Category Archives: Some interesting students and teachers

Allan Cameron: Schoolteacher

Allan Cameron probably began his teaching career as a Pupil Teacher, a system whereby promising students, on reaching the age of fourteen and the end of formal schooling, were apprenticed to the school teacher.

He attended The Established Church College in Edinburgh around 1869 and thereafter taught in Berriedale General Assembly School moving to Corpach General Assembly School in 1872.  On becoming a member of the Free Church of Scotland he became Headmaster of Kilmory Public School, a post he held for 15 years. He then moved to Achosnich on the north-west coast of Ardnamurchan, where he remained until his retirement.

Allan Cameron’s story is particularly interesting since his career can be traced, not only in the Census Forms, but also in the inspection reports of his work. These show that, although he left College with a Third Class certificate, through diligence and hard work, this grade was raised firstly to ‘Second Class’ in 1881, and finally to ‘First Class’ in 1891.

His full story can be downloaded here:

I am grateful to Mrs Anthea Cameron for permission to include Allan’s story here.

Minnie Blair: Some recollections of the Glasgow Free Church Training College

mb_portrait_175 1‘Some recollections and reflections of David Street School, Glasgow (1870-1884) and the Glasgow Free Church Training College (1885-1886) by Minnie (née Craig) Blair (1865-1956); transcribed by her grand-daughter Sheila Craik from her notebook.

These ‘Recollections’ give an insight into the working of ‘The Pupil-Teacher’ system introduced by The Privy Council of the Committee on Education’ in 1846.

To download a copy of ‘Minnie Blair’s Recollections’ click here: ‘Blair, Recollections of the Normal School‘. 

I am grateful to Miss Sheila Craik for permission to copy this transcript.

William McIsaac’s Indenture as a Pupil Teacher

The Pupil-Teacher system was introduced by the Committee of the Privy Council in 1846.  At the age of 14, when they would normally leave school, promising school children could be ‘apprenticed’ to a school teacher for five years.

During that time, they received annual payments with incremental increases. The indenture signed by Mr William McIsaac, for example, offered £10 at the end of the first year and, by annual increments, £30 at the end of 5th year, although he was apprenticed for only the last two years before enrolling at the college. The class teacher also gained financially, receiving £5 for one pupil-teacher, £9 for two, £12 for three and £3 for each subsequent pupil. In exchange for this arrangement, the pupil-teachers were to teach during normal school hours and were to be taught for 7½ hours a week. They were inspected by an HMI at the end of each year, and at the end of their apprenticeship they entered a competitive examination for a bursary [footnote]£20-£24 for men and £15-£18 for women.[/footnote](a Queen’s Scholarship) to attend a Normal College for two or three years, during which they were also examined by an HMI.

To download a copy of the William McIsaac’s Indenture click here: William McIsaac’s Indenture

The original document may be viewed in the Department of Archives and Special Collections of the University of Strathclyde (see ‘Useful Links’ in the main menu). I am grateful to the Department for permission to copy this transcript.

William McIsaac’s Indenture

This indenture made the first day of April 1861, between (1) William Mc Isaac of Gargunnock hereafter called the Pupil Teacher, of the first part; (2) William McIsaac of Gargunnock, Father (7) of the Pupil Teacher) and hereafter called the Surety of the second part,

and John Draper of Gargunnock  (3)
James Stirling of Gargunnock (3) and
John Paterson of Gargunnock (3)

And James Sinclair of Gargunnock of the (4) Kirk Lane and Gargunnock Free Church School,) of the third part;  Master of the said School and hereinafter called the Master, of the fourth part;

Witnesseth that the Pupil Teacher, of his own free will, and with the consent and approbation as well of the Surety as of the several persons parties hereto, of the third part, doth hereby place and bind himself apprentice to the Master, party hereto, to serve him henceforth until the 31st day of December, 1862 (?) (Inclusive) in his business of a Schoolmaster, in the school aforesaid.

And in consideration of the acceptance by the Master, party hereto, of the Pupil Teacher into his service, and of the covenants on the part of the Master, party hereto, hereinafter contained, the Surety hereby for the Surety, and for the heirs, executors and administrators, of the Surety, covenant and agree, and the Pupil Teacher doth promise and engage with and to the Master, party hereto, his executors and administrators, that the Pupil Teacher shall at all times during the said term faithfully and diligently serve the Master, party hereto, in his business of Schoolmaster in the school aforesaid, and shall not, except from illness, absent himself from the said school during school hours, and shall conduct himself with honesty, sobriety, and temperance, and not be guilty of any profane or lewd conversation or conduct, or of gambling or any other immorality, but shall diligently and obediently assist in the instruction and discipline of the scholars of the said school, under the direction of the Master, and apply himself with industry to the instructions which shall be given him  by the Master, and shall regularly attend divine service on Sunday.

AND for the considerations aforesaid, the Surety doth hereby for the Surety, and the heirs, executors, and administrators of the Surety, further covenant with the Master, party hereto, his executors and administrators, that the Surety, or the executors or administrators of the Surety, shall at all times during the said term, provide the Pupil Teacher with all proper lodging, food, apparel, washing, medicine, and medical attendance.

AND in consideration of the covenants and agreements herein contained on the part of the Surety and the People Teacher, he, the Master, party hereto, doth hereby for himself, his heirs, executors and administrators, covenant with the Pupil Teacher, his executors and administrators and also as a separate covenant with the Surety and the executors and administrators, of the Surety, that he, the Master, party hereto, shall at all times during the said term, or so much thereof as he shall continue Master of the said school, to the best of his ability, teach the Pupil Teacher the business of a Schoolmaster as carried  on in the said school, and afford him daily opportunities (Sundays and the usual school holidays only accepted), of learning and practising the art of teaching in the said school, under the third superintendence of him, the Master, party hereto, and to devote one hour and a half at the least in every morning or evening, before or after the usual hours of school keeping (except as aforesaid), to the further personal instruction of the Pupil Teacher in the several branches of useful learning usually taught in the said school, including in each of the several years of the apprenticeship, the subjects of instruction in which, under the regulations of the Committee of Council on Education respecting the education of Pupil Teachers, hereunto appended, such apprenticed Pupil Teachers are to be examined in the successive years of their apprenticeship, so as to prepare the Pupil Teacher for such examination, in order to entitle him to obtain the stipend awarded in each year by the Committee of Council on Education to such apprentice as may be found duly qualified.

PROVIDED always, and it is hereby intended, that in the event of the Master, party hereto, or any future Master, dying or ceasing to be the Master of the said school, before the expiration of the said term, the Pupil Teacher and this present indenture of apprenticeship, shall be assigned and made over to the succeeding Master for the time being, for the residue of the said term; and of the stipulations herein contained shall be as binding and effectual in all respects between such succeeding Master for the time being on the one hand, and the Surety and the Pupil Teacher respectively on the other hand, as if those present had been entered into with and by such succeeding Master in his own person.

AND the Master, party hereto, so far as relates to the acts and defaults of himself, his executors and administrators, doth hereby, for himself, his heirs, executors and administrators, covenant with the Surety and the executors and administrators of the Surety; and the Surety so far as relates to the acts and defaults of the Surety, and the executors and administrators of the Surety, and the acts and defaults of the People Teacher, doth hereby, full of the Surety, and the heirs, executors and administrators of the Surety, covenant with the Master, party hereto,  his executors and administrators, in man following; (that is to say) that all such deeds and other acts in the law shall be made and entered into by the Master, party hereto, his executors and  administrators and  by the succeeding Master or Masters of the said school, and his or their executors and administrators, and by the Surety and the executors and administrators of the Surety, and by the Pupil Teacher, as shall be proper for effectuating the assignment of the People Teacher, in manner aforesaid, and for binding or the necessary parties to covenants and stipulations corresponding with the covenants and stipulations of these presents.

PROVIDED  always, that if the Master, party hereto, or any future Master of the said school, shall be desirous of determining the apprenticeship of the Pupil Teacher, then and in any such case (although the Pupil Teacher May not in any respect have conducted himself so to entitle such Master, independently of this present provision, to dismiss him or to procure his dismissal by any Justices of the Peace or other competent authority), it shall be lawful for him, with the written consent of the (6)  for the time being of the said school, to put an end to  these presents  by paying to the Pupil Teacher, in addition to the proportional arrears of his salary, if any be payable to him, such as further sum as he would have been entitled to if he had continued to serve as an apprentice under these presents for the further period of six calendar months, or until the end of the said term which shall first happen, or such some as shall be deemed proper by the said (6)———- if no salary be payable to the Pupil Teacher.

IN WITNESS whereof the party’s aforesaid have here unto affixed their hands and seals this seventh day of November in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-one years.

William McIsaac,  Pupil Teacher
William MacIsaac, Parent
James Sinclair, Master
John Draper
James Stirling
John Paterson
Alexander McArthur
William McGlashan
William Bryce
Peter (?) , Managers

  1. The Name of the Pupil Teacher
  2. The Name of Father or Mother, or other relative or friend, who is at party to the Indenture
  3. The Names and Residences of a quorum of the Committee of Managers, if there be such a committee; and if not, then the Names of the Trustees
  4. The Name of the Parish District, and the designation of the School, thus “Fulham National School,” “Finsbury British School;” and, in Scotland, whether the School is a Parochial, Sessional, Free Church, or  Episcopal School, thus: — “Cardross Parochial School”,  “Edinburgh Canongate Sessional School,” “Edinburgh Tollbooth Three Church School,” “Edinburgh Trinity Episcopal School.”
  5. The Name of the Master
  6. Here insert ‘Trustees’ or ‘Managers’ as the case may require, and do the same as in the last paragraph overleaf.
  7. Here insert “Farther”, — “Mother,” if a widow, — or third degree of relationship of any other relative, or the Friend. N.B. The Father, if alive, is to be a party to this Indenture.  The  Mother is to be a party only when a Widow; and another relative or friend only when the Apprentice is an orphan. No Married Woman can be a party as Surety.
  1. B. This form of Indenture should not be completed and signed until all the parties interested have thoroughly comprehended that character and terms of the engagement. The Conditional Stipends and Gratuities do not become payable until the end of the year of the Apprenticeship (reckoned from the date of the Indentures), and they are then liable to be forfeited, upon failure to exhibit a satisfactory degree of proficiency in the subjects prescribed for examination, or upon the failure to produce the requisites Certificates of good conduct.

Teachers ought in all cases to make a copy of the Indentures for their own use, and the Scholars are the copies for the use of their parents or guardians. The original documents should be held by the Trustees, or one of them, on behalf of the parties, but should not be returned to the Council  Office.

The Teacher is requested to take notice, before executing this Indenture, that the annual gratuities offered by the Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education forth the instruction of this apprentice, will be paid on the same terms as the grants in augmentation of the salaries of certificated Teachers, that is, they will be considered to be due for hall years only, and no fractional parts of them will be paid to any Teacher who voluntarily or by dismissal quits the charge of this apprentice before the end of each year in respect of which such gratuities are severally due.

It has been found by experience that the Pupil Teachers required to be protected by such a guarantee for their continuous instruction.

Reports on William McIsaac from the Free Church Training College

Free Church Training College
Glasgow, 30th November, 1864

Mr William McIsaac attended my Classes for the study of the Theory and Practice of School Management during session 1864 as a Student of the second year.  He studied carefully the principles and processes of Education generally, and specially during the second year the subjects of School Registration, Classification, Examination, Discipline and Method.

Attendance: Quite regular
Diligence: Most commendable: during present session v.g.
Progress: Quite Satisfactory
Conduct: Uniformly Excellent


He performed the whole of the exercises prescribed in a manner which showed taste and ability and in the Oral examinations he answered so as to impress me that his comprehension of the subject was very good.

In the actual practice of Teaching he exhibited Earnestness, painstaking and zeal with the power to arrest and sustain attention.

Manner: lively, Frank and kindly and sufficiently firm
Arrangement: Comprehensive and compact
Illustration: well selected and effective
Language: very good, simple and accurate.

P S. Mr McIsaac is possessed of our most amiable disposition, and agreeable and most attractive manner. He is well qualified for undertaking and efficiently discharging the duties of infant and elementary schools.

Edmund Boyle, Master of Method