Waternish, Skye, 14 May 1883 - Duncan Stewart

DUNCAN STEWART, Schoolmaster, Stein—examined.

3249. Sheriff Nicolson.
—How long have you been here?
—Upwards of a year

3250. Is there another school in this district besides yours ?

3251. Where ?
—At Knockbreac, north of Hallon.

3252. Do they attend school well here ?

3253. What is the general attendance ?
—It is below the average.

3254. What is the number ?
—Seventy is the number on the roll; and the attendance is below the average of sixty, which ought to be the average.

3255. What is the average ?

3256. What is the chief cause of the bad attendance?
—Well, there are many obstacles. I think that on account of the frequent changes of teachers the parents have been dissatisfied until I came, and since I came the average attendance has been higher than ever it was before.

3257. Have any of them complained that they are too far from the school ?
—Not one.

3258. How far are the farthest of your pupils from the school ?
—Two miles.

3259. Are any prevented from attending by want of clothes?
—Not to my knowledge.

3260. Who is the chairman of the school board ?
—Dr Martin of Husabost.

3261. How many members are there in the board1?
—Seven, I think.

3262. How many of them are resident in this district ?
—Only one.

3263. Who is that ?
—Mr Shaw, steward to Captain Macdonald.

3264. Is there a compulsory officer?

3265. Where does he reside?
—Just above.

3266. Does he visit frequently ?
—I think so.

3267. Have there been any cases reported to the board of non-attendance ?
—Many cases.

3268. And what has the board done ?
—The board has done nothing, to my knowledge.

3269. Then the people find they can either send their children to school or not?
—It appears so.

3270. Do they complain of the fees?
—They do, and the fees are very small.

3271. What are the fees?
—Is. a quarter is the lowest.

3272. For what?
—For everything that the youngest child can take in.
Standard I., Is. 3d. ; II., Is. 6d. ; III., Is. 9d.; IV., and above, 2s.

3273. Professor Mackinnon.
—Does that include specific subjects?
—No; the Board cannot make any arrangements for these.

3274. Who does?
—I do.

3275. What are they?
—I just make them according to the branches taught.

3276. Sheriff Nicolson.
—What is the average fee for Latin, Greek, or mathematics -The average fee for the higher branches is 5s., but for extra branches and for everything, 7s. 6d. per quarter, which is not too high for the country.

3277. What proportion have you attending these higher branches ?
—Six out of the number; that is one-tenth

3278. Do you consider that a fair proportion?

3279. To what class of life do these pupils, who take the higher branches, belong ? Are they the children of crofters ?

3280. How many ?
—Two or three.

3281. What branches do you teach these?
—Latin, French, Euclid, algebra, drawing, and other common subjects.

3282. Professor Mackinnon.
—All for 7s. 6d. a quarter ?

3283. The Chairman,
—Are the fees for the higher branches regulated by authority, or are they left entirely to you?
—They are left to the teacher, because the board has no power to fix the fees above the standards.

3284. When the board fixes the fees, I suppose the fees are paid to the teacher ?
—Yes; but the board are responsible; they are bound to pay me the entire amount of fees.

3285. Are there any arrears of fees ?
—There are a few.

3286. Sheriff Nicolson,
—Is Gaelic used in the school in teaching?

3287. You do not speak it?
—No, I do not speak it, and therefore cannot teach Gaelic.

3288. Do you find that any hindrance ?
—It is no barrier.

3289. Do all the children speak English ?
—More or less, the whole of them understand it.

3290. The Chairman.
—Is music taught ?
—It is.

3291. Have you any instrument?
—I have no instrument except my voice.

3292. Are you well supplied with apparatus and maps and everything necessary for teaching ?
—Yes, fully supplied.

3293. Have you held a school in the Lowlands ?
—I have.

3294. Do you find the children here equally apt for learning?
—No, I don't.

3295. To what do you attribute that ?
—Native habits.

3296. May it not be that they are not equally well acquainted with the English language ?
—Partly so.

3297. Would it be agreeable to the people for their children to be also taught in Gaelic 1
—I believe it would. I think some of them expressed a wish for a Gaelic teacher here.

3298. Sheriff Nicolson.
—I suppose you mean a teacher who understands Gaelic?

3299. Mr Cameron.
—Do you find any difficulty in explaining to the children in English when they themselves talk Gaelic ?
—They don't talk Gaelic to me.

3300. Do you find any difficulty in making them understand what you say?
—No, I find no difficulty.

3301. Do the children assist their parents at all in the work of their crofts ?
—Decidedly, and they stay away from school on purpose to do that.

3302. That keeps them away from school ?
—Yes, for a month or six weeks.

3303. At what time do they stay away ?
—Just a little before this time
—six weeks before this time.

3304. What are they doing?
—Working on the ground assisting in tillage.

3305. Planting potatoes ?
—Probably that was part of it.

3306. And keeping cows?
—Yes, and a few of the younger members of the family keeping the houses.

3307. Mr Cameron.
—We have heard that some of the crofters are in the habit of tethering their cows. Have you found that, instead of doing that, they use children to herd them ?
—Well, I cannot enter into that, because I was not there to see; but it is possible that it would be done.

—Well, I cannot say what work they do specifically. But I know they are absent from school, and that many of them are absent when they ought to be present.

3309. What time of the year are they chiefly absent besides spring?
— Well, they are very irregular. The habits of the people here are not regular at all, and the attendance of the children has been very irregular in consequence, I am sorry to say; but I think the people are kindly disposed to the teacher, and that they wish him well. If he is very strict or rigorous they think he is inimical or unfriendly to them, and they requite mistaken if they do, because he is only acting up to what the Government demands, and what the law enacts. I can assure you, that it is a very difficult thing to please the Government inspector, who is very strict of course, and the people, on the other hand, are certainly not strict; and the teacher, between the two fires, what can he do?

3310. The Chairman.
—But in cases of irregularity, do you not sometimes speak to the parents yourself?
—I have gone and visited them, and remonstrated with them, but still they just lapse into their old habits, and they forget what is due to duty, and the demands of duty.

3311. Mr Cameron.
—Have they ever expressed to you the necessity of their children helping them in their crofts as an excuse for not sending them to school ?
—They don't seem to see a necessity of that kind, but just on the spur of the moment they take the child away.

3312. Do they give you no reason?
—-No reason, and no warning.

3313. And when you ask them do they give a reason ?
—They say the child has been taken away for this or that, but that does not include a reason ; it is simply a statement. There is no reason about it.

3314. Professor Mackinnon.
—You stated the children are not so apt to learn as the children in the south. Do you mean they are not so clever naturally
—I certainly mean that they are not so capable.

3315. That they are deficient in intellectual ability, for example?
— Well, certainly they must be.

3316. I think you also stated you had no difficulty in explaining to them a lesson in English. Did you find they had any difficulty in understanding your explanation ?
—Not much difficulty.

3317. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie.
—How many have you in the 5th and 6th standards ?

3318. Are there any girls among them?
—Not one.

3319. If there were girls in the 5th and 6th standards, should you teach them domestic economy

3320. And would they then pay fees as for specific subjects ?

3321. Then there are some specific subjects which they get without paying extra fee ?

3322. What does that include besides domestic economy ?
—Do you mean the girls ?

3323. Are there any special subjects besides domestic economy taught free?
—No, the boys pay for the extra subjects.

3324. But the girls do not pay for domestic economy?
—Certainly not.

3325. Do you find the children here are well supplied with class books?

3326. Do they learn their lessons at home ?

3327. Is that one of the causes why they don't progress so well as children in the south ?
—It is.

3328. And that is an evil habit of the country?
—It is.

3329. Of course agricultural half-timers are recognised. Do you think that these children when absent are usually usefully employed at home ?
—Well, I think some of them are uselessly at home—not usefully employed. They are kept at home without a proper reason.

3330. You think, that on the whole, the children are fairly clothed ?
— They are.

3331. Sufficiently clothed for attending in the bad weather of winter?
—They are.

3332. You don't see great signs of poverty in the clothing of the children ?
—I do not.

3333 Are they well shod ? Well, they come bare-footed.

3334. In summer?
—In winter.

3335. And they don't object to go to school in winter because they are bare-footed?
—No, because those who have boots go without them in winter.

3336. And you don't object?
—I cannot object, I have no reason to meddle with these things.

3337. The Chairman.
—Do the children usually bring something to eat with them ?
—Well, I cannot say, for I do not see them eating.

3338. But your natural curiosity might lead you to investigate; you might know to some extent ?
—I have often told them if they were hungry to go into my house, and only some went.

3339. But the question is whether their parents are able to supply them with some food to bring to the school?
—Yes, quite.

3340. Do they, then, habitually bring a piece ?
—I suppose they do, because they don't go home to dinner, and therefore they must have their dinner in their pockets.

3341. Do you know what they usually bring?
—Oat cake, and a bit of cheese, when they can get it.

3342. Do they bring any milk?
—They don't bring any flasks or bottles that I have seen. They drink water.

3343. Do you think they are worse provided than the peasantry of the Lowlands in that way ?
—According to the climate, and according to their habits, I think.not. They can endure a great deal more than I could have endured when I was like them, because I was not brought up in the same way. They are indurated to the island of Skye, which I never was.

3344. Do you think that the general habits of the people arc much hardier and poorer with reference to diet than those of the peasantry of the Lowlands ?
—Well, I don't think, comparatively speaking, that they are poorer. I have been in Sutherlandshire, and I know Sutherlandshire very well, and I have found many poorer people there whose children were attending school regularly, and whose fees were paid, and they were not so well attended to nor so well kept up as the children here, as even the very poorest of them are. Comparatively speaking, the children of Skye, so far as I have seen, are not below the average, but I would say rather above.

3345. Physically ?
—Well, I would say in point of cleanliness, for the children here, that come into school when you like you will find them very clean.

3346. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh.
—You were asked to compare the children of Skye with those of the Lowlands, and you answered for Sutherlandshire, but his Lordship meant southern counties ?
—I said rather above the average.

3347. Why do you jump into Sutherlandshire ?
—I was comparing Highlands with Highlands. I cannot compare Highlands with Lowlands. I said they were rather above the average in contrast with Sutherland.

3348. Can you contrast the Highlands with the Lowlands?
—Yes, because the one is high and the other low.

3349. The Chairman.
—May I take the liberty to ask you where does your experience lie in the Lowlands ?
—In Stirlingshire. I was born at Bridge of Allan.

3350. Then do you consider that the physical condition of the children here is equal to that of the children of the labourers and peasantry there
—I do.

3351. Both with reference to dress and diet?
—Everything except in attendance at school. They are certainly not equal there. As I stated, there is a lapse of attendance at this place.

3352. Sheriff Nicolson.
—But what of their mental faculty ?
—I cannot account for mental faculty.

3353. Do you consider their mental faculty or talent to be inferior to that of children in any other place ?
—I do not know in regard to any other place, but the calibre is certainly below that of the Lowlands.

3354. The mental calibre ?

3355. Apart altogether from want of books or anything of that sort?
— Well, if you go into particulars, I say the general calibre is certainly below the average, but you must take everything into consideration. I am taking everything into consideration.

3356. The Chairman.
—You mentioned that the children do not receive as much instruction at home as they do in the Lowlands. Is that owing to carelessness and indifference on the part of the parents, or is it owing to their not being able to give instruction from their own ignorance ?
— That is a question I do not like to answer, because I do not know, with regard to the parents, what their state is.

3357. You might have had some casual knowledge of the state of education in the last generation among labouring people. Do you think there are more of the adult population unable to read and write, and therefore to teach, than in the Lowlands?
—I cannot answer that question.

3358. When was your last inspection by the Government inspector?
— In August last.

3359. Have you got a copy of the report ?
—I have. It is as follows:
—Summary of H.M Inspectors Report, October 9, 1882. The same old story has to be again repeated for this school. A new teacher appointed since the last inspection. The present master has been in charge since the month of April last only. The order is good, but the school is as a whole in a very moderate condition. The wall plaster requires to be repaired, and the room should be at once whitewashed. After the warning given last year, the grant was reduced under article 32 B for faults of instruction. The frequent change of teachers is to be regretted. My Lords trust that the defects mentioned by H.M. Inspector will be remedied without delay.

3360. What was the percentage of passes, was it above 80?
—It was below 80.

3361. Was it 70?
—Say 70.

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