Throughout the period primary age Roman Catholic children were educated at Our Lady of Loretto School in Musselburgh; secondary education was available at St David’s, Dalkeith.
From September 1947 Musselburgh Grammar School accommodated all the secondary pupils from Crookston and Smeaton, as it and Fisherrow Junior Secondary had amalgamated in 1945.
Up to the 1950s primary education in the parish was provided by Midlothian County Council via a number of small rural schools – Wallyford, Crookston, Smeaton and Cowpits.
Wallyford School was situated next to the church and had four classrooms and four teachers. It catered for children up to age eight; they then went to Crookston until age eleven. The old school closed when Wallyford’s new school opened in 1953 but the building continued to be used as a baby welfare clinic and library until the 1980s. It stood empty for some time and was eventually demolished late in the 1980s, when houses were built on the site.
Crookston School (now off the re-routed A6094) had five teachers catering for P3-7; the head teacher was a Mr Hogg. Crookston closed in 1954 and its pupils moved to the new school at Wallyford. The building became a service station and car showroom in 1962 but by 2000 was a haulage contractor’s depot.
Smeaton School is tucked away up a side road on the far side of the junction of Carberry Hill / Cousland / Elphinstone. The building visible on the crossroads is the old Smeaton Miners’ Welfare – which itself is now a builder’s yard. The old school – which had a number of rooms – and its grounds are not in use at present. Opened in 1913, by the 1950s Smeaton was a one-teacher school, taking pupils from P1-7; the head teacher was a Miss Lumsden. On its closure in 1958 the nine pupils were transferred to the new school at Whitecraig.
Cowpits School (built c1877) was an infant and junior school. At aged eight, children went on to Crookston. In 1957 the last intake before closure was 56 children, in two classes; the head teacher was a Miss Watt. On closure, the children went to Whitecraig. Cowpits is now a private house.
The new school at 39 Salter’s Road, Wallyford was opened in June 1953. There is a community wing attached. In 2000 there were 244 on the school roll, aged 3-11.
The new school on Whitecraig Crescent opened in 1958, taking P1-7 children under the head teacher Walter McPherson. In October 1984 there was a proposal to close Whitecraig School (along with another three in East Lothian); by 1985 political manoeuverings meant that the whole plan was abandoned and none were closed. In 2000 the school roll was 124, and accommodation was increasingly tight.
This summary was produced on the 40th Anniversary of Whitecraig Primary School (1958-98); it is lodged at the Local History Centre, Haddington but is not attributed.
A short history of Whitecraig Primary School
Headteachers were obliged to keep a log of school activities and this was started by Mr Walter MacPherson when the new school opened in 1958. It continued until 1981. Here is a summary of entries to give you a flavour of the school life over the last 40 years.
Headteacher’s Log 1958-81
The school was officially opened on 4 August 1958. One of the first activities mentioned is the visit by the police for a road safety demonstration. This appears to be an annual event in the first few weeks of the session and continues today.
An entry indicative of the time is the giving of polio vaccinations on 9/9/58.
The head teacher gives weekly reports of the attendance as a percentage showing it as an important aspect to be recorded. Normal attendance was between 97%-99%. In October it was 87.3% because of an outbreak of whooping cough.
On October 15 intelligence tests were administered. This entry was recorded over several years. Today we have 5-14 National Testing in mathematics, reading and writing, which are carried out throughout the session.
Harry Crudens JP donated a bench to the school on 26/1/59. This is still used today and is usually in the entrance hall. The bench has many uses, being used for waiting visitors, sick children and for children waiting to see the headteacher. Has its purpose ever changed?
A significant entry is made when non-graduate students arrive for their first teaching practice. These students were from Moray House Teacher Training College – later known as Moray House College of Education and from summer this year comes under Edinburgh University.
An outbreak of influenza is recorded with a 79.9% attendance – 30/11/58.
On February 2 the head teacher writes of 12 new P1 children being admitted to the school. These were the days of two intakes in a school session. Miss Livingstone, the first P1 teacher, told the children of this during her visit in June 1998.
Her Majesty’s Inspector called on 13/1/59 and signed his name in the log book (Barclay Fraser).
May 4 and 5 were official holidays for the Miners’ Gala Holiday showing the importance of coal to the Lothian area. Today we have the same holidays. One is for the May holiday and the other a teacher in-service day.
On May 13 the school closed early at 3pm in order to prepare for the sale of work at 6pm. This was to raise money for school funds.
17/6/59 Mr Henderson, the Director of Education for Midlothian and his Depute, Mr Linklater, visited the school in the morning and the school sports were held in the afternoon. Today our sports are held around this date but the format of running races changed to potted sports (sic) in 1997. Later in the month, 26/6/59, children from the school compete with other schools in the Musselburgh area at the interschool sports in Musselburgh. Today the interschool sports are held at Meadowbank and the school competes with other small schools in the East Lothian authority. Small schools compete in the afternoon and large schools in the morning.
3 July records the visit of Mr Morgan and Miss Russell, the Honest Lad and Lass. Today they arrive by car, where previously they came in a horse and carriage.
The school closed on 3 July 1959 with a service in St John’s, Church, Whitecraig, led by the Reverend Sydney Adamson. He remained as school chaplain for many years. The headteacher read the lessons and Miss Watt, the retired headteacher of Cowpits school, presented prizes to the Dux and others.
So ended the eventful first year in the history of the Whitecraig school.
Pupils and teachers resumed on 24 August 1959, the roll being 221 children. Over the years the roll declines and today it stands at 121 (August 1998). School life in 1959 continued with the annual road safety demonstrations, intelligence tests and student teachers etc.
Mr MacPherson records, on 22/2/60, a holiday to commemorate the birth of a Prince to the Queen.
On 26/2/60 an attendance of 74.9 % pupils is due to a measles epidemic – no MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations then.
In the same year on 6 May pupils are given a holiday to celebrate the wedding of Princess Margaret.
A record of malicious damage to outside woodwork is made on 17/5/60.
Another school year begins and on 5 September, twelve pupils attend school camp at Dounans, Aberfoyle. One pupil returns early but no record is given of the reason. This September 1998 P6/7 pupils will travel to Dounan’s camp. This camp is now run by Scottish Centres, being previously administered by Lothian Region.
16/10/62 Pupils are taken to watch the Visit of King Olaf on TV in the hall. Edinburgh schools walked to Princes Street to line the pavements for the procession of King Olaf and Queen Elizabeth. Whitecraig pupils had to watch on a black and white television.
All teacher absences, the reason and their day of return, are recorded in the log book as is the name of any teacher called in to take the class. A significant entry is made on 11/1/63, when Mr Leslie was admitted to hospital suffering from chicken pox. Fortunately he recovered and was back on duty a few days later.
27/4/64 Painters are in the school – just as in July 1998.
26/6/64 Two pupils are excluded, being contacts for dysentery.
On 4 September pupils are given a holiday to celebrate the opening of the Forth Road Bridge.
A local historical event is referred to on 5/1/65, when a teacher is lent to the Burgh to prepare the school choir for the official opening of their school.
On 7 January 38 pupils sail on the Dunera to Norway, Poland and Denmark.
A sad event is recorded on 14 May 1965 when William Ross, a P5 pupil, was drowned in the river Esk at Musselburgh.
11/6/65 was another holiday celebrating the 750 Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.
A school excursion to Rothesay took place on 17 June 1966 – quite an adventure then. Did they go by train or bus?
Another sad event is written in the log – 23/4/67 – when Ian Elliot, a P5 pupil, died suddenly.
8/2/68 records another visit and signature from Her Majesty’s Inspectors.
On 5 January 1970 Mr Alex Smith replaced Mr MacPherson as headteacher. Mr MacPherson took up a new post in Woodburn Primary School.
8 January is an important day when the school makes its last remittance in LSD before changing over to decimal currency. Mr Stirling on his visit in June 1998 showed the pupils how to multiply in pounds, shillings and pence. They were glad they did not have to do this now.
Mr Smith left to go to Mauricewood Primary in Penicuik on 22/12/71 and Mr Christie took over as HT on 6/1/72.
Session 1972-73 sees 22 children examined and passed so that they be supplied with free milk, further outbreaks of chicken pox and influenza, a visit to the Odeon cinema to see “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, the headteacher going to Musselburgh Grammar School to discuss the celebrations for the centenary of the Education Act 1872 and the painting of the janitor’s room, staff room and toilets.
20/11/72 A holiday is given for the celebration of the Queen’s Silver Wedding.
1973-74 shows a roll of 140 rising to 154 in October. This session is the first recording of teachers being in the school before the pupils returned (20-22 August). Pupils returned on 23rd August.
On the 8 November 1973 staff attend the funeral of Walter MacPherson.
The first auxiliaries for schools are appointed and Mrs Butcher arrives at Whitecraig on November the 10 1973. She is our present secretary.
The school is closed on 10/12/73 due to lack of heating.
1974 sees the Riding of the Marches and Councillor Mitchell presenting prizes to 37 pupils at the end of term – 26/6/74. Mr Christie visited Roslin PS before taking up his appointment as headteacher there. Colour television was installed at the school on the same day.
Miss Stoddart was acting headteacher until Mr MacBeath took over on 20/9/74. The roll had increased to 163 pupils.
1/11/74 Two classes were sent home owing to a shortage of teachers.
The headteacher reports strong gales on 20/9/74 when two boys are struck on the back by a falling ceiling.
3/12/74 Three members of staff are on strike and the classes P2, 5 and 6 report for dinner only.
6/11/74 Painters are again to paint the main hall and rooms. Classes are moved around the school until they finish on 6/1/75.
6/2/75 The heating is off again and the children sent home.
On 9 April Mr Higgins, the janitor, retires and is presented with binoculars.
An unusual entry is made on 6/5/75, when a boy is taken to the Fire Station to have a ring removed from his finger.
A holiday on the 16/5/75 marks the beginning of Lothian Regional Council.
2/7/75 marks the end of another school year, when the pupils finish at 12pm and the teachers at 2pm.
School life continues as before and is affected by the janitor strikes. Heating is still a problem. The football and basketball teams have mixed fortunes in competitions.
8/3/76 Mr Semple, Director of Education for Lothian Region, visits the school.
9/9/76 shows an entry of an exceptionally cold day as the boilers are off.
12/1/77 Weather very bad – snow storms and hard frost – many roads blocked and schools in Midlothian closed early. Our school had no problems regarding snowbound roads at the moment – very few from outlying regions on our roll.
21/11/77 Still boiler trouble, when both the boilers are off and the headteacher reports temperatures of under 40 F.
23/11/77 School council meeting at Musselburgh Grammar.
26/1/78 Very heavy snowstorms – chaotic traffic conditions – but most people arrived at school – heating good!!!.
4/1/79 School due to open but Lothian Region closed all schools on 4 and 5 January due to overtime ban by gritters.
1/3/79 Schools closed for the vote on the Referendum.
The boilers continue to cause problems and the weather holds up Mr MacBeath on holiday in Yugoslavia. Pupils continue to play other schools in football and hockey. The school prepares for its appraisal and teachers go on various courses on religious education. A car is reported to the police for obstructing the entrance.
16/3/81 The last entry reporting the absence of a sick teacher.
Much has happened since this time including the 25 year celebrations (see photograph in gallery) when trees were planted at the entrance area of the school. Unfortunately, none survived due to an enthusiastic grass cutter. Mrs Mackenzie took over from Mr MacBeath as headteacher.
‘It would be useful to the future generations of Whitecraig pupils if these “missing” years could be documented. If you are an ex-pupil from these times and have memories you wish to share, please write them down and they can be added to this history document’.