Free Books for Blantyre Schools, 1910

At the regular monthly meeting of the Blantyre School Board on Tuesday 10th May 1910, Mr Lamont reported to confer with the headmasters and get the fullest information with regard to supplying free books to all scholars in the Board’s schools in Blantyre.

The idea was a new one for Blantyre, that pupils would get their own book, to take home and work from throughout the curriculum, learning at home from such additional reading, rather than only during the day in class. The committee recommended that free books and stationery be supplied, and to make it a condition that all books would be supplied uniform (ie. the same books to all schools).

Mr McAnulty, in moving the Committee’s report, remarked that already the Board were giving to the children in the matter of requisites and free books fully a half of the total cost involved. The whole sum would only come to 2s 6d per scholar at the most liberal estimate, while at the time they were giving the rate of 1s per scholar. In reply to the Chairman, the Clerk stated that the total cost to the parish would be a whopping £421 4s and 5d.

That raised some eyebrows and undoubtedly a pretty large sum to involve the parish of Blantyre in during that era and a good question came up. Would the children not go through more books when they get them for nothing? Mr Lamont replied that if any child carelessly damaged the books provided, the Board would hold the parent responsible for their replacement, installing hopefully a sense of care of the property. Furthermore, at the end of each school year all books in service would be re issued to the next intake of scholars, which would have the effect of diminishing the initial expenditure. That way, the Committee thought that the scheme would not so costly as to begin with.

Mr McAnulty was particularly vocal. He mentioned that 1d in the £ would cover the cost, and it will be the best spent 1d the Board would ever spend! Mr James Kelly took strong exception to the uniformity recommendation of the Committee. This was however, for a particular reason. He argued that it was entirely unfair to the voluntary school at St Joseph’s and he thought that school should have the liberty to choose the special books which the headmaster there desired. McAoulty stated that in making that recommendation the Committee desired solely to have the books the same in all their own schools ; and that being they could not make any difference with regard the voluntary school. There was no religious principle involved in the recommendation at all.

Mr Kelly maintained that it would not be more expensive to provide the books the voluntary school desired than to accept the books used by the other schools. Mr McAnulty said that it was the matter of uniformity they had good lead by the action other Boards. In all other cases the voluntary schools accepted the conditions of uniformity laid down. Mr Lamont spoke up seeing that they were giving the books free to the voluntary school, the Board are entitled to have a say in the matter. The Chairman spoke – “Since there is only the one voluntary school in the Blantyre parish, I think we can come to amicable arrangement on the point”. After some further discussion, Mr Roberts moved amendment that the Board allow the R.C. School to get whatever books they saw fit, but subject to the supervision of the Board. Mr Kelly seconded.

And so it was, that ALL Blantyre Schools, of all denominations got their “free” books for pupils.

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