Ancestry UK

Falkirk Industrial School, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland

In January 1857, a meeting was held in Falkirk's courtroom to discuss a suggestion of establishing an Industrial School in the town, an idea for which the Rev. Lewis Irving is credited. A variety of views were expressed at the gathering on whether such an establishment should be a ragged school, a reformatory institution, or even simply an extension of the town's existing Charity School. A committee was formed to take the matter further and by October of the same year, plans were well advanced for the founding of the Falkirk Ragged Industrial School. A meeting on 20 October to agree the constitution and rules of the institution. The most significant items are reproduced below:

It is the object of this School to reclaim the neglected or profligate children of Falkirk and its vicinity, by affording them the means of a good, common, and Christian education, and by training them to habits of regular industry, so as to enable them to earn an honest livelihood and fit them for the duties of life.

The following classes of children are excluded: First, Those who are regularly attending day-schools. Second, Those whose parents are earning a regular income and able to procure education for their children.

The general plan upon which the School shall be conducted shall be as follows, viz.:— To give the children an adequate allowance of food for their daily support; to instruct them in reading, writing, and arithmetic; to train them in habits of industry; to teach them the truths of the Gospel, making the Holy Scriptures the ground-work of instruction; on Sunday the children shall receive food as on other days, and such religious instruction as shall be arranged by the Acting Committee.

Children of all denominations shall be equally admitted to the benefit of the school.

The meeting also elected James Brown of Falkirk as master of the school. A letter from the Trustees of the late Mr Ferguson offered a grant of £150 to the Falkirk Ragged School, provided that the managers of the school raised an additional £350 for the purpose of acquiring permanent premises. It was stated that an additional £100 in donation was required to complete the £350.

Premises for the school were subsequently found at East Burn Bridge and it began operation on 14 November 1857. A meeting of the school's supporters in November 1858 heard that a small number of the most necessitous children were initially admitted, and gradually added to until the roll contained 22 names, consisting of 13 boys and 9 girls. Of these, 18 did not know a letter the alphabet. They had been clothed, fed, trained to manual industry, and taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and vocal music, according to their age and capability. Religious instruction and the reading of the Bible had had a prominent place in the system adopted. The behaviour of the children, after the first difficulties of breaking all their previous habits, had been most satisfactory, and their whole demeanour cheerful and happy. One boy from Carron had left the School after six days' attendance; two pupils were removed by their parents; and one promising pupil had gone to England with her father's family. Their places had, however, been speedily filled; indeed one girl, after some months absence, had been re-admitted on urgent application.

The following year, the committee were able to purchase more suitable premises on Kerse Lane. After alterations, the property, which included nearly an acre of ground, included a good school-room, with bath and dressing-room, a kitchen and hall, together with ample accommodation for both the teacher and the matron. The ground, besides affording a good playground shut in by a high wall and gate, contained a garden and small park, which it was intended to cultivate, thereby providing healthy recreation and useful training to the boys, whilst the crop of vegetables would supply the kitchen. The cost of the property was £350, with alterations adding a further £150. In December 1860, there were 44 children on the school roll, 26 boys and 18 girls.

In 1867, the mangers of the establishment applied for it to be certified to operate as an Industrial School and receive children placed under detention by the courts, together with the government funding which accrued to such institutions. An inspection in June of that year recorded that the premises consisted of two separate buildings, one containing a good schoolroom, lavatory, and store rooms on the ground floor, with dormitories over accommodating about 20 (10 boys and 10 girls), with a lavatory. The other contained rooms for the master, matron, kitchen etc. All the children received one meal, and twenty were regularly boarded; all were very young. The school received its certification on 28 June 1867. Various improvements to the buildings were then put in hand, including a new school room. Up to 60 children could now be accommodated at the school.

The school site is shown on the 1898 map below.

Falkirk Industrial School Kerse Lane site, Falkirk, c.1898.

An inspection in June 1869 recorded 55 children in the school, of which 24 boys and 20 girls were under detention, all young. In addition to their school work, the boys were employed in gardening, while the girls were taught knitting and needlework and did all the housework. The superintendent was Mr McGilchrist and the matron, Mrs McLaren. All the classroom teaching was undertaken by Mr McGilchrist.

By 1872, a teaching assistant had been appointed. Tailoring and shoemaking were now carried on in a small way, together with some firewood chopping and gardening. In June 1873, Mr McGilchrist left to take charge of the Stoke Farm Reformatory. He was succeeded by Mr John Clarke, with Mrs Pearson as matron. The following year, Mrs Clarke had become matron and Mr Clarke was noted as being assisted by his brother. A small number of children were still attending the school as day scholars. The school's inspector complained about the inadequate separation of the male and female inmates, especially their dormitories which were in the same building. He suggested that the girls be removed and transferred to the girls' Industrial School at Stirling.

The 1880 inspection recorded that the inmates comprised 22 boys and 17 girls under detention, plus 8 boys and 8 girls on the voluntary list. It was noted that there were only 20 beds for the 30 boys, and 13 beds for the 25 girls. With regard to industrial training, there was a good garden, worked by the boys, some wood-cutting, tailoring, and hair-teasing — the latter being particularly frowned upon by the inspector as there was a great danger of infection being brought into the school with hair from old mattresses. The girls learned sewing, knitting etc. and did the housework, cooking and laundry. On discharge, most of the boys went to work at the neighbouring foundries.

In 1887, the school's managers finally acceded to the inspector's entreaties and made it a boys only establishment. In November of that year, the girls then in residence were transferred to the Aberdeen Industrial School at Whitehall.

In June 1891, the school had 52 inmates. The educational state of the school was criticised by the inspector. Six boys learned tailoring and 13 to sew and knit with a sewing mistress who came in for half the day. Some of the boys worked in the garden and some in the wood-chopping shed. Some went out as half-timers to work in neighbouring gardens and houses. There was a drum and fife band of 22 performers.

In October 1893, there was a serious case of stealing and selling bundles of firewood. In February 1894, considerable sum of money was stolen from the superintendent's room. Eight boys were implicated in the incident and the ringleader was sent to a Reformatory. This was followed by a good deal of absconding, but all the boys were recovered. The playground was criticised as being far too small, with the boys coming into regular conflict with neighbours over lost balls. There was a weekly visit in good weather to the park, where the boys could play football.

At the beginning of 1898, the Home Office announced that it was planning to withdraw the school's certificate and the institution closed later that year.

The buildings no longer survive.


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