The history of schooling in Blairgowrie, Rattray and District


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Schools - Timeline


A brief outline of the history of Education in Scotland and how local schooling developed

This is a working page to support the Trust's new topic for 2016. We shall be looking at local schools in Blairgowrie, Rattray and District against the context of what was happening nationally. It will be updated as our research progresses.
We welcome contributions from anyone, who has additional information, memories, photographs, artefacts etc. relating to schools in this area, including schools themselves. If you can help, please contact the Trust Secretary in the first instance.

Schools pages last updated 9.2.16


Informal education

From the beginning of history, young people must have learned from their parents, from their extended family and from their 'clan' the knowledge and skills they needed to survive and prosper. As families settled, wider social groupings provided opportunities for training in specific crafts and occupations that helped early societies to thrive. Emerging elites and power groupings created a governing and warrior class with need for tuition in skills associated with man and land management, and combat.

Early education

Formal education by teachers began in what would become Scotland with the arrival of Christian missionaries from Ireland, the movement that became known as the Celtic Church. Missionaries needed the patronage of local 'lords' to acquire land to build their churches and leave to pursue their missionary role. In return the monks provided a range of services of value to the communities that accepted them. One of these was education. Churches and monasteries provided a classical education for the sons of the elite, from whom new clerics and administrators would be drawn.

As parishes developed (pre-reformation) ministers were also schoolmasters, providing education for boys of the parish. They also provided instruction in religious music and elementary literacy for their tenantry, to prepare them to participate in the liturgy of the church (Sang schools). Schooling (mainly of boys) remained in the hands of the church for many centuries. Although the roles of ministry and education became separated, presbyteries remained responsible for oversight of the schools until a national education system was set up in the nineteenth century.





Following the Reformation, the First Book of Discipline set out a plan for a school in every parish. This proved financially impossible for most parishes at the time, but it created an ideal to work towards.


An Act in Privy council commanded every parish to establish a school.


Education Act passed by the Parliament of Scotland ratified the 1616 Act and introduced a tax on local landowners to fund the schools.


Education Act established an institutional foundation
for schools, with landowners providing funding and kirk ministers and presbyteries providing oversight of schools.

SCRAN attributes this to Education Act of 1696 - check?


Blairgowrie parish records refer to a schoolmaster being required for the parish school.

1710 & 1721

Parish school and schoolmaster's house in Upper Allen Street repaired (re-thatched?).

Date of founding unknown.
No authentic records.



New parish school and schoolmaster's house built in Upper Allan Street.

School master was responsible for upkeep.

Adventure Schools
1833 James Macfarlane had a fee paying school in Gas Brae. Later went to Canada.
1838 Rev M Buttar had a fee paying school in Tannage Street.
1839 John Hunter had a fee paying school in High Street.
1840 ? A McDonald had a fee paying school in Gas Brae.
1869 ? P Grant MA had a school in Brown Street.

Some we know about

For boys only ?


Dame Schools
Miss Kennedy, Granada Cottage, Perth Street (later the home of E Geddes, artist.)
Jeanie Mackie, Rory Street
Miss Murray, Meadowbank Cottage (later married in Australia)
Miss Robertson, High Street
Miss Amelia Brodie, High Street (above J L Ford's shop)
Miss Jean Brodie, High Street, then James Street
Misses Chalmers, who were at Erichtside (later the Station Hotel) but moved to Greengait at Rattray.

Some we know about

For girls?

Were these fee paying too?




New parish school built at top of John Street, at a cost of 300

Free Church had own school in James Street
Episcopal Church had own school (St Catharine's?)

No doubt following the Disruption of 1843?


St Stephen's RC church opened with a night school.

Architect: Pugin, but was it father or son?


A new school opened in William Street for South Free Church. It cost 584 to build, and was rented out to the 'Proprietory School' for 21/5/- per annum. Schoolmaster was Mr F F Rigg.

Link to archive page


The parish school in John Street was purchased by St Stephen's for use as RC school.


On 25th September a new day school was opened in William Street for South Free Church. Schoolmaster was Mr Binnie. He was paid 86 per annum, made up of government grant and school fees. His assistant was Miss Barbour. Mr Binnie stayed ony 9 months and was replaced by Mr Barbour.

Link to Archive page


The Education Act of 1872 set up the first national system of state education, making schooling compulsory for all children between ages 5 and 13. Overseen by School Boards under the Scotch Education Board.
Financed through rates, pupil fees and grants based on attendance and achievement.



Log books for Rattray school available from this date


An Act permitted children a maximum of 6 weeks absence per year for 'husbandry and fishing'.


Parish school became the Public School and the church schools closed. The William Street School was converted to a hall.


Leaving age raised to 14, but half-timers allowed to leave at 10+

What are half-timers?


St John Street building purchased by Roman Catholic Church for RC school. The previous school building became the church hall.


Payment by results abolished and replaced by system of class exams.


Scottish Education Department introduced a School Leaving Certificate.

These two moves created a state-funded national system of free basic education and common examinations.


School fees abolished.


Census stated that total number of children 14 years and under was 1032, of those 355 were under 5. 677 children of school age. Of these 498 were at public school, 76 at RC school, 15 at Rattray School, 29 at other schools, 5 taught at home, 54 not at school.


School leaving age set at 14 years


Abolition of Pupil Teachers.


Public School had to be extended to accommodate growing secondary department.

Confusion about whether this referred to the school in Upper Allan Street or Blairgowrie Science and Art School in St James Street.


Medical suprevision introduced.
School meals could be served.


County Councils and City Councils made responsible for administration of education, replacing the School Boards.


New secondary school built at Altamount on land acquired from the Smith family of coal merchants.
Catchment area: Rattray, Blairgowrie and St Stephen's RC.
Primary department of 450 pupils remained at Upper Allan Street and became Hill Primary.



Leaving Certificate replaced by Scottish Certificate of Education Ordinary Grade and Higher Grade.


School leaving age raised to 16.


New Hill Primary School Campus opened in Elm Drive to accommodate pupils from Hill Primary and St Stephen's.

Details included in the timeline above are drawn from a variety of sources, including the following. Thanks to all concerned. Corrections and additions gratefully received!

'History of Early Scottish Education' by John Edgar. Published by James Thin, Edinburgh, 1893.

'The History of Blairgowrie (Town, Parish, and District)' by John A R Macdonald. Originally published 1899. Republished 2012 by Forgotten Books.

Elspeth Johnson, researcher. Personal notes.

Local website: http://blairgowrieandrattray.org.uk

Wikipedia: History of Education in Scotland

School websites and logbooks.

Church Accounts

Statistical Accounts

See some extracts from our research

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