n the 1940s and 1950s there was no educational provision for the under-fives. In the 1970s some Longniddry children were allowed to enrol in Cockenzie Nursery School, and around the same time a private nursery school operated in Longniddry. There has been a nursery class at Longniddry Primary School since 1985.
Primary education has been available in Longniddry throughout the period 1945-2000 at Longniddry Primary School (formerly Longniddry Public School). The massive expansion of the village in the late 1960s and 1970s caused particular problems for the school. For several years many of the pupils had to be taught in temporary mobile classrooms, placed in the school grounds, until a large new school extension was opened in 1978. In 2000 the school roll was 292. The current roll of Longniddry Primary School (October 2001) is 285 taught in 11 classes. There is also a nursery class with 48 children attending. This compares with a school roll of around 120 in the mid 1950s.
I (David Robertson) was a pupil from 1950 57: I contributed to the Longniddry Primary School’s 50th anniversary booklet, and this is reproduced here with the permission of the head teacher, Mrs A McLanachan.
I started school at Longniddry after Easter 1950, a few months before my fifth birthday. The infant teacher was Miss Campbell. There was a framed picture high up on the wall of the infant room showing a huge yellow angel appearing in the sky to some crouching shepherds. We learned to write on slates and had to take a rag and a bottle of water to school with us to clean them. I remember our first reading-book began, ‘Sing, sing, sing’. Sometimes Miss Campbell would use a big abacus while teaching us to count. It stood about five feet high and had large coloured wooden beads.
My next teacher was Miss Barret who must have been very young. In her class everyone had cards marked up with stars for good work and behaviour. There was a complex system of keeping track of it all and exchanging ordinary stars for silver and gold stars. I don’t think I ever quite got the hang of it.
I went into Miss Henry’s class after that. She introduced us to ‘cursive’ writing and had a habit of grabbing evildoers by the chin to make them look her in the face as she gave them a row. I often wondered what she meant when she said someone’s work was ‘a troshus’. Later I realised it wasn’t a noun, but an adjective.
Miss Dunbar, the next teacher, had taught at the old school, now the British Legion, and could remember people carrying buckets of water on yokes up the Main Street from the village well. She taught us dancing for the school party, and thanks to her I can still make a not bad job of the ‘Nips o’ Brandy’. She was the first teacher to belt me. We were reading round the class in a nature-study textbook, and when she asked me to read the next paragraph I didn’t know the place.
Mr Allan took the ‘Qualifying Class’. I was amazed that in his class you were allowed to put up your hand and ask questions on whatever he was teaching. That seemed a great innovation. Mr Allan had crepe-soled shoes and when he was out of the room, collecting dinner money or registers, he could creep up to the door unheard and suddenly spring in to catch anyone not working. We were regularly tested in every school subject and were seated in order of merit. The desks had hinged lids and seats, and heavy iron frames.
There was a girls’ playground and a boys’ playground, and trespassing in the wrong one was a serious misdemeanour. When it rained we sheltered in the ‘sheds’. One favourite rainy day ‘game’ was to trap a small boy in a corner of the shed and crush the living daylights out of him, pushing as hard as possible and chanting, ‘Heave! Heave!’ Allyover was a favourite game, and chessies and bools were played in season. There were different games of bools – ringie, knucklie, and trow. Trow involved rolling bools into a hole and I used to think this must have had something to do with the French ‘trou’, meaning ‘hole’. Not so. The verb ‘to trow’ means ‘to roll’. (Concise Scots Dictionary). We played various forms of tig – high tig, chain tig, hospital tig, aeroplane tig. The person doing the chasing was ‘het’, and it you claimed temporary immunity, you stuck up your thumbs and said, ‘Barleys’, or ‘Bees’.
I never remember a school trip or excursion, but there were annual concerts for the prize- giving, and the school party at Christmas was well worth looking forward to. Occasionally several classes would go together to the hall for ‘films’, and this was looked on as a great treat. They were only strips of still pictures, but somebody did come once and showed us a movie. There was no television but sometimes we got wireless broadcasts.
Every school day began with the Lord’s Prayer and ended with,
‘O spread Thy covering wings around,
Till all our wanderings cease.
And at our Father’s loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace.’
There were ten of us in my primary school class, and only two are still in the village. Wherever our various wanderings have led us, I’m sure our education at Longniddry was as good a preparation for them as we could have got anywhere.
A less sophisticated generation.
There is no secondary school in Longniddry, but secondary education has been available throughout the period 1945-2000 at Preston Lodge School in Prestonpans. Until the early 1950s this was a senior secondary school, which accepted only those children who had passed the qualifying examination in Primary 7. Longniddry pupils who failed the exam were directed to the secondary department of Prestonpans Public School. Thereafter, Preston Lodge School (later Preston Lodge High School) became comprehensive and took pupils of all ability levels. In recent years some parents have preferred to send their children to North Berwick High School, which they perceive as being better than Preston Lodge. The reputation of Prestonpans as a rough working-class community may have not a little to do with this.
Throughout the period 1945-2000 there have always been some Longniddry parents who have preferred to send their children to private schools in Edinburgh, particularly for secondary education. In the 1950s and 1960s, parents in Gosford Road and King’s Road did so almost without exception.
There are no facilities in Longniddry for adult education, other than night classes held in
Longniddry Primary School, which are more hobby- or interest-based than academic.
University and college education has always been available close at hand in Edinburgh. Generous government grants in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s made it possible for young Longniddry people from humble backgrounds to achieve a university or college education without undue financial hardship, and it was usually taken for granted that those who had the inclination and ability would take advantage of the opportunity.