Saturday, June 24, 2017

When I was a child, my mother used to say that my father had been a pupil at the “ragged” school. Despite the fact that I knew this was not to be taken seriously, I used to picture him - a small boy dressed in rags. Much later I discovered that indeed there had once been such schools. 

It all began in 1818 when John Pounds a shoemaker in Portsmouth began teaching poor children in his workshop free of charge.

John Pounds 1766-1839
with some of his scholars

The concept soon spread with the work of people like Rev Thomas Guthrie in Edinburgh and Sheriff Watson in Aberdeen. There was a big leap forward in 1844 when Lord Shaftsbury founded the Ragged Schools Union, and by 1870, when the Education Act was passed, the number of ragged schools had reached 350.


And now a quick leap from a ragged school to my secondary school - Lenzie Academy. This photo shows the final year pupils in 1943. Counting the rows from the front up, I'm on the 3rd row, 3rd from the right.


   A row of bottles on my shelf
Caused me to analyse myself.
One yellow pill I have to pop
Goes to my heart so it won't stop.

A little white one that I take
Goes to my hands so they won't shake.
The blue ones that I use a lot
Tell me I'm happy when I'm not.

The purple pill goes to my brain
And tells me that I have no pain.
The capsules tell me not to wheeze
Or cough or choke or even sneeze.

The red ones, smallest of them all
Go to my blood so I won't fall.
The orange ones, very big and bright
Prevent my leg cramps in the night.

Such an array of brilliant pills
Helping to cure all kinds of ills.
But what I'd really like to know
Is what tells each one where to go.
- Anon


After the death of her husband Dewi, Brenda Rowland was going through his possessions and eventually came to his precious garden hut. Over the years he had kept a locked wooden box there and had refused to tell her what it contained.

So rather reluctantly and with some worrying thoughts, she decided to open the box. She was astonished to find it was full of old toys, obviously things he had played with and loved when he was a boy.
Lined with a 1937 newspaper, the box contained ludo, snakes and ladders, building bricks, skipping ropes, a little farm with animals, zoo animals, lead soldiers, a yo-yo, a wooden alphabet, marbles, and a clockwork train.
With no children to pass them on to, he had kept them all those years. 

Do you think he would sometimes open the box and handle those precious things which had been so important to him once?



This picture shows the Gypsy Queen on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Townhead Bridge, Kirkintilloch. The bridge, the original wooden one, has been raised to allow the boat to pass through. The photo must have been taken some time before 1914; that was the year St Mary’s was built and the church steeple would have been clearly seen between the bridge-keeper’s cottage on the right and the Temperance Hotel across the road.

The construction of the canal began in 1768 and took 22 years to complete. In the early days traffic of all kinds used the waterway and even in my childhood there were horse-drawn barges, fishing boats, coal-fired boats and pleasure boats like the Gypsy Queen.

This next picture, taken from the steeple of St. Mary’s, looks down on the bridge and the main street stretching south. The first building on the left across the canal is a public house. Following the “no licence” vote in 1920 all the pubs were closed, and that property became the police station. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, a public vote in 1969 resulted in a defeat for the "dry" supporters and licensed premises returned to the town. The building is now a pub once more.

Returning to the photo, the tenement across the road is the Co-operative Building always pronounced "cope." and this building is still there. Further ahead the steeple on the right is that of St. Andrew’s Church which was demolished many years ago. 


Finally -

I'm growing fonder of my staff;
I'm growing dimmer in my eyes;
I'm growing fainter in my laugh;
I'm growing deeper in my sighs;
I'm growing careless of my dress;
I'm growing frugal of my gold;
I'm growing wise; I'm growing--yes,--
I'm growing old.” 
John Godfrey Saxe