Introduction / The Island
There was a school established on Eday in 1827 by the Committee of the General Assembly for the Promoting of Education in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. According to the Second Statistical Account (1834-45), while there was no public school previously the children were for the most part taught to read the scripture by their parents or some of their neighbours.
The situation in Pharay would have continued as before. There is some indication that the first teacher may have been a Thomas Drever around 1830. The census for 1841 does give the occupation of James Harcus at Doggerboat as teacher. James is unmarried and aged twenty. It is thought likely that he was the son of the house.
The 1851 census is the first to describe children of the appropriate age as “scholars” and in that census the occupation of William Harcus, also of Doggerboat is described as Fisherman and Teacher. William was twenty five, married and had a small family.
One of the islander’s acting as the teacher continued with David Drever at Windywa, aged twenty two, having the occupation of school-master in 1861. David was unmarried and a son of the house. There is no mention of other activity although almost certainly he would have been involved with the everyday activities of Windywa as well.
There is no reference to a teacher in 1871 although there were scholars. In 1881, the schoolmaster was James Harcus from Hammar. He was an Eday man who had come to the island and married Jane Drever. He was twenty five and they had a two month old son. James would have been the teacher when the school was erected in 1884. He still had that occupation in 1891 according to the census for that year.
There were a great many teachers over the years ahead. These came from outside of the island and probably, due to the isolation and lack of prospects, they did not tend to stay that long. It was difficult to attract teachers to the island. When one left, this resulted in no teacher sometimes for as long as six months.
In 1901, the teacher was twenty year old William McCallum, who had just taken charge on 13th February. William was lodging at Holland. He was born in Orphir on the Orkney Mainland. He finished teaching at the school on 8th August of the same year, having been there for just six months. The new teacher took up the appointment on 6th December 1901.
There was probably no teacher for part of the First World War.
The school’s situation and the seasons, as well as the resources available had an influence on schooling.
With the population declining, so did the school roll until eventually there were only two pupils when it finally closed in 1946. Closure again was influenced by the policy of only employing certified teachers following the end of the Second World War and continuing difficulties in attracting such teachers to the island. The two remaining children were sent to the school in Westray where they boarded, with the intention of getting back to Pharay and their families at the weekend. The practicalities of this, especially in the winter months will be appreciated.