Blackness Girls’ School

In July 1856 a bequest of £200 by the late Hon. Mrs Hope was received by the Carriden Kirk Session for the benefit of the Blackness School, suggesting that one already existed there.  Around 1858 Miss Helen Hope, the sister of Admiral Sir James Hope of Carriden, established a private school at Blackness.  It was newly built for the purpose at the east end of the village overlooking the shore road to the castle.  The East Well lay beside the road at this point.  She took a great personal interest in the schools and at the beginning of the August terms treated the pupils to milk and buns.  It was essentially an “estate” school provided for the girls of the rural community. 

The earliest teacher to come to note was Miss Elizabeth McNab who lived in the adjoining schoolhouse in 1870 with her 13 year old servant, Rosanna Jamieson.  Although nominally a school for girls, teaching such subjects as sewing and needlework, from an early date it appears to have taken in young boys as well.  The schoolroom could be used for dancing by prior arrangement.  A Christmas tree was erected at the school in December 1870 and a party held in celebration.  In January 1870 two of the ex-pupils, the Dinsmure brothers, who had been at the Christmas party, decided that they would have an impromptu dance and banged on the door late at night to demand entry.  This action worried the two occupants and appears to have been the culmination of ongoing harassment.  Stones were thrown.  Elizabeth’s brother, Charles McNab, a teacher in Edinburgh where he prepared students for the civil service, universities and Sandhurst, was spending the night there to provide additional security.  The upshot was a court case resulting in a fine for the brothers (Falkirk Herald 17 February 1870, 5).

In 1869 Alexander McLeod, a native of Blackness, and then resident in Halifax, Nova Scotia, bequeathed a sum of £400 to the village, the interest of which was to be paid either to the teacher of the Blackness School, thus allowing a superior teacher to be obtained, or any educational benefit secured to the people but:

in the event of the Government passing an Education Act that will sufficiently raise the status of Blackness School, the whole interest to be paid to a missionary…” 

That Act came in 1872 and the money seems to have passed to the church.

With the formation of the Bo’ness and Carriden School Board in 1873 the schools at Muirhouses and Blackness nominally fell under its control but Miss Hope continued to manage them until her death in May 1890.  The task then fell to the minister and kirk session of Carriden who continued to look after the schools in order to keep the cost off the rates.  The makeup of the teacher’s salary is given in the following advertisement:

“FEMALE TEACHER (Certificated or Ex-P.T.) Wanted for Blackness School, Linlithgowshire. Salary, £8 per annum; Government Grant received, Probate Duty Grant, and Distance Grant—Probable Salary, £45; average attendance at present 22.  Applications with Testimonials, to Rev. W. Dundas, Carriden Manse…” (P.T. stands for pupil-teacher).

Falkirk Herald 17 December 1892, 1
Illus : 1896/96 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Carriden estate had passed to Colonel George Lloyd Verney, second son of Sir Harry Verney of Clayton, Buckinghamshire, whose mother was another sister of Admiral Hope.  He continued to make a contribution to the school, including the annual treat, but was not directly concerned in its management.  The school received government grants and its performance was checked annually by an Inspector.  In 1903 the Inspector intimated that he would withdraw the grant for Blackness due to the unsuitable nature of the property and its poor condition.  The unsuitable nature arose from the fact that it had been built to accommodate a girls’ school but now accepted older boys as well, for whom there were no separate toilet facilities.  Immediately boys over seven years of age were forced to find other educational provision – walking to Carriden School along the coast route.  The building was fundamentally sound but the roof was leaking.  After running the school for twelve years the kirk session decided that it was time to give it up.  The school closed on 31 March 1903 and the pupils became the responsibility of the School Board.

The School Board leased the building and patched it up.  Remarkably, a replacement school, Blackness Public School, was built within a year and the pupils were transferred to it.  The old building was owned by Mr Verney and was subsequently sold and is now a private house.

Year ArrivedHead TeacherYear LeftNumber of Pupils
1868Miss Elizabeth McNab
Miss Niven1893
1893Miss Bates
Miss Duthie189922
1899Miss Cunningham
c1901Miss Makin
Miss Easton190340

Sites and Monuments Record

Shore RoadSMR 2281NT 0533 8006

G.B. Bailey, 2022