Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Remember the days of the old schoolyard

As we get older we all tend to think that everybody in positions of authority, whether its police officers, doctors or teachers, are getting younger. Well, a new acquisition we received this week takes this to a whole new level!

The acquisition includes a photograph, a letter and an autobiographical account of William Clouston's childhood and young adulthood in Orkney. William wrote about his childhood home at Houton in the parish of Orphir, where he was born in 1854, part of a large extended family of Cloustons living in the area.

William started school at five years of age. In those days schools consisted of one room where children of all ages were taught together. His first teacher was William Tait, an uncle, and he was followed by a succession of different teachers over the years until William turned fourteen.

TK3439 - Houton, Orphir
Being the youngest of three brothers William had to attend school more than most of the boys. Older boys would have had to stay at home in the summer to help with farm work but William attended school both in the winter and summer. The result of this was that, aged fourteen, he was the top pupil at the Petertown school. At that time the teacher was William's cousin but he suddenly decided to leave for Newcastle and the school was left without a teacher for the summer term. So a group of local men met to discuss the problem, and decided to make fourteen year old William the teacher!

It must have seemed very strange to be playing with your school friends one day and to be addressed as 'master' by them on the next! William wrote that he managed the teaching part of his first day without too much trouble but when he went out at break time to join in the games he felt a little self-conscious!

William later worked in Stromness in a Drapers shop for some years before moving to Glasgow in 1874. After that he travelled to Michigan, USA, to join one of his brothers working in the lumber industry.

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