Central School

In 1873 the Falkirk Free Church School in Meeks Road was handed over to the Falkirk Burgh School Board free of charge, the only condition being that the church should be able to use the classrooms for Sabbath schools.  The teacher, John Dow, was taken onto the payroll (much to his relief because he had been in dispute at the time with Rev Lewis Irving).  The school was renamed the Central School as the Charity School had become the Southern School and a new school was built at Grahamston called the Northern School.  The small garden and fence at the front were immediately removed and another porch added in the west re-entrant angle.  Extra capacity was required and Thomas McFadzen drew up plans to convert the living quarters of the two teachers into additional classrooms for 136 pupils.  These were submitted to the Scottish Education Department in August 1874 at an estimated cost of £650, though the actual cost was a little over £900.  At the time the water for the school was obtained from a “well” – the water supplied through the public water pipes.  The children wasted a large amount of water and this misuse caused the Burgh to threaten to turn off the water.  Dow had to exert his discipline and in November 1875 McFadzen applied for leave to lay a half-inch pipe to supply the water to better regulated taps.  An iron shed supplied by the Falkirk Iron Company at a cost of £64 was placed in the playground in 1876 to shelter the children in wet weather.

By 1885 the school was overcrowded and so additional temporary accommodation was rented.  William Black, architect, prepared plans for two new classrooms and “offices” (toilets) which were completed in January 1886.  The large infant classroom added at the north-east end was capable of accommodating 110 children, and the other classroom, for about 60 scholars, stood at the west end.  The boys’ and girls’ “offices” were lined with enamelled white tiles for ease of cleaning.  The contractors were: mason work – Sanderson & Son; joiner work – WG Cockburn; plaster work – D McNair; plumber and slater work – D Draper; painting – Mr Graham.  Total cost about £530.

Illus 2: 1896/98 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Three years later, cookery lessons were introduced but they were held in the Institute Hall which was shared with the scholars from Comely Park School and the High School.  In July 1892 it was noted that the Central School was the only one in the burgh that did not have facilities for producing hot water which was required for the cleaner.  Consequently, a small brick shelter was constructed for £32.  Over the next few decades minor improvements were made.  In 1900 the head teacher and his helpers raised £40 to install a library.  In 1902 part of the playground was turned into a flower garden so that the children could learn gardening and use the plants for instruction.  The garden had to be well tucked away because the local children climbed into the playground during the hours when the school was closed in order to play football.  This became a perennial problem with complaints from neighbours and broken windows at the school.  Attempts to ban the practice were less than fruitless and limited control by janitors proved more successful.  The toilet accommodation at the Central School was reconstructed in 1906 to increase its capacity and to provide more space in the main building for the school.  The contractors were: brick and cement work – John Gardner £43 12s 9d; joiner work – J & P Dewar, £25 2s 7d; plumber work – David Draper – £51 17s 6d.  Total £120 12s 10d.

At the outbreak of the First World War the local Territorials took over the Central School and so the summer vacation was extended.  It was mid-September 1914 before the pupils of the Central School started to attend the High School in the afternoons.  The army’s treatment of the building left much to be desired.  The school desks were left out in the playground where they weathered and were used by the children to play hide and seek.  It was 1916 before there was any sign of the occupation ending and James Strang, architect, was asked to report on the damage to the buildings and furniture, obtaining estimates from four tradesmen as required by the Defence of the Realm Act.  The infant department was ready for occupation by mid-October but the rest of the pupils were now accommodated elsewhere – allocated between Victoria and Comely Park Schools.  They were never to return.

Recognising that the school would not be fully reopened, the Falkirk Ironfounders’ Committee suggested in 1917 that the ironfounding course then being held in the Science and Art School could be moved there, and that the moulding classes should immediately be transferred from the High School.  Falkirk was then the world centre for light castings and the school board was well aware of its responsibilities for training and the potential for co-operation with the ironfounders.    Having agreed to this course of action it had to turn down an approach from the Local Food Committee to use part of the building as a communal kitchen.  The Ironfounders’ Committee was represented by J.C. Jeffrey (Camelon Iron Co), Mr Steven (McDowall, Steven & Co), and Mr Kidston (Falkirk Iron Co), and their scheme for a technical institute for ironfounders’ classes was approved by the Education Department.  The Central School was rented to the Ironfounders’ Federation at the nominal figure of £20 a year.  The Ironfounders’ Federation provided all of the chemicals and apparatus, but structural alterations were the responsibility of the Education Authority.  The front chimneys on the old building were removed.  See Foundry Technical Institute.  See also St Andrew’s RC School.

1873John Dow1894231, 420
1894George Liddle1899420
1899James Hunter1901310, 290
1901George Nelson270
c1907Alexander Allison1912230
1912James C Johnston190

Sites and Monuments Record

Meek’s RoadSMR 1835NS 8875 8035

G.B. Bailey, 2023