The Schools of Carriden Parish

We know that the first recorded school in Carriden was typically inside the old parish beside the castle.  From an early date the inhabitants of the associated village were encouraged to move to Muirhouses and Little Carriden and in 1636 the school was relocated to Muirhouses.  Details of the granting of the new school building were copied into the Kirk Session records making this one of the better documented examples of this date in the Falkirk area.

The parochial school had to cater for a large area but, as industry developed in the later 17th century and the population grew, a number of private schools arose in Carriden parish, known derogatively as “pettie” schools, but few details are available (Salmon 1913, 435).  They were, seemingly, but rooms in the houses of the teachers.  In the early days the Kirk Session had thorough control over these pettie schools. They visited and examined them frequently. But these schools acted to the prejudice of the public school, in their opinion. For example, we are told that

One William Ross, at Blackness, was discharged from keeping schoole in prejudice of the public school.”

Then it was found that children, though the elders deemed they should, would not leave the pettie schools and attend the public school. For instance, elders were appointed to

visit David Cathcart’s schoole and write down the names of such as were able to come to the public schoole, and to testify to him that if he put not them away speedily the session would close his schoole altogether.”

David Cathcart was an elder himself, and he seems to have laid this matter so to heart that he no longer sat in Session. In the 1690s the master of another of the pettie schools was offered the post of doctor in succession to Currie — partly in order that his own school at Bonhard might be shut by his acceptance. He would not accept, however,

and the session passed from their offer and ordained him to leave the parish.”  

Grangepans was specially guarded against pettie schools. One minute

appoints Robert Jamieson and James Wilson to goe discharge Sarah Small, in Grangepans, she not having the session’s allowance conform to the order of Presbytery.

The Session took care that the teachers of the pettie schools should at any rate know something about their duties. It frequently ordained certain of its number to visit and examine the schools.  Here is one such example:

John Hart and William Bryce to visit Jean Donaldson’s school and take notice and tryall of her if she can teach the children by syllabling the words.”  

These elders reported the results of their visits and examinations, and frequently commented very favourably on the children’s proficiency and the schoolmaster’s diligence.  Some of them were appointed to go round the parish and press the parents to send their children to school.  In cases in which this had no effect, parents were summoned before the Session and rebuked, while a promise was extracted that they

would have a care in future to send their children to school.”

The New Statistical Account for Carriden in 1845 noted that besides the parochial school (at Muirhouses), there were three other schools in the parish, two of them under the patronage and superintendence of the Carriden family, one an infant school, the other for the education of female children (these may both have been at the West Lodge), the third dependent upon the personal efforts and success of the teacher (Grangepans Subscription School).

In 1873 the Carriden Parish School Board was set up and H Cadell of Grange was voted in as its first chairman.  The Board was fortunate in that the existing school accommodation required little augmentation.  This was due to the Heritors having built a new school just a decade earlier and to the Hopes of Carriden sponsoring the two private schools for the rural population.  The result was an unusually low rate of tax in the parish.  In 1888 the School Officer took a census of the children in the parish, which gave the following results:

Number of boys under five -118; girls under five – 139; total under school age – 257. 

Boys from five to fourteen, 249; girls ditto – 227; total of school age – 476.  Of these 260 were at Carriden School, 99 at Grangepans, 48 at Boyle’s, Muirhouses, 8 at Wyllie’s, Blackness, 12 at Brown’s, Bo’ness, 9 at Hunter’s, Bo’ness, 2 at the infant school, 6 at Anderson Academy, 7 at Linlithgow, 7 at Abercorn, and 1 at Falkirk, making a total of 459 on the school rolls, and leaving 17 unaccounted for.  Twelve of the latter were just turned 5 years.

The unification of the parishes of Bo’ness and Carriden in 1895 led to an amalgamation of the Carriden School Board with that of Bo’ness, despite protests from the people of Carriden who were well aware that it meant a hike in their rates.  This led to bitter disputes at Board meetings with Bo’ness members favouring centralisation in the burgh.  Ironically, this trend to large central schools led to the two largest schools – the Grange School and the Bo’ness Academy – being located in Carriden where land was cheaper. 

The Grange School of 1906 has the name “BO’NESS AND CARRIDEN SCHOOL BOARD” emblazoned across its main west façade, whilst the Bo’ness Academy of 1931 bore the words “BO’NESS CENTRAL SCHOOL.”  The latter was commissioned by the West Lothian Education Authority.  In 1919 responsibility for education in Bo’ness and Carriden was placed in the hands of the West Lothian Education Authority, also known as the Linlithgowshire Education Authority.  One of its first acts was to centralise secondary education in Linlithgow and Bathgate.  This naturally caused uproar in the other towns of the region and particularly in Bo’ness and Carriden where early steps had been taken in this direction and the move was clearly seen as retrograde.  Pressure was applied and the decision reversed.  Further local government reorganisation placed Bo’ness in Central Regional Council from 1975 to 1996 and educational matters were dictated from Stirling.  With the introduction of unitary authorities it then became part of Falkirk Council.

The following schools are covered in this inventory:


Bain, A.n.d.The Life and Times of the Schoolmaster in Central Scotland in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Gifford, J. & Walker, F.A.2002The Buildings of Scotland: Stirling and Central Scotland.
Hendrie, W.F.1996The River Forth.
Jaques, R.2001Falkirk and District, an Illustrated Architectural Guide.
Salmon, T.J.1913Borrowstounness and District.

G.B. Bailey, 2022