Kingston School from the log book

Sonia Baker

This logbook provides a rich source of information on education during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Built in 1878, this rural school was added to in 1901. In 1930 it was described thus: the schoolroom was 40′ long, 18′ wide, and 15′ high; the infants’ room was 33′ long, 15′ wide and 15′ high. In autumn 1946, the school air raid shelter was removed, as were the respirators (eight baby helmets, and 18 mickey mouse). A year later the playground was cleaned up, and the open cesspool covered. A telephone was installed in September 1947. Modern locker desks and 18 stackable seats appeared for P1 and P2 in 1953.

Kingston school and schoolhouse

In 1952, the school could accommodate a maximum of 80 pupils, although numbers of attendees, 1945-1954, varied between 31 in 1947 to 50 in 1953.

Summer holidays ran from early July to the end of August. Casual holidays were given for such as VE day, Princess Elizabeth’s wedding, the King’s Silver Wedding (a half day only). No mention was made regarding any holiday for Coronation Day, but Coronation mugs were given out. In May, Empire Day warranted a half-day off, following the reading of the King’s message, and the hoisting of the flag.

In May 1946, May 1949, and September 1949 there are comments that ‘Attendance was greatly reduced owing to local holidays on the farms’. In January 1948 is a telling comment about the Attendance Officer: he had ‘no car to attend to country absentees’.

Dr Daniel Thomson was headmaster from 4 September 1923 to his retirement on 3 January 1952; he died suddenly later that month. William Gordon Gray succeeded him and on 18 January, he and four senior boys attended Dr Thomson’s funeral. The headmaster taught classes P4b, P5, P6 and P7.

The headmaster was assisted in his teaching duties by a series of female assistant teachers, who generally stayed for a couple of years at most. Miss Catherine Miller (August 1945-August 1946) was replaced by Miss Mary M Dow. In August 1947, she became Mrs Lugg and was denoted as a ‘temporary teacher’; she left in November. Her replacement, Mrs Morgan, was deemed an ‘interim teacher’; a full list of teachers is given in the logbook. In 1950, Classes P1 (Infant), P2 (Infant), P3 and P4a were taught by the assistant teacher, ‘…in the lower room.’ and that ‘… recreative activities were being successfully developed.’ Physical instructors, male and female, visited fortnightly, and included Mrs Small, Miss McLaren and Mr Spence.

On only two occasions were educational trips made. In 1945, seven senior pupils visited Edinburgh and went to the castle, the museum, the zoo and Holyrood Palace. No mention of other trips is made until June 1954, when P4, P5, P6 and P7 were taken to the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The East Lothian Educational Trust financed this trip.

In 1946, Dr Thomson stated that the record of pupils presented for the County Qualifying Examination was ‘good’. A piano appeared in summer 1947, and a ‘strip projector’ in 1949. Staff of the Agricultural College, Edinburgh gave a course of ten lectures in spring 1950 – to whom is unclear, possibly the senior pupils. The same year, pupils in P4b, P5, P6 and P7 were described by the School Inspector as ‘industrious’ and ‘…at all stages they read fluently and with understanding; work in spelling, written compositions and arithmetic pleasing’. Other subjects of history, geography and nature study were also noted and the Report stated that ‘…the tone of the school is good.’

In April 1951, film strips of Coal and The Life of a Butterfly were shown, and in January 1952, a film on health education.

From September 1952, the school partook of the BBC’s lessons on Singing Together, rhythm & melody, and nature study; they appear to have made use of the accompanying pamphlets (one each for P5, P6 and P7 pupils) before the school had access to the wireless broadcasts. Wireless installations in classes were not complete until January 1953.

A ‘Band of Hope‘ speaker visited in May 1953 to address the three older classes, and in October a new silent reader textbook (Reading for Meaning Book III iv) was introduced to test comprehension, and was aimed at P6 and P7.

Social events played a part in school life too. Sports days – in 1951 held on the Common, in 1952 in Castle Park – and Christmas parties are mentioned.

The logbook charts an array of childhood illnesses that have now largely disappeared. These included measles and chickenpox, mumps, whooping cough and German measles. In December 1947, scarlet fever resulted in a trip to the Infectious Diseases Hospital for the infected child, and any contacts were kept off school for a week. Nevertheless, three more children were hospitalised in January 1948.

A number of regular services were provided at the school. Dr Thomson carefully noted the nurse’s monthly visits, the provision of a weighing machine, dental inspections (from 1946) and even immunisation programmes (against what was unspecified in an entry in 1946, but in October 1949, protection was given against diphtheria, following a medical examination of all pupils). In October 1952, a representative of the RSPCC visited – possibly to give a talk.

Free milk was provided from August 1946, and in the same year some children were in receipt of ‘supplemental coupons’ – perhaps for free dinners? In October 1950, the Director of Education instructed the school to provide 2 boys with free dinners. Unfortunately, when bad weather struck in February 1947, the dinners and the milk failed to reach the school; one hopes that only very local children reached school, and so managed to get home for their dinner. In 1945, the North Berwick Cooking Depot provided dinners, and a designated dining hut was opened on 21 March 1949.

Information taken from:

  • Kingston Primary School Logbook, 1930-54; Local History Centre, Haddington: uncatalogued
  • The School Inspector’s Report (31 May 1951) relating to 1 November 1950 recorded in the logbook
  • East Lothian County Plan 1953 (relates to October 1952)