Yester | Education

In 1945, there were two primary schools in the parish – one in the village (known as Yester school) and one at Longyester, in the Lammermuir foothills.

Yester school was situated in Duns Road and had three rooms, a staff room and three teachers, each with two or three classes. The head was a full-time teacher. There were outside toilets for the children and a dirt playground, open fires and later a boiler-type heater. Children walked often as far as three miles to school from outlying farms, later school buses brought in the children. The school roll was about 80; at this time, each of the farms was home to several families, and many of these had a lot of children. In 1961, there were 71 pupils (NAS ED48/1650).

The youngest children sat at little individual tables with a round-backed chair and the next age group at desks on a tiered floor. The windows were high up on one wall and the opposite wall had a partly glassed double door opening on to room two. Room two had the two intermediate classes and had a stove against one wall and windows on the opposite wall. The headmaster’s room was smaller with a fireplace, also windows on two walls. Each room had a blackboard and smelt of chalk. There was also an anteroom and a staff toilet, also separate cloakrooms for boys and girls.

In summer girls wore a dress and sandals or sandshoes – in winter, skirts and jerseys, blouses, knee socks or long stockings. Boys wore shorts and shirts in summer, trousers and jumpers in winter with wellies or warm boots.

School milk was available in 1946 but discontinued in the 1970s. Children carried their own ‘leave pieces’ and lunch pieces if not resident in the village. There were also school dinners from 1945. Lessons included English, history, arithmetic, geography and religious instruction, the same programme summer and winter. There were three teachers, the headmaster plus two ladies. (I remember being absolutely terrified of going on my first day to school because the then headmaster was a real tyrant. I was so afraid that I was sick). The headmaster was very keen on English grammar, which gave us a good grounding. The lady teachers were all very good, coping with two or three classes at once. Physical exercise was done in the playground of the old school with keep-fit type exercises.The primary school was good.

At playtime at primary school there were separate playgrounds for boys and girls. Games included ‘peevers’, drawn in the dirt playground, ‘I sent a letter to my love’, and ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf’, skipping, alone or with 2 people turning the rope, which involved jumping in and out, also playing with a ball against the wall. The boys played football.

I was bullied at primary school for a while by one particular boy. I was so afraid of him that I had nightmares and my mother spoke to his father who sorted him out. He would hold up his fist and say ‘I’ll get you’. I used to look for different ways to get to school to avoid him.’

Margaret Maslowski on her schooldays, 1932-39

Longyester school was situated close to Hopes estate road junction. In 1961 there were 17 pupils, in one classroom. Ray Wilson remembers his time at Longyester school

I lived in Garvald parish, but attended Longyester school, 1950-57, as it was nearer to my home at the Hopes. There was one teacher, and between 16 and 23 pupils. The older children were expected to help the younger ones – checking their spellings and so on. There was only one room, and this doubled up for dances.

The school was heated by a coke-fired boiler, and later was centrally heated; eventually overhead electric heaters were installed. There was a separate dining room and the loos were outside. In the mid 1950s, there was a new house built for the schoolteacher; the old house was let out, but it has gone now. One year (possibly c1963), the boiler froze, and blew the back of the house out; it was so badly damaged, it had to be demolished.

For the Coronation in 1953, we had races at Quarryford, and we all got Coronation mugs. Other days away from the school included Gala and sports days in Gifford, and we had a Christmas party.

Later we went on to the Knox Academy in Haddington, travelling firstly by Mrs Clinkscale’s taxi, and then by bus. Ian Glass was one of our taxi drivers, and later took over the business.

The solution to the problem of inadequate facilities was to close the very small, one-teacher schools at Longyester, Bolton, Garvald and Morham, and to move them to a newly built school in Gifford. Despite objections from the villages, the new school at Walden Terrace was opened in 1968, and the other closed. Longyester was used as an outdoor centre for some years, and then became a private house.

The new school has a headmaster and eight or nine teachers, a secretary and nursery classes.

There are seven classes with a non-teaching head teacher (James Willox was the head teacher 1975-2000). There has been a great change in the style of teaching over the years with a wide variety of subjects, backed up by many specialist teachers in such as music, PE and art. Television is also used. Much more parental involvement is evident now with the school board, Parents’ Association and support group. The school is heavily involved with the local community, and invites senior citizens to harvest festivals, and school concerts. Nowadays parents deliver many children by car, which causes great congestion, and parking problems for the school buses.

The new school is a vast improvement with light and airy classrooms, all the necessary equipment, an assembly/gym hall, library etc. and a sports field.

From 1976-2000 there was a nursery for three to five year olds in the school, in two sessions – one for four year olds and one for three year olds.

Education was limited in the parish to nursery and primary education. In recent years quite a few families elected to send their children to fee-paying schools. This is probably due to the influx of newcomers, mainly professional people, commuting to Edinburgh – perhaps educated in this way themselves.

Most children leaving primary school were bussed to Knox Academy, Haddington.

It was quite a shock going from a three-room school to the Knox, which had a large staff and much larger premises. I enjoyed my school days at secondary school (Knox Institute), especially languages, as we had a brilliant teacher. I hated maths because our teacher could not communicate.

After completing their school education, further education would have to be sought in Edinburgh or further afield. East Lothian Educational Trust offered bursaries for further education and there were other sources.

A varied selection of adult evening classes was available in the county town, Haddington.