Nethy Bridge History

Comprehensive database with info and photos highlighting the fascinating history of Nethy and the surrounding area

Nethy Bridge History

Comprehensive database with info and photos highlighting the fascinating history of Nethy and the surrounding area

Nethy Bridge History

Comprehensive database with info and photos highlighting the fascinating history of Nethy and the surrounding area

Nethy Bridge History

Comprehensive database with info and photos highlighting the fascinating history of Nethy and the surrounding area

Nethy Bridge History

Comprehensive database with info and photos highlighting the fascinating history of Nethy and the surrounding area

Home » History » Abernethy Primary School

Abernethy Primary School

Location/map ref

Opposite the House of Abernethy (Abernethy Trust)


Lachlan Shaw – 1711 Gregor Nicholson – 1729 – 1733 Patrick Grant – 1730 Malcolm Grant – 1749 Francis Lauder – 1752 George Dempster – 1754 Duncan Cameron – 1760 John Vass – 1780 David MacBean – 1782-90 William Pirie – 1803 William MacDonald – 1804 – 45 James Grant – 1845 – 70 Donald Grant MA – 1870 – 76 George Sorrie MA – 1876 -80 Andrew Steele MA – 1880 John Scott MA – 1920 until he retired in 1935 Howard Edge –  Rona Bootle ( Present)

Lachlan Shaw 1711 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster – see below) Native of Rothiemurchus. Later minister at Kingussie, Cawdor and Elgin. At Elgin, he wrote ‘History of Moray’.

Gregor Nicholson 1729-1733 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster) Transferred from Inverallan in response to request for a teacher from ‘several husbandmen in the braes of the parish of Abernethy’.

Patrick Grant 1730 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

Malcolm Grant 1749 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

Francis Lauder 1752 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

George Dempster 1754 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

Duncan Cameron 1760 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

John Vass 1780 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

David MacBean 1782 – 1790 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

William Pirie 1803 Transferred to Grantown Grammar School (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster)

William MacDonald 1804 – 1845 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster) Over 30 years in post. Taught Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Book Keeping, Latin, Mathematics, Precepts of Religion, Geography (by 1841) (Report by the church minister).

James Grant 1845 – 1870 (SSPCK ambulatory schoolmaster) Donald Grant MA 1870 – 1876 First master of Abernethy Primary School? Became Minister of Dornoch, Sutherland.

George Sorrie MA 1876 – 1880 Later became master of Stonehaven Grammar School. Andrew Steele MA 1880 Assisted by Margaret Taylor, qualified teacher.

John Scott MA 1920 until he retired n 1935 John Scott MA – headmaster from 1920 until he retired in 1935 (Photograph from Mrs Mary Scott, granddaughter).

1711 onwards ambulatory rural schools were usually sited in the church yard. 1750 – early 1800s Likely that a somewhat cramped stone building was built – its ground floor being the school and the upper floor being accommodation for the master and family. In response to a misdemeanour, the Kirk Session ordered a local man to ‘cut and lead all the timber necessary for the schoolhouse and to bind and set up the couples [timbers] at his own charge’.

1870s Subsequent to Lord Young’s Education Act, Abernethy school replaced the parish school. Responsibility for provision of schools transferred from church to state.Improved by the addition of a class room and appointment of a female teacher. New house also provided for the school master. Late 1800s (original schoolhouse – new build)

Other references

M. O’Reilly Explore Abernethy Visitor Centre  Forsyth, W (1900) ‘In the Shadow of Cairngorm’ (Inverness) Munro, Dr. J ‘The Church in Abernethy’ (research document for Abernethy parish church)

Mr Scott with his wife Jeannie, possibly outside the schoolhouse (Photograph from Mrs Mary Scott, granddaughter.

Mr Scott with all his teachers (Photograph from Mrs Mary Scott, granddaughter).

Howard Edge – Present headteacher

Abernethy Primary School class photograph (about 1895-96)

Note the bulges in the boys jackets; lunch. The only person known in the picture is Andrew Gordon, 2nd from right, back row, he was born 1884. He went to the States, and his grandson was a musician.

Abernethy Primary School class photograph (circa 1900)

(Photograph donated to Explore Abernethy by Mrs B. Millar, local resident). Back row, left to right Maggie Cameron (Causer, married Mr James MacAulay) Molly Macdonald (Sawmill) Maggie Stephen (Dell Nurseries, married Mr Willie Marshall, head forester at Dell Nursery) Maggie Grant (Balnagowan, teacher Abernethy School) Margaret Cameron (Badnedin, aunt of Barbara Millar) Maggie Steele (Schoolhouse) Second row, left to right James Kennedy (Dell Farm) John Dewar (Woodbine Cottage, Rothiemoon) James Grant (Lainchoil) Master MacPherson (Boat of Garten) William McNicol (Dorback Lodge) Nathaniel Cameron (West Cullachie, grand uncle of Barbara Millar) Third row, left to right Margaret Grant (Rothiemoon) Mary Cameron (Croftnagarn) Barbara Cameron (Badnedin, mother of Barbara Millar) Margaret Burgess (Aldersyde) Bella Robertson (Causer, mother of Isobel ‘Epie’ Grant) Elsie Hamilton (Bognacruie, gamekeepers daughter) Bessie Cruikshank (Seafield Place, gamekeeper’s daughter) Annabella Steele (Schoolhouse) Front row, left to right Tom King (policeman’s son. ? Son of Constable King, from Nethy Bridge, killed on duty 1898) Madge Steele (Schoolhouse, married name Mrs Fullerton) Grace Kennedy (Dell farm, married abroad) Gregor Grant (shoemaker)

School Legislation

1696 – Act of Scottish Parliament ordered that every parish should have a school, the heritors providing accommodation and a salary for the teacher. The teacher would be appointed by the heritors, minister and Presbytery of the Church of Scotland. 1709 – The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was set up to fund extra schoolteachers (and so called ‘charity schools’). Up until now, large highland parishes had only one school serving them – a completely inadequate arrangement. This new arrangement provided ‘ambulatory’ schools – the teacher was accommodated by the locals of a particular community and then, after a few years, moved to another location in the parish. This was in order to spread the benefits of education as widely as possible. The Presbytery of Abernethy petitioned Parliament to allow them to spend unused funds on the ‘the erection and maintenance of schools’. The spare money stemmed from the absence of church ministers in post at the time. The petition was signed by James Grant of Freuchie, among others. 1867 – at this time there was a Free Church School and several ‘private tutors’ who were paid for by local parents. Report requested two parish schools – one to cover Tulloch and Boat of Garten and another to cover the Braes of Abernethy, upper Clachaig and upper Aultmore. 1892-96 – Abernethy School Recognised as the Central School for Secondary Education. Received an annual GBP 40 grant from the Inverness shire Secondary Education Committee. Following recommendations from the Education Department and HM Schools Inspector an extra teacher was employed and accommodation was increased. However, numbers of children in the catchment area later reduced, leading to reductions in grants and staffing.

School Routine (1837)

School roll varied between 114 girls and 73 boys, aged between 5 and 20. Likely that attendance irregular as children were often needed to work at home. School day Winter 9am – 3pm / 10am – 4pm, with one hour break. Summer 7am – 5pm, with 2 breaks. School holidays One day at Christmas, one day at New Year and the month of September ( for harvest work ). Sabbath school instituted in 1821. Headteacher given Saturdays off from 1856.

Additional material below kindly provided by Dr J Munro & Elizabeth Fleming (2008). An act of the Scottish Parliamentin 1696 ordered that there should be a school in every parish, the heritors (local landowners) providing a commodious house and a salary for the master, who should be appointed jointly by the heritors, the minister and the Presbytery.

The earliest recorded schoolmaster of Abernethy in 1711 was Lachlan Shaw, a native of Rothiemurchus who later, as minister of Elgin, wrote The History of Moray. Thereafter during the 18th and early 19th centuries masters followed each other (see list below) under the annual supervision of the Kirk Session.

A detailed report in 1837 by the minister Donald Martin shows that the schoolmaster William Macdonald had been more than 30 years in the post, and that he taught Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Book-keeping, Latin, Mathematics and the Precepts of Religion, and by 1841 also Geography. The pupils (or their parents) paid a quarterly fee for each subject – for example English 2 shillings, with Writing 2/6, with Arithmetic 3s, Maths 5-10s and Latin 5s. Mr Macdonald was qualified to teach higher studies but said that he was never asked to do so. The school roll varied between 144 and 73 girls and boys aged between 5 and 20, but attendance was very irregular and probably only happened when the children were not needed to work at home. The school day lasted from 9 till 3 or 10 till 4 in winter with one hour break and from 7 till 5 with two breaks in summer, and holidays consisted of one day each at Christmas and New Year and a month in September for work at the harvest.

In 1821 the Presbytery recommended that the schoolmaster should open a Sabbath school also and it was not until 1856 that the hard worked dominie was granted a whole free day on Saturday.

The schoolhouse may have been at first in the churchyard as was usual in rural parishes, but the present site has been used for centuries. In 1750 a new school was evidently needed as a small sum was voted by the Kirk Session for it and a defaulter was ordered to cut asnd lead all the timber and to set up the couples.

By 1837 the building, reported to be over 20 years old, was made of stone and lime and slated but had insufficient accommodation – the schoolroon being on the ground floor with the master’s family living above. Highland parishes were so large that one parish school was totally inadequate and in 1709 the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was founded to provide money to pay extra schoolmasters, cathecists and missionaries.

The teachers were appointed centrally on local recommendadtion and the schools, often called charity schools, were supervised by the Kirk Session. The SSPCK schools were ‘ambulatory’ with no set schoolhouse- the master being located in a small house, or part of a larger one, for a few years before being moved to another area so as to spread the advantages of education as widely as possible.

The first such school in Abernethy parish was set up at Kincardine in 1722 when the master, Thomas Donaldson, was sent a parcel of books including 20 Bibles, 7 dozen Catechisms, 4 Arithmetic books, 2 English grammars and 8 quires of writing paper. From then on there were occasional charity schools in the parish including more than one in the Braes. There were even some private enterprise tutors paid for by parents for a few years in a particular area. In 1753 ‘a young gentleman named George Dempster’ described as ‘late tutor in Lurg’ took over the parish school for a short time.

By 1867 in addition to the Free Church school there were a number of these private ‘adventure schools’ in Tulloch, the Braes, Garten and Aultmore with at least 30 children on each roll, one teacher and often very poor accommodation. These schools were to disappear after the passing of the Education Act of 1872. This took the provision of education away from the church and gave it to the state – at various times represented by Inverness County Council and Highland Region – through local School Boards. Education was now free for all and the age for finishing compulsory school was gradually raised. Additional building has been done at various times to deal with larger pupil numbers but in the early 1970s the school ceased to provide secondary education (in favour of Grantown) and the extra space was used by the county/region as a base for short courses of outdoor education for visiting pupils.

List of schoolmasters: Lachlan Shaw c 1711, Patrick Grant 1730, Malcolm Grant 1749, Francis Lauder 1752, George Dempster 1753/4, Duncan Cameron 1760, John Vass 1780, William Pirie 1803, William Macdonald 1804-45, James Grant 1845-70, Donald grant 1870-76, George Sorrie 1876-80, Andrew Steele 1880, Kenneth Fraser, John Mathieson, John MacLeod, James Stewart, Ewan Ross, Howard Edge.

Abernethy Primary School class photograph 1953

Coronation class photograph kindly provided by Sheila Lunn nee Morrice [12 July 2011]

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