David Dunlop was a former Headmaster of High Blantyre School. His story is one worth exploring not only due to his long, remarkable career, but also as a much respected teacher, he was embedded in the very fabric of improving the education of Blantyre children at a time when schools were going through many changes.
When David Dunlop was born in 1848 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, his father, George, was 39 and his mother, Agnes Andrew, was 35. David was baptised in Saint Andrew’s Free Church in Greenock but only spent the first few years of his life there before the family moved to Govan, Glasgow (around 1852).
The Dunlop family lived in Govan throughout the 1850’s and 1860s. The passing of the 1872 Education Act would have a huge impact on David’s life, when he was observed as a young teacher at the Highland Academy in Greenock by Blantyre Parish Council. Blantyre officials had decided to build two brand new schools as a result of the Act. One in High Blantyre and another in Low Blantyre and David when he was 25 years old, was appointed as a young headmaster on 10th May 1873 in readiness as construction of the schools was about to start.
This prompted a move to Blantyre in 1873 and he formally took change of the High Blantyre School in capacity of Headmaster in May 1875, overseeing in the months preceding this, the transition of pupils to the new school. Major Ness, teacher at the Village was given the same role at the Low Blantyre School.
This was a promotion for David. From teacher to headmaster and the Parish Council had no issue with this, as David’s scholarly attainments proved him more than capable for the new role. His talent for precision and dedication to teaching made him more than suitable and it was this and the respect he had already earned from teachers and pupils, which got him noticed.
He had married by 1881 and was living in High Blantyre together with his wife and sister in law. He had two sons and one daughter with Jessie E Dunlop between 1884 and 1890. (George in 1884, Annabella in 1887 and James in 1890 (d 1916). The family lived in High Blantyre, near to the school together with Jessie’s sister who was their housekeeper.
David stuck by his motto of being first in school each day and the last to leave. He imposed strict discipline throughout all aspects of his work and all his duties were discharged thoroughly and efficiently. He did not tolerate carelessness in teaching or from his pupils. When a teacher arrived at the school late, Mr Dunlop would be standing at the gate between the stone pillars of the adjacent wall, with watch in hand. Nothing was said and the exchange of look on each person’s face would do more than any lecture ever could. Many teachers ended up with his attributes, as he got involved personally in the training of teachers and his ideals were eventually cloned. He also personally assisted the teachers in the preparation of their studies to ensure uniformity from class to class, year to year.
Blantyre Parish Officials never needed to intervene in any of his duties, having full confidence in him.
Unlike other teachers, David was a fairly private man and throughout his life declined to take part in public affairs, meetings and Parish matters. With exception to this was his confident ability to preside as some social gatherings, where such events needn’t be minuted. Although he did not mingle throughout the general public, he was a gentleman at all times, most sincere and his integrity and uprightness of character endeared him to a large circle of friends.
David took an active interest in the Anderson U.F Church on Stonefield Road and perhaps no other section of the community missed him more, outside of school than the congregation did. He had been an earnest, popular and active member of the Church. Indeed he spent 34 years of his life as a Church Elder, was Session Clerk and Superintendent of the Sunday School. Nothing was too much trouble and all for the good of the Church.
By Winter 1909, David’s health was deteriorating fast at only 61 years old. He died on 26 November 1909 in High Blantyre, Lanarkshire, at the age of 62, his passing marking the end of one of Blantyre’s most honoured citizens. He had been the headmaster at High Blantyre School for some 34 years, 36 years if his preparation years were included.
As Rev James Campbell struggled to tell his congregation the sad news at the following Sunday sermon, the minister was overcome by emotion and unable to get the words out at the loss of his dear friend and colleague. The news was cut short, only being able to be briefly mentioned and an apology was offered to the church goers promising a more detailed, fitting tribute at the eventual funeral. Other Churches felt the loss too with Rev T.A Hugh telling the Livingstone Memorial Church of the news.
His obituary in 1909 said, “No headmaster had ever been adored more by his pupils and fellow teachers than Mr Dunlop and many young teachers have to thank him for the good positions they now occupy. Nothing gave him greater delight that to come into contact with old pupils and to hear of their eventual successes in life. People who came into contact with him always felt they were in the presence of the most kindly of men. His work in the school will always stand as a memorial to his name and teachers and scholars are in mourning to the loss of their beloved headmaster.”
David was to be buried in the town of his birth and his funeral took place on 30th November 1909 in Greenock. In view of the distance many people would have had to travel, a sermon and some arrangements took place beforehand in Blantyre, for which remains a good description.
That particular morning, the weather was shocking. A hurricane of wind and rain raged all morning. At 10.30am a service was held in the family house in High Blantyre, and was attended by the relatives and private friends. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. James Campbell. Simultaneously, another service, which was attended by the members of the School Board and a large number of prominent citizens, was held in the school, opposite. Among the company were many old scholars of Mr Dunlop who had come long distances to pay their last respects to his memory. This service was conducted by the Rev. Messrs Turnbull and Hugh, and its impressiveness was intensified by the singing of the school children of such appropriate hymns as “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” and “Now the labourer’s task is o’er.”
After the service, the children, to the total number of about 600, were lined up on each side of the road from the Schoolhouse on Hunthill Road to High Blantyre Cross and as he had wanted in life, the schoolmaster passed through the lines of his pupils in death. The children having paid their last tribute of respect, faces were dimmed, as under the stormy conditions of the weather it was deemed advisable to keep them no longer than a few minutes in the open air on those narrow pavements.
The cortege slowly wound its way to High Blantyre Cross, through High Blantyre, Broompark, and thence down Stonefield Road, passed the Anderson Church to Glasgow Road and onwards to Blantyre Station, where the mourners entrained for Glasgow, and thence to Greenock. A large number of people journeyed to Greenock, but most of the funeral party accompanied the remains only to Blantyre Station, braving the weather until the train departed. Many beautiful wreaths were sent by friends and immediate relatives. Floral tributes were sent by the school children, the teaching staff of the school, and the children of Auchinraith School. Marble tokens of respect were given by the teaching staff of the school and the session and Deacon’s court of Anderson U.F. Church
Incredibly, David Dunlop was not the only teacher in Blantyre of that name and should not be confused with an earlier person during the 18th Century who co-incidentally was also a headmaster.
Local man Alex Rochead kindly provided David’s will. David Dunlop, school teacher wrote a holographic will and testament. This meant that members of his family and those that new him had to testify that it was written in his handwriting.