were represented, and with them were associated in different places the subscribers, burgesses, sheriffs, heritors, &c.

At the passing of the Reform Act there were upwards of forty schools of an advanced type, variously described as grammar schools, burgh schools, or academies, which were managed by Town Councils as to appointment of masters, fees, &c. [Grant's Burgh Schools, pp. 98-99.] The Commissioners appointed in 1867 to enquire into burgh schools report that in seventy-six burghs there were eighty-two school [Report on Burgh Schools, I, p. lxx.], and that in forty burghs there were no High schools but only parochial or other schools, and that there were nine schools jointly burgh and parochial. The schools of 1867, if we may judge from their names, appear to be largely but not entirely the successors or survivals of those at the time of the Reform Act. On the assumption that the list is fairly complete, the western highlands and the north fare badly, the former being represented by Inverary and Campbeltown, while north of Inverness there are only Tain and Kirkwall.

The prohibition against sending children over six years of age to any but the public school continued generally till the middle of the 18th century, but was only partially effective, notwithstanding that fines were imposed on parents who did so, and that banishment was in some cases threatened as the penalty for setting up a private school [Burgh Records of Banff.]. That private schools existed in considerable numbers warrants two inferences, that people set a high value on education, and that the public schools were often either inefficient or too expensive for the limited means of the poor. [To make their prohibition effective the Dunfermline Town Council compelled the kirk session to pay to the master of the grammar school the money set apart for teaching the poor. The session however decided to give something out of the `box' to the teacher of a private school. Grant's Burgh Schools, p. 138.]

Towards the end of the century many Councils not only tolerated but encouraged private schools by money payments [Burgh Records of Montrose, Stirling, Forfar, Ayr.].

In the 18th and 19th centuries the school day was much shorter than formerly. While a few stuck by the old tradition of eight or ten hours, in the majority of cases five or six were thought sufficient.

With respect to the length of ordinary or autumn holidays the practice varied greatly, ranging from two or three to five weeks in different districts. The variation was quite as great in respect of the season of the year regarded as the most suitable time. The same time was not equally suitable for town and country. Perth Town Council, finding that the end of August or beginning of September was bad, because they are the period of "green fruit and pease which do occasion diseases," authorised the masters to give vacation from the middle of May to the middle of June. June seems to have been on the whole the favourite month. The Rector of the Grammar School of Ayr gives in I748 his reason for the preference, that May is generally cold, and the fields wear a winterly face; further that it is the month when birds build their nests, and bird-nesting leads boys into danger; and again, some scholars go to Arran or other distant places for goat milk, and seldom return till the fair week [Burgh Records of Ayr.].

In country districts the presentation to the master of a ripe ear of corn settled the time for the vacation.

In early times, as now, school discipline was as multiform as human nature. There were, however, several general rules of universal application, observance of which was as far as possible insisted on-morning prayer, cleanliness, well-combed hair, neatness in clothing, and general obedience. These were enjoined as positive duties. The faults to be avoided were falsehood, swearing, indecency, Sabbath-breaking, and speaking the vernacular. Locality also entered into the question. The Dundee boy was forbidden to frequent the shore, the Edinburgh boy was warned against the precipitous portions of the Calton Hill.

For the maintenance of discipline the methods were as various as the character and ingenuity of the teacher.

With regard to punishments we find an absence of definition as to method and extent. One master is instructed to punish "as he may think fit," another is to do so "according to the quality of the fault" or "at his discretion." In other cases the definition is more complete, but still somewhat imperfect, when it is ordained that swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and rebellious disobedience are to be punished for the first offence by public whipping, for the second by flogging, and for the third by expulsion from the school. The difference between whipping and flogging is not quite clear.

About two hundred years ago the Town Council of Dunbar were ahead of their age in thinking that discipline was best where the flagellation was least, that the rod should be spared as long as possible, but when admonition, warning, and threats fail, the master was not to "spare the child for his much crying." The master is instructed, when admonition, censure, and threats are of no avail, to make it clear to the culprits that he dislikes corporal punishment and is not in a passion. When he has made this clear, he may then punish them beneficially.

The times and methods of punishments, and the means of detection of offences were duly systematised, though with variations in different districts. In some cases the infliction was daily, in others weekly, and in others monthly. It was thought, and probably with good reason, that chastisement would lose much of its salutary effect, when it was administered to a numerous body of defaulters, who would be tempted to minimise the gravity of their offences by feeling that others were in the same condemnation, or to imitate "puny souls who feeling pain find ease because another feels it too." The records bear that in some cases the schoolmaster was charged with the duty of punishing not only for school, but also for home offences. Protests against this were made by teachers on the ground that the school is a place for education, not a place of flagellation, that it is the duty of parents to make their children like school, and that by transferring to the teacher the duty of punishing for offences committed at home they make them dislike school and everything connected with it.

In the maintenance of discipline the teacher in Aberdeen grammar school was aided by decuriones and censors. The former were in some sort pupil teachers, chosen from the highest class, and had each charge of six scholars for whose discipline, conduct, and, to a certain extent, education, he was responsible. How long and with what success this method was carried out is not known, but it is quite possible that under judicious supervision it may have been good. The same cannot be said of the duties of the censor which were those of a detective officer. He had to superintend the several factions under the charge of the decuriones, and make out a list of all who spoke their mother tongue, swore, or broke rules of discipline. This list he handed to the master, a practice which must have given rise to ill-feeling among the other pupils against the poor boy to whom this duty was assigned.

This aid to discipline was in use in many parish schools up to the middle of the 19th century, and had the effect described. It supplied to a malicious censor a means of petty persecution of any schoolfellow whom he disliked. He knew that any denial of misdemeanour by the accused would be outweighed by his authoritative accusation. This duty of informer legalised what is universally despised as one of the meanest and most sneaking characteristics whether of boy or man-that of betraying the delinquencies of comrades to those who have power to punish. The system of praepostors, prefects, and fagging in modern English schools is suggested by this reference to the discipline in Aberdeen in the 17th century, but into this quaestio vexata it is not necessary to enter.

Though severe punishments were more common in these early times than now, the matter was one over which the Council generally exercised supervision. Undue severity made the master liable either to removal from office, or after investigation, to censure, with injunction against future action of the same kind. If on investigation it was found that parents complained without cause they were fined or censured.

In 1869 a bill was introduced in the House of Lords providing that nothing but the birch-rod should be used as an instrument of punishment, but it was thrown out. In old times whipping was thought indispensable, and instinct with a mysterious virtue even when vicariously administered.

While it was little short of sacrilege to visit with a birch the royal cuticle for school faults, still whipping had to follow fault as certainly as night the day, and be borne by Sir David Lindsay of the Mount who was the whipping boy to James IV, just as William Murray, father of the Countess of Dysart, was whipping boy to Charles I.

Dr Parr of Norwich School had boundless faith in the birch. An under-master told him one day that a certain pupil appeared to show signs of genius. "Say you so?" said Parr, "then begin to flog him to-morrow morning."

Flogging is still an institution at Eton, but within more reasonable bounds. Dr Keate, a former Headmaster of Eton and a most distinguished flogger, was called upon by a boy who came to take leave. "You seem to know me very well," said the master, "I have no remembrance of ever having seen you before." "You were better acquainted with my other end," was the unblushing reply [History of the Rod, p. 438.].

When this is contrasted with the case of Dr Melvin of Aberdeen Grammar School and an offending pupil, there will be a general agreement with the opinion of the Town Council of Dunbar above mentioned.

A boy guilty of a serious offence was called up for punishment. "James," said the Doctor, "I'm going to punish you, and you must be a very bad boy, for I have not punished a boy for seven years, but I must punish you to-day." After a few remarks, firm but kindly, about the nature of the offence, he opened his desk and took out the tawse, that had been lying with the dust of seven years upon it, and said, "James, hold out your hand." James obeyed, and the Doctor, grasping the instrument of torture, and raising it aloft, brought it down very very slowly, and with the lightness of a feather touched James's palm. "Now James go to your seat." James went, laid his head on his desk and cried as if his heart would break. He had not been hardened by the daily contemplation of flogging and he felt there was contamination in the very touch of the tawse. Perhaps none but a strong man could rise to this height of discipline, but weaker men might take it as an example, and probably the strength would come.

The earliest record of competition for prizes is found in connection with Glasgow Grammar School near the end of the 16th century. Except in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and a few other schools, prizes were not in use before the 18th century. Opinions are somewhat divided as to the expediency of the practice, but it is now generally favoured as being a healthy stimulus to industry, and is almost universally in use.

We have satisfactory evidence that throughout the 18th century municipal authorities generally acted with honesty and earnestness in their appointment of teachers when examination was the test ; that merit and not influence was, as a rule, the determining factor. In many cases the Councils, not being "altogether skilful of the Latin and Greek languages," applied to the presbytery for help. [The examining body was sometimes rather heterogeneous, and presumably not exactly fitted to estimate scholarly attainments, - a minister, a preacher, a beadle, and a tobacconist. Burgh Records of Dunfermline.] The minister, the presbytery, or university professors were applied to and lent their aid in the examination which preceded appointment. That the examination was sufficiently testing at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century seems beyond question. In 1771 the candidates for the mastership of Ayr Academy were tested as to their soundness in grammar, by literal translation of advanced Latin and Greek authors, and translation of English into Latin; and as to their knowledge of English, by a free translation of the same authors [Burgh Records of Ayr.] Much the same test was applied in 1815, when a master was appointed to the Elgin Academy.

The importance attached to music is shown by the candidate in some cases being asked to sing "a tune of music."

There were however other modes of making appointments.

In some cases they were made on the strength of testimonials and recommendations. The universities, famous scholars, or persons on whose judgment reliance could be placed, were asked to recommend suitable candidates [Burgh Records of Burntisland, St Andrews, Montrose, Kirkcudbright, Crail, Dundee, &c.] These recommendations were carefully weighed in deciding between rival claims. Other appointments were made after probation. A candidate presumably qualified was allowed to "enter the school for ane tryall of a few months," after which if he gave satisfaction he was appointed. [Burgh Records of Ayr, Banff, Crail.] In yet other cases a deputation was appointed to visit the candidate who had been recommended, to see him teach, and form an estimate of his qualifications [Burgh Records of Dysart, Glasgow, Stirling, Forfar, Peebles, &'c.]. A master was seldom appointed by correspondence alone. Personal knowledge was almost invariably a requisite [Burgh Records of Paisley, Stirling.]. The ceremony which accompanied the admission to office has been already described.

As to tenure of office it appears from Mr Grant's careful statistics that from the Reformation to the end of the 18th century 109 appointments were made for a definite period, 69 appointments during pleasure of Town Councils, 49 appointments ad vitam aut culpam, 22 appointments during good behaviour and at will. This last group may be fairly regarded as life appointments.

"The nature of the tenure was not more different in the different burghs than even in the same burghs [Grant's Burgh Schools, pp. 257-8.]." The variation was doubtless regulated by the estimate formed of the qualifications of the candidates and the business capacity of the Council [In 1785 two joint teachers were appointed to Dumbarton Grammar School for a year, in 1786 for another year, in 1787 for two years, and in 1789 for two years, the Town Council being of opinion " that it is much to be desired that a short agreement should be made in order that the Council should be fully satisfied with their diligence and behaviour." Burgh Records of Dumbarton. A good specimen of Scottish caution: but after four years' trial such caution seems to reflect either on the character of the teachers as being questionable, or on the Council as weak and lacking decision.].

Up to the beginning of the 19th century the office of burgh school teacher was not regarded as a munus publicum by either Councils or teachers. The teacher was simply an ordinary servant with whom a contract was made, the terms of which required to be observed. The question was first raised in Montrose in 1709. The court of session ordained that the Council should state rational grounds for their dissatisfaction in order that the court might consider whether the teacher should be dismissed. In this decision tenure ad vitam aut culpam is implied.

In 1815 Lord Meadowbank in agreement with Lord Robertson held that teachers cannot make a bargain that will deprive them of this tenure [Shaw's Cases, XIV, 715, note.]. In 1867 the opinion of counsel was given that a contract on other terms would be illegal [Report on Burgh Schools, I, 229.].

It is impossible to say that the question, despite the many times it had been raised, was definitely decided. The presumption of law, however, in respect of burgh schools, and, to a less extent, of academies and high schools, was in favour of a tenure ad vitam aut culpam.

By the education act of 1872 the tenure of office by teachers of burgh and parochial schools appointed after the passing of the act is "during the pleasure of the school board." For those previously appointed there is no change.

Up to the end of the 17th century signature to the Confession of Faith was one of the conditions of appointment. With the 18th century it practically ceased to be obligatory. During the first sixty years of the 19th century the recorded instances of signature are less than twenty. In 1861 it was enacted that it was no longer necessary for burgh school teachers to sign the Confession, or to be members of the Established Church [Act 24 and 25 Victoria c. 107, 22]. But even before that time membership of the Established Church had in practice fallen into disuse. Of 113 burgh school teachers in 1861 only 50 were members of the Church of Scotland. We have here satisfactory evidence of a steadily growing liberality of spirit in matters ecclesiastical. We find much the same spirit in matters political. In 1690 all teachers were obliged to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown [Act 1690, c. 25, ix, 163 ]. There are very few instances of political disability and consequent removal from office during the 17th and 18th centuries. [History of the Rod, p. 183. A Glasgow teacher was put in the pillory for seducing soldiers to desert. Burgh Records of Dundee. A Dundee teacher was removed for joining preachers who prayed expressly for the Pretender as King James VIII. Presbytery Records of Chanonry. A Fortrose teacher in 1746 was found "utterly unqualified as teacher of youth" for encouraging his scholars to make a bonfire in honour of the Pretender, and writing on their copies "Honour to prince Charlie."]

Though no statutory provision was made for retiring allowances, it was not unusual to grant pensions for long and faithful services [Burgh Records of Ayr. In 1746 the Council agree to pay to the teacher who had given nearly 5o years' service and was now "aged, valetudinary, and tender, his yearly salary during the short time he may now live." It is not uncharitable to infer from the terms of the grant that their liberality received some stimulus from a belief that he would not trouble them long.]. Other ways in which faithful services were rewarded have already been referred to.

We have a striking proof of the change in the value of money in the fact that not far from the beginning of the 19th century, thirty-five years of faithful service was thought to be sufficiently rewarded by a pension of 10 to a man "far advanced in years and unable to be employed elsewhere [Burgh Records of Kirkcudbright.]." Pensions though often given were often refused. In a large number of important and successful grammar schools no regulations for granting annuities were made. The ad vitam aut culpam tenure added both dignity and security to the office. It is matter for regret that nothing satisfactory has been done to compensate for its abolition. Regulations in this direction would be in two ways beneficial, first, in freeing from the charge of harshness the removal of worn-out teachers, and secondly in raising the standard of education.

At the beginning of the 18th century the highest class in important grammar schools read Terence, Horace, Virgil, Juvenal, Cicero, Livy, Florus, Sallust, &c.; the lower classes Ovid, Velleius Paterculus, Nepos, Claudian, Curtius, Phaedrus, the Colloquia of Corderius, Erasmus, and the lowest class the Vocables of Wedderburne. In some schools the highest class learned rhetoric and "had exercises in orations, compositions, versions, and verse according to their gifts [Chalmer's Life of Ruddiman, pp. 88, 90.]." As we approach the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century Corderius, Despauter, and other grammatical works had disappeared from the lists of school books, and classical study was substantially the same as in modern schools.

Whatever view may be taken of the vexed question as to the date at which Greek was first taught in Scotland, it is safe to say that the amount of Greek teaching in the 16th century was very small. It is however unquestionable that provision was made for it as a school subject in the 17th and 18th centuries, but of the extent to which it was taught we have little clear evidence. Several facts go to show that it had not then taken a deep hold in the most important schools. In the list of books used in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen no Greek text-books are found [Grant's Burgh Schools, 347.]. Boswell [Boswell's Life of Johnson, 637, chap. LXIX, 1860 ed.] and Lord Monboddo in his letters refer to the lack of Greek scholarship in Scotland in the 18th century and old Scottish libraries and booksellers' catalogues contain no valuable Greek books. It is exceedingly difficult and apparently impossible to reconcile conflicting accounts on this subject. In Steven's High School of Edinburgh (p. 48) we are told that" a fifth class was established in the High School in 1614, and the scholars, during their attendance on it, were taught the rudiments of the Greek language," and (p. 205) again that in 1820 a master of the High School wrote a private letter to the patrons "containing the sketch of a plan for the establishment of a Greek class in the High School. With the exception of an endowment of a medal by the Town Council in 1814, this was the first time that the Greek language was authoritatively recognised as forming part of the study in the High School." Greek however, though not authoritatively established, had not been neglected, for Steven quotes in an appendix (p. 336) under date 1822 a most creditable specimen of Greek verse by one of his pupils. Again we find in the Burgh Records of Greenock that a committee deputed to visit Irvine Academy reported that "a class of lads most of whom were not employed beyond twelve months upon Greek, had read several prose authors, and made such progress in Homer, that they could translate readily the first six books of the Iliad and the New Testament Epistles and Evangelists ad aperturam libri." This must be taken with a grain of salt, and be classed with the unconfirmed tradition of John Row's teaching of Hebrew in Perth Grammar School in 1632.

We learn from the Report of the Endowed Schools Commission that in 1872 Greek was taught in about 30 schools, one half of them reaching as high as Xenophon, the other half covering such authors as Homer, Euripides, Sophocles, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plato [Report on Endowed Schools, 11, 341-602.].

From the Report on Burgh Schools in 1868 we find that in schools in which there was a combination of elementary and higher education, only 3 per cent. learned Greek, and 21 per cent. Latin, and that instruction in classics in 69 schools visited, public, private, and mixed elementary, was in 29 per cent, good, 25 per cent. fair, 31 per cent. indifferent, and 15 per cent. bad [Report on Burgh Schools, I, 109-113]. The duration of the curriculum varied to some extent in different districts in the 17th and 18th centuries, but generally it extended to five years. In the 19th century the variation was greater but in few cases was it longer than six years.

We have seen above that at the Reformation the teaching of Music lost much of its prominence. During the greatest part of the 18th century efforts only moderately successful were in different places made to revive it. During the first half of the 19th century it revived considerably in the ordinary schools, and since the Act of 1872 it has received more and steadily increasing attention in these schools, but in the Report on Burgh Schools in 1868 it was taught in only eight out of fifty-four schools [Report on Burgh Schools, 1, 254, 255].

The teaching of English in the new or modern way began to be asked for in most of the grammar schools about the middle of the 18th century. English as a department was not in the curriculum of grammar schools till near our own day. It is now taught in them all.

French alone of modern foreign languages was pretty generally taught in important grammar schools from early in the 18th century except in Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray. The explanation of this probably is that in these three counties which furnished the largest contingent of candidates for the bursary competition in Aberdeen University, the importance of Latin was so great as to exclude the study of any foreign language. About the middle of the 19th century German was taught in most of the higher-class public schools [Report of Board of Education, ii, 154, 1874.].

Drawing and painting were taught in a few burgh schools, and navigation in the schools of seaboard towns. Smatterings of physical and natural science were taught in 1868 to about 5 per cent. of all the pupils in 54 burgh schools [Report on Burgh Schools, I, 124].

From the earliest times till 1872, when it became optional, the tradition of religious instruction as an essential school subject was maintained, and Sunday as mentioned above (pp. 27, 100) was no day of rest [Burgh Records of Edinburgh and Peebles.].

It has already been pointed out that a very small part of the patrimony of the Church was secured for education, and that the few schools which were endowed got little benefit from the endowments owing to dilapidations and perversions of the sums mortified. In these circumstances the behaviour of magistrates and councils towards higher education is worthy of all praise. Till the passing of the Act of 1872 their contributions from the common property of the burgh were entirely voluntary, and were given in a liberal and patriotic spirit. In many cases the financial condition of the town's exchequer was far from satisfactory, but in very few instances did this voluntary contribution to the teacher's salary fail to be paid. Nor was their zeal for the good of the school confined to such payment. Care in the management of its concerns and anxiety for its success characterised their action generally.

It is not contended that there were not then as now varying degrees of liberality in councils, but it must be remembered that the common good was often small, that money was scarce, and that teachers were not of uniform merit in respect of industry and skill. It was an unfortunate position, whether it arose from the parsimony of the councils or the apathy of the teacher, when in 1789 the latter was content to take charge of a school without salary, and on condition of receiving such a gratuity as the council might think he deserved [Burgh Records of Greenock.].

Notwithstanding these efforts there were cases in which the common good was exhausted, and stentmasters were appointed to raise the amount of the teacher's salary. Throughout the 18th century the Burgh Records in many parts of the country contain complaints of the salaries being insufficient to "buy the necessaries of life" on account of the high price of all kinds of provisions, and in rare cases the school was declared vacant.

In 1839 primary schools on the one hand, and universities on the other, were in receipt of public money voted by Parliament on lines and for purposes to which no objection could be taken, but burgh schools, which were the main avenue of approach to the universities, were left to struggle on as best they could without parliamentary aid.

The struggle was often very severe. It is difficult to speak too highly of the efforts made by councils and benevolent persons all over Scotland to secure that the poor should receive as much education as they were fit for [Report on Endowed Schools, passim]. The fees fixed by the councils were such as to make the schools accessible to children of the lower class, and the very poor were educated gratis, the councils paying to the teacher sums of various amount in return for such exemption from fees. To make up for necessarily small salaries a house, coal, and peats were often provided, and payment in kind was sometimes resorted to.

In the 18th century school buildings were generally unsatisfactory from both educational and sanitary points of view [Burgh Records of Dumbarton]. Many were damp and had no fireplaces. Sometimes the vestry and session house did duty for the school [Burgh Records of Selkirk.]. In some cases there were no desks, the pupils being obliged to "write on the floor lying on their bellies [Burgh Records of St Andrews. This probably means that they wrote on sand on the floor. At Dennington, Suffolk, there is shown a sand trough which was used for this purpose till 70 or 80 years ago by a nonagenarian who still survives]." In others there was only one room in which all branches were taught, and so small that soon pupils could not be admitted [Burgh Records of Forfar.]. The buildings, such as they were, were erected and upheld from the Common Good where any was available. If it was exhausted, resort was had to voluntary contributions, subscriptions, taxation, and sometimes to forced labour. Some uncouth but fairly descriptive verses by a schoolmaster throw light on this state of matters.

[Burgh Records of Wigtown. The `dominie' complains of delay. Though

Every one did promise well
To come for to rear up the school;
The day appointed had some frost;
They all keep't home their shins to rost.

But afterwards,

Then every one came with a tool
And timber to rear up the school.
They wrought like mad till night did come;
When it was dark they all went home.
They hastily again did meet
And did put up the house compleat.].

This indifferent equipment of burgh schools in respect of buildings and furniture continued till well past the middle of the last century. The commissioners of 1868, in their report of fifty-four schools visited, class only nineteen as good, fourteen as fair, and the rest as indifferent or bad. Since the passing of the Act of 1872 it maybe said that generally the requirements have been met, and in some cases with very liberal aid from the Scotch Education Department.

Playgrounds in most cases had received little attention, church-yards being occasionally put to this use [Burgh Records of Forfar.]. This also has been largely remedied.

Near the end of the 17th century there was sown by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh one of the first seeds of a plant whose fruit was to find its way into every quarter of the civilised world. It had an exceedingly modest beginning-an annuity of four hundred merks for the maintenance and education of four girls, the daughters of decayed merchant burgesses of Edinburgh. This germ was planted in 1695, and was probably suggested by the noble foundation of George Heriot's Trustees who, sixty-seven years earlier, had commenced to make a similar provision for boys. It was called the Merchant Maiden Hospital. Heriot's Hospital had been founded in 1628 and opened in 1659, when thirty boys were elected according to the original purpose of the foundation. After a lapse of nearly thirty years George Watson, who had been its treasurer, left funds for the foundation of a Hospital for the sons of decayed merchants, the administration of which he put into the hands of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, as being a company whose establishment by royal grant was ratified by Parliament. The bequest was accompanied by the suggestion that its rules and management should be, as near as possible, the same as those of the Merchant Maiden and Heriot's. In 1797 James Gillespie, influenced by the successful management by the Merchant Company of their two Hospitals, left that company funds for building and endowing a free school for one hundred poor boys. No addition was made to the number of the company's schools for about sixty years, when Daniel Stewart in his will of date 1811 left to the sole management of the Merchant Company funds which with accumulated interest amounted in 1860 to 79,000. This was employed for the foundation of a Hospital which was to be based as nearly as possible on George Watson's as a model.

As strictly belonging to our third period reference must be made to the beneficent establishment of thirteen Foundation Schools, offering from surplus Heriot revenue free education to the children of poor burgesses and freemen, and to all who chose to take advantage of the offer. This received the hearty approval of the Merchant Company. These free schools were maintained till the establishment of free education by the Scotch Education Department made them unnecessary.

As belonging to this period it may be stated that in 1847 George Watson's Hospital had 86 pupils, and that, having room for more, the admission of day pupils was proposed. A bill with this aim was thrown out by the House of Lords. It was again introduced in 1852, and passed.

The subsequent successful history of these institutions belongs more to our fourth period, where they will be dealt with.

Though higher-class schools are here being discussed, it is not wholly irrelevant to remark that there is no country in the world where elementary and higher education have been separated by so thin a line as in the best class of Scottish parish schools; no country in which what are above described as mixed

elementary schools have had, except in the 18th century, such an unbroken and successful existence; where under one roof and under the management of a single master boys of ability have found the gap between school and university so satisfactorily bridged. It is strictly in keeping with this account of a parish school that in the Act of 1872 the word `elementary' is not found within its four corners, and that in its preamble the aim is stated to be that "efficient education may be furnished and made available to the whole people of Scotland."

For more than a century and a half from 1696 this aim, though not everywhere, was to such an extent attained as, in the face of poverty and political turmoil, to place Scotland in the van of educated nations. Poverty, war, and political strife were not the only hindrances to progress. One of the most serious, though fortunately short-lived, was the introduction of the Revised Code in 1860 which, by making a fetish of high percentage of pass in the "beggarly elements," to the exclusion of everything else, retarded the advance of higher education for at least ten or twelve years. The low level of the English elementary school was the starting-point of the new scheme, and the result was to a great extent the lowering of Scottish instead of the raising of English education. Great credit is due to many teachers, especially in Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray, who refused to make cent. per cent. of passes in the three R's the goal of their ambition. Relief from this temptation came with the passing of the Act of 1872, and two years thereafter a separate Scottish code. But for many years afterwards the less intelligent School-boards looked upon cent. per cent., or something near it, as a sine qua non and worried the teacher accordingly.

This is perhaps as suitable a place as any other for reference to an important educational body which belongs to both our third and fourth periods.

The Educational Institute of Scotland had its origin at a general meeting of the teachers of Scotland held in 1847. Its aims were to "ascertain and certify the qualifications of those intending to enter the office of teacher " and thereby to increase their efficiency, to improve their condition, and to raise the standard of Education in general. The Institute professed its deep sense of the supreme importance of the religious training of the young, but wisely resolved to grant "certification to teachers" without inquiring into the doctrinal opinions they held. In four years the membership had grown to 1800, and the Institute was granted in 1851 a Royal Charter of Incorporation empowering it to hold heritable property, to use a common seal, to divide its members into Local Associations, to appoint a Board of Examiners, and to grant diplomas or certificates to Fellows, Senior Associates and Junior Associates. Membership is open to all classes of teachers. Of its sixty-three Presidents, three were University Professors, the remainder were almost equally divided between teachers in secondary and teachers in primary schools. In the list of its Honorary Fellows occur the names of Principal Caird, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and Dr Andrew Carnegie. The columns of its official organ, The Educational News, are devoted to Secondary, Intermediate and Primary Education alike.

There are two other spheres of the Institute's activity which were probably not contemplated by its founders, - a thriving Benevolent Fund established to give temporary relief to "needy members, to widows, or to dependents of members," and a Parliamentary Committee annually appointed to "organise and utilise its electoral strength."

In recent years the membership of the Institute has increased by leaps and bounds to close on twelve thousand, divided into fifty-two Local Associations. 

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus