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Rev Stevenson during the 1700s left us all a marvelous account of education in Blantyre during 1785. He wrote in the Statistical account for that year, “There is only one school in the Parish. The schoolmaster’s salary is about £6, but he has neither house nor garden belonging to the office. The number of scholars is usually about 50 and the whole living amount may amount to about £20 per annum“.
A century later Rev Wright during 1885 reflects how terrible this must have been. He comments “what a school room it was, where our forefathers were taught! None of your palatial edifices as we have now (Nessies School, School Lane and High Blantyre) but a low thatched roofed hut, standing at one corner of the Kirkton graveyard, where the snow and the rain found an easy ingress even to the very “hearthstone” and the cold wind, “blawing loud wi angry sugh” was kept out by urchins as best as they could, for they stuffed an old hat of the maisters and a bonnet of one of the boys into the broken panes.“
Rev Wright clearly felt education had come a long way in those 100 years, as clearly it has done again 130 years later. Today we have state of the art schools and cannot comprehend the hardships those little Blantyre children had to endure. At the time of the 1770’s, Blantyre only had a population of about 500 people. It was before the industrial days of the mills or coal and Blantyre was a sleepy, very small agricultural village.
I’ve uncovered a first need for Blantyre’s school. At a general meeting of the Heritors of Blantyre, held on the 18th May 1731, the following minuted action was passed “The Heritors taking to their consideration that notwithstanding by the 9th Act of the session of the 5th Parliament of King William, it is expressly stated and ordained that the Heritors of each Parish meet and provide a commodious house for a school, yet they have never had any such school, and in order to supply the defect they have agreed to build a house 22 feet long and 18 feet wide on the South side corner of the Kirkton Churchyard, at a cost of one hundred pounds Scots“.
So it would seem Blantyre got it’s first schoolhouse, but by 50 years later, it was falling down. Shortly after, a more substantial school was built in school lane, making way for the secured collapse of the kirk school to make way for more graves.