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The School Board 1897

Since the Reformation in 1560 schools in Scotland had been run and maintained by the local parish, or burgh council. Schoolmasters were appointed by the parish minister and heritors (landowners), the heritors having the right to nominate and approve because they were liable in law to pay for the schoolmaster’s salary and to build and repair schoolhouses. However, the system began to run into trouble after the Church of Scotland broke apart during the ‘Great Disruption’ of 1843.

In 1872 the Education (Scotland) Act was passed which established a new national system of education for the country. Attendance at school was now made compulsory until the age of 11, though teachers did not (since 1861) have to belong to the Church of Scotland. School boards were established to oversee the administration of the schools, and staffed by elected officials who stood from among men in the local community, often including ministers and priests, so churches continued to have a strong influence in the choice of candidates.

In the letter cited here (see PDF article below) we learn that a public meeting was held at Ardler, near Dundee, on Wednesday 7 April 1897, at which the present School Board had given account of its activities. During the meeting one of the new candidates for the board, Reverend Stuart, had made some discourteous remarks about the old board members, and they had apparently replied in kind. The meeting became the subject of letters to the press printed in the The Dundee Courier and Argus on the day of the election (Saturday 10 April) and one of those letters was written in Scots. It is a good example of local politics, and petty rivalries at play.