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History of the Burgh and Parish Schools of Scotland
By James Grant M.A. (1876)

Volume I - Burgh Schools


The History of Educational Progress in any country, presenting the gathered experience of centuries, can hardly fail to be interesting to the historian, and instructive to the student of education, and it is certainly matter of surprise that, while other and leas important institutions have found abundance of historians, an historical account of our famous Burgh and Parochial school system—the most ancient, and still in many respects the most successful in existence—should not hitherto have been attempted.

The Scottish School-Book Association, composed chiefly of burgh and parochial Schoolmasters, having long felt such a work to be a great desideratum iu the history of education, and the want of it even a matter of reproach to their profession, if not to the country generally, resolved at a general meeting of their body, held several years ago, [Mr Robert Somers of Collessie gave notice of a motion, on 16th September 1884, at a general meeting of the schoolmasters held in the high school of Edinburgh,' that a abort historical account of our burgh and parochial schools be prepared.' This motion was adopted at the general meeting held next year. ] to supply this want by providing an authoritative History of their Schools, embracing all that is known regarding them from the earliest period. For this purpose, they applied to the late Mr Cosmo Innes, in the hope of prevailing on him to undertake the preparation of the work. Mr Innes, who always entered enthusiastically into any proposal calculated to elucidate the past history of his native country, frankly told the Schoolmasters, important subject entrusted to me, I must be allowed to express my grateful acknowledgment to the Association for their generous confidence in a person wholly untried in the kind of work which they wanted—confiding to one who was a stranger to them a trust in which their whole body was deeply interested. I have specially to thank the Committee, consisting of Mr John Macturk, late of Tillicoultry, now of Glasgow, Mr Robert Somers of Collessie, and Mr William Duncan of Inchture, who were appointed to superintend the work, for their liberal assistance and kind forbearance during its progress. The professional brethren of these gentlemen can form no idea of the trouble and anxiety occasioned to their Special Committee in connectipn with this history—a trouble and anxiety which only enlightened interest and affectionate zeal for the honour and welfare of the profession could have enabled them to sustain.

I hope I may also be allowed the privilege of putting on record the services rendered to me by other gentlemen with whom this work has brought me into relations more or less intimate. My dear friend and revered teacher, Cosmo Innes, is at rest from all his labours, and I shall not here speak of my obligations to him—only cherisliing the recollection of them and his memory in silence. Mr David Laing, so long the standing counsel of all students of Scottish history, and a survivor of that small but stout band of antiquaries and historians, who have spread the fame of Scotland to the ends of the earth, always allowed me free access to his stores of ancient learning; Mr William F. Skene, another surviving confederate of the same remarkable band, read several of my sheets; and Mr John Hill Burton, our historian, kindly supplied me with rare sclioolbooks. Notwithstanding the formidable appearance such a list presents within the limits of a preface, it affords me great pleasure to introduce also the names of the following gentlemen, who have rendered invaluable service in connection with the records of certain burghs: Mr John Allan, town-clerk of Banff, dug up at great labour the history of the grammar school of his burgh from 1682 to 1837; Mr Joseph Anderson, keeper of the Museum of Scottish Antiquaries, a zealous student of education as well as of antiquities, furnished school notices from the burgh records of Wick, and assisted me throughout with his counsel; Mr Thomas Barclay, the venerable sheriff-clerk of Fife, contributed extracts from the burgh and kirk records of Kinghorn; Mr Jacob Blacklock, town-clerk of Lochmaben, cheerfully sent extracts from his records; Mr Robert Brown, ex-provost of Paisley, who has lately published a history of the royal grammar school of his burgh worthy of the subject, placed at my disposal, with great liberality, the main events in the history of his school before it was published; Bailie Campbell of Greenock furnished excerpts from the minutes of the records of that burgh for nearly a century, ending in 1847; Mr Hugh Davidson, sheriff-clerk of Lanark, gave as much assistance as his time allowed; Rev. John Davidson, minister of Inverurie, zealously assisted by Mr John Fowlie, schoolmaster, gathered the history of their grammar school from 1606 till a recent date; Mr Alexander Dewar, town-clerk of Dingwall, extracted copiously from the  minutes of his town council for nearly the whole of the eighteenth century; Mr William Dick, schoolmaster of Dunbar, heartily aided by the venerable clerk of the burgh, Mr W. H. Ritchie, supplied acts of council of great interest from the middle of the seventeenth century downwards; Mr Hugh Dickie, late rector of the grammar school of Dumbarton, though much engaged with his important school, made extracts from the burgh records from 1746 to 1830, and from the session records from 1687 to 1763; Mr W. Eadie, rector of the Inverness royal academy, supplied excerpts from the early records of the academy; [1 endeavoured to collect the history of the old grammar school of Inverness, but was disappointed.] Mr Stuart Grace, chamberlain of St Andrews, found time to trace the history of the old grammar school from the middle of the seventeenth century till it merged into a greater institution; Mr George Hay of Arbroath, the author of a capital history of the burgh, sent a contribution ; Dr Ebenezer Henderson, who has made a thorough study of the old religious and municipal life of Dunfermline, took great trouble to inform me regarding the old grammar school of that burgh, the constitution of which I could not comprehend without his assistance; Mr Andrew Jervise of Brechin, so admirable a student of Scottish history, rendered such hearty service that he might truly say ' the men o' the Meams cau dae nae mair;' Mr John Knox, schoolmaster of Forfar, extracted all the school learning in the records of his burgh from 1660 to 1805—a work of great labour, but to him a labour of love; another schoolmaster, who rendered no less service, is Mr Henry Lillie of Crail, who, with the assistance of the Rev. John Reid, minister of the parish, collected all the notices preserved of their old grammar school; Mr D. Murray Lyon of Ayr, a born antiquary, excavated from the records the history of the old grammar school of his burgh, and for my convenience printed the extracts at his own expense! Mr William M'Dowall of Dumfries, who has written one of our most learned local histories, took much trouble for me on the Borders; Mr William M'llwraith of Stranraer, sent some carious gleanings from the old records of that burgh; Mr William Mackie, schoolmaster of Wigtown, cheerfully supplied all school acta in the records of his burgh from the middle of the seventeenth century till our own day; Mr Charles Mactaggart, town-clerk of Campbeltown, courteously contributed excerpts from the minutes of his council from 1704 to 1831; Mr A. C. Mounsey of Jedburgh brought in- teresting acts of council relating to the old grammar school of his burgh during the seventeenth century; Rev. Alexander J. Murray of Ed dies ton supplied minutes from the records of his presbytery relating to the grammar school of Peebles; Mr D. Nicolson, schoolmaster of Wick, though not a hearty student of old records, took great trouble for me in the far North; Provost Paterson of Irvine kindly furnished numerous extracts from the minutes of his buigh records; Mr R W. Cochran Patrick of Woodside, the historian of the Scottish Coinage, helped me much in the West; Mr Robert Renwick of Glasgow rendered great assistance in connection with the records of Peebles and Glasgow; Mr William Robertson, schoolmaster of Pittenweem, not only transcribed all school entries in the records of his burgh from 1629 to a recent date, but helped me in other burghs of Fife; Mr John Thomas, town-clerk of Perth, sent entries from the records of the town council and kirk session of his burgh; Mr T. W. Thorns of Dundee, at the expense of much time and at great personal trouble, disinterred the history of the old grammar school of his burgh during the eighteenth century; Mr Alexander Walker, dean of guild of Aberdeen, who sympathised much with my subject, cheerfully quarried from the records of his burgh the history of the grammar school of New Aberdeen from 1750 to 1850—a century in the life of this great school. [For the previous history of this school I have used the various selections made from the records of that burgh for club publications, by John Stuart, LL.D., the secretary of the Spalding Club and of the Society of Scottish Antiquaries.] Mr R Milne Walker of Stirling transcribed all acts of council in the records of his burgh bearing on the grammar school from 1597 to 1800; Mr R. Watson, rector of the academy of Kirkcudbright, extracted, at great labour, all school acts in the records of that burgh from 1683 to 1820; Rev. R O. Young, minister of Fortrose, kindly culled from various records, extracts illustrating the history of education in his burgh. [I cannot omit to mention also how much I have been indebted to the Report on Burgh and Middle-class Schools, prepared for Parliament in 1868.]

When it is considered that these gentlemen were all engaged in the active business of life—not antiquaries or record scholars, professed or paid—the value and disinterestedness of their great labour will appear from the fact that they made these excerpts at much expense of time from records generally covered with the white mould of centuries—spelling their way through a handwriting rendered antiquated by age, which was often faint, and sometimes effaced, frequently careless, and always contracted; and I venture to say that the public spirit which they have shown is creditable to Scotland in what is called a utilitarian age. My regret is that the principal workman was not more worthy of his enlightened fellow-labourers; but with the experience I have had, it will be my earnest endeavour to make the complement of this work, viz., the ' History of the Parish Schools'—which is already in an advanced state of preparation—more worthy of the subject.

In preparing my 'copy* for the Press and revising the proof sheets, I have received much assistance and advice from Mr Thomas A Croal, and Mr Archibald Constable, Edinburgh; I am also indebted to Mr J. S. Mackay and Mr C. R. Scott, of the Edinburgh Academy, for the notices of the present state of mathematics and English in the Burgh Schools.

Other gentlemen, besides the large list I have mentioned, helped me with their counsel and influence, and though I must deny myself the pleasure of introducing their names, I can never forget the assistance given by each and all of them.

J. G.

Edinburgh April 1876


Part I - Schools before the Reformation

Chapter I

Part II - Schools after the Reformation

Chapter I - The Church in relation to Schools
Chapter II - Patronage and Constitution of Schools
Chapter III - Protection of Schools
Chapter IV - Visitations and Examinations of Schools
Chapter V - Economy of the Schools
Chapter VI - Appointment of Masters
Chapter VII - Tenure of Office of Masters
Chapter VIII - Removal of Masters from Office
Chapter IX, X, XI - Masters Encouraged and Pensioned, The Master as a Pluralist, Compulsory Education
Chapter XII - Forms of School Government
Chapter XIII - Studies in the School
Chapter XIV - Salaries, Fees and Emoluments
Chapter XV - School Buildings
Chapter XVI - Female Education
Appendix - Fees and Salaries

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