We meet some children from about 150 years ago – who nevertheless sound surprisingly familiar. The following entries are extracted from pages transcribed from an original collection of hand- written journals which David Law discovered in his attic a few years ago. The author of the journals is unknown, although it is possible from the type of language used in the entries that he was a church minister. The journals concern themselves with the Maybole Ragged School which was supported by a group of benefactors and subscriptions from the town's inhabitants. It was run by a committee whose aim it was, to remove as many waifs and strays from the streets of the town as finances would allow and to educate them in the “4 R's". Reading, writing, arithmetic and religion.
Aged 12 years 6 months could read a little in the childs instructor. Was in the habit of begging and stealing. For the latter of which he was sent to the county prison. Altho I may here remark that poor James was compeled either to beg steal or starve; this much I learned from his mother's door neighbours. The first crime after admission was thieft. The first four months after he came to school he was guilty of thieft two or three different times, he also deserted school ten or twelve times, but during the last eight or nine months that he was at school there appeared to be a decided alteration, both in his sentiments and manners. by this time James had a desire to learn a trade. Accordingly upon 11th april 1850 he was bound as an apprentice for three and a half years; to William Heron, weaver, Kirklands, Maybole.
June 1850 his master says he is the best apprentice he has ever had. He is both quiet honest and obedient; and very attentive to his work; and also agreeable and kind to his shop mates.
Augt 1850 some time after James left school he gave over attending either church or sabbath school: I called on him to learn the reason why he did not attend as formerly; but James having no father and his mother being regardless of her or his everlasting peace; he was allowed to spend the sabbath as he thought proper; his mother said that he was confined all week and she thought he would be better of the fresh air on the sabbath. When James left school he was a good reader in the bible, could write a good hand and was as fare as reduction in arithmetic.
March 3 1854 James Bashford is at present engaged with Phillip Dunlop, coal carter, Maybole where he is conducting himself in a respectable manner and meriting the esteem of his employer.
1856 A soldier.
13 years of age father dead; was brought to school the 29th day of January 1849. This boy was well known to be a notorious thief and a town pest. He was ignorant as a heathen, neither knowing a letter nor a God. Could not tell who made him: did not think it a sin to steal or tell a lie; did not know where the wicked go after death: could not say the lords prayer; never heard of Jesus of heaven or of hell except when pronounced with an oath; he deserted school 14 times. I despaired of breaking in this boy. His mother is a very poor woman and was obliged to take him home on purpose that he would assist her his work.
When he left school he was a good reader in the bible and I am very happy to say that James is no longer a thief nor a beggar; I have been frequently inquiring about him and so far as I can learn he is doing well; I may farther state since he left school which was on the 8th of Sept 1850 I find he has attended both church and sabbath school and is very obedient.
Feb 14, 1851. james has returned to his old idle habits; in consequence of his mother cohabiting with a man that would not suffer James to be in the house with him.
June 14th, 1854. James Thomson is now a
soldier having enlisted in the 4th regiment of foot and is at this time
Aged 14 years 6 months was in the habit of running errands and wandering through the town: having no settled employment and altho his parents were both alive he was so notoriously bad that his parents had no control over him. Application having been made by some of the inhabitance to take him off the street accordingly the committee of the ragged school thought they would try: if school discipline would tame this wild arab; and upon 5th of March 1849 William was admitted into school at which time he did not know a letter of the alphabet. Three or four days after he came to school; he told one of the boys that he could not; nor would not put up with so much confinement.
Accordingly the next day William deserted the school. He was brought back; and I then told him the rules of the school; and what punishment was awarded for such conduct. William being a big boy and having great need of instruction, I used all the means in my power but all was in vain William would not submit to be punished for his bad conduct: and he left school the 14th of July 1849 at which time he was a good reader in the new testament. I may here remark that this boys feelings is very easy wrought upon.
I have often thought that if I had him at some
distance from his fathers house; that something might be done: but it is
impossible so long as he remains at home.
Aged 12 years 6 months was brought to school upon the 5th of March 1849; could read none: he was a remarkable quiet well disposed boy: but he was also stupid and dull in learning. he stayed at school up to the 27th of April 1850 at which time he went as an apprentice to William Fulton to learn the weaving when he went to learn his trade; he was a good reader in the bible and could write a good hand.
Aged 12 years was a very wild boy was a great fighter and swearer; his play fellows gave him the name of bully: in consequence of his fighting he was brought to school the 29th January 1849 did not know a letter of the alphabet: and I likewise beleive that poor james was often compeled to go to the fields and steal turnips: for his supper as he termed it, but I never heard of him being guilty of thieft after he came to school the only crimes that he was guilty of was swearing and fighting ; he was so accustomed to swearing that for some time after he came to school and even when he was in the school he would pronounce an oath and appear to be unconscious of what he was saying; he was also a very passionate boy and I was backward for some time to punish him. I was affrayed that he would forsake the school altogether as he had no relish for learning one day I called him up and told him the danger of swearing; I like-wise told him a few denunceashums of the bible against such: I also told that the next time he would be found guilty that he might depend upon a good sound flogging. So strong is the power of habit that for some days after that; he was affrayed to speake; and being asked the reason for his dullness; he said he was afraid to speak for fear he would swear the next evil that james was addicted to was fighting.
Scarcely a day passed without a complaint; and I saw that moral suasion was of no use; I then applied the rod unsparingly and it had the desired effect. The last twelve months that he was at school there was an entire change both in his customs and manners; he was quiet obedient and innofensive. By this time James was a rather bigish boy: and was a good reader and writer; and was as far as reduction in arithmetick; and it was thought advisable that he should be put to some trade.
Accordingly upon the 6th of January 1851 James was bound as an apprentice; to Mr John Fergusson tailor Main Street Maybole; where he is at present and is doing well.
16th March 1854 James Henderson is at this
time in ayr prosecuting his trade and is a respectable well doing young
man as his general appearance and conversation would indicate.
Aged 12 years was brought to school 11th March 1850 when he came to the school he could read a little in the childs instructor; this boy so far as I could eather see or learn: was both honest quiet and innoffensive; his father being dead and his mother very poor: she was obliged to take him from school and put him to some trade in hopes of receiveing part of his earning accordingly upon the 10th August 1850 he went to William Heron Kirkland Maybole and is bund as an apprentice to learn the weaving at which time he was a good reader in the bible and could write a little.
6th March, 1854 David Bashford is at
present residing with Samuel McCulloch weaver Maybole where he is
following his trade being a handloom weaver and is doing well.
William Martin Coburn
Aged 13 years whose father is dead was in the habit of begging both in town and country could read none was brought to school upon the 12th of Feb 1849. At which time he had no where to lay his head his mother at that time being confined in the county prison for thieft. William at the beginning appeared to be a stupid dull boy and to have a very narrow ignorant mind but as he increased in learning the mist of ignorance soon disappeared. He was also a very quiet boy and appeared to be very happy at school for the space of four months. His mother at this time being liberated from prison thought it more profitable to have him at the begging. Accordingly upon the 14th of July she took him from school notwithstanding his unwillingness to go he traveled the country with her for the space of three weeks he then left her and came back to school at which he remained to the 15th April 1850.
He then caught fever and lingered a few weeks and
departed this life. Previous to his death he was a good reader in the
bible and he appeared to understand what he did read.
Aged 12 years was brought to school March 5th 1849 did not know a letter of the alphabet; there was nothing remarkable in his history, he was a very quiet innoffensive boy; the only trouble that I had with him: chiefly arose from his negligence to learn his questions; for which I chastised him often. One day I asked the reason why he did not endeavour to learn his questions; he appeared unwilling to give an answer; at length he said that his mother was a member of the Church of Rome: and that she did not allow him to learn the shorter catechism. After that I did not insist but I endeavoured to impress on his mind the truths of the bible which I thought would answer the same purpose. This mother was also against him going to church; she said her boy was now upwards of 13 years of age and that he was in danger of being taught what she called heresy; and she thought it would be better for him to be without learning; than to have her boy taught error;
Accordingly upon the 12th of Dec 1850 she took him from school; at which time he was a good reader of the bible.
14 years of age was brought to school upon the 16th of July 1849. This boy was well known to be a notorious thief and a public beggar, and his father being dead his mother had no control over him; therefore he went on from one evel to another. When he came to school he was ignorant as a heathen. Neither knowing a letter nor a God; I used all the means in my power to tame this savage but all was in vain. I think he deserted school 18 times; the last time he deserted school was upon the 4th of June 1851; and upon the day following he was taken before the magistrates of Maybole for some act of thieft; the sentence they passed on Samuel for this crime was one night in prison and banishment out of Maybole. when Samuel left school he was a good reader and writer.
26th March 1854 I am sorry to say that
there has no reformation taken place in respect to either the character
or conduct of Samuel Thomson he having been lately convicted of several
acts of theft. He was sentenced upon the 23rd instant to incarceration
for the space of twelve months in Ayr prison.
aged 12 years mother dead: did not know a letter of the alphabet, was brought to school upon the 29th January 1849. He remained at school up to the 4th Feb 1850 at which time, his father removed him from school that he might assist him in supporting his small family. when James left school he was a good reader in the bible.
aged 8 years was sent to school by the Maybole Parochial board upon the 14th of Augt 1849. Did not know a letter of the alphabet. This was a very quiet harmless boy and an apt scholar but he took such an aversation to the learning of questions that he destroyed all the books that he could get his hands upon. I used every means in my power to prevent it but all was in vain. The committee of the Ragged School thought it advisable to remove him. Accordingly upon the 11th of Apr 1851 he was sent to the Maybole poorhouse at which time he was a good reader in the bible.
June 1854 Andrew McCulloch is yet an inmate
of the poorhouse
Aged 13 years ( father and mother both dead ) was sent to school by the Maybole Parochial board upon the 13th of Janry 1850. When she came she could read part of the alphabet. She remained at school until the 26th of May 1850 at which time she went as a servant to Gallowhill. When she left she could read the testament.
Aged 14 years was brought to school upon the 14th of July 1850. When he came to school he could read part of the alphabet. Wlliam was a very stupid dull boy and would not submit to be confined to school. He stayed five weeks and then left little or no further advanced than when he came.
Aged 13 years mother dead was brought to school 8th Oct 1849 did not know a letter of the alphabet. This girl was notorious for telling lies and was very irregular with her attendance. She remained at school up to the 27th Jan 1851 she then left and went to serve in the Black Bull inn Kirkland Maybole. When she left she could read the bible.
Came to school 17th Sept 1849 when six and a half years of age, and left Jan 9th 1854. At the time she entered school she could not read any but on leaving it read the bible well and wrote a very legible hand. She is at present with her mother employed at handsewing.
An orphan and a native of Maybole when ten and a half years of age was sent to the Ragged School by the Parochial Board on 15th feb 1853, where he remained until 21 march 1854. When admitted to school he could read part of the alphabet but being of a very unsettled disposition he was unwilling to submit to either school attendance or discipline and so opposed to learning that he made but little progress. The question book was also an object of his utter aversion and when pressed to give attention to his lesson he would desert from school at the first opportunity and frequently did so. On one occasion he absented himself for the space of eight days during which time he disposed of his shoes stockings and napkin and was at last found in Ayr Ragged school from where he was brought back to Maybole and again sent to school where he remained until Mr MacCracken (inspector) took an oportunity to examine the children belonging to the parochial board in regard to their education. When he discovered that there was little hope of James making much improvement in that respect and not wishing to obtain any trade, Mr MacCracken procured a situation for him with a farmer where he remained only a few weeks. He returned to Maybole where he is at present strolling about the streets. On leaving school he was but an imperfect reader of the new testament.
When eight years of age was sent to the Ragged School by the Parochial Board of Maybole 30th of Oct 1849 and remained an inmate thereof until the eleventh of July 1854. When he was apprenticed to Mr John Ferguson tailor, where he has conducted himself in such a manner as to meet the approval of his master. When sent to school he could read part of the new testament, on leaving it he could read and write well, and was as far as decimal fractions in arithmetic.
Was sent to Maybole Ragged School by Lady H.Blair May 30th 1855 where he remained until May 17th 1858. At the time he came to school he was seven years of age, but could not read the alphabet. on leaving it he could read the bible, wrote a legible hand and was as far as reduction in arithmetic. He was a well behaved boy and Lady H. Blair has provided for his being employed at Blairquhan.
Came to the Maybole Ragged School Nov 16th 1853. At that time he could not read the alphabet. He confined at school up to April 16th 1860 with the exception of long intervals such as 5 and perhaps 8 months at once. Notwithstanding, upon leaving he could read fluently, write legibly and was as far as reduction in arithmetic.
Mr Goudie took him as an apprentice taylor and the
same qualities which characterised him while under my care, I am happy
to say still cling to him. He is doing well I believe.
Came to Maybole Ragged School 29th May 1855 left April 7th 1860 and upon leaving he could read well, write a very fair hand and was as far as simple proportion in arithmetic. He was strong and well grown in proportion to his years. There were attached to him two of the best qualities that humanity can have ie, truthfulness and honesty. His uncle with whom he resided took him to Glasgow along with him.
Minutes of a meeting
The Ragged School of Maybole
6 February 1850
Convened the following Members of the Acting Committee:
The Teacher reported that the case of Helen McCafferty was brought before the Parochial Board when it was arranged, that she is to continue in the Ragged School and be maintained for one year at the rate of One Shilling and six pence per week for food and education.
The Meeting then took into consideration other claims lodged for admission to the School on behalf of children since last meeting per took when the same were severally considered.
The meeting refused the claim for admission of Mary Fisher's son (14 years of age and can read a little)
They admit Agnes Heggart's child on the condition of paying 2d per week, not charging the first week and paying it each a Monday.
They admit Hugh XXXXX child of Helen Fisher for one month and on condition that he ceases to beg and if found begging to be dismissed.
They admit Mrs Hendersons child on condition of paying 4d per week.
They admitted Henry Higgins on the condition of paying 9d per week also Edward Higgins child of Mrs __________ on condition of paying 6d per week.
Messrs Murdoch and Hannay reported that they had visited their District for subscriptions and had obtained in whole “6-10/-
This feature published with permission. Acknowledgements to David Law who discovered and transcribed the manuscript. You are invited to visit the web site of the Maybole Community Council at www.maybole.org
You may wish to visit the web site from which these extracts have been taken: http://www.maybole.org/familyhistory/ArticlesandStories/mayboleraggedschool.htm