An edited version of Donald in conversation with Cathie Montgomery. Donald was born in 1909 so probably attended Strachur School from around 1914 – 1923
“All our family attended Strachur School which was known in these days as Strachur Public School. So I was a public schoolboy! We all attended there. When I went to school first the Headmaster was Mr Stewart – Mr John Stewart. He was a Glasgow man and he wasn’t very tall. A very, very small man. There was a rhyme at that time: ‘Our wee school’s a nice wee school. It’s built with stone and plaster. The only thing that’s wrong wi’ it is its wee short legged maister!’
At that time you were not allowed to speak Gaelic in the school – it was wrong- I do not know why. There was what we called the wee room and the big room. The wee room was the one next to the school house and the other one was the next building, where you can see the 1912 written on it. There were just the two rooms so there were only two teachers. The first teacher I had was a Miss Mamie McKinlay and she came from Inveraray. She didn’t talk Gaelic and she was easy oasy about it. But she was quite a nice person. Quite a lot of children in those days had Gaelic. But it was at home I spoke it. That was what the dog understood. The dog didn’t speak it but he understood. I remember some of them coming to the school there and they had no English at all. Some of us had to do our interpreting.
After Mamie McIntyre left she was succeeded by another Miss McIntyre – Miss Flora McIntyre and she was a native Gaelic speaker. We moved to the big room in Primary 3 and then around 11 or 12 you got a qualifying examination – if you passed that you went on to the Supplementary and that’s the highest you could go. If you were top of the class for a couple of years you became Dux and I had it for a couple of years. Once you were 14 you left the school and if you wanted further education it was up to your parents to send you. Some went to Dunoon.
In those days there was no school transport. Pupils walked from Stucreoch, Invernoaden, Glenbranter in all sorts of weather. No School meals – we just had a carried piece and there was no cups of tea or anything – just a dry piece. And there was no shelter – only a shed in the playground which was open at one end. If the wind was blowing that way you might as well be standing outside. The toilets were outside and they were open – if you had to go to the toilet on a wet day you got soaked by the time you left the school to go to the toilet and back in again. So they are well off nowadays in comparison, Of course we played all sort of games – mixed games with the girls, hide and seek but the main physical game was shinty. That’s where the shinty players were bred – in the school.
In the school at that time we had gardening and each senior member of the Supplementary was in charge of the plots and they had an assessment. You were taught to grow vegetables and at the end of the season there was some expert brought in and judged the plots and there were always prizes
It was common in those days for all the school children to take their bare feet and early in May you started to get your bare feet – you went about in your bare feet until the school started again in the beginning of September. Everyone went for the bare feet. We never got sore feet – your feet got hardened. But you do not see that nowadays. You do not even see them in short trousers. I do not think they are getting the sun on their limbs in the way we did.”