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Introduction / The Island / Schooling

School Life

In a rural environment, the sea and the land must have a considerable influence on school life. Life was not easy with large families often raised on a small acreage of land and with labour intensive methods. Consequently it was necessary at times for children to be kept off school to work on land, perhaps herding animals, planting tatties or working in the neeps. Leave was most likely to be necessary at harvest time. There would in any case be a period of Harvest holidays. School would also be closed for the annual sheep shearing.

Pharay School bairns c1940

In the forty years to Annie Rousay becoming teacher in 1931, there were almost thirty different teachers. Quite a number were only there for a few months and there were often gaps when there was no teacher at all. This left some subjects untaught for periods of time to be picked up by the new teacher. A period of stability arose with Annie’s stay of eight or nine years and almost six years of the subsequent teacher.

Writing, Reading, Arithmetic, Grammar, Drill, Drawing, Singing, Sewing, Geography and History were taught at one time or another and presumably to different standards by the different teachers who were appointed to the school.

In 1893, the teacher who had newly taken charge was writing to the School Board on the lack of fuel. In times past, each child would be responsible for bringing peat to the school. Coal was being supplied for the fire in 1909.

In 1907, there were complaints of the want of books. When a teacher had been off the island, there were occasions when the school did not re-open on time as they could not return due to the sea conditions.

An outbreak of whooping cough hit the children in 1910. There seemed to be more snow than there is now and with the exposed position and the wind, children did not always make school.

Children left school when they reached the age of fourteen.

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