There was no school in Gladsmuir, and the primary school in Macmerry was closed in June 1940 because of its proximity to the airfield. Pupils were dispersed mainly to Tranent public school, but some went to schools in Longniddry and Pencaitland. The headteacher was appointed head at Ormiston Junior Secondary School after 21 years at Macmerry. During the war the school premises were used for various military purposes, including for military stores, and as an HQ for the local Home Guard. Tents were at one stage pitched in the playground for soldiers, and officers occupied the head teacher’s house.
After the war, the re-opening of the school was in some doubt but, after strong local representations, it was reopened on 27 August 1946, with a roll of 47 pupils, which had risen to 69 by the end of the school year. By 1953 the roll had risen to 119, and the pressure on accommodation was such that the dining hut was brought into use as a classroom, and the Miners’ Institute hall was used for physical education. By Easter 1954, when the roll had reached 146, a class was also being held in the Miners’ Institute, and pressure was being put on the local council to extend the school. An extension was finally agreed and was completed by August 1959, by which time the roll had reached 213. This extension added a 2-storey block of six classrooms and cloakrooms, and an assembly/dining hall; the old school was reconstructed and brought into use for the infant classes. The school roll rose to a peak of 222 in 1964-65: in 2000, the roll was 104.
When the head teacher Mr McIntyre retired in 1972, the schoolhouse was vacated. During the 1970s there were increasing concerns about the safety of the pupils because of the proximity of the school to the busy A1 road, and demands for effective crash barriers. The school railings were demolished by an articulated lorry in 1974, and a child was knocked down on the road also in 1974, and another in 1975.
Pupils from the parish travelled to Ross High School, Tranent for secondary education after it was opened in 1954. Before that, those that passed the ‘quali’ (qualifying exam) attended Preston Lodge School in Prestonpans, and those that did not attended Tranent Junior Secondary School.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an independently run playgroup was held in Gladsmuir Church Hall. In 1977, Macmerry Nursery School was opened, housed in a unit of its own in the south-west corner of the primary school playground. In 1989, the nursery became two nursery classes in the main school building.
Macmerry Primary School celebrated its centenary in 1989 with the publication of a centenary magazine, an Open Day and a concert and the burying of a time capsule in the playground. Money was also raised to dig a well in a village in India to commemorate the event.
Pat Moncrieff was the teacher of Primary 1 at Macmerry Primary School, 1952-69; here she recalls her time there:
The P1 classroom was large, with a high ceiling, and had the blessing of a cork tile floor which minimised the clatter. There were small desks with lids at first, then rectangular wooden tables with metal legs, which could be grouped together (groups of eight or ten). There were small individual black boards with white and coloured chalk, a large sink, and various cupboards. The windows were too high for the children to look out.
Across the passage we could use the General Purposes (GP) room for painting, woodwork etc. In the 1960s this was quite “advanced” learning.
There was no school uniform; infants’ teachers often wore a smock overall (often floral) but graduates did not – they scorned to do so. It showed status, although teachers of the older children often wore their black gowns: this would have scared the wee ones!
Free milk was delivered in â…“ pint bottles with straws. I used to take strawberry flavouring and made ‘milk shakes’ which the children took in the café (a table set up in the GP room) as they finished an assignment. This was very popular, even with those who didn’t want milk at first. Children brought their own piece (jam and bread, or biscuit), which they ate with the milk or in the playground.
School lunches were cooked on the premises, and served ‘en famille’. A P7 pupil served out at each table of eight or so. Those staff having lunch at school (if not taking a sandwich in the staff-room) sat at another table. There was no real need for lunchtime supervision. Meals were eaten on the ‘stage’ of the assembly hall.
Most children walked to school, even from nearby farms – accompanied by their older siblings, or mothers when in the infants’ class. Staff lived in Macmerry or came by bus or later by car.
Lessons were the three Rs + nature study; physical education (PE); handwork and singing, stories and poems. I used “Two Years in the Infant School” by Enid Blyton as a guide in my early years of teaching. A week’s activities eg stories, nature, handwork, handwriting were organised by themes eg homes, shops, spring. Reading schemes used were Radiant Way and Janet and John. Work cards were used for mathematics. Much work was done as a class from the blackboard and by repetition. PE was exercises and Music and Movement (Ann Driver on BBC Schools programme), singing games etc. There were playground games and snow activities (building a snowman, organised snow fights). Sports day was mainly races. Infants ran egg and spoon, sack, obstacle, and three-legged races. The school had a football and a netball team.
There were seven members of staff, including the headmaster, usually one other male, and the rest female – all university graduates. Usually there was one teacher per stage, depending on the numbers in the twice-yearly intake. I had Easter and summer entrants so group teaching was essential – and the older ones helped the younger to settle in more quickly: there was no pre-school provision. Class size was a maximum of 45.
Teachers taught all subjects in the curriculum – no specialists at first, then latterly an art teacher for the older pupils. Most staff were a little musical, some very musical. When the infants went home at 3pm the infants’ teacher took the older ones for handwork, sewing, knitting until 3.45pm – or there was football practice (with the headmaster) or netball practice (me).
Playtime was ¼ of an hour. All ages played together. Playground games – ball games, skipping, peevers, statues etc, taught in games times, and continued as playground activities.
Special events were a school concert, a play written and produced by P7 children, and a school sale held once a year in the evening. The whole village attended. It was a complete sell-out especially the cake and candy stall.
The School Club for P7 was popular. Once a week after school – games, walks, modelling with balsa wood, board games etc..