School Matters, 1899

The monthly meeting on Tuesday 14th March 1899 by the Blantyre School Board proved an important meeting for local Schools. The meeting was held in the Board room of Low Blantyre School with Dr Grant presiding. A number of matters discussed such as :

Physical Education – the board resumed their previous discussion about whether to introduce physical education into Blantyre schools. With the new Auchinraith School being built, intention was to appoint a drill instructor, who would take the children on a programme of physical education, both indoors and out. Neil Douglas agreed this would be a good idea, something already implemented in schools outwith the area. However, others were opposed. Like Mr Small who stated this would be nothing short of introducing millenarianism into schools, a precursor for shaping children for the army or navy.

He argued if it was wellbeing of children being considered, the physical education grants would be better spent on giving children food, so none were hungry. However, ultimately the chairmans proposals were agreed to and the introduction of physical education pushed forward. In the year which followed, the drill instructor came under some criticism for drilling the children outside in all weather, including rain and snow, with the board agreeing that this practice should end in favour rescheduling in better weather.

Other matters were on the agenda in that meeting including:

Cleaning of the School – Mr James Keith, Compulsory Officer was to be relieved of cleaning the High Blantyre School following his letter to the board that they were giving him too many duties to fulfil under his usual salary. The board agreed they HAD imposed to many tasks to Mr Keith and suggested that a woman be employed separately for the cleaning of the school on a salary of 18s per week.

Uniform for the Janitors – As a school official, it was decided a uniform would be appropriate for janitors. Janitors of High and Low Blantyre Schools were to be provided uniforms by Mr Alexander Hamilton, tailor of High Blantyre and Mr Caldwell of Low Blantyre.

Proposal for new Council Chambers – Finally, the board discussed communicating with the Parish Council to see if they could hire meeting space in the new proposed Council Chambers at Cemetery Road. Mr Small stated it would be a great blessing to have all the public committees meeting under the one roof, in the same building.

Altogether a very busy meeting! Illustration by AI (not Blantyre)

On social media, the following comments were provided by readers:

Elizabeth Weaver So that’s why we called PE “drill” at Auchinraith in the 1950s! It still seemed pretty basic – marching in time, with the occasional spell of beanbag-throwing in the playground – but was a welcome relief from the classroom  It didn’t seem to be timetabled either – or maybe it was and I didn’t realise. Nobody seemed to tell us anything. Oh I do remember having “drill” in the hall on occasion and some heavy old wooden equipment was dragged out for the more athletic children to leap over. I recall that Nan Brown landed badly one day and broke her arm; some of us heard it crack. She came back to school a day or two later, all plastered up and told us it had been a compound fracture – first time I’d heard of that.

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