The Stirk, the Road and the Chicken Pox

Some notes from the Crowlista school log book in 1919-20. The school was located from both of the populations it served, Crowlista and Aird Uig, and there were recurring problems in getting the children to show up.

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The photo shows Crowlista Public School in 1937.

The following are notes from the Crowlista school log book in 1919-20. The school was located near the site of the current Uig School, a couple of miles from both of the populations it served, Crowlista and Aird Uig, which from its very conception in the 1870s was a subject of contention between the school board and the crofters.  The latter wanted it down on the sands at Crowlista, but that would have necessitated building a road across the Glebe at Baile na Cille, and this the board (which included the minister, Rev Angus Maciver) would not entertain. The first parents in Uig to be brought before the Sheriff for failing to send their children to school, in 1880, were from Crowlista and Aird, and the excuse given then was the distance.  In 1919 there were other reasons for not attending:

15 Oct 1919:  No Crowlista children in school for the past two days. Parents allege they are afraid to send them, as Mr Mackenzie Aird keeps a butting stirk on the Manse glebe.

16 Oct 1919:  Still no Crowlista children. Wired and wrote the Clerks, Education Office, Stornoway, apprising them of the situation and asking for instruction.

17 Oct 1919:  Warned Mr Mackenzie that he must keep the animal under control. He promised to do so.

20 Oct 1919:  Very stormy morning. No scholars. Reply to my letter of 16th not yet forthcoming.

21 Oct 1919:  [entry from the school manager] Visited school. Checked register and found it correct. No Crowlista children present, since the parents allege there is a dangerous animal in the Manse glebe. James Macniven, Manager.

22 Oct 1919:  Stormy and wet, no scholars.  As today’s post brought no reply to my letter of the 16th, I again wired the Clerks, Stornoway, for full instructions. Reply telegram came as follows: “Inform Mackenzie Education Authority insists on stirk being under control at once, otherwise he will be held liable for any injury to children.”

23 Oct 1919:  Informed Mr Mackenzie as above. Animal under control.

27 Oct 1919:  Crowlista children resume school.

28 Oct 1919:  Word received from the Clerk of the Management Committee asking for the name of any suitable person who would be likely to accept the post of Compulsory Officer.

1 Dec 1919:  No children from Crowlista present.

2 Dec 1919: Visited School. Checked register and found it correct. No children from Crowlista present, the excuse tendered being the want of a road, by which they can come dry-shod to school.

11 Dec 1919:  Letter from Mr Mackay, Clerk, stating that “the Management Committee and the Authority are doing everything in their power to get the responsible authority to move in the matter of constructing a road and to urge upon the parents the necessity for sending their children back to school.”

23 Dec 1919:  No Crowlista children.

22 Jan 1920:  Mr Norman Macdonald, 18 Crowlista, was appointed Compulsory Officer for this school district at a salary of £4 per annum.

The school was then closed throughout February and March due to an outbreak of chickenpox.

30 Mar 1920:  Crowlista children still absenting themselves. James Macniven, Manager.

5 Apr 1920:  Compulsory Officer called. He reports that the Crowlista parents object to sending their children to school till it is disinfected.

7 Apr 1920:  School disinfected.

8 Apr 1920: First lot of Crowlista children attend.

The road all the way to Crowlista wasn’t completed until the 1930s, and then entirely by voluntary labour.

7 thoughts on “The Stirk, the Road and the Chicken Pox

  1. Norman Macdonald was my grandfather. My mother Chirsty Ann was the fourth youngest of the family.

  2. Norman Macdonald was my Grandfather. My father Murdo was the youngest of the family and was born 16 days after the last post in the article

  3. Norman Macdonald, 18 Crowlista, was the church precentor and in common with many people in those times he had a nickname as so many people had the same christian and surname. His nickname was `David` in Gaelic and he had been given this name as he excelled at singing the psalms of David. As a father of 13 children he should have been well qualified for the position of `Compulsory Officer`. In 1928 the family moved to 5 Crowlista.
    The reluctance/refusal to build a road across the Glebe to improve conditions for the pupils and people in general is yet another illustration of the power and priorities of the Church in those times when the Minister was `King`. As one who walked to school through the Glebe on occasions I fully understand the attitude of the Crowlista parents and pupils.

    Peter N. Macdonald – another grandson

  4. A request: we would VERY MUCH like to see some other pictures of the school (inside or out, with or without pupils) and of the hall that stood next to it. If you have any, even just a corner of a building in the background, please let us know.

  5. Thanks, Kenneth. I spent a week on Islay before the fsiteval and spotted the books in the bookshop there. You’ll notice he asked me to sign them James Attlee on Islay’ to make them different to any I signed on Jura! Had a great time on both the islands Fantastic moonlit walks by the sea, white sand beaches, superb whisky (of course) and a wonderful welcome everywhere we went. Missing it already.James

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