Airth Parish School

Like all Scottish parishes in the early seventeenth century, Airth had a school paid for by the Heritors on behalf of the established Church.  At that time both the church and the school lay adjacent to Airth Castle in the High Town.  One of the earliest records comes from 30 July 1661 when :

the heritors and elders condiscended that a house should be conveniently taken for the schoolmaster and school by the sight of Sir Wm. Bruce of Stenhouse, Alexr. Mylne and Patrick Hodge.  The heritors undertake to pay the mailie [rent] thereof each of them according to their proportione, and if a convenient house cannot be had for to remaine constant for the use, the heritors allowes the schoolmaster to take ane house and they sall pay him the malie, it not exceeding ten pounds in the year which is 16:8 on the oxgate.”

(Records of the Kirk Session of Airth quoted in Bain, 27). 

In 1752 the schoolhouse was in need of repair (Airth Papers Ms10801, 45).  The parish had a dispersed population and in 1758 a new school was built for the western area (ibid Ms 10892, 3).  Writing for the Old Statistical Account in the 1790s the minister noted that

There is an established school in it, and a schoolmaster, who has a dwelling house and legal salary allowed him by the heritors.  The number of scholars, taught in it, is between 70 and 80.”

There was also a drift of the residents of the High Town down to the increasingly busy community adjacent to the harbour in what became the Low Town.  In 1816 James Cumming saw a business opportunity there and decided to use the upper floor of his hour in the Low Town as a school, with the teacher’s wages paid for by fees.   He obtained tables and benches in preparation but then heard rumours that September that a Mr Bell intended to set up a school in the Low Town (MS 10877, 138).  The general shift of the settlement to the coast was encouraged and financially supported by the Graham family so that they could create grass parks to the west of Airth Castle.  Janet Liddell kept an initiatory school in the “Heigh Town” and sold it to the Airth Friendly Society, who in turn passed it on to the Grahams in exchange for ground in the Laigh Town where it built a meeting house.  The Society did not prosper and in 1806 sold their meeting house to the Grahams for £120 for use as a school, but it was only in 1823 that a parochial school building was constructed in the village along with a teacher’s house (ibid MS 10802, 238).  The new site was at the west end of the Low Town near to the new church in Graham Terrace.  The Statistical Account was updated in the 1840s:

The salary of the parochial schoolmaster is the maximum; the fees 3s for reading per quarter; 3s 6d for reading and writing; 4s for arithmetic; 6s for Latin; and one guinea for a course of book-keeping.  The schoolmaster has an excellent house, neatly built, and containing far more than the legal accommodation.  The general expense of education may be stated to be from 10s to 20s per annum.  There are few or none above fifteen years of age who cannot both read and write.  The people in general feel the benefits of education.  The parish school is conveniently situated for all.”

Illus: 1860/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland). The Parochial School is the one at the north-west end of the village.

The school is depicted on the 1860 Ordnance Survey map.  The tall single storey building fronted the main road and large windows in this south-facing façade provided plenty of light.  A fireplace at either end provided the heating.  It was described at that time by the Ordnance Survey Namebook as :

A neat and commodious parochial school where the usual branches are taught.   The  teacher has the legal accommodation,  and a salary  of £34, with  £15  from  Government  and  the  school  fees.   Average attendance of boys and girls 120.”

Illus: The old Parochial School at Airth with three large windows. The teacher’s residence is to the left. c1900.

National Grid Reference

Graham TerraceNS8985 8762

G.B. Bailey, 2023