Scottish Mining Villages

Early 19th Century Education

March 15, 2005 | Comments Off on Early 19th Century Education

An early insight into education standards in mining areas was given by Robert Franks in his report on the East of Scotland District to the Children’s Employment Commission published in 1842:

“The usual elementary branches of education are taught at these schools day and evening, viz. reading, writing, and arithmetic. The instruction at the Sunday schools is purely of a religious character, and is totally insufficient to make up for the loss of other instruction by reason of the too early removal from week-day schools: the principles of Christianity alone are taught, not even the commonest branches of a secular education; children are there instructed in the Bible, not taught to read; and altogether Sunday schools afford but an inadequate substitute for day teaching, and on this subject there appears to be but one sentiment prevailing amongst those whose opinions I have gathered on it, among whom are many under whose inspection the parochial schools are carried on, and who a very active interest in the question of education. With reference to the Sunday and evening school instruction being insufficient to make up for the loss of instruction by early removal from day schools, Rev Colin McCulloch, of Haggs, parish of Denny, states:

“I have carefully observed this, and the result of my observation is that they have no pleasure in the broken education they are receiving. They are always at the foot of the class, though taller by the head and shoulders than those above; they are awkward and out of countenance when they get up, and not at ease till they sit down again, but most of them actually refuse to read at all, lest their ignorance should be seen. The state of mind which this produces is contentment with the lowest standard, a complete and almost unconquerable distrust of self, a blind surrender to the judgement of another, and a thorough dislike of reading. This applies to the mind only: I have not yet had time to watch this effect on their moral character, but I fully expect that they will be found to be, when a little older, amongst the least reputable of my parishioners.”

The age at which children are usually sent to school is about five and they are generally removed about nine – after a period insufficient for any useful object. In the parish of Inveresk and in the parish of Newton the opportunities of education have been carefully laid open, and many of the children are schoolfreed. The evidence of the Rev. J. Beveridge shows that, although great improvement is perceptible in the condition of collier children, they are generally removed from school at seven to eight years of age. At Dunnipace children leave so early as six, seven, eight, seldom so late as nine years of age. At Lochgelly boys leave at 10, girls below that age and without repeating the evidence we have gone through, the average may be stated at nine, of those who attend school at all.”

Appendix of Educational Returns from Report by Robert Franks:

Dunfermline, Fifeshire – Rev. Peter Chalmers. Pop. 19,778
A great number of Sabbath schools, some of them connected with particular congregations, others not, for the benefit of the young, and especially of the labouring classes; many of these are well attended, but still there are great numbers who most need such instruction who do no avail themselves of it. In addition to the parochial church there are two quoad spiritualia churches; one recently opened, chiefly for the class alluded to, but from the minister not being endowed seat-rents are necessarily exacted, which must be a hindrance to many attending these churches. A Government endowment would be an obvious means of making the means of religious instruction to the adult poor more accessible. There are about 30 day-schools of all kinds in the parish, attended by about 2000 children. The secular instruction is upon the whole good.

Many of the children are not sufficiently educated, and others not at all, partly in consequence of the inability of all parents to pay the fees, the ordinary rate of which is 3s. per quarter for reading, and a little more for writing, arithmetic, &c. This is especially the case where there are many children in a family. There is at present only one school in which the fees are only 2s. per quarter, and it is very numerously attended. With the help of the late Government grant there will be two others soon opened, where cheap and good education on Scripture principles will be afforded.

Auchterderran – Rev. Dr Murray. Collieries of Lochgelly. Pop. 1590.
One Sunday-school in Lochgelly, in connection with the United Secession Congregation there. The parochial school and a private school at Lochgelly for the ordinary branches of education. No industrial school in the parish. One school in which females children are taught to sew, &c.; notattended by persons employed in labour. None of the above schools are attended by the children of colliers. At Lochgelly boys generally leave at 10, girls below that age. At the parochial school boys at 12, girls about 10. The young persons employed in agriculture are in a better condition than those employed in the coal-mines, the former being more cared for by their parents and the farmers in whose service they are.

Ballingry – Pop. 372 – One school.

Dalgetty – Pop. 1300. Collier pop. about 1000 – Two schools: one parochial, one private, on payment of small fees. Since this return another large day-school has been established by Sir Philip Durham, supported by fees of scholars.

Beath – Pop. 921: 459 males; females 462. – The parochial school the only one in the parish.
Fees per quarter: reading 3s., 3s. 6d., 4s.; Latin and Greek 5s. Average attendance 100 scholars. In general the children read; there are some exceptions among the colliers.

Kirkcaldy-Rev J. Alexander. Pop. 5034

Here are several Sabbath-schools connected with the Established, the United Secession, and the Independent churches. There are also the following schools:

Burgh School
Philp’s School, Park
Forrester’s School, Park
Blackwood’s School
Bains School
Miss Kinghorn’s School
Coal-Hill School
A School supported by Miss Fergus for girls, and,
Miss Smart’s School
All in the town of Kirkcaldy

Needlework is taught in many; but very few, if any, of the children are engaged in labour. At the Coal Hill School 10 children of colliers may, for a part of the year, attend an evening class at one of the above.

Cluny Colliery, parish of Auchterderran – Mr. Peter Head, teacher, Cluny School
Young persons working in the coal-mines attend in the evening. No female school for needlework, &c. Those who wish to learn needlework, or other domestic work, go about three or four miles to Kirkcaldy; a number go there annually, and some of them are great proficients. Boys working in mines are fatigued in body, spirits dull; and whatever is done is looked upon as a task imposed on them rather than a benefit.