Saturday, February 15, 2014

For Peat's Sake

It was normally expected that pupils bring a peat to school each day to keep the classroom warm in the often bitterly cold weather. Badbea was no exception as Alexander Gunn explains:

The school was built by members of the two communities and was situated just on the Auchincraig side of the border with Badbea. The building measured approximately 20 feet by 12 feet and the walls were built of drystone with no mortar in it. The roof was of thatch with a skylight in it for providing light. A fire was situated in the middle of the room and the smoke made its exit through a hole in the roof. Fuel was provided for the fire by each pupil taking a peat with them to the school every day. There was a guard placed on the peat neuk every morning to see that every pupil brought a peat and woe betide any person who failed to take a peat as they were immediately rewarded with several strokes of the strap. One delinquent felt the punishment dealt out to him as being very unfair and vowed that he would never take another peat with him to school. When reading the lesson he expressed his feelings very strongly in Gaelic, but it is doubtful if the teacher understood.

The Scottish artist R R McIan produced this illustration for the book 'Gaelic gatherings, or the Highlanders at home on heather, river and loch', published 1847-49, with accompanying text by James Logan. McIan called this illustration 'Highland children going to school, Lochaber'. The barefoot child leading the way is the 'horn boy', generally one of the cleverest pupils, who was paid to blow a horn to summon the other pupils to school. The boys are carrying a piece of peat for the school fire. Commentary from

Peat at Badbea

This little guy crawled across the Badbea track as I was taking the photo of the peat. Not that fond of black slugs myself but I daresay the boys at school found them diverting. Note: In the early years at Badbea only boys went to school. 

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