Morham | Education

Morham Public School, with its large playground – divided in two (for girls and boys) – opened in 1868. Erected by the heritors of the parish, it was surrounded by lime trees, and had iron railings and a gate. One of the gates was still around until the 1970s, but the railings went for requisition during the 1940s (post-war, it became apparent that such ‘scrap’ was never actually used). The building was described as ’25’ long, 15′ wide, with a ceiling 13′ high … five windows’ taking ‘boys, girls and infants’ none of whom were ‘paupers’ (NAS Ed 18/1125, Document 4 June 1868).

The return for 1938-39 (NAS Ed 18/1125) suggests that the roll varied, with a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 39 pupils. This was a common pattern in rural schools where agricultural families moved around the county, and children from school to school. The school log recorded that 8 and 9 May 1945 were a Victory Holiday, and that Christian Gilchrist and John Robson hoisted the school flag.

By 10 October 1950, there were 20 pupils on the roll, the ‘premises were in good condition’, but there was ‘no artificial lighting’ – oil lamps were used. A spare classroom had been ‘recently equipped for dining’ with some 19 children using it. The same report summarised that ‘… standards throughout the school were creditable. Reading has been carefully taught in the younger classes, and at the latter stages is commendably fluent but the response to questions on the subject matter of the lessons was somewhat diffident’. On arithmetic – ‘oral answering was ready’ and that ‘handwriting was good, though jotter work was occasionally untidy’. Pupils had a ‘satisfactory knowledge of … history and geography and their performance in recitation, singing, art and handwork was generally good.’

In 1951 the roll reached 35, but fell to 16 the following year. The children visited the zoo that year. In 1952, the school was deemed suitable for a maximum of 80 pupils, and the buildings were seen as ‘structurally good’ (County Plan, 1953). A further report of 29 September 1955 (NAS Ed 18/1125) praised the previous head teacher Mrs Catherine M Mackenzie, who had just retired. There were 13 pupils on the roll. Since the last report had been made, ‘electric lighting had been installed and a film strip projector supplied’.

‘The pupils acquitted themselves generally well. The neatness of the written exercise deserves praise … The tone of the school is pleasing.’

The same year the telephone arrived, as well as a physiotherapist. Visits included a trip to Peter Pan at the King’s Theatre (1958)

By 1960, times had moved on, and schools were being viewed rather differently.

‘Both the existing classrooms are sub-standard in area, there is no general purposes room, and the lavatories at the rear of the school require improvement. It might be possible to add a classroom and to merge the existing classrooms to provide a general purposes room, but complete replacement of the school may prove more satisfactory and economical in the long run.’ (NAS 48/1650, Scottish Education Department letter, 14 July 1960)

A document – The Discontinuance of Rural Schools in East Lothian, 25 October 1962 – said it all really; small schools like Morham (with 16 pupils) were to be closed and children taken to Haddington or Gifford. In 1963, the final decision was made and on 28 June 1968, Morham school closed. The last teacher was Mrs Mary Johnstone, who joined the school in 1955 and left in 1968 when school closed. She went on to teach at Garvald. From 1968 there were no teaching facilities in Morham parish. Thereafter, one bus took primary children to and from Gifford and another took secondary pupils to Knox Academy, Haddington.