Scottish Memory Lane - School Days
School days are often the earliest memories we can recall, whether it's the very first day at school or whether it's of subjects or teachers or friends that we will never forget.
It's hoped that readers will send in their own stories and memories of their own childhood in Scotland. All contributions should be sent to Scottie@RampantScotland.com.
Recently added stories have placed beside their title.
2-Roomed Village School
I started school in a wee 2-roomed school in the village of Almondbank, approximately 4 miles from the city of Perth. I was allowed to start at Easter in 1936 instead of after the summer break as my cousin, who lived down the street from me, was moving to Perth and I really wanted her to be the one to take me and “break me in” – so to speak.
On my very first day I tipped over the inkwell that was fitted into all the desks and was sure I’d be sent home in disgrace!! (Graphic of an ink bottle via Wikimedia Commons) My mother could stand at our front door and watch me going up the steps to the playground – which at that time was dirt and we played marbles there, skipping, giant steps, tag , etc. The toilets were in an outside building with two entrance doors –one for boys – one for girls – no water there, of course!! Hygiene – what was that? We had a dentist visit the school once a year and he loved to yank out your teeth – no fillings or trying to save them. On the day he was to be there we all took a big handkerchief (one of our Dad’s) and a scarf in order to wrap up your mouth and keep the cold out (and the blood in!).
We moved to a new school (picture of the school via Wikimedia Commons) around 1940, I think, and the old school still stands as a private residence.
I have lived in Canada for almost 49 years and my memories of living in Almondbank are still very clear. I love to go back there each time I make a visit “home”.
Margaret Gray, Parksville, B.C.
First Day in School Was In India
My first day in school was 3 months before my fifth birhday, in the regimental school of the British army cantonment in Meerut, India! (The graphic here is of the Mutineer's Mosque in Meerut). I had complained about not going to school when my best friend Alan Roberts was going, and I suspect it was because my father was a warrant officer in the 1st Royal Dragoon Guards, a cavalry regiment in which he was in charge of the forge and the general health of the horses, so had a bit of a pull. In India, we went to school at 8 a.m. only in the mornings, but also on Saturdays, because the heat was too great in the afternoon. I remember that day very cleary because it was a one room school,so my older brother Jimmy was there and my best friend Alan, and the teacher had Alan's' older sister Eileen looking after me that morning, and we played with plasticine. It was great fun making a tree with a monkey sitting on top! The next day, I was added to the rest of the class, and began my learning process.
The thing I remember most of that day was that my Mum had given me a sandwich to take to school to eat at morning break, and, not expecting anything to happen, I walked out of the school into the open with my sandwich raised to my mouth about to take a bite, when with a swish of wings a kite hawk whizzed down and clawed it from my hands. The last I saw of it was it rising high in the sky, with a couple of hawks chasing my robber!!. When I looked back at the school entrance and saw all the other kids, Irealised why they were grinning and eating their stuff inside the doorway.
David, now in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Tall Trees From Little Acorns Grow
My school was Thornliebank Primary School (graphic of the school here is by Iain Thompson via Wikimedia Commons) where in 1953 I was chosen along with another boy from my class to plant trees on Main Street alongside The Lord Provost. It was a pleasure to take some of my family back to that school and show 2 of my grandchildren how to play peever. You can take a lassie out of Scotland....but you can't take Scotland out of the lass!
Maureen, now in Phoenix Arizona
When I was teaching, my cousin Ethel who lived near the school, brought her wee son to start school just as you did. I met her as she arrived, and said hello to the wee laddie,and then was most surprised to see Ethel just after playtime ended, coming back into the school with him. He thought that school was over when he was sent outside at playtime and walked home just as you did, but at the wrong time! I assured Ethel that there would be no problem, and we had a good laugh!
I also have to tell you next how I learned to play football. It was just a short time after we arrived from India, and we were staying with my Grandparents tenement flat in Cathcart Place, and went down to Cumberland Street in the Gorbals to meet my mothers cousins, and found myself out on the street playing football with a tennis ball, and the goals were the spaces between two brightly shining street lamps and the walls of the buildings. (The graphic here is of a street footbll montage in the Football Museum at Hampden Stadium). I had never played before, and was astonished when several of the boys stopped and looked at me and all cried with awe, "look, he's twa footit !!!". I didn't know what they were talking about until they explained that I could kick the ball with ease with both feet. Later on, I played with school teams regularly at inside right, both in Giffnock school and Eastwood. When I went to Eastwood, I played an important role in both the second and first teams, usually at inside right. I was playing for the first team when Archie Robertson (who later played in the Scottish first division for Clyde) came to Eastwood. Because he was right footed, I was switched to inside left, and we had what may have been the best team Eastwood ever had.
David, now in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
My First Day at School
Even though it's over 70 years ago, I can vividly recall my first day at Busby School, a small primary school in East Renfrewshire (see picture at the top of this page). The building was constructed in 1905 and still survives as a primary school for the area. I was five years old and vividly recall being allocated a desk and looking anxiously at the door of the class as some of the mothers, including mine, were initially congregated - perhaps they were feeling as concerned as we were to be separated for the first time. Gradually the mothers drifted away, one by one and I recall the moment I looked over and realised that my mother had also gone. After a moment of panic I realised that all the other kids were just "getting on with it" and I decided that I should just do the same. After all, in a few hours it would be lunchtime and I would be walking - on my own - back to my home for something to eat before returning for the afternoon session.
Slate Pencils and "The Tawse"
As I watch my grandson practicing his writing with pen and paper, I recall my early days at school when, presumably to save money, our initial writing was done on slates with wooden frames and "slate pencils" which left our initial letters and words on the slate - until they were wiped off so that we could use the slates again and again. The desks were in rigid rows facing the teacher and there were slots at the back to take our slates when not in use. You can see a slate in the graphic on the right taken at Summerlee, Museum of Scottish Industrial Life in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire. Also in the picture is a school bell and on the table is a leather belt used for corporal punishment. Throughout my time at school in Scotland and for many years afterwards, teachers were allowed to maintain discipline by using the thick leather belts (known as "tawse" or "Lochgellies" - after the town where many of them were manufactured). Pupils had to hold out their hands and the teachers would use the belts to inflict pain by striking them with the belt. Some male teachers were feared for their skill with their belts. Although it was mainly the boys who were punished in this fashion, girls were not totally immune. In Scotland, corporal punishment in schools was not banned by parliament until 2000 although its use had waned in the years before this.
If you would like to contribute your memories of Scotland when you were young, please send your stories to Scottie@RampantScotland.com
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