It’s 141 years to the day since High Blantyre (and Low Blantyre Ness’s) Schools opened. This article though seeks to provide a detailed history of the High Blantyre School. The following article has taken some time to research, but I hope you find interesting.
High Blantyre Primary School –The school was built from the same plans as Ness’s School at Stonefield, which was opened the same day on Monday 26th October 1875. See Stonefield Parish Primary School for a description of the opening ceremony.
The new school was to take over from the nearby Parochial School in School Lane, which was to be made redundant. On the opening day a ceremony was held at noon, but the school was not quite ready, focus being on pupils arriving to Low Blantyre.
The Architect was Andrew J Smith. There was a trefoil design on the front of the school, which was made of stone, single storey and was located at address 15 Hunthill Road.
Pupils and staff eventually moved to the school at Hunthill Road on 9th November 1875, just over a fortnight following the “opening day.” The Headmaster in 1879, according to Naismiths Directory was Mr. David Dunlop and the mistress, Miss Aitken. David was appointed headmaster when the school had opened.
Due to an increase in numbers, a large addition to the building was opened in 1881, which almost immediately was proven to still be inadequate. To relieve congestion the large halls of the nearby Parish Church Hall was adopted as a spillover area for pupils, the School Board arranging this from 5th June 1896, which continued up until October 1900.
The turn of the 20th Century continued to provide logistical problems to accommodate so many children in High Blantyre. By August 1904, the Masonic Hall was being used for classroom spillover, whilst a further reconstruction of the School took place. The Church Hall was again used when term started in August 1905 until the reconstruction of the school to include 2 brand new classrooms, was completed and ready for use on 4th December 1905.
Pupils in those early years are pictured here:
Numbers again swelled and the ante-room of Struther’s Hall on Main Street was in use as a classroom spillover during October 1910. A further reconstruction was proposed in 1911 to permit a further 3 classrooms. The reconstruction works were to take place concurrently with the building of Blantyre Intermediate School (later known as Calder Street).
It is between the years of 1911 and 1913 that the front façade of High Blantyre School may have changed by removing the door on the front facing Hunthill Road and other reconstructions like positioning of some windows. Where the front door originally was, facing out on to Hunthill Road was replaced by four long windows, and the arch with the inscription has gone also, replaced by four fan light windows, and the bell tower gone too, perhaps as a result of subsidence from nearby Dixons. The reconstruction works finished late on 25th August 1913, but there is no doubt that the work, including the re-zoning of pupils and the opening of the Intermediate School, alleviated the pressure of overcrowding.
Mr George H. Bews was appointed headmaster of this school in March 1932. It is worth noting that the school was used throughout its life as a polling station, even as early as the 1890’s.
The boys went in at a door on the south gable, and the girls entered on the north gable. Girls and boys were separated often at Primary schools. They entered the building at separate entrances, marked by engravings on the sandstone itself. The bell was hand rung by the janitor as he walked round the playground.
According to the valuation roll of 1930, the County Council of Lanark then owned it. In the late 1940’s, a Miss Galloway was a teacher there and would have taught many of the pupils pictured. In post WW2 years the front middle section was the deputy head’s classroom, was Mr. Thomas Ferriers. People may remember the high ceilings in the classrooms, the wooden splintered gym hall in the centre of the building and the cold classrooms.
On 17th November 1967, the High Blantyre Primary School in Hunthill Road went on fire. It is unknown if it was started deliberately or accidentally. School children were given several days off much to their elation. Even as firefighters were still on the roof, local reporters captured a photo of children William Shaw, Ian Baird (The Janitor’s son) and John Dixon positively levitating with excitement. Speaking in 2014, upon seeing this photo again, grown up William Shaw Clealland said, “I remember that day well. Like most of the kids, I was in the main hall eating school dinner when the head teacher came in and told us to leave our dinners and get out as the school was on fire! It was pretty serious at one point with flames leaping through the roof but thanks to the swift action of the Fire Service the damage was limited mainly to the left hand classroom and office. A photographer from the Hamilton Advertiser took the photo and he wanted us to jump for joy as the school caught fire. The photo was quite staged for the press. I can’t remember how long the school was closed for but I think we were all back to school pretty quickly. I was William Shaw at primary and McClelland from secondary school onwards. I lived in Sydes Brae and now stay in Hunthill Road. See I haven’t moved far!”
During the 1960’s the school had an accomplished girls Netball team and a choir. During the 1970s, the old school bell was on loan to a school in Airdrie after which, when returned it was kept for fire emergencies. Also in the 1970’s the school was known as the Annexe on account of it being an extended few classrooms of the nearby more modern High Blantyre Primary School.
Putting the four windows in, closing over the main entrance and simply using the side entrances, the school would effectively have further valuable office or class space without actually changing the footprint, which was required given reports of overcrowding at Blantyre schools in the early 20th Century.
Mid 20th Century teachers at High Blantyre Primary School included Mrs Thain, Mr David Crawford (snr) who was the headmaster and succeeded Mr. Linnen. Also there were Mr Craig Brown who taught P.E, Mr Ferrier, Miss Rennie and Mrs Kennedy.
In 1972 the primary sevens were bused to Cairns Primary in Halfway as the school was then so overcrowded. Something had to be done and the answer came in the building of a new High Blantyre Primary School in Broompark Road in early and mid Summer 1973.
The old school had latterly 15 classrooms upon its closure at end of term on 29th June 1973. Pupils were transferred to the modern, High Blantyre Primary School on term opening on 20th August 1973 at Broompark Road. However, the High Blantyre School continued to be used as an Annexe afterwards until it eventually succumbed to fire damage.
The new Primary School when opening on Broompark Road was not large enough for the number of children that lived within the capture area. This may have been due to new housing estates constructed around the same time of the Primary School.
In 1975 schools in High Blantyre were still in crisis. The old High Blantyre Primary School was almost 100 years old. Directors of Education thought the answer was simple. The High Blantyre Primary School laying in ruin in Hunthill Road had been closed 2 years earlier and was rapidly becoming an eyesore. Boarded up windows, hid vandalism throughout the empty derelict building. The plan was to renovate, modernize and open the school, which was over 100 years old and generally thought of within the town as being past it’s sell by date. Backlash and opposition to the plan, was spearheaded by parents with some very strong, public protests.
Councillor Malcolm Waugh in July 1975 asked Strathclyde Regional Educational Committee not to re-open the school, but instead to provide huts in the playground of the new Primary School. This proposal was similar to one used successfully at Blantyre High. Malcolm argued that the school was ancient, on a busy road with toilets grossly inadequate and had no provision for modern TV room, a library or proper recreation. His views were rejected and the School Committee pressed on with the renovation at a cost of £24,000 knowing fine well only 150 pupils could be accommodated there. It was decided the older Primary pupils would be mature enough to make the transition.
A case was made that it would have cost £60,000 to put permanent huts in the New Primary School, take away important recreation space never mind the maintenance costs. Councillor William Harley suggested that although not ideal, opening the old primary school was the best option and additional road patrols would be put on to ensure the safety of pupils crossing the busy road. The Committee voted by 29 votes to 8 to re-open the school, which took place on time in August 1975.
From that year Primary 5 pupils would leave the new High Blantyrre Primary School at Broompark Road and spend a year or even two at the old school, or the “High Blantyre Annexe” as it was quickly renamed. High Maintenance, heating costs, plumbing and electrical breakdowns resulted in pupils often being sent home in winter. However, it was Councillor Waugh who proved himself right, when the annexe eventually closed for good in 1980. It lay for some time before being demolished entirely. It is now the site of Kirk Care Nursing Home.
2nd High Blantyre School: The new High Blantyre Primary School at Larkfield opened officially at the start of term on 20th August 1973. Of a modern, precast construction, the school was single storey, but the large height of the gym hall, gave it an appearance of being 2 storeys in places.
Located on Broompark Road, it had gated entrances at both Broompark Road and the western side on to Hunthill Road. The grounds were large and spacious affording excellent play areas with enough room for annual sports races to take place. It had large, extensive playgrounds and good access from all directions with entrances at both Hunthill Road and Broompark Road.
Teachers in those initial years included Mrs Dalrymple, Mrs Banks, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Glen, Miss Thomson, Mrs Brown, Miss Hay, Mrs Wishart, Mrs Summers, Mrs Kennedy and Mr Robinson. Headmaster was Mr Rhodes. The school was demolished in early 2005 to make way for a third and current High Blantyre Primary School.
Current School: Is located on approximately the same site of the 1973 school, directly across from Blantyre Carrigans. Pupils moved in following Christmas and New Year 2005 in that new term, i.e in January 2006.
The school has good parking facilities and was constructed as part of South Lanarkshire’s Schools reform programme although the playground is greatly reduced in size from the previous school. In 2006 High Blantyre Primary was commended as an Eco-School. The headmistress is Catherine Meechan.
As of end 2015, the school has 299 pupils with further 36 in the nursery class. The non denominational school has capacity though for up to 406 pupils. From April 2006 there have been supported classes for pupils with Autism within the school. Class sizes are approx. 24. Pupils normally transfer from primary to secondary school between the ages of 11.5 or 12.5.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016
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My Granny Penelope Braidwood Shaw (b1907) was a Dux medal winner at school at age 12 (1919?) She lived in Cemetery Row (now Rd) . I am guessing she would have gone to High Blantyre Primary. My Granny died at a very young age of only 33 in 1940, leaving 7 children.. and my Mother for many many tears had a photo of her in a white dress with her hair in ribbons and wearing her Dux medal. One fof only 2 photos ever taken of her, The other photo was taken in 1924 at age 17. I have that original photo. It belonged to my widowed Grandfather and he promised I would be given that photo one day.. in 1966 .. It came to me in 1980.
Such precious memories Penelope, your Granny was a very clever person of whom you must be very proud. Sad that only two photos remain, but lucky to have those eh? My Grannie was born in 1897, and we only have the same 2 photos of her when she was young and one was her wedding photo. I have preserved them, copied them, shared them with my family so that they never get lost. Enjoy your photos!