Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander
Chapter XXXIV. -
THIS school had been removed,
when I was about six years old, from Innerwick, where it had been since the reign of Queen Anne. My first attendance was at Innerwick before the building of the new, slated, and, for that time, commodious school-house at Kerrumore. There had been at one time a school-master's house at Innerwick, and a permanently placed teacher, but that better arrangement had come to an end, I believe, about 1783, when the Barony of Glenlyon was divided into the estates of Culdares and Chesthill. What remained was an endowment of 10, half from the estate of Culdares and half from the Bishopric of Dunkeld fund. As already mentioned, the teachers were young men who usually changed from year to year, and who, instead of fees, received board and lodging by going about from house to house after their pupils. The school session was shorter than in most places, for there was much herding to do, and other summer occupations for children were numerous. It does not come in here in chronological order, but after having been at my first session at Perth, Mr Drummond got me to teach the Kerru- more school for the usual period of seven or eight months. I would rather have tried my 'prentice hand elsewhere, for it was a habit of big lads to come to school in the dead months of the winter after having done their corn-threshing, feeding of animals, and other duties in the morning. Some of these lads were as old as myself, and had been in former years my class-mates and companions. As for the younger ones, I knew I could easily rule them, for I could always readily make friends with and exercise influence over children and dogs. I had over sixty pupils in winter at Kerrumore School. I need not have been afraid of the big lads, my co-evals and former class-fellows. They respected my new magisterial position fully as much as I did myself, and were my faithful henchmen and assistants in the daily mending of quill-pens which were then in use. I had got the name of being a book- worm, and it was supposed that having been for ten months at Perth schools, I had come back with a load of learning. These first ten months at Perth left me much run down physically, and with an empty purse. I had been working very hard and living frugally, though not at all half-starving myself, as others of my kind too often did. Having paid everything I owed, and given the servant at the lodging-house a shilling or two, I bought books with what remained, packed my box, paid the carrier for taking it home, and then found I had not money enough for the coach-fare to Aberfeldy. It was the afternoon of a fine summer day when the schools broke up, and I resolved to start at once and to tramp all the fifty miles home by road, for I did not then know the hill short cuts well, and much of my journey would be by night. So, having bought some Abernethy biscuits, I set off by the road to Dunkeld late in the afternoon, and got to Aberfeldy bridge by. daylight. I rested there and half-dozed for a while, and then tackled the next twenty miles, at the end of which I felt as tired as ever I did in my life. I have no doubt that I more than once walked quite as great a distance on the hills without being a penny the worse for it next day. But hill- walking is different from hard road-walking.
Not a few of my pupils at
Kevrumore came from places three or four miles away, and in the winter months had to start in the grey dawn. They made good haste to come, but in going home in the evening they loitered and played by the way till the night quite closed in. It was so when I myself was a pupil. When the new schoolhouse was being built, and the old one at Innerwick had quite collapsed, the school was held one winter in the servants' hall at Meggeruie Castle. Every evening we came home in grand style from the Castle, for in John Macfaiiane, youngest son of the Innerwick smith, a lad of ten or eleven, we had a piper of our own, who played marches and reels and laments on miniature pipes. His father was the fourteenth of a series of Macfarlane smiths, who were famous of old for making swords and daggers of excellent quality. John's father himself had more than local fame and custom as a sgian-dubh maker. John became a Free Church schoolmaster, but, to the regret of all who knew him, died ere he reached middle age. It was indeed supposed that the juvenile piping, of which he and his little troop were so mightily proud, did John's health serious harm.
My own Kerrumore scholars
were a hardy, cheerful lot, who were easily ruled in school, and out of it
indulged in no more fun, frolic, and childish pranks than healthy children
are justly entitled to. In school they had to speak English. Gaelic was
their vernacular, and they were all the more easily taught because bilingualism had sharpened their brains. Every morning they brought with them, in the primitive way of the time, peats and sticks to feed the schoolhouse fire. Besides the daily collection of peats and sticks, birch trees on the opposite hill slope were given each winter to the school. These were felled, sawed, and split by the elder boys, while all helped to carry them home rejoicingly. The fatal accident to Mr Drummond's nephew, which has been already referred to, occurred when these trees gifted by the estate were being cut down.
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.