This month, regular research Alistair Cameron tells us about his favourite document:
This document provides valuable evidence of the early history of an elementary school in the village of Drumgeith, supported by local subscriptions and later, significantly, also by the Parish Church of Dundee. A few entries tell us that, at least in the late 1860s, the annual average attendance of pupils was between forty and fifty.
An entry of 22nd February 1837 lists the earliest known subscribers, prefaced by the undertaking that –
“We whose names are under noted promise to pay the sums annexed to our names for the support of the School of Drumgeith for the year from Martinmas 1836 to Martinmas 1837”.
In addition to details of the subscriptions we are told who the school’s teachers were, what yearly salaries they received (rising from £7in 1842 to £18 in 1871) and, in one entry of 20th January 1842, the quarterly fees they were permitted to charge. These appear to have remained unchanged until 1871 and were –
“.... for English reading, three shillings: reading and writing, three and sixpence: reading writing and arithmetic, four shillings.” [15p, 17½p and 20p today respectively]
In 1853 a new building was opened, replacing the old school housed in one of the village’s white cottages – possibly the very one seen at the far end of the row in this Photopolis picture held at the Library, taken about 1891. The family shown here are James and Jane Murray, with four of their children – Frank, James, George and William – all four of whom enrolled at Drumgeith School.
Taken together these exhibits thus show both the earliest known written evidence of Drumgeith School, together with the earliest known photographic evidence of any of its pupils.
It will come as no surprise to some that I have chosen a document relating to Drumgeith School for, though I am not one if its former pupils, detailing its history from the early 19th century until its closure in 1963 has occupied me (almost obsessively!) for a number of years. The Subscribers’ Minute Book was one of a small group of documents which introduced me, not only to the history of the school itself but also to the community which it served and the national elementary education system it was part of.