Stow’s Involvement with the Glasgow Infant School Society

‘My eyes and ears were shocked several times a day by the profanity, indecency, filth, and vice, which were exhibited by hordes of young and old, and even by infants who were growing up pests to society, and ruined in themselves, for whose souls and bodies no-one seemed to care, and whose wretchedness was enough to disgrace a professedly Christian community.’  1

The swing with schoolmaster

Stow’s description of his daily journey from his lodgings in the Gorbals, across the River Clyde, and up through the Saltmarket to his place of work in the Trongate has achieved almost mythical status in the biographical writings of his life and work. In 1811, at the age of eighteen, he had moved from Paisley, taken lodgings south of the river,2 possibly with his sister Anne and her husband John Wilson, and started work in ‘a counting house’ in Argyle Street.

The Glasgow he settled in for the rest of his life existed, almost literally, on two levels. In the later years of the eighteenth century, an extremely lucrative combination of slaves, tobacco and sugar, had created one of the richest cities in Britain, encompassing prosperous merchants with their equally affluent houses, churches, shops, clubs and architecture all laid out in a lattice of pleasant squares. A leisurely increase in the population allowed an equally leisurely expansion, away north from the busyness of the river and west with the prevailing winds. The growing wealth was reflected in the city’s cultural and intellectual life exemplified, among much else, in its academic institutions, notably the university, High School and day-schools for the sons and daughters of the wealthy.3Coming from a respected and respectable family, with an effortless opening in the family business, Stow had every opportunity to prosper.

At a different level, in every sense, were the wynds and vennels down by the river which housed the poor. The main problem here was the sudden and rapid inflation of the population at the beginning of the nineteenth century. 4Thousands of families had left the Highlands, either forcibly evicted by estate owners expanding into sheep farming, eminently suitable to the sour land but requiring extensive pastures, or because, in the early stages of the industrial revolution at least, a job in the textile mills, dye works or factories seemed a more attractive proposition than subsistence living on a croft. 5The same reason brought ‘Irish navvies’ seeking work on the roads and canals 6The death rate from disease, though still high in the years ravaged by typhus, cholera and smallpox, was dropping with an improvement in supply and variety of food7and through the dramatic effect of vaccination. 8And the birth rate was rising. Most of the immigrants either from the Highlands or Ireland were of child-bearing age, and the increase in the standard of living encouraged early marriage in the cities at least. In the census taken in 1821, 48% of the population was under twenty years of age. 9 In addition, by 1818-19 the return of soldiers and sailors from the Napoleonic wars had swelled the ranks of the unemployed, many of them wounded or incapacitated. The result was over-crowded, insanitary, disease-ridden tenements, inhabited by a poorly paid, often unemployed, population, and a rising crime-rate exacerbated by deprivation and the breakdown of traditionally accepted moral values. 10 Understandably, the young Stow was appalled.

As described in the article on Stow’s religious motivation, Stow joined up with the conveniently situated Church of Scotland at the Tron at Glasgow Cross where, in 1815, Thomas Chalmers, became his minister, initiating a partnership which both motivated Stow and provided a tangible outcome for his youthful idealism.11Although earnestly responding to Chalmers’ experiment in poor relief, Stow appears to have despaired of the size of the task and the futility of the solutions fairly early. He felt that to encourage old people to simulate piety for the sake of sixpence could not possibly be good for their souls. The church was openly duped and neither party was dignified by the transaction. He comments 12on the underhand ploys resorted to by old men to get sixpence worth of charity and found piecemeal visitation, even on his system, a trial. By 1819, Chalmers was writing to him: ‘Be not weary or discouraged by the onset of novelty and difficulty which must be looked for at the beginning of your assigned work’13Despite his despondency, doing nothing was clearly not an option.

His deliberations led him to consider that the real answer to the social problems created by the industrial revolution was education. An educated populace could learn health and hygiene and so eradicate disease and improve living standards. 14Education in reading, writing and possibly accounting, meant employment – even skilled employment.15And a knowledge of the Bible and the teaching of the church would provide a religious basis to morality to counteract the moral breakdown in society. And given, he argued, that the present generation was beyond redemption, the regeneration of society lay with the children.

Sabbath Schools

Since both Stow and the children he aimed to teach were working during the day, his only option was to extend the provision of Sabbath evening classes. Such provision was not new. Churches had long made provision for the instruction of children within the congregation although it is Robert Raikes who is generally regarded as the founder of the Sabbath School movement which attracted the non-churched. 16He established a Sabbath school at Gloucester in 1780, offering both secular and religious education to children whose employment in factories prevented them from attending the secular schools. Under Raikes’ sponsorship, the movement spread rapidly; by 1786 an estimated 250,000 children were attending Sabbath schools. Both Stow’s father (William) and his brother (John) had been involved in similar provision in Paisley and Stow was well aware not only of the political but of the economic issues involved: ‘I understood from others that none but children of the well-disposed could be retained longer than a few afternoons, whilst the love of novelty held its sway. The want of clothing formed another barrier’. 17

Nevertheless, in 1816, he rented the legendary room off the Saltmarket for half-a-crown a week – the first of endless payments from his own pocket which financed his educational experiments. He began by visiting about seventy families in close proximity to the school on the two-fold basis that the children would not be so embarrassed at their poor clothing in front of their close neighbours; and that absentees could be visited early during the week – indeed could be sent for on the Sunday evening if necessary. 18Robert Chalmers, writing in 1870, commented:
‘He visited (the families) about twice a week, and thus maintained not only the superintendence of his pupils, but came in contact with their parents, who in most cases, were in as much need of instruction as their children. In this way, he also endeared himself more to the people of his own little parish than if he had collected his flock indiscriminately from the people at large. He was theirs, and his School was theirs; he had chosen them in preference to others.’ 19

On his first night he had twenty-eight children with ages varying from eight to fourteen. His account of his early attempts not only echo Wilderspin’s description of the chaos of his first morning but the problems most teachers have faced in keeping control of too many children with no resources and no clear idea of what to teach. One of Stow’s more endearing traits, in otherwise long-winded, moralising prose, is his ability to describe recognisable situations. On the first night the children blew out the lamps and escaped in the darkness. Stow recalled revisiting every family and urging them back. On another night, a lump of a lad with a large pin wedged between his big toe and the next, created pain and havoc by surreptitiously jabbing his neighbours. Stow put him in charge of the candle lights and, he claims, had no more trouble.

But these ‘unruly set of children’ whose ‘tricks and Sabbath pranks, if narrated might fill a volume’, 20taught Stow a philosophy and methodology that was to form the basis of his ‘Training System’. 21Though an eclectic from the beginning, his methods and philosophy were based on first hand experience and knowledge of children and many of his ideas were hammered out through trial and error. ‘Thus the germs of the leading features and peculiarities of the system were worked out for seven years at least, before I attempted, or at least effected, their introduction into a Model and Normal School on weekdays’.22

Stow always recognised that the only way large numbers of children could ever achieve a basic education was through the Sabbath Schools. Quite simply, there were never enough day-schools to accommodate them all. And even Stow’s tuppenny schools were far too expensive for many families. Two pence in 1828, taken as a proportion of average income, is the equivalent of £6.86. 23Multiply this by several children and add the loss of earnings from those over six, and the tuppenny fee becomes a disincentive even for the aspiring working classes.24James Simpson, writing about Edinburgh in 1834, opined: ‘The weekly twopence has thinned the ranks of the Edinburgh Model School’. 25Stow acknowledged as much when he confessed that despite charitable intentions to provide for the poorest, the ‘uprising’ and ‘sinking classes’ took up the places while the ‘Sunken classes’ attended the Ragged schools which were free and where the children were often fed and clothed. ‘We never can get out the worst children first he observed, ‘In this expectation, like the public generally, I have formerly been disappointed’.26The publication of a monthly magazine and the letters quoted in the GISS and GES reports suggest that the parents of the day-school children were both articulate and literate: as with much welfare provision, the unintended class benefitted.

Stow continued as a Sabbath School teacher for the next twenty years. Altogether, he founded seven local societies27which maintained thirty seven schools, acting as treasurer 28or secretary to several throughout this period. 29This was in addition to continuing to teach in his own Sabbath school, visiting his pupils twice a week, and organising the Drygate School. His greatest satisfaction lay in training youngsters from his own Sabbath School to establish and teach in others. A group of young people:
‘Marked off a neglected district …… and when their plans were ripe, they appointed two of their number to submit and explain their proposal to their beloved teacher. ……. They hesitated to fulfil their engagement till the meeting ended and Mr Stow was retiring. Summoning resolution they followed him, and one, at last unfolded their proposals. Holding the door half-opened, Mr Stow stood listening with a look of the most encouraging winsomeness which rose to animation ….. ‘yes, yes, let us speak together of this’ and returning, he seated himself in their midst, weighed their plans, gave suggestions, and encouraged them to go forward. They accompanied him to his home.’ 30

This first group, acting like ‘a hive of bees’ founded fifteen schools with 350 children in a district which previously had no Sabbath schools. 31The Seventh Annual Report of St Luke’s Parochial Sabbath-School Society records that Stow originated the Society, personally superintended the Society’s Sabbath-Schools and ‘defrayed their expenses’.32Twenty-five years later Stow confirmed this account: ‘Out of thirty scholars, twenty-three became Sabbath-School teachers; five, elders of the church; four, day-school teachers; one, head of a Normal Training Seminary in the Colonies; two are Ministers of the Gospel, one in England, the other in Scotland; and five are now, I believe, in glory. Of course, some of those pupils held different offices in succession, the correct ‘statistical’ number being twenty-three in all!’33If Stow achieved nothing else, he might be remembered for this. ‘From that squalid lane’, says Fraser ‘processes were instituted which affected the history of thousands, and changed for generations the character of a town district’.34

The Glasgow Infant School Society

But by 1824 35Stow had reached several conclusions about the work he was so painstakingly continuing in the Sabbath Schools. Though he remained convinced that Sabbath Schools would always continue to be an important factor in the provision of elementary education for the poor, he realised that they were largely ineffective in dealing with the continually worsening social problems and brutalising effects of the industrial revolution. His multifarious reasons for extending educational provision, taken together, produced a cogent argument for establishing a full-time day school for young children, below the age when they were normally accepted into parish schools, that is from two to five years. In the first place, full-time education literally removed the children from their environment(36) 36for the greater part of the day, so that if nothing else was done, the children were rescued37from the contaminating influences of the street. More positively, if the school’s religious and moral training could be brought to bear on the child during the greater part of his waking life there was a far greater chance of providing a counteraction to these influences:
‘Much good has arisen from these humble and unobtrusive seminaries (i.e. the Sabbath Schools), but we may add that the amount is as nothing in comparison with the evils to be cured or prevented. The Sabbath School is at best a teaching on one day in seven, opposed to training of an opposite tendency during the other six days in the week.’38

This was an argument frequently repeated by Stow. In addition, he had come to recognise that schooling during one or perhaps two evenings per week allowed insufficient time for children to be taught anything more than the rudiments of Biblical instruction and reading, especially using the methods he advocated. The curriculum of the first infant school was considerably broader than anything offered by the Sabbath Schools. Inevitably, also, the children were too tired from their week’s work to be particularly responsive, and some, doubtless, were too old to accept the submission to authority which underpinned the discipline of the school. When so much was provided in time and expense by charitable businessmen some deferential gratitude was expected in return. Stow, at any rate, felt that some of the children were so set in their ways as to be beyond redemption. Thus education would be most beneficial to very young children who had not already acquired bad habits. In reaching these conclusions, Stow was strongly influenced by his visits to other schools, by his reading, and by the general debate on education flourishing in the newspapers and pamphlets, but it is perhaps important to acknowledge that such contact ratified and structured ideas born out of his own experience. He served a much longer apprenticeship learning his craft, than either Buchanan or Wilderspin, and if he was not an original in the sense of being first, he could claim that his ideas were personal convictions based on good practice. Stow was no mere imitator as this instruction about the first day of school, as relevant now as then, indicates:
‘On the first opening of an infant school parents should be excluded for the first two or three weeks, for if one child only cries for his mother a dozen will set up a yell and peace and quietness are at an end. A little fun by the master and mistress, one round or two of clapping of hands, a little march or singing brings the most obstreperous child into a quiescent state. He may kick with his heels on the floor in anger, but shortly up he gets on his feet to join the fun.’ 39

Given these circumstances, it is perhaps surprising that he did not progress to full-time education earlier. Possibly he had relied very heavily on Chalmers to organise and encourage his work and felt bereft at Chalmers’ removal to St. Andrews in 1824: ‘Dr. Chalmers would, in all probability, have rendered him effective aid, but unfortunately for Mr. Stow, Dr. Chalmers at this crisis left Glasgow for the Chair of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews’.40An early letter from Chalmers requests Stow to keep him informed of his Sabbath School Work: ‘I know of no-one whom I feel a stronger desire to hold correspondence with upon this subject than yourself’.41 Given their mutual interests and friendship the two men might well have co-operated in providing an infant school.42

Expense was also a problem – ‘still the question over and anon occurred – where is the money?’ 43Sabbath Schools were obviously much cheaper to maintain, and Stow complains that despite conversation and argument in favour of Infant Schools ‘not even three persons could be found to embark in the cause of Infant Training’ 44On the contrary, there was a considerable debate against Infant Schools in some quarters, 45and general public support was vital if enough funds were to be forth-coming to build and equip a school. Tradition also dictated the delay of schooling until the age of seven as much for economic and geographical reasons. Nevertheless, in 1827 Stow and like-minded colleagues formed the Glasgow Infant School Society. 46The constitution of the committee was ideal for their purpose in two respects. Firstly, the presence of no less than nine ministers, representing various denominations in Glasgow, plus the inclusion of David Welsh,47 an important religious figurehead, as the joint secretary with Stow, established the connection between the voluntary provision of education and the church in the public mind and refuted the criticisms of secularism and rationalism directed against laymen and amateurs.(48) 48Secondly, the presence of men like John Campbell Colquhoun, the Member of Parliament for Dunbartonshire, gave status and credence to what has always been regarded as the insignificant end of the educational spectrum. Not only were the committee members wealthy and financially supportive, they engaged in educational discussions which raised the level of debate about infant schools.

The second paragraph of the Annual Report (1829) suggests that the Society had originally hoped to influence the established system rather than going to the expense and effort of providing a school. It was their failure to influence already existing schools by debate that led them into ‘believing that the exhibition of the system in actual operation would alone produce conviction, thus a Model School was determined on’49Their own infant school would be a ‘Model School’ which others, recognising its worth, could copy. The third Annual Report of the Society indicates that they also hoped to influence education throughout Scotland, and not just in Glasgow. 50The Society would furnish those minded to emulate them with sets of cost-price apparatus, advice about the erection and maintenance of the school, and even some financial assistance.

Thus the Committee determined to provide an Infant School for children aged two to six years ‘with the view of imbuing their opening minds with the knowledge of religious truth – of training them up in habits of obedience and good order – and of giving them such elementary instruction, as may prepare them for entering with advantage into Parochial and other Schools’51This last point is again interesting since it makes clear that the Society still hoped to feed children into the established educational system. In fact, Juvenile and Industrial schools had to be provided in turn, as the children taught in the Infant School grew progressively older and the parish system was insufficient to accommodate them.

The first step taken by the Committee was to issue a Circular or Prospectus 52(which may be the same) stating the aims of Infant Education, and describing the benefits and teaching methods employed in Infant Schools. Although some public discussion ensued, it was not enough to raise the substantial funds required for the purchase of property. Consequently, the celebrated ‘cottage’ in the Drygate was leased for a period of ten years.53 The original house was number 39,54although the school apparently moved to number 15. Situated on the banks of St Mungo’s ‘Molendinar Burn’, in full view of the cathedral and across the Firhill ravine with its tall statue of John Knox rising above the forest of stone monuments55 the school could hardly have been better situated to reinforce its religious, educational and historical origins. The premises were entered through the house on the Drygate (the famous illustration of the playground possibly depicts this house and not the school) and consisted of a cottage and garden, with the cottage divided into two storeys. The ground floor was used as the accommodation for the teacher and his wife, while the school itself was housed in the upper floor. A large room with a gallery at one end was capable of seating at least a hundred children. There was also room for a large central fireplace, and space for the children to move round teaching posts displaying visual aids, and to march or take part in physical exercises. A small room was provided to take the children’s coats – possibly this was under the raised gallery.56 Two large swinging poles were erected in the garden, now used as a playground, although some of the actual garden was retained. The necessary reconstruction suggests a most amiable landlord.57

School interior 2

When all this took place has been finally established by painstaking research by Robert Rusk.58 Despite Stow’s confused and contradictory dating of the school, of which Rusk gives numerous examples, 59he concludes that April 23rd 182860was the formal opening date. He cites as evidence that the Balance Sheet of the First Annual Report (1829) gives April 23rd 1828 as the date of one year’s salary paid to Mr Caughie, the teacher. Secondly, Mr. Caughie, in his Jubilee Speech, refers to ‘the Spring of 1828’, when ‘they established their Model Infant School in the Drygate and made me teacher of it’. In addition, the children were publicly examined at the Gaelic Chapel, Hope Street, on Tuesday, 20th May 1828, and in his ‘Early Discipline’, Wilderspin states: At the end of the month, it was announced in the Glasgow papers that the examination would take place in the Gaelic Chapel’.61(My emphasis)

Magazine advert

Mr and Mrs David Caughie had been recruited as teachers from applicants responding to three advertisements placed in three newspapers (the Glasgow Chronicle, Glasgow Courier, and Glasgow Herald) on 18th January 1828, and repeated on 17th March. David Caughie (Cawghey, Caughy or Cauchie) originally came from Stranraer.62He was engaged by the Committee when only twenty-six, but had apparently already been teaching for ten years since he celebrated his Jubilee as a teacher in 1868.63He was paid sixty pounds per annum plus fifteen pounds for his duties as Teacher-Trainer. This was a remarkable salary since the 1803 Act of Parliament raised teacher’s salaries to a minimum of £16.3.4 and a maximum of £22.4.5 to be reviewed every quarter of a century.64 A curious account in ‘The Glasgow Herald’ refers to Peter Salmon, a teacher in the Drygate, which may suggest an additional teacher although there is no reference elsewhere.65

Since the teachers required some training, the Committee requested Joseph Wilson, the secretary of the Infant School Society in London, to recommend a suitable trainer. He suggested Wilderspin, who was by this time an agent of the London Infant School Society.66

Wilderspin oversaw the setting up of the Drygate School, spending a month there during which time the school was closed to visitors. He claims they opened with a hundred and thirty children, but Stow puts the number at fifty, although it quickly rose.(67 67 Such was the early success that the children were ready for public examination in Rev. Gunn’s68Gaelic Chapel in Hope Street by the end of the month.69

In a magnificent publicity stunt, the children, neat and scrubbed, were taken to the Chapel in carts decorated with greenery. Crowds lined the streets and a thousand people attended the Chapel. They were enchanted with the children’s appearance, behaviour and knowledge. The spontaneous replies to questions were refreshingly honest and original. One boy, asked to explain the meaning of the terms ‘suspended’ and ‘supported’ took out a piece of string weighted with a button which he first hung, to illustrate ‘suspended’, and then held on the palm of his hand to indicate ‘supported’. Another, asked to give examples of ‘the vertical’ replied ‘Ye’re ane yerself’. The response of the public to this delightful interchange was warm and immediate. The Glasgow Infant School Society was established.

Two reports published, naturally, by William Collins, a member of the committee, were issued in 1829 and 1830. They give details of the Committee membership, the history of the founding of the society, a summary of the arguments for infant education, the school rules and extracts and comments from the Visitors’ book and parents. Twelve thousand copies of the first report were circulated to the major towns and villages in Scotland. Normally only the parish minister received one, but in larger towns the major dissenting minister and the Justice of the Peace were also sent a copy. A third annual general meeting was held on 12th May 1831, but no record of this seems to have survived.70

From the General Committee, twelve men were elected annually (the secretary and treasurer being ex officio members) responsible for the day-to-day running of the school. This Management committee met quarterly, but two members attended the school on the first Monday of every month ‘to examine into the state of the school’ and to receive applications for admission. In addition, one member of the Management Committee was to visit the school each week, enquire into the pupils’ progress and record comments in the ‘Visitors’ Book’, which still survives.71

The decision to visit the school cannot have been taken until the first annual general meeting in 1829 since the first date in the Visitors’ Book in September 24th 1829 – a year and a half after the School opened. At least sixteen72committee members took an active interest in the School. The comments of Allan Buchanan, who called in the School on September 29th, 1829 are typical:
‘Visited the Infant School on the 22nd and 28th September. Was much delighted with the cleanliness and orderly conduct of the little ones, heard them go thro’ their various lessons which was done with such animation and correctness that surprised me exceedingly. I cannot express the impression made on my mind, on beholding such a group of infants so far advanced in knowledge – great praise is due to their teacher, Mr. Caughie, also to Mrs. Caughie for the material care she displays over her young charges.’

In addition to successfully teaching the children, excursions were made by Mr. Caughie and about a dozen of the children to numerous towns with the overt intention of persuading others to set up Infant Schools, whilst achieving a little publicity for themselves. The most enterprising trips were organised to Paisley, Greenock and Edinburgh.73Rothesay, Crieff, Helensburgh and Kirkwall.74

The visit to Stranraer suggests an attempt by Caughie to show off his success in his native town. The Loch Ryan steam packet took the children free of charge, the shops were closed, the church packed and the children put through their paces twice. The visit lasted from Saturday to Tuesday and ‘a great crowd was assembled on the quay to witness their departure’.75

For under six-year olds from the slums of the Saltmarket it must have been some expedition. A similar trip to Edinburgh produced the same euphoria. Wilderspin had lectured at the Waterloo Rooms, without success, to a moderate assembly. At two o’clock the children arrived by post-chaise from Glasgow. After having a few minutes to look at the curtains, they went through their routine of hymns, answering questions, marching and singing. The audience was entranced. A letter was sent back to Glasgow immediately, requesting that the children be allowed to stay a day longer until Saturday. They gave two more performances, each time to a larger audience. A note appended to the letter gives a pathetic insight into the children’s situations:
‘A monitor, name Beton, struck up a hymn, and did other monitorial feats: and as he was pronounced a worthy, and had no shoes to walk withal, he was a shod man – the sum being given to the mistress before they left the room.’76

Two cart-loads of children accompanied by David Caughie also performed to the same effect in Paisley High Church 77

Stow, in fact, disliked these public exhibitions although he recognised the need to influence public opinion. He felt that on the one hand, the trips did little moral good to the children themselves, possibly the opposite in the face of all the adulation they received. On the other hand the moral progress, as opposed to physical and intellectual, could not be demonstrated. The main aim of the school, as far as Stow was concerned, could not be exhibited. Retrospectively, Fraser also comments that the exhibitions raised unrealistic expectations of how much social regeneration could be achieved by infant schools: it was asking a lot, as he points out, for two – six year olds to reform society.78

The Glasgow Infant School Society continued to support the Drygate School, but as the Second Annual Report states, they deferred from making public appeals for money while other schools were in the process of erection. The result was that the main financial burden was carried by ‘one individual’ – almost certainly Stow.79

However, the local parish congregations took over the financial burden of supporting their own infant schools, so that by 1832, it was reported in Cleland’s ‘Enumeration of the Inhabitants of Glasgow’ that in addition to the Drygate School, three ‘Parish’ infant schools had been established, two in St. John’s (where Stow was still a member) and one in St. David’s (where Welsh was the minister). In addition, there was a school in Sauchiehall Street for ‘higher class’ children.

By 1831 the decision had been taken to move the Drygate School to Steel Street, off the Saltmarket. This was nearer to the population it served and, on the principle that a rising tide raises all boats, it was hoped that the influence of the school would ripple out to the wynds and vennels. Co-operation with the Wesleyans enabled the lease of more spacious accommodation at £40.0.0 per year for ten years. These premises consisted of a large hall, with two large classrooms on the ground floor and space outside for two playgrounds.80This school could take 250 children and 50 students in teacher-training.

Stow also purchased land behind St John’s Parish School, a school already in existence, and was permitted to fit up and furnish the classrooms, again at his own expense. This school became a Juvenile School, with two hundred pupils aged between six and fourteen under Rev J. Auld.81

Infant schools began to spread around the city, although the connection with the Glasgow Infant School Society was through principle and support rather than financial assistance.82 Indeed, the appeals to the public and parish purse detracted from the Society’s own funds causing some financial embarrassment. Unfortunately, 1831 proved to be the high water mark of the Glasgow Infant School Society. From then on it ran into continual financial trouble which reached a climax in 1834 when the debt of the Model School was £284. Once the emotional appeal of precocious young children displaying their knowledge had waned, voluntary subscriptions were no longer forthcoming. The school needed £150 per year to survive and since the children’s subscriptions amounted to approximately £46.0.083 the debt was accumulating yearly.

Stow, with typical confusion, claims that by 1831 the Society had, in practice, ceased to function and that the newly formed Glasgow Education Association84was created from a ‘resuscitation of the Infant or Educational Society, the organic elements of which had slumbered for several years’.85

Nevertheless, as Rusk points out,86the Glasgow Infant School Society was still in existence in 1834, holding its annual general meeting on Monday, 31st March,(87)87and advertisements for both Societies appeared on the same page of the daily press(88)88later that year. In addition, a careful scrutiny of the membership of both committees shows only eight people, including Stow, on both committees and some of these did not join the Glasgow Educational Association immediately. Despite the unexplained numbering of the available reports (Glasgow Infant School Society’s being numbered one and two, and the Glasgow Educational Society’s, as it was by the time the reports were issued, being numbered three, four and five)89the Glasgow Education Association probably should be regarded as a separate, rather than continuing body.

The formation of the Glasgow Education Association marks a turning point in Stow’s involvement in education. Nevertheless, the Association retained responsibility for the models schools already in existence and incorporated four more schools, graded for different stages and age groups and accommodating 1000 children, into the Normal Seminary. Stow always held an affection for young children and argued that the training of teachers should begin and end with practice in the teaching of infants – when the ‘final polish’ to their training was added. ‘If the student succeeds with young children, he never fails in training the older ones in any branch, mentally or morally’. Stow was convinced that only the most accomplished and cultivated teachers had the degree of tact and delicacy required for infants. It was not, as was commonly thought, a job for any sort of person, for young children resembled ‘exotic rather than forest trees, tender rather than hardy plants’90and thus required the most careful and devoted care. But the focus was now on the training of teachers rather than the teaching of children and his attention and financial resources were directed towards students rather than the infants he had served so well.


  1. Stow. (1854). The Training System op cit, 10th ed. p48.
  2. Ibid, Stow. (1854)
  3. William Munsie, for example, (1801-1864) opened an academy in Buchanan Street, which moved successively, and very successfully, to George Square and thence to Albany Place.
  4. In 1793 when Stow was born, the population of Glasgow was 60,000. By 1840, during the early years of the work at Dundas Vale, the population had quadrupled to 240,000. By 1864 at Stow’s death, it was 400,000. Cruikshank, Marjorie: ‘David Stow, Scottish Pioneer of Teacher Training in Britain’ in British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol.14. May 1966. Pp. 205-216.
  5. It is difficult to make comparisons in living standards either between town and country, or before and during the industrial revolution. The appalling social conditions of the earlier stages of industrialisation tend to mask the fact that over the century wages did rise faster than basic commodities (for example, oats) and that more fresh meat (one measure of the standard of living) was eaten generally.
  6. Cleland’s census of 1819 claims that there were about 15,000 Irishmen in the city.
  7. The arrival of the potato proved a significant factor in the improvement of social conditions in that it provided a variety in diet during the good years (eliminating scurvy for example) and a means of survival against starvation when the corn harvest failed.
  8. Vaccination was safer than inoculation and therefore used more readily. Smout (1998), Chapter XI quotes figures from Glasgow which show that between 1783 and 1802, 36% of deaths in the city were due to smallpox, whereas between 1803 and 1812 the percentage fell to nine. The city adopted a policy of free vaccination for poor children in 1801, and although the arrival of unvaccinated children from Ireland swelled the smallpox figures, the disease was gradually brought under control. It is also interesting to note that the change from wool to cotton as a clothing textile meant that clothes could be, and were, washed more frequently thus destroying typhus-carrying lice, along with other disease carriers.
  9. Smout. (1998) op cit. p. 245.
  10. Heartrendingly summarised by Alexander Brown, a Glasgow printer, who, writing anonymously as ‘The Shadow’ published a book in 1858 on the appalling poverty of Glasgow ‘Midnight Scenes and Social Photographs, being sketches of life in the streets, wynds and dens of the city. (The ‘photographs’ are prose vignettes.) Brown was a benefactor of both GISS and GES.
  11. In 1816, for example, Chalmers founded the ‘Tron Parish Sabbath School Society’.
  12. Stow. (1854) The Training System. 10th ed. p. 459.
  13. Fraser (1868) op cit, p. 32.
  14. Note for example; Stow’s reference to the importance of opening windows and airing beds in his curriculum for older girls.
  15. ‘As years fitted the boys for work, he spared no pains to secure for them suitable employment and a fair start in life’. Fraser. (1868) op cit., p. 44.
  16. ‘As Sutherland (1990: 126) has commented, Robert Raikes (1735-1811) is traditionally credited as pioneering Sunday Schools in the 1780s; ‘in fact teaching Bible reading and basic skills on a Sunday was an established activity in a number of eighteenth century Puritan and evangelical congregations’. In Wales, the circulating schools offered one model of such activity.’ Quoted Microsoft Online Encarta Encyclopaedia.
  17. Stow. (1854) The Training System, op cit, 10th ed. p. 49.
  18. Stow, ibid.
  19. Chalmers, Robert, Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsman – David Stow. Blackie & Son, 1870.
  20. Stow. (1854) The Training System, op cit. 10th ed., p. 50.
  21. ‘The leading features of The Training System, both moral and intellectual, may then be stated to have originated in 1816, when I commenced the Sabbath School’. Ibid, p. 54.
  22. Stow. (1854) The Training System. op cit. 10th ed. p. 57.
  23. Lawrence H. Officer, Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1264 to Present, Measuring Worth, 2008. URL
  24. Although by 1866 the fees of the schools within the Free Church Training College were from 5s in the initiatory department to 12s. 6d a quarter in the senior. In the model school they were from 4s. to 7s. 6d. a quarter, and in the intermediate or middle class school from 12s. 6d. to 21s quarter suggesting that 2d per week or 2s per quarter was, indeed, not expensive. (Greig and Harvey, p. 76).
  25. Roberts, A. F. B. (1972). ‘Scotland and Infant education in the nineteenth century’ in Scottish Educational Studies 4 (May 1972) p. 40.
  26. Stow. The Training System, op cit, 10th ed., pps. 95, 96.
  27. With names such as the ‘Saltmarket’, the ‘Bridgegate’, the ‘Old Wynd’, and the ‘Goose Dubs’. Fraser. (1868) op cit. p. 51.
  28. Being called upon to sort out chaotic administrative records as in the Annfield School accounts where he literally draws a line under 1823 and starts again.
  29. Fraser. (1868) op cit. p. 52.
  30. Recalled by Rev John Miller, latter minister of Kingswood, previously Inspector of the Mico Charity Schools in the West Indies, who was one of the group. Quoted by Fraser, op cit, p. 61.
  31. Fraser, op cit. p. 65.
  32. Seventh annual report of St Luke’s Parochial Society’ drawn up by Rev J. Blyth, Free Church minister in Girvan and a student at Glasgow University when the Society was formed. Quoted by Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 63.
  33. Fraser (1868) op cit, p. 66.
  34. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 62. Even if the children learned only to read and write, 37 schools with perhaps 100 children in each, with children remaining for three years, over a twelve year period gives about 15,000 children affected by Stow alone, without counting the schools founded by his pupils.
  35. This date is taken from Fraser’s account: ‘While this was Mr. Stow’s conclusion, in 1824, subsequent experience has not changed the character of his inference. Mr. Stow began more resolutely to advocate the week-day training of the young as the most probable successful counteractive to the deteriorating street processes hitherto unchecked.’ Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 57. Stow suggests a date as early as 1821: ‘Thus the germs of the leading features and peculiarities of the system were working out seven years at least (i.e. seven years before 1828) before I attempted or at least effected, their introduction into a Model and Normal School on weekdays.’ Stow. (1854) op cit (10th ed.) p. 57.
  36. It is interesting to note that the rules of the Drygate Infant School allowed the playground to be in use for several hours before, and after the school itself was open or closed – particularly in summer. Given that young children went to bed early, the argument does carry weight.
  37. The ‘rescue’ motive is particularly strong in the provision of Infant Schooling, especially among evangelicals – although used in the stronger sense of rescue from moral degradation.
  38. Stow, quoted by Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 56.
  39. Henderson, Margaret. (1974) ‘David Stow’s Normal Seminary’ in The Scottish Educational Journal. 11.1.
  40. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 37.
  41. February 7th, 1824. Quoted Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 37.
  42. It is possible that, about this time, Stow also suffered an accident in Leeds which ‘laid him up for a season’. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 59. Stow’s two younger bothers, William Fenwick Stow and Matthew Kenyon-Stow, were manufacturers in Leeds.
  43. Third Report, (1836) op cit, p.7
  44. Ibid.
  45. Fraser. (1868) op cit, pps. 78-86; see also letters in the Scotsman from 29th November 1828 to 28th February, 1838.
  46. For a list of the GISS and GES committees see Appendix 8/1.
  47. The Rev David Welsh, then minister of St David’s Established Church; subsequently Professor of Church History, firstly in Edinburgh University and afterwards in the Free Church College. The inclusion of David Welsh as joint secretary also helps to date the founding of the Glasgow Infant School Society since Welsh did not move to Glasgow to become minister of St. David’s Parish Church until October 1827. See Stow’s article on ‘Infant Education’ written for Cleland’s ‘Enumeration of the Inhabitants of Glasgow, pps. 40-41, and Rusk (1928) An Education Centenary.
  48. ‘Mr. Welsh, who has brought the Glasgow School to its present state of prosperity, has had the honour, moreover, to rescue these establishments from the imputation of being originally founded upon principles opposed to Christianity; for the name of an individual so well known and appreciated is a sufficient guarantee as to the school of Glasgow, which is certainly conducted in such a manner as to make religion the foundation and principal object of all its details.’ from ‘The Scotsman’, 15th October 1828. Quoted Rusk 1928 p. 27.
  49. Third Report, Glasgow Educational Society, 1836, p. 7
  50. The Prospectus, referred to below, was distributed throughout Scotland and advertisements were placed in national rather than local newspapers. The First Annual Report of the Glasgow Infant School Society (1829) refers to ‘the general adoption of the plan, not merely in Glasgow, but throughout Scotland’.
  51. Glasgow Infant School Society Annual Report 1829, p. 1.
  52. This was circulated widely throughout Scotland. Rusk, writing in 1928, believed that the Circular and/or Prospectus was lost, but Jessop in ‘Education in Angus’ states that a copy was found in the Correspondence Book of the Brechin Infant School Society. In response to Rusk’s statement, Jessop included it in full as an Appendix to ‘Education in Angus’. The ‘Rules and Regulations for the Brechin School’, also quoted, are the same as for the Drygate School except that the Brechin children are required to bring a pocket handkerchief, and the Drygate School was to be swept out daily and the seats washed on Friday nights so as to be perfectly dry by Monday. The Drygate rules made provision for visits to the school by ‘strangers’ each day, whereas the Brechin Infant School, for example (one of the Glasgow Society’s offshoots) allowed Wednesday visiting only. All other details are the same.
  53. Since the cottage was leased there are no records of it other than in the Post Office Directories for the period, see below.
  54. The Post Office Directories for 1831-32 give the address as 15 Drygate. As Hamilton points out: ‘It is not yet clear whether this indicates the existence of two schools, a move from one school to another, a school with two entrances, a printing error, or the result of renumbering by the Post Office’. Hamilton: op cit, p. 52. In an unpublished letter from Robert Rusk to Robert Houseman, dated May 30th, 1936, Rusk states, ‘I have tried in vain to locate the site of the first infant school in the Drygate but as it was only rented and not bought, there are no title deeds which could enable us to fix the exact site’. Houseman, R. op cit. p. 32.
  55. See the popular print of the Drygate School, reproduced in Stow’s ‘Moral Training’, and Wilderspin’s description in ‘Early Discipline’.
  56. It is clear from this description that the print popularly used to illustrate descriptions of the Drygate School must show only the playground with the school house itself out of sight to the left. The cottage shown is quite obviously too small and is single storeyed. More likely, this cottage is the one on the Drygate. ‘This cottage consisted of two storeys at the head of a back garden entered through one of the front houses in the Drygate Street.’ Stow, ‘Moral Training’ 7th ed.
  57. It also suggests that a move to a different house seems unlikely.
  58. Rusk (1928) op cit
  59. Rusk (1928) op cit pp.27, 28. Other sources give equally confusing dates, for example, ‘David Stow, A sketch by one who knew him, in The Sabbath School Magazine, 1866, p. 241, where the date is 1826
  60. Interestingly, his eldest brother John became Treasurer of the Paisley Infant School Society on June 16th, 1828: (Paisley Directory, 1828). Wilderspin was in Paisley in June 1828 and opened a school there on 7th July(McCann (1982, p. 109)
  61. Rusk (1928) op cit p.38
  62. Caughie was born in Stranraer on April 16th 1802, and died May 10th 1874. In 1835 he married Jane Robertson in Edinburgh. On his appointment to the Drygate School he had already been teaching for ten years since he celebrated his Jubilee in 1868. His daughter (nee) Sarah Stow Caughie was obviously named after Stow. She died in 1933. See Appendix (?)
  63. Glasgow Herald, 17th January, 1868, Jubilee Meeting – Presentation of a Testimonial to Mr. David Caughie
  64. In 1813, the master of the new school in Leith Wynd, Edinburgh received £15 per year to be paid half yearly.
  65. From ‘The Glasgow Herald’ November 21st, 1928 referring to a news item a hundred years ago: ‘Mr Peter Salmon, Teacher, Drygate, requests us to mention that he is not the person who lately was brought to the Police Court and fined for too severely chastising a female child.
  66. Wilderspin left London on horseback, and travelled fifty miles a day, reaching each overnight stop by mid afternoon and thus leaving time to talk about infant education with the local dignitaries in the evening. He took eight days to reach Glasgow and almost arrived safely, but his horse bolted and finally stumbled, on nearing the city. The resulting damage to the horse caused Wilderspin to sell at a loss, at £7.0.0., for which he was reimbursed by £20.0.0 by the Glasgow Society.
  67. The scholars contributions of 2d per week demonstrate that the numbers increased:
    Quarter ending July 22nd £4.13.9 = 47 x 2d per week
    Quarter ending October 22nd £6.19.0
    Quarter ending January 22nd £7.10-0
    Quarter ending April 22nd £8.2.2
    Fifty is given by Stow in the Appendix to ‘Granny and Leezy’, 1860.
  68. Rev. Gunn was a member of the Glasgow Committee.
  69. May 20th, 1828.
  70. Cleland ‘Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the City of Glasgow’ 1831. Quoted Rusk (1928) op cit. p. 34.
  71. Jordanhill College of Education Library. I have produced a transcript of this document.
  72. Some signatures are indecipherable, and ‘Hugh Brown’ may be father, or son, or both.
  73. According to the First Annual Report of the Infant School Society, 1829, ‘flourishing’ schools were set up in Paisley, Greenock and Edinburg has a result of the children’s visit.
  74. The Third Report of the Glasgow Normal Seminary extends the boundaries where Infant School Societies were founded. In addition to those already listed, Wilderspin visited Dunbarton, Falkirk, Kilmarnock, Ayr, Dumfries, Leith, Dundee, Forfar, St Andrews, Dunfermline, Montrose, Portobello, Perth, Haddington, Musselburgh and Dalkeith.
  75. Glasgow Herald, Friday, 8th October 1830
  76. The account is given in a letter from Mr. Simpson dated Thursday, 23rd April 1829, which is recorded verbatim in Fraser. (1868), op cit, p. 89.
  77. Wilderspin, Samuel. (1832) Early Discipline, pps. 115-16.
  78. Fraser. (1868) p. 91.
  79. Presumably Stow himself since he is writing the report; see also Fraser (1868) op cit, p. 117 ‘The annual subscription of £150 was not forthcoming and the burden rested on Mr Stow.’
  80. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 117.
  81. Auld was highly educated, having taken a degree in Literature, Philosophy and Divinity. He later went to the West Indies to take charge of a Normal Seminary for the training of teachers.
  82. See Appendix 7/1.
  83. Amount taken from the Glasgow Infant School Society Annual Report 1830.
  84. Later the Glasgow Educational Society.
  85. Glasgow Educational Society’s Third Annual Report, p. 9. The same explanation of the foundation of the Glasgow Educational Society is given in ‘The Training System’, 9th ed., 1853 p. 484.
  86. Rusk, Robert (1926) The Training of Teachers in Scotland, Edinburgh: EIS, p. 62.
  87. No reports were published after 1830 – See Glasgow Educational Society’s Third Annual Report, p. 5.
  88. November 3rd, 1834.
  89. Assuming the first two reports are not simply lost.
  90. Fifth Report of the Glasgow Educational Society’s Normal Seminary,