Airth Public School

Illus: Ordnance Survey Map of 1895/97 (National Library of Scotland).

In 1873 the Airth Parish School Board was formed to take over control of local educational needs from the Heritors, though the Earl of Dunmore was elected as its first chairman.  His factor, A. Campbell, was appointed to the offices of clerk, treasurer and Board officer.  The old school building continued in use and with stable population numbers the Board had a comparatively easy task.  Ten years later, in 1883, a private school belonging to Colonel Graham was suppressed and the popular teacher, Miss Keith, was transferred, along with her young flock, to the Public School.  The staff of Airth Public School then consisted of the newly appointed headmaster, William Reid, Miss Keith, transferred from the female school at a salary of £60; and two pupil teachers.  It was presumably at this time that a further classroom was added to the back of the existing one.

Continuation classes were introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century.  In 1905 the Department of Education’s inspector condemned the school building as being too small for the increased population and as a consequence the annual government grant was withheld.  This galvanised the School Board into dealing with a problem that had been developing for some time.  The existing premises consisted of two rooms with accommodation for 150 pupils.  Each of the rooms was occupied by two teachers and instruction and discipline necessarily suffered, especially in the junior room, where the conditions were worst.  All the classes contained a large number of over age children.  In 1905 several architects were consulted and all stated that it would be just as cheap to build a new school on a fresh site as it would to enlarge the existing one where there was little space.  Even then progress was slow.  In March 1906 they accepted plans by James Strang, architect, Falkirk, and asked the Trustees of Airth Castle estate for land, offering £12 an acre.  Tenders were advertised in December 1906 and it opened on 7 April 1908 having cost £3,600.  The old school had a rateable value of £7 whilst the new one was now assessed at £80.

Illus: Ordnance Survey Map surveyed in 1913 and published in 1915 (National Library of Scotland).
Illus: The New Airth Public School of 1908.

The new building was placed in a street especially constructed for it at the north-east end of the village.  This became Paul Drive, named after one of the school board.  It was a tall single storey building of stone, with mullioned windows, overhanging eaves, and half-timbered gables.  It provided accommodation in four classrooms for 220 children but was laid out so that two additional classrooms could be added at a small outlay, should these be required in the future. 

The central feature of the school was the large hall, having an open roof, with arched timber roof trusses, and a wood block floor.  Round it were grouped the classrooms and teachers’ rooms, with two entrances from the playgrounds, one for boys, and the other for girls and infants, each having ample cloakroom accommodation.  The upper parts of all of the windows were fitted with Henry Hope and Sons’ patent hopper cheeks, and in addition to this numerous wall ventilating panels were provided for admitting fresh air, while the vitiated air was extracted by means of large ridge ventilators.  The heating was by open fireplaces, fitted with tile register grates.  The lower part of the walls of the classrooms and the hall, for a height of 4ft 6in, were lined with pitch pine, and the cloakrooms and passages with tiles.  Above this, to the picture moulding, the walls were treated with Hall’s distemper, in bright colours, and with a deep frieze in white.  There were two large playgrounds, with play-sheds, and “Buick’s” automatic flushing latrines in each.  A new feature was that part of the ground was laid out as a garden, where the boys were taught gardening in order to acquire a liking for that sort of work.  The cost of £3,600 included the boundary walls and the formation of the new street.  The work was carried out by the following contractors: mason and brick work, and formation of new street, James Primrose, Dunmore; carpenter and joiner work – J N Robertson, Grangemouth; plumber work – Drummond & Crowe, Laurieston; plaster and tile work – James Millar, Falkirk; painter work – O’Brien & Meek, Falkirk; glazier work – Daniel O’May, Falkirk; smith work – R Mercer & Co, Alloa; asphalt work – A Meldrum & Son, Kirkliston.

The open fireplaces soon proved inadequate for the size of the rooms in the winter months.  In 1912 it was reported that during January the temperature of Room 1 varied from 34 degrees to 45 degrees; of Room 2 from 39 to 51; Room 3 from 38 to 50; Room 4 from 40 to 52.  No room had reached the recognised minimum standard of 55 degrees.

Ownership of the old school building on Main Street was retained and it was leased to the Airth Reading-Room Committee which contributed £5 to the cost of roof repairs in 1912.  By popular demand the new school hosted mining and ambulance classes in the evenings, some of the latter being reserved for women only.

Reorganisation in 1922 saw the creation of the Airth and Bothkennar District School Management Committee and it took over the management of the school.  When it re-opened after the summer break in 1923 three additional rooms had been built.  Pupils from Dunmore School were then transferred to it.  In 1930 it was found that underground coal workings had caused structural damage to the school.  Thankfully this was not severe and an expenditure of £50 seems to have solved the problem.

In November 1936 the old schoolhouse in Airth was let to the Stirlingshire Constabulary by the Stirlingshire Education Committee at a rent of £20.  Unknown to them the Property and Buildings Committee of the same Council had arranged to demolish it!  The site was subsequently used for a new house for the headmaster.

By 1939 additional accommodation was once more required and the county architect, A. N. Malcolm, had temporary buildings erected in the playground.  That September war broke out with Germany and a provisional timetable immediately came into force at Airth School.  The school hours were altered to 9.20am-3.30pm.

Illus: Airth Public School in 1991 (Andrew Bain).

Gasmask drill and air raid drill were carried out daily.  A semi-underground air raid shelter was constructed for use by the two first primary classes – the rest of the children had to remain in specially barricaded rooms until additional shelters could be constructed.  The infants did not meet.  Staff were trained in ARP (air raid precautions) and gave lectures on first aid.  Over the following months things quietened down and the school became the community focus for fundraising, dances, clubs, and recycling.

In 2001 a nursery wing was added to the north of the main building.

Year ArrivedHeadteacherYear LeftNo. Pupils
Mr Nicol
c1733William or John Dunn177375
1830sJames McCulloch
1850sMr Walker120
1857William MacFarlane1883130
1883William Reid1887165
1887John Marshall140
c1904William M Bowden1926155
1926John Hegarty1935
1935John J Moffat1937
1937James Scott1945
1945John Abercrombie1954
1954Gerald B Spiller1956
1956John H Duncan
2022Sharon Ritchie160

Sites and Monuments Record

Paul DriveSMR 1986NS 9001 8760

G.B. Bailey, 2023