Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Robert Newlands, teacher in Tongue

Robert Newlands from the parish of Closeburn and Grace Forbes from the manse at Tongue were married on 5 February 1836; in a petition to the Duke of Sutherland in September 1837 he referred to the time before his marriage when he was first in Tongue as 'finding himself after school hours desperately solitary in a solitary house and place, and so he took to himself a help-meet.' Robert had been baptised 9 March 1805 at Closeburn, Dumfries, son of Robert Newlands and Marrion Carruthers. A brother David was baptised on 7 April 1807. Robert Newlands the teacher died December 1854 in Tongue.

Parish schoolmasters were usually session clerk as well, and almost always precentor. The first minutes of Tongue kirk (church) session to have Robert Newlands' signature were dated 21 January 1836. He remained session clerk up to the last minuted meeting before the Disruption in 1843, when the Free Church separated from the Church of Scotland. I seem to recollect that he was one of the first Trustees of the Free Church congregation at Strathtongue. In the September 1837 petition, he asked the Duke of Sutherland for a small lot of land. He said it was very expensive to buy milk and food in the area, and that he was very poor. He asked for the small lot to keep a cow, which would enable him to take in boarders. Just after the Disruption, on 30 June 1843, the minister of Tongue, Rev Hugh Mackay Mckenzie wrote to the duke to say that having left the parish for the Free Church he had taken a room from the parochial teacher 'which I conceived he might as well let to me as to any other.' He remarked that it was being said that the duke would punish Robert Newlands for letting him the room, but he hoped not (and the duke did not).

On 15 November 1843, Robert Horsburgh the factor wrote to James Loch the duke's Agent telling him of a visit he and the new minister - confusingly also called Hugh Mackenzie - made to the parochial school, where a Sunday School was being held. Newlands as one of the teachers of the Sunday School had been told by the new minister that he was going to visit. This clearly had given the seceders an opportunity to cause trouble. As soon as the new minister had ended the opening prayer, all the older children walked out. Horsburgh deduced that this was the result of a premeditated plan in which Robert Newlands was involved. Horsburgh the factor clearly did not get on with Newlands, at this point at least. He told the duke that if the Free Church was allowed to put up a school at Strathtongue, the parochial school would be emptied, and commented 'this would not trouble Newlands - the fees are a trifle, and he might prefer to draw his pay and do nothing.'

On 14 September 1844, Newlands told Horsburgh that his pupils during July and August were 60 on the roll, with an average attendance of 45. In 1845 both Rev Hugh Mackay McKenzie and his son Rev William McKenzie - now of course Free Church ministers - died in the schoolhouse at Braetongue. Free Church propaganda made out this was a poor hut, when in fact the building was fairly newly built and quite substsantial, with two extra rooms for boarders. The same year, an Act of Parliament introduced a new method of supporting the poor, drawing on an assessment on the duke and the tenants. Parochial boards were to administer the scheme locally, with an Inspector of the Poor acting for them in each parish. In March 1849, Robert Newlands was appointed Inspector of the Poor for Tongue at a salary of £40. He was also for a time Clerk to the Board. In 1854, another statute set in motion the official registration of births, marriages and deaths, with a Registrar in each parish. Robert Newlands was appointed for Tongue. In May 1854, Robert Newlands resigned as Inspector and Clerk to the Parochial Board. The following year his widow Grace took over a tenancy in Modsary, which at that time had been resettled.
information from Margaret McKay

There was a new school proposed with plans drawn up in 1874. You can read a little more about this HERE.