01 August 2022
Archie Darroch remembers what it was like to be a young school pupil in Inverness-shire in the 1940s.
The 1940s. Now that was the time to be young and starting out on life. It was 1944 when I turned five years old, the year I went to school for the first time.
I lived in the country district of Kilmorack, near the village of Beauly in Inverness-shire. Teanassie Primary School was the school for the Kilmorack and Aigas area. Dressed in my new trench coat I walked with my mother from my home to the school, a distance of about 1.5 miles.
The catchment area for the district was very wide and included many isolated farms and cottages. Some of the children had to use farm tracks and tramp across fields, in many cases walking many miles each day in all weathers. As a concession the school day began at 9.30 a.m. but finished at 4pm as normal.
At first I had a slate for all my written work. Mistakes were easily corrected with a damp rag and a small tin containing water. Learning by rote was a favored teaching method, and I still spell Mississippi and paraffin by chanting the rhythms we recited so often. I wrote many essays, gradually mastering punctuation, grammar and other language skills.
Practical skills, an essential part of country life, were not forgotten. The girls were taught how to knit and sew whilst the boys were outside in the headmaster’s garden learning how to prepare a plot of ground ready for sowing many different vegetables.
During the war there were no school dinners, instead the pupils brought their own sandwiches. At lunchtime everyone was given a beaker of dried milk reconstituted with boiled water. We also had a bottle of milk every day at break time. In the winter the milk had to be thawed out in front of the classroom fire.
Picking rosehips, which were sent off to be made into rose hip syrup, and bringing our ration books to the school for renewal each year were two other wartime activities. I left Teanassie School in 1951 with a sound education that gave me the confidence to go forward ready to face the new opportunities unfolding before me.
Originally published February 2016. Reviewed August 2022.
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