WHEN, a few years after the
passing of the Act of 1872, the action of the school-boards made the schools
hitherto maintained by the Society for the propagation of Christian
Knowledge unnecessary, the Directors with the funds thus released
established a system of bursaries open to competition, and tenable at
secondary schools. A large number of the bursars entered the university,
many of whom highly distinguished themselves. Any unused surplus was devoted
to assisting youths at the university who knew Gaelic. In 1877 this surplus
amounted to £250. Long before this the Society had practically ceased to
have subscribers, and were only the Trustees of the accumulated funds.
This scheme was found to work
on the whole well, and it was decided to withdraw the salaries from all
Society schools, unless special reason could be shown for their continuance.
There were however in sparsely populated districts, for which school-boards
could hardly provide, many children who could be taught in their own homes,
and for these itinerating teachers were temporarily supplied. In 1882, when
the Educational Endowments Commission commenced their labours, the number
and attainments of the competitors for school and university bursaries were
During the sitting of the
Commission for six years, there were no noteworthy changes in the operations
of the Society. In November 1889 the number of its candidates for bursaries
was 179. Its stock amounted to £185,330, four-fifths of which passed into
the hands of the "Trust for Education in the Highlands and. Islands of
Scotland," one-fifth being left at the disposal of the Society for strictly
The area to which the scheme
of bursaries established by the Governors of the Trust applies, covers six
districts, viz. (1) Orkney and Shetland, (2) Caithness and Sutherland, (3)
Ross and Cromarty, (4) Inverness, (5) Argyll, (6) Bute and specified
parishes. The administrative body is admirably representative of educational
interests, comprising men of eminence in the Church, University, Law, and
chairmen of school-boards.
While the main aim of the
scheme is the promotion of advanced education, the original intentions of
the Society for the propagation of Christian Knowledge have not been
overlooked. Satisfactory provision is made for the payment of the Society's
bursaries awarded before the date of this scheme; and for the encouragement
of Gaelic teaching, 5s is paid for every child who is taught to read Gaelic,
provided the school is in other respects efficiently taught. We have
evidence of the impulse given to higher education by the Trust in the fact
that, in 1904, six pupils went straight from what was formerly a parish
school in Inverness-shire to the university, and that, in 1905, the first
place in the bursary competitions of Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities was
taken by bursars of the Trust. Further the Governors of the Trust have
selected 14 schools in the Highlands and Islands at which free education
will be given to all holders of bursaries awarded by the Trust, and to all
candidates for bursaries who decide to compete and who gain not less than 50
per cent. of the possible marks.
In view of the decision of
the House of Lords in the appeal of the General Assembly of the Free Church
and others versus Lord Overtoun and others, changes were made in 1905 in the
body of Governors. A number of the old Governors were reelected, and among
the new ones the Universities of St Andrews, Aberdeen and Edinburgh were
represented and Sir William Turner was re-elected chairman.
Grants of £60 were paid to
each of the 14 centre schools, except to two from which they were
temporarily withheld for further consideration; and in one case the grant
was discontinued. In the administration of the grants the Governors made
sure that they were satisfactorily earned, and made careful notes of the
reports of examiners and inspectors.
In 1906 the Governors decided
to offer a bursary of £30 tenable for three years at the Duchess of
Sutherland's Technical School at Golspie. In 1905, 78 boys and 106 girls
entered the competition for school bursaries. The examination papers
covered, besides the ordinary English subjects, Latin, Greek, French,
German, Mathematics, Gaelic, Physics, Chemistry and Botany.
The statement and scheme
submitted by the Governors for the future management of the Society were
marked by wisdom, foresight, and breadth of view, characteristics recognised
by their being largely adopted in the completed scheme of the Commission.
Oliver Wendell Holmes in his history of the " Wonderful One-hoss-shay"
"Little of all we value
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer."
Christian and philanthropic
schemes are no exception to this rule. While the Act of 1872 made changes
not only desirable but imperative, there are few institutions that have
stood the tear and wear of 180 years so well, or can point to a record so
clean, an aim so unselfish, and an accomplishment so beneficent, as the
Society for the propagation of Christian Knowledge in Scotland.