“Neat, substantial and commodious buildings facing the turnpike road….Both classrooms are lofty and airy and are well lighted and ventilated and warmed by hot air grates.”
This is the description given in the Aberdeen Journal, 17th December 1892, of the then newly completed Crathie School and School house. The stone used for the building was white granite from a quarry near to the Inver Inn. The head master appointed by the school board to take charge of the new school, which replaced an old building some distance to the west of the new one, was Mr James Philip from Aberdeen. When the new school was completed, two schools owned by the Royal family, Lochnagar School for girls and Abergeldie School, were closed, and the pupils transferred to Crathie. The other schools in the area were Aberarder, which eventually closed in 1920 and Girnoc which closed in 1950.
The school was built to accommodate 90 pupils aged from 5 to 14 years and by 1914 there were 72 pupils, two classrooms and an annexe. Pupils were taught to read and write, to count, and were taught history and geography. Discipline was very strict. Most children left school at 14 but senior pupils, if they were clever enough and if their parents could afford to let them stay on at school, could study French, Latin, Algebra (and even came to school on a Saturday to study Science) so that they could sit an exam to let them go on to Ballater School.
In those days there were no school meals and the pupils brought a ‘piece’ with them for their dinner and were allowed to bring milk or cocoa with them which they set beside the fire first thing and it would be heated for them by lunchtime. In 1928 a soup kitchen was established and in 1929 a ‘hot dinner fund dance’ raised £11.00 to help pay for the meals. However by 1939 a canteen provided meals all year round.
In 1892, there was no school transport, children walked or cycled to school in all weathers, except when snow blocked the roads. However, when Aberarder School closed, the pupils transferred to Crathie and the head master’s wife records that the children were brought to school by the local inn keeper in what was virtually a covered wagon…On arrival the driver would come out and fix a small set of steps at the rear, when the children clambered down.
The Royal family when at nearby Balmoral have shown an interest in the school. In the 1930s family members visited annually bringing mementoes of their trips abroad. There is now a display case in the school of these objects.
The late Queen Mother used to send across Princess Margaret’s birthday cake for the children to share, and each Christmas each child receives a gift from the Queen. The Queen also visited the school in 1996, had a tour of the school and spoke to the children.
Two world wars affected Crathie School life. In 1914 senior girls began knitting scarves, gloves etc. for the soldiers fighting in France, and with men away at the front children were kept at home to help with the harvest. At school, the boys worked in the school garden, which was inspected every year by the Agricultural College, and grew vegetables to help with the war effort. The Second World War also brought upheaval to the school in the form of evacuee children from Glasgow. Crathie children were taught for half the day and then the evacuee children were taught by their own teachers. It was difficult for many of these children, and often their mothers who had accompanied them, to adjust to country living, and the numbers quickly dwindled as many returned to Glasgow.
The school buildings and equipment have changed over the years. In 1951 the school was extended. The tower which had been a distinctive feature was demolished and an office block and toilets added. Central heating was also installed. In 1985 another classroom was added at the rear of the building. In the 1950s and 1960s the school acquired a wireless set, a record player and a television set and now of course the school is very well equipped with computers so that all the children have access to the skills required for the 21st Century.
Crathie School has been lucky enough to have had a number of long serving and dedicated head teachers throughout its history. Present day ex pupils will remember Mr Sidney Dear, from 1932 to 1958, Mr Allan Macauley from 1960 to 1977, and Mrs Patricia Birss who became head teacher in 1977 and sadly died in early 2003. Some older pupils may remember Mr William Brown who retired in 1932 after 31 years as head teacher. These were supported by a number of class teachers, among the more recent ones Winnie Macauley, Susan Grigor, Laura Liddell, Lily Smith and Diane Cook.
In the centenary booklet, Mrs Birss expressed the hope that Crathie School would continue to flourish in its second century and the school today certainly lives up to these hopes.
Under the management of Mrs Lilian Field, who is also the head teacher of Strathdon School, it is a lively, colourful place with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Although there are only 13 pupils they do not miss out on any aspect of education with classroom teacher Susan Boyd, supported by part time pupil support assistants and visiting teachers of Physical Education, Information and Computer Technology, French, Science, and Kodaly singing.
There are excellent play facilities in the school and playground and pre school children and their parents are welcome to visit at any time.
Although firmly in the 21st century, Crathie School maintains some fascinating links with the past. The school admissions register is still the handwritten one which has been in continuous use since the school first began, and Mrs Field continues to make entries in the handwritten log book, which over the years gives such a vivid picture of the life of the school.
As it has been since 1892, Crathie School continues to be a vital and positive element at the heart of the Crathie community.
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