Many people in Blantyre will remember their old schools, most of which have been demolished in the last 40 years. Before the Primary and Secondary schools, you may even have heard of an old school existed during the 1800’s at School Lane, High Blantyre, or indeed at the Village works school near Monteiths Mills.
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“.
This is that same old Kirkyard School that Rev Wright writes about in 1885 in Annals of Blantyre book. 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.“
This timber “Adventure” Kirkyard school was obviously gone by 1885 and the School Lane one in use as early as 1850s.
I thought I was doing well, when I uncovered the aforementioned need for an early Blantyre school, but there was one thing puzzling me. There is a stone in the perimeter wall of Old Parish Church, directly opposite the door of the boiler house which is inscribed “John Dunlop School Mr 1704”. This stone was obviously once part of an earlier school, even earlier than the 1731 Adventure School in the Kirkyard. Gordon Cook once told me, “After the Reformation, John Knox, and later Andrew Melville pushed very strongly to get a school in every parish.”
Gordon referred me to this page, which comes from the Atlas of Scottish History to 1707, edited by Peter G. B. McNeil and Hector L. McQueen from Edinburgh University, (Scottish Medievalists and Geography departments. It was published in 1996, and the page attached is in the section called “Distribution of Lowland Schools before 1633” it is page 439. The page indicates that a school in Blantyre existed even earlier tan 1731, indeed as far back as a hundred years before that! This also brings up another question, how old was that school, was it in fact pre-reformation or was it opened in deference to the reformer’s ‘Book of Disciple’ of 1560 which advocated schools in every parish?
This is indeed the earliest mention of any school in Blantyre.