Mr John Ness (afterwards Major Ness F.E.I.S, V.D) came to Blantyre in February 1856. At that time he received an invitation from Messrs Henry Monteith & Co, proprietors of the old Blantyre Mills situated on the bank of the River Clyde, to take up the duties of headmaster of the School at Blantyre Works, which by the way was wholly maintained by the firm.
The offer was made through Dr Watson of St Matthews, Glasgow under whom Mr Ness had been a pupil and later a junior teacher. He accepted it and took up duties on 1st June 1856.
Mr Ness once told the story of his first day in school as thus: “When i came to the school on that morning nobody was there to receive me, nobody to introduce me to the scholars and i had just to start with the lessons as if I had been there the day before. If I had been a minister, said Mr Ness, I would have been received by a whole presbytery with a good dinner afterwards. But i was only a schoolmaster! When I came that morning to open the school, a number of boys were playing about and looking at me, someone said, “is this the new maister?”. “Yes”, I replied, “I am the schoolmaster”. A start was made with lessons on how to speak more properly.
Towards the close of that first day, Mr Miller, manager of the mills came into the school and imparted the following instructions to Mr Ness. “Mr Ness”, said he, “We have in this school a large number of boys who have gained notoriety as having become unmanageable and a mere rowdy and disobedient band of boys could scarcely be brought together. We want you to make a change to them, and whatever you do will be rightly supported by the firm.”
Continued tomorrow…..the works school is pictured.