The Schools of Polmont Parish

The parish minister, John Ker, writing in 1845, noted that as well as the parish school there were five other schools in the parish,

attended in all by 250 scholars; but the provision for the support of the teachers, consisting, with one exception, entirely of the school fees, is generally very inadequate.

Of Sabbath schools, there are three, – one taught by the preacher at the preaching station; one by the teacher at Old Redding, under the superintendence of the minister of the parish; and another at Polmont by the parochial minister, assisted by the parochial teacher.”

The establishment of the Polmont School Board should have provided a new start for education in the parish.  Unfortunately, old ideals and animosities were entrenched in the people who were elected to serve in it.  It was composed of five men attached to the Established Church (including the minister and two of his elders) and two from the Free Church.  They found themselves on opposing sides at the meetings and mutual distrust largely scuppered cooperation.  It was also unfortunate that the man chosen to act as the representative of the Deacons’ Court for the Free Church at Polmont was one of the Board.  Mr Hislop of Blairbank was given the task of handing over the Free Church School at Brightons to the Board.  The conditions attached to the gift were that the use of the school be granted for the Sabbath school, that the present teacher be retained, and that the nominal feu duty be paid in the future by the Board.  He was surprised by the lukewarm reception that his proposal received and that the Board wanted to discuss the conditions of the transfer.  He immediately wrote to the local newspaper pointing out the folly of the Board’s reaction and solicited an angry response from the public wanting to know why the Board were looking a gift horse in the mouth.  The Board had expected to continue negotiations and were shocked by the surprise announcement that the school was to close and that they immediately had to provide accommodation for almost 200 scholars.  When they returned to the negotiating table they found that a fourth condition had been added –  that should the use of the school buildings be discontinued for the purposes of education, they, together with the whole site, should revert to the Deacons’ Court of Polmont Free Church, or other representatives of the Free Church of Scotland.  The Board of Education in London was immediately consulted and stated that this fourth condition was not in accordance with the Education Act and therefore it was incompetent for the Polmont School Board to accept the school on those terms.  This was confirmed by the opinion of the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General.

Feelings of annoyance and resentment grew.  When the legal opinion was pointed out to the Deacons’ Court it now said that the refusal of the School Board to open the school at Brightons with a prayer had caused distrust and made them close the negotiations.  The Board had not removed religious instruction altogether, it was simply that its teachers found it easier not to start the day that way.  The school teacher at Brightons was in a precarious situation and was told that his post would probably be axed.  Ironically, his retention had been one of the four conditions.  Even more ironic was the fact that Polmont School Board now chose him to fill the recently vacated position at Polmont Public School.  Whether this was to frustrate any attempt by the Free Church to restart, as some of its members thought, or simply that he was known to be a good teacher, is impossible to be sure.  However, the bluster of the temporary closure of Brightons School now turned into a permanent situation and the Free Church schoolhouse and part of the school were soon let as residences without any further conversations taking place.

After this eventful start it was simply a matter of keeping pace with demand and the changing educational scene.

The school buildings covered in this Section are:


Leask, D.1986Westquarter – the Story of an Estate; from Family Estate to Model Village.
Scott, I.2014Let Brotherly Love Continue: the Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Scotland Free Colliers.
Westquarter & Redding
Community Project
2011Westquarter Memories.

G.B. Bailey, 2023