There has been an educational facility in Tweedsmuir since the end of the eighteenth century. It is thought that the feu was granted specifically for the provision for the education of children and young people. Since the closure of the Tweedsmuir School in 1978, the Scottish Borders Council has leased out the buildings and surrounding land as an Outdoor Centre, providing a base from which various groups of young people could experience the Scottish Borders countryside. The Centre is now closed and the future of the buildings and land is in doubt.
On the road adjacent to Carlow’s bridge there is a road sign indicating both a school and a cross roads and it could be said that the former Tweedsmuir School is indeed at a cross roads.
The school house on the site has a datestone of 1898 but there was a school long before that. In earlier days, like every other Parish in Scotland, schooling in Tweedsmuir would have been provided by the Minister of the Kirk, the Dominie, usually at the Manse.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the Minister at Tweedsmuir was the Rev Thomas Muchet and the Kirk records indicate that he was anxious for a schoolmaster to be appointed and a new school built. In 1767 he recorded, ‘After years of negotiation a legal salary of 100 merks fixed for a schoolmaster, but neither master nor school selected.’ In 1768 he recorded ‘Master appointed and school to be built.’
The school was eventually built but on what precise date is not recorded. However, in the First Statistical Account for Scotland, dated 1791-1799, the entry for Tweedsmuir was provided by the Rev Muchet. He wrote, ‘A school was lately instituted, and a school house built, the heritors fixed the salary at 100 merks Scotch, but the scholars are few in number’.
The Second Statistical Account was in 1834 and the entry for Tweedsmuir was provided by the Rev. George Burns. He wrote, ‘Beside the parish school there are occasionally two private teachers hired for the convenience of a few families at a distance. The branches taught at the parish school, beside the ordinary ones, are Geography, French, Latin and Greek. The salary is L32 Sterling per annum, and the school fees amount to about L.12 more. The legal accommodation of a dwelling house is afforded. The garden is only one-half of the legal allowance, but in lieu of the other half, one boll of meal is granted. For teaching reading the master charges 8s., writing 10., Latin and Greek, 14s. per annum.’ Education back in 1834 would appear to have been very important for the residents of Tweedsmuir. There was also the ‘wee school’ at Tweedhopefoot, described (Upper Tweed Community News No 51, Dec 2010).
Who the first headmaster of Tweedsmuir School has not been established but a John Brown was recorded as being in charge until his death in 1893, followed by John Yellowlees who was headmaster until 1920, succeeded by Peter Allan.
From old maps the school is shown on the same site as it is now but it was a long narrow structure fronting directly on to the road directly opposite Dykehead Farmhouse. Many of the forty or so scholars would be children of the numerous shepherds in the area at that time.
The construction of the Talla Reservoir 1895-1905 would have resulted in an increase in scholars as some of the workers had brought their families with them. The workers lived in accommodation huts, some of which housed sixty. Each hut had a housekeeper whose families would also have increased the number of pupils at the school. As mentioned earlier the present schoolhouse was built in 1898, during the period of the Talla Reservoir construction. Perhaps the Trustees of the Edinburgh Water Works provided some financial assistance towards the new schoolhouse?
The school has been sold by Scottish Borders Council, despite the feu being granted for educational purposes and is now a private home.