Borrowstoun School

Illus 1: 1895/96 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Upon its formation in 1873, Bo’ness Parish School Board examined the 1871 census to assess the parish’s need for educational provision.  It found that there were many colliers’ children in the Newton/Borrowstoun area that either had to travel a long distance or simply did not attend school.  It immediately resolved to build a new school to accommodate 200 pupils for that area.  A site at Newton was initially favoured but the Duke of Hamilton’s trustees provided favourable terms for Gibb’s acres at Borrowstoun and so it was feued. 

Plans were drawn up by Mr J Paterson, architect, Edinburgh, in a weak Scottish baronial style in 1873, and estimates were obtained in 1875, but due to the massive school-building programme going on throughout central Scotland there was a high demand and they were considered to be too high.  The architect was asked how much cheaper it would be if built of brick and he responded that the difference was a mere £142.  It was early in 1877 before the School Board told Patterson to proceed.  He arranged for the builders to commence on 4 June and finish not later than 1 August; the roof to be put on and the joiner work done within one month of that time; the plasterer and plumber work to be done and the school finished by 1 December.  The specification said that the stone should come from Bo’ness Quarry but the builder agreed with the architect that he could get rubble for the school from a disused quarry close to the site, the stone of which was assessed to be durable enough, while he got the rybats from Nimmo’s Quarry.  John Paul acted as clerk of works and by mid July the walls were up as far as the window sills.

Illus 2: Borrowstoun School looking north-west.

The school building stands 80 or so yards to the east of the Linlithgow Road, and about a mile from Bo’ness.  Its walls are of random sandstone rubble with dressed margins and a slate roof.   The main façade faces Borrowstoun Road and the two ends are slightly advance, presenting jerkin-headed gables.  These gables are also used for the lower porches set in the re-entrant angles.  It was 84ft long by 20ft broad, with two classrooms, a room for the master, and another for the mistress, a cloakroom for the boys and another for the girls, besides lavatories and other conveniences. 

The school was actually built to accommodate about 250 children.  The large playground was divided by a wall for the purpose of keeping the boys and girls separate while enjoying outdoor exercises.  The contractors were: Young & Petrie, Alloa, mason work; John Main, Slamannan, joiner work; David Draper, Falkirk, slater and plumber work; and Walter Law, Bo’ness, plasterer work.  It was opened at the end of January 1878 and insured for £1,500, and the furniture and fittings for £100.

The school was at the very southern fringe of the houses associated with Bo’ness and Borrowstoun, which meant that it was in a good position to serve the landward area to the south.  However, this position also made it difficult to transfer pupils from the more heavily populated areas to the north.  The numbers in attendance seesawed with the rooms often overcrowded and then under-utilised.   In 1891 capacity in the infant room was bursting and it was recommended that the north room be converted into the infant department, being more commodious.  The flooring required renewing and it was suggested that a separate entrance be provided with a porch and hat pegs.  Instead, pupil numbers were reduced in 1893 by making it an infant and girls’ school only.  This was a temporary fix and in September 1900 the recommended extension was begun.  The builder, Thomas Peattie died during the period of the work which cost £300 with another £200 for the plumber work.

Illus 3: 1913/16 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland) showing the extensions on the north-west corner of the building.

The opening of Grange School led to a complete reorganisation of the schools in Bo’ness and Borrowstoun became used purely for elementary purposes with supplementary courses.  In 1908 the infants were separated into a distinct department so that it earned a higher grant.

In 1934 it was determined that all of the pupils in Borrowstoun School from Junior II stage upwards were to be transferred to Bo’ness Public School, thereby reducing the status of the school at Borrowstoun to that of two teachers.  Further, the pupils resident at Bonhard, Rousland, and Upper Kinneil were to be given the option as to the school to be attended.

Illus 4: The Porch on the west end of the School added in 1900.

It was evident that the school would not survive and in 1945 the Education Committee started discussing replacing it and Kinneil School with one near to Bo’ness Cemetery.  A reprieve seemed to be at hand when it decided in 1952 to retain Borrowstoun School for the use of stages Primary I, II and III due to the increase in house building at Newton and southwards.  It was only temporary, and after the opening of the new School adjacent to the Roman Catholic Church (known as Kinneil School) the building at Borrowstoun was mothballed in 1956.  For a short time it was used by Mitchie’s Hosiery.  From 1964 the premises were leased on an annual basis to the Barony Players, a community theatre group formed in 1954.  The Players put in a lot of voluntary work and the small Barony Theatre opened its doors in 1966.  This impacted little upon the exterior, but the internal subdivisions were removed and 120 redundant cinema seats from Edinburgh were inserted on a new raked floor. The windows were blocked in.  The Barony Players now has a 25-year lease from Falkirk Council and long may it do so!

Illus 5: The Barony Theatre looking south-west with the car park in the foreground.
Year ArrivedHeadteacherYear LeftNo. Pupils
1878James S Hunter1893218
1893Miss Brown1895114
1896James Boyd1921200
1921James Tully1934
1934Miss Jessie Leishman Burr1939
1939Miss Christina Walker

Sites and Monuments Record

Borrowstoun RoadSMR 1355NS 9982 8033

G.B. Bailey, 2023