Schools in Moidart
Annual Report of the Society for the Support of Gaelic Schools states
in its 1803 report that there are 335,000 persons in the Highlands of
which 300,000 understand only Gaelic. The aim of the society was to teach
people to read the Bible in Gaelic. It produced its own spelling book.
In the summer of 1813 school number XXI in Glenuig was visited by the secretary of the Society and he comments favourably on the progress being made by the scholars and on the fact that the school has the full support of the Catholic Clergyman, Rev Norman MacDonald, D.D. (page 10). The teacher was Mr Peter MacEwan who had arrived in December 1812. Page 51 of the report gives the letter from Dr MacDonald praising the teacher and asking for another school to be established at Langal. Page 52 shows a letter sent by the scholars to the Society thanking it for the school. None could sign their names and their signs were witnessed by Mr Chisholm of Samalaman. They were Ranald MacDonald, Hugh MacDonald, Roderick MacDonald, Archibald MacIsaac, Donald MacIsaac, Ewan MacDonald, Norman MacDonald, John MacLean, Ann Thomson, Donald MacDonald, jun., John MacDonald, Donald MacVarish. (11 males and 1 female). A letter from the teacher of 10th April 1813 indicates that 15 attend regularly and "the others come to get a lesson regularly". Ages ranged from 23 to 4 years of age - 23 (1), 15-20 (4), 10-15 (4), 4-10 (15) i.e. a total of 24. The teacher reports that a school-house is promised and that 50 to 60 scholars would attend. By 31st July 1813 Peter MacEwan is reporting that numbers have increased and that "all the unmarried women in the town have come to the School, except two". On 9th October 13 have been added to the number of scholars, 10 of them women. "A few of the men promise to attend, from 22-24 years old and I expect that 10 or 12 will come from other places."
report has only a brief mention of Glenuig school and the hope is expressed
that those who have already learned to read will pass on their skills
and that they will hire one of their own number to act as Teacher - probably
the Ranald MacDonald praised by Norman
Page 11 of
the 1813 report states that the Committee has resolved to establish a
school at Langal. Page 53 reproduces a letter from Dr Norman MacDonald
dated 7th October 1813. In it he reports "There are several glens
in this country; but, except Glenuig, they are all laid out in sheep-walks,
and, of course, have little population." This seems to indicate that
Glenmoidart and Loch Shiel had all been cleared by this time. He recommends
Langal as the site for the school in south Moidart because it is the most
populous, the most "centrical" and has a public road going through
it. He says that there are 20 to 30 families who might send children to
the school. It is proposed that the teacher would reside at Langal Farm.
The main problem he sees is the lack of a School-house, "especially
during the Winter season, as then all outhouses are occupied by crop and
cattle; and the dwelling-houses are too small for the purpose of a School
and other domestic affairs." He offers the use of a Meeting House
on Langal farm "at a very short distance from the other houses, where
I occasionally officiate."* The report seems to use the word farm
as equivalent to "township" since on p55 (1813), in discussing
Kentra school, it states that the teacher, Hugh Dewar, will have to go
from farm to farm - "they are six in number, containing a population
of about 200 souls". However, by 14th October 1814, it has been decided
to establish the school at Blain instead of Langal "on account of
some families on an adjoining property having removed to an inconvenient
distance, which renders that station too eccentric for the purpose".
Does this refer to clearance of people from Dalnabreac, Langal or Dalilea?
Norman MacDonald states that he will be able to keep an eye on Blain better
too because it is closer to where he stays. Blain, Scardoish? Blain opened
on 14th November 1814 with 20 scholars and Donald Cameron as teacher.
The first Session finished about the 18th of April with up to 61 attending,
40 or 50 of them constantly. One scholar taught his crippled father aged
about 50 to read
the New Testament, according to Norman MacDonald. At the end of the session
there were 41 boys and 10 girls attending aged 5 to 27. The school continued
operating at Blain in 1815. Donald Cameron is described as being at Mingary
in the 1816 report. Does this indicate that the school had moved from
Blain? Page 34 of the 1816 report states that Donald Cameron, Blain, Ardnamurchan,
Strontian post town(?), had 49 males, 7 females aged 4 to 27, 4 making
good progress reading the Bible and 23 in reading the Guide.
[* I spoke to Davie Duncan Sen. recently and he mentioned that a historian he could not identify had said that there was a church in Langal, close to the burn and above the old croft. Apparently there are still some stones there marking its outline. This building may well be the meeting house mentioned by Dr. Norman MacDonald - JD 15/2/03]
Kentraa School and Hugh Dewar had removed to Salen by 1815.
report shows former schools at Blain, Glenuig and Mingary. The only active
school is Mingray (sic) with Donald Cameron as teacher. 27 males, 19 females
The 1851 census records that Archibald Fletcher was a schoolmaster at Kinlochmoidart. He was only 20 and came from Salen, Mull. His brother Duncan (14) and a tailor Hugh MacDougall (26) were also in the same house. This was probably the school near the farm which is shown on the first OS map. The 1861 census describes an unmarried Allan MacPherson (22, from Morvern) as an "Assembly Schoolmaster". He lived in a house with 3 rooms.
At Glenaladale a schoolmaster is recorded in the 1861 census. He was George Cameron (born 1821 in Kingussie). Two sons of a shepherd, Thomas Grieve, aged 9 and 6, are described as scholars in Glenaladale.
MacDonald (26, born in Glasgow) was the schoolmaster at Polnish SSPCK
School in 1861. He stayed with his wife, 2 sons and a daughter.
Teaching of Gaelic, Special Report by An Comann Gàidhealach, 1936.
Education in the Highlands in the Olden Times, Wm. MacKay, TGSI 1914
Wall Display Map in Inverness Library of SSPCK Schools came from GD95 13 21/1
1876 Val. Roll is first to show schoolhouse at Mingarry. Teacher Donald MacCormack
Roll shows Polnish schoolhouse, Archibald (?) teacher
No. XXI Glenuig School.
PARISH OF ARDNAMURCHAN, INVERNES-SHIRE.
I. From the Rev. Norman MacDonald, D. D. Roman Catholic Clergyman, dated Moidart, 22d April 1813. - Sir, Please permit me to inform you, that Peter M'Ewen, the hearer hereof, has given entire satisfaction in regard to his moral conduct, which has been irreproachable since he came to this country; as also in teaching the Gaelic language, in which branch of education, his pupils, I find, have made an unexpected progress, during the short period since he came here, having, by all appearance, paid the utmost attention to the trust you and the Society reposed in him. I give this character of him entirely unsolicited by himself; but, from the little acquaintance I have had personally with him, and the report of my parishioners with whom he lodged. He is now, I am told, about to depart, and though to return soon hereafter uncertain; he says, whether or not to be appointed again for this country. The whole of this country are Roman Catholics committed to my care, with the exception of a few of the established religion. The difference of our creed, I understand, makes no difference in the universal benevolence you shew towards all mankind; and, therefore, if you and the Society do not find it convenient to restore Mr M'Ewen to us, I beg leave to propose another candidate, who is his principal Scholar. I have examined the boy, and have made him read different parts of the Bible, besides his ordinary lesson, when I found him as expert in reading the Gaelic, and as fluently, as you or I could read English. As I see, by the public Papers, that your funds are continually increasing, this being but a poor country, if you and the Society could find it convenient to give an encouraging salary to this young boy, for teaching the Gaelic in other parts of this country, I would be most willing to employ him for that purpose, as I think him sufficiently capable of doing so. The local situation of this Country is very disadvantageous to any kind of public School, being cut up a considerable way by the Sea, so that the Youth and Children cannot, at the same time, attend on either side; but if you can find it convenient to employ Ranald M'Donald, Mr. M'Ewen's pupil, he will in a short time hence, teach all the Youth of the country to read the Gaelic Scriptures, which I wish for very much. When Mr. M'Ewen returns, please let me know your proper address, in case of future correspondence. Meanwhile, I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.
2. From the Teacher, dated Moidart, 10th April 1813 - I am very glad to tell you, that I have great pleasure in most of the Scholars. They are learning pretty well. Some of them could read some words when I came here (In December last); five or six of these read the Bible now with all ease. I have ten or eleven reading the New Testament, and the rest are reading the Spelling-book. Fifteen of them attend very regularly, and the others come to get a lesson every opportunity. One of them is about 23 years of age: four, from 15 to 20; four, from 10 to 15; and fifteen, from 4 to 10. The people are glad on hearing that I am coming among them again; they were afraid that I was not to come. Others have been speaking to me, and they promised a School-house, with every accommodation. As far as they knew, they were thinking that 50 or 60 scholars would attend, I hope this will give satisfaction to you and to the Society.
3. From the
Teacher, 3lst July l8l3 - I have the pleasure of letting you know, that
the number of my Scholars has increased since you visited us. All the
unmarried women in the town have come to the School, except two. I hope
they will read pretty well before the Session be over, as they are very
anxious to learn.
from the Inhabitants, dated Moidart, 22nd April 1813. - We, the under
subscribers, and tenants In Glenuig, humbly beg leave to return our grateful
thanks to the Society, who had the humanity of sending us Mr. M'Ewen,
to teach our children the Gaelic language. May the great God reward them
for their good and laudable Intentions! We are so well pleased with Mr.
M'Ewen, that we would rejoice at his coming among us again, if the honourable
Society would think us worthy. We remain, most gratefully, your most obedient
in presence of Mr Chisholm of Samlaman.