School History

The Early History

Bearsden Primary Schoolis situated at Bearsden Cross, at the corner of Roman Road and Drymen Road. There have been schools in Bearsden, at or near this location, since at least the middle of the 19th century. The Old School was built in 1860, with the schoolmaster’s house just behind the school. The new school, also called the village school, was opened in May 1880 and demolished in 1910. Photographs of both schools can be found on our website.
It was a requirement for the Headmaster to keep an accurate and up to date log book. Entries had to be made weekly and these recorded teacher absence and other significant facts about the school. The earliest log books available date back to 1874. The Headmaster at that time was Alexander Wilson, who took up his appointment on January 5th 1874. Members of the School Board checked the attendance monthly and signed the log book to say that everything was in order. H.M. Inspectors visited the school regularly and their comments were noted in the log book. Annual accounts, giving the income for the school, were also included in the log books.
Entries in the early log books give us a glimpse of life in Victorian Bearsden.
In October 1880 the log book notes that pupils were absent due to potato digging. This annual event continued into the twentieth century. Diseases at that time included an epidemic of measles in March 1882, which affected the school attendance. Following this, in April 1882, the school was closed for 2 days to be fumigated. There was also an outbreak of scarlet fever in September 1884. On June 1st 1883 the log book noted that several families had left for the coast, as the Victorians enjoyed their summer holidays.
 
The Building
The building was designed by architects James M. Monro & Sons. It was completed in 1911 and was known as New Kilpatrick Higher Grade School. It was formally opened on Thursday 17th August 1911 by Dr A.R. Andrew, late chief inspector for the Western Division. About 300 people attended the opening ceremony and the Rev. J.S. Carswell, chairman of the School Board, presided. The Headmaster was Hugh Primrose, who had been appointed in March 1911. The school re-opened to pupils on Tuesday 22nd August 1911. This school provided education for primary and secondary aged pupils and had accommodation for up to 700 pupils, including rooms for science, art, cookery, laundry, woodwork and a gymnasium.
During the first week, 101 new pupils were enrolled, making the school roll 448. In 1920 the school became known as Bearsden Academy and continued to provide education for primary and secondary aged children. Primary school annexes opened at Killermont and Westerton and were under the supervision of the rector of Bearsden Academy until 1946. In 1958, due to the expansion of Bearsden, a new secondary school was built in Morven Road and the existing building became Bearsden Primary School.
 
The War Years 1914 – 18
Many members of teaching staff joined the forces during the First World War and this had an impact on the school’s ability to provide a full education. In January 1915, due to the number of staff on military service, former Headmaster, Mr Alexander Wilson, was recalled from retirement to teach Latin and English. Among the teachers who enlisted was Mr James Ross. He had been second master of the school for 7 years. James Ross, of the Seaforth Highlanders, was killed in action in France on 26th July 1916. A memorial in the school hall to James A Ross was unveiled on 3rd September 1920. This can still be seen today.
In September 1915, the hall in Westerton was opened as an annexe of the Infant Department, to teach children under 7 years of age. The school roll at that time was 569. Worthy of a mention in the log book was the typewriter which was received on April 20th 1916.
The war memorial, which is a prominent feature of Bearsden Cross, was erected in May 1924, at the corner of Drymen Road and Roman Road, on land which was formerly part of the school playground. It was designed by Alexander Proudfoot and unveiled by Ian Colquhoun of Luss.
 
Significant events 1919 – 1939
The New Kilpatrick School Board ceased to exist on Thursday 15th May 1919. The management of schools in Dunbartonshire was taken over by the newly elected Education Authority, under the terms of the Education Act 1918. The school became known as Bearsden Academy. The school continued to provide an excellent standard of education during this period and was praised by the Scottish Education Department.
During 1919, several teachers who had been on War Service, returned to school.
In May 1920, due to a case of smallpox in Bearsden, Drs Thomson and Cowan and Nurse Jeffrey visited the school and vaccinated 53 pupils and staff.
In January 1922, due to the influenza epidemic, school attendance fell to 61%.
In 1924, senior pupils heard talks on History, music and French through the wireless loudspeaker system in the school. Later that year, in November, an exhibition of prints from the British Museum was held in the school hall.
The General Strike of May 1926 is mentioned in the log book and the impact of this on school attendance is noted as follows: “attendance in school was low through the total absence of trains and buses due to the General Strike.”
The school roll continued to grow and in August 1930 an annexe was opened at Summerston. By September 1933 the school roll was 700. In August 1935 a further annexe, Killermont School, was opened with a roll of 132.
The first reference to pupils receiving school milk can be found in April 1935.
On 24th March 1936 the school marked the departure of RMS Queen Mary with a day’s holiday.
Mr Hugh Primrose, who had been Headmaster since March 1911, retired on 28th October 1937. Mr George McNab became rector on 5th November 1937.
 
The War Years 1939- 45
In September 1939 the school roll was 934.
Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, the school was closed for 4 weeks. During this period, the sheds in the playground were converted into air raid shelters. The school was reopened on 2nd October for 4th, 5th and 6th year pupils. The following week, 2nd & 3rd year pupils returned. All pupils returned on 18th October and the log book notes the following: “The lower flat of the school is now thoroughly protected against air raids. Two additional shelters have been provided in the playground. There is now sufficient shelter for all pupils. Pupils receive regular practice in the use of gas masks”
In October and November 1940, reports of air raids alarms during the night meant that, on several days, the school did not open until 10a.m.
Bearsden South Parish Church, just across the road from the school, was hit during the Clydebank Blitz, in March 1941. Due to the air raids at that time the school was closed for two days. An ambulance and first aid class for 5th year pupils commenced in May 1941. The pupils’ gas masks were regularly inspected by A.R.P. officials.
During this period, the school raised a tremendous amount of money for the war effort. Some of the donations are noted below.
  • The War Weapons Week in September 1941 raised £1053.
  • InMay 1942 the Warship Week in school raised £3532.
  • In May 1943 the school raised £3520 for Wings for Victory Week.
  • The report from Scottish Education Department dated 30th October 1943 states:
“The school is making a notable contribution to the war effort. During the year, War savings reached the grand total of almost £5000. Other war activities include the salvage of paper and metal, the knitting of comforts, the collection of rose hips, and in the case of the older boys, service at forestry and farm camps. Connected with the school are also strong and flourishing units of the Air Training Corps, the Army Cadet Force and the Girls’ Training Corps.”
  • In June 1944 the school contributed £3011 to Salute the Soldier Week and as a reward the pupils were granted a holiday.
 
The school canteen was opened in April 1942. From January 1943, due to a lack of accommodation, some classes met in Bearsden North Parish Church halls. The report from Scottish Education Department dated 30th October 1943 notes serious overcrowding in the school, with 1050 pupils. It also states that 60% of pupils participate in the milk in schools scheme and 20% in school meals scheme. In October 1943, as they had done more than 60 years previously, the pupils continued to help with the potato harvest.
To mark the end of the war, the school closed for Victory celebrations from 8th to 10th May 1945. The school continued to grow and on 3rd August 1945 the new school at Westerton and the new annexe at Killermont opened.
 
The present day
Since August 1958, the building has been known as Bearsden Primary School and has continued to provide a high quality of education for pupils from 5 – 12 years of age. The tiered classrooms were removed in 1959. Recent improvements include double glazed windows, carpets and sinks in every classroom, internet access in all rooms and a security system.
The school maintains many of the original features, both inside and outside the building. There are currently 15 classes and the school roll is 430.
 
The school celebrated its centenary recently.  Photographs of our centenary events can be found on the website. If you have any information to add to our history page, please contact the Head Teacher, Mrs Marianne Young, office@bearsden.e-dunbarton.sch.uk