Sources School Log Books and the Minutes of the Old School Board. Compiled in 1972 on the Centenary of the Scotch Education Act by Catherine Allan.
The site of the first school at Fanagmore which served the Tarbet, Fanagmore and Foindle area, is now known as Blar Tigh’n Scol. When this school fell into disrepair scholars moved to a house near Loch nam Brac. This was destroyed by fire (Tigh Scol Loisge) and another move was made to a room in the White House, at the shore, which had been built for the salmon fishers.
In 1874 Mr George Sutherland was the teacher, appointed and paid by the Ladies’ Highland Association, Edinburgh, who were responsible for Fanagmore School until the new school was built by the Eddrachilles School Board in 1899.
One of the recommendations made by H.M.I. Mr Harper after a visit to the parish of Eddrachilles in 1874 was that an infant and girls’ school should be built on a site mid-way between Tarbet and Foindle but the School Board replied that as there were only 6 families having between them 11 children between the ages of 5 – 13 years, they were unwilling to tax the parish with the expense of school premises and a teacher.
In 1880 Miss Rainy, Secretary of the Ladies Highland Association, requested that Fanagmore be placed under Art.190 of the Scotch Code, which provided “that in a district more than 4 miles from any school and in which less than 15 scholars can be assembled, they may be taught by a teacher approved by the H.M.I. and working under the supervision of the nearest School Board School.” The Board agreed to this and requested Mr Cowie, Scourie, to supervise the school.
From then until 1899 Fanagmore children presented themselves at Scourie School for Inspection by H.M.I., making the journey by sea. The first Inspector’s report in 1880, recorded in Scourie Log Book, reads, “Fanagmore Sub-School made a good appearance”.
Mr Sutherlands resigned in 1881 and was followed by Mr James Macintosh, who left in 1884. Mr Hugh McLellan taught from 1884 – 1890; Mr Roderick Fraser1890 – 1892; Mr Alex MacDonald 1892 – 1895 and Mr Alan MacKillop 1895 – 1897.
Mr Evander MacLeod of Tarbet, (late of Chryston, Lanarkshire) writes – “My first day at school was very austere – no boots, no road and no English – and my only consolation was that the teacher was an excellent Gaelic speaker, Alan MacKillop from the Western Isles.”
Mr MacKillop (who emigrated to Australia) was followed by Mr Willie Morrison, Achrisgill, 1897 – 1900, also a Gaelic speaker (who later became Tramway Superintendent in Glasgow!) In 1899 the parents of Tarbet, Fanagmore and Foindle complained about school accommodation. The School Board sent a Member, Mr Roderick Finlayson (Scourie Hotel) to look in to complaints. He reported that the room was not in fit and proper condition, being too small for the number of pupils, the floor being flagged, the chimney smoking and no proper seats or convenience of any kind for teaching. At this time the house was occupied by Mr Lachlan Ross and his family, and school was held in “the room”.
The original plan by the Board had been to alter the White House (which the proprietor, the Duke of Sutherland, had handed over to the School Board with the necessary ground adjoining on a Feu Charter) to include a classroom for 24, and by the addition of a porch in front with a separate entry for the dwelling house, make it suitable for the teacher to live in, at a cost of £120. In the meantime, however, Mr Maclean, Factor, wrote the Board that “as due notice has not been given to Mr Lachlan Ross, and that as he could find no other house, the Proprietor would not like to turn him out with his large family unless some other place was procured for him.” The Education Department, however, did not approve of the plans and were of the opinion a new school should be built. Fresh plans were drawn up by Mr Bisset, Architect, Golspie, for a new school (for 30 children) beside the dwelling house, which were approved.
In the meantime school was held on alternate weeks in Angus Macleod’s house in Tarbet and in Angus Falconer’s house in Foindle, there being no children of school age in Fanagmore at this time.
In 1899 the new school was built by Mr Peter Whyte, Scourie at a total cost of £214.5/- (including desks) in three months. The house was renovated for use as a school house by Mr H. Aird, Joiner, Scourie, at a cost of £68. Mr Angus Macleod, Tarbet (now of Stornoway) remembers the opening ceremony. “Mr Donald MacKenzie, Tarbet, was working at a boat by the shore, and we called him up to open the school. This he did. He turned the key and opened the door and shouted “Hurrah!” We all followed and shouted, throwing our caps in the air and waving, and so a new era in our education begun.” He continues, “There was no road or even a footpath from Tarbet to Fanagmore in those days and we had to walk through the hill each carrying a peat to keep the school fire burning. In summer we were barefooted and peat bogs we took in our stride. In winter we had to wear boots and keep to the harder ground.”
At this time the “floating shops” came from Orkney to Loch Laxford (Fanagmore) and Mr Evander Macleod, Tarbet remembers them well. “We frequented them very often and if we would sing a song they gave us sweets and clay pipes for our fathers.” And of the Coronation of King Edward VII he says “We went to Scourie School for games and each of us got a mug. I made over 3/- that day. Money had value in those days!”
A certificated teacher, Miss Jemima Grant, was appointed in 1900. She left in 1903 and was succeeded by Mr Robert Gillies (1903 – 1905) with Mrs Gillies to teach sewing. Mrs Gillies was later appointed assistant teacher to allow Mr Gillies to devote more time to supplementary classes. A very good teacher, the Board resolved to give him a Very Satisfactory Testimonial for his two years service.
The aforementioned Angus Macleod and Donald Macrae went to Sutherland Technical School from Fanagmore during his time (1904). Mr Henry Platt, who succeeded Mr Gillies in 1905, retired in 1910, with a pension of £50 a year from the Board. He had previously been Head Master at Oldshore School. Mr Colin Junnor, M.A., who had been Assistant Teacher at Oldshore, was next appointed and remained until 1919, when he left to attend an Art.55 Class in Glasgow.
County and Parish Bursaries were competed for and the school had a good record of success, many pupils continuing their education at Scourie H.G. School, Golspie High School and Sutherland Technical School.
The Inspector’s report for 1913-14 says “The instruction in this school is excellent in both divisions. It is proposed in consequence to recommend an addition to the normal rate of grant.”
1916 “This school is handled with admirable skill and the condition of the instruction at all points reflects high credit on the teacher.” Miss C. Sutherland followed Mr Junnor from 1919 – 1921. Miss A.C. Ross 1921 – 1922. Mrs Thomas, who was next appointed, left in 1926 to be followed by Mr George H.T. Milne, M.A., who retired in 1932. On his last day at school, 23rd September, 1932, his sixtieth birthday, he notes in the Log Book “Since October, 1926 five pupils of this school have gained bursaries in the County Bursary Competition. In October, 1926 the number on the roll was eight; it is now seven, the maximum enrolment for the same period being twelve.”
Miss Alexina Matheson was appointed in 1932 and when she left in 1940 the school was reduced to the status of a side-school and again came under the supervision of the Scourie Head Teacher. During the war years there was a succession of teachers who stayed for varying periods. Miss Mary Macaskill, a former pupil, was appointed in 1945 and remained until she retired in 1964. The roll which had reached a peak of 32 about 1911, had fallen to 7 in 1932, rose to 13 in the 1950-60 period but was now reduced to 6. Fanagmore School was closed and the pupils transferred to Scourie.
The schoolhouse, which Miss Macaskill did not occupy, having her own house, had been sold some years previously to Mr Alex Macaskill. When school meals were first served on 14th March 1956 Mrs Eva Macaskill was appointed cook and prepared the meals in her own kitchen. This arrangement continued until he school was closed.
The school was bought by the Church of Scotland and services are held on alternate Sunday evenings.