Slate Islands Heritage Trust

Growing Up

Growing Up

After the formation of the Marble and Slate Quarrying Company of Netherlorn in 1745, a band of quarrymen and their families took up residence on Easdale Island. In the early days women and children were employed to carry waste slate and made slates across the island either in hand carts or in creels strapped to their backs. Once transportation became mechanised, there was no longer any need to employ child labour and a benevolent Marquis ordered that schools should be provided on the island of Easdale and on Seil Island at Ellenabeich.

The standard of these schools in 1790 was very variable. A letter to His Lordship, The Marquis of Breadalbane, written at this date, states:

I believe there is nowhere in Scotland so miserable a hovel as a Parochial Schoolhouse, as this on Seil . . .

On Easdale Island a proper schoolhouse was built which remains to this day as a private residence. The present population of children on the island cross on the ferry daily in order to attend the school at Ellenabeich which was built in 1870.

Following the introduction of the 1870 Education Act, the schools came under the supervision of the Minister who inspected progress from time to time and provided religious instruction for the pupils. Administration was by a School Board made up of the Factor, representing the Marquis, members of the local gentry, the doctor and the manager of the slate quarries.

The standard achieved by pupils in the latter part of the nineteenth century was impressive. Children left school at the age of eleven able to read, write and calculate.

or those willing to stay on until they were thirteen, the curriculum extended beyond the three Rs, German and French Language, History, Geography and Navigation being on offer as additional subjects. A small charge (1d) was made for ordinary lessons with an additional fee for the extra subjects. On leaving school most of the boys went into the quarries, the brighter ones attending classes in Mathematics and Engineering subjects at the Easdale Technical Institute during the evenings. Girls went into service locally as housemaids, dairymaids or nannies to the wealthy landowners and the more prosperous tenant farmers.

There was no money for toys in Victorian times but there are examples of simple wooden dolls and carved balls to be seen in the museum. Books were rare, generally of an improving nature and rather dull. A number of religious tracts for children and a few copies of the Children's Newspaper have survived.

Nowadays the island's children attend school at Ellenabeich primary until they are eleven or twwelve. In June 2009 the roll was 47, including ten children in the nursery. The children’s attendance was above the national average in 2007/2008.

At the age of eleven or twelve children transfer to Oban High School. Rough weather and limited ferry hours during the winter months can still make it difficult for Easdale pupils to travel into Oban.

Communicatons History Index Growing Up