School Memories of Andy Brownlie

Andrew and Brownlie twins at Bellfield

I started at Bellfield School at Easter 1938 joining my twin brothers Miller and Jim who were one set of five twins in the school at that time. My brothers are pictured on the left in the photograph. The other boys were called Hamilton and on the right are Annie and Margaret Brodie.

Newspaper cutting about Mollie Brownlie

Newspaper cutting about Mollie Brownlie

Also there was my sister Mollie who was the Dux that year before going on to Lesmahagow Higher Grade where she was Dux three years later.

I remember on my first day I had to take a halfpenny to buy three slate pencils and hounded the poor teacher Miss Watt - who was probably only a teenager in her first teaching job - until I received them.

Frank Wills was the headmaster at Bellfield. He was transferring to Coalburn School after the summer holidays that year and was to take with him six girls and six boys. My brothers & I were part of that group and I began to attend Coalburn School. It seems odd in these days of "health & safety" that our route to Coalburn School was by trespassing unaccompanied up the railway from the bottom terrace to "Wee Coalburn Farm" then jumping the burn to head up the field - where the pit ponies were kept at the Glasgow fair week when the pits were closed - and entering the school by the back gate. This was a much shorter route from my home at the foot of Railway Road than walking up the hill to the main road and round in a long loop past the post office, across the bridge over the burn, past the hotel and on to the school. On occasion we had to stand aside to let a train pass by. Of course, these were steam trains and could be heard from quite a distance (thankfully).

I joined Miss Barr´s class at Coalburn that August of 1938. My teachers were:-

Infants 1: Miss Martha Barr  Infants 2: Miss Isa Gilchrist

Primary 1: Miss Jessie Purdie 2: Miss Agnes Thornton

Primary 3: Miss Mamie Craig 4: Miss Mary Harvie

Primary 5: Miss Marion Jeffrey

Some of those teachers are shown in the group photo below:

Coalburn Primary School staff in 1930s

Coalburn Primary School staff in 1930s

Back row, left to right: Mr Livingston, Miss MacKay, Miss Munro, Miss Hunter, Miss Watt, Miss Wilson, Miss Jack and Mr William Harvie.

Front row, left to right: Miss Middleton, Miss Mary Harvie, Mr John Wallace, Miss Marion Jeffrey and Miss Agnes Thornton.

Other random trivial memories .....

When in the class of Miss Jeffrey (known as "big Min") where I think I was a bit boisterous, I sometimes was made to sit in the seat nearest to her desk instead of my ability position. Best pupil at the back then working forward, changed or reset after every test but not always for me!

We had annual visits from the Dentist for examination and extractions. We always had to bring a scarf and hankie for the journey home.

Agnes Thornton

Agnes Thornton

When in Miss Thornton´s once a week when we would have a quiet assignment, she would sit and file her nails with a long file. (real trivia !?). "Wee Aggie" as she was known, was one of three spinster sisters who were all teachers, the others at Blackwood and Lesmahagow.

The school janitor was "Tammy Broon". I was always fascinated by him pushing the piano mounted on a wheeled pallet around to whatever class required it for singing lesson. Also in winter when we were able to make the frost into a slide with our tackety boots before classes, we always blamed him when the slide was unavailable at playtime, having melted.

When in Miss Craig´s class during the war when we had an artillery regiment in the village, we had a visit from an officer asking us to bring rags to the school for their collection to clean the guns etc. The teacher was almost drooling over him but us kids were unimpressed with his very posh accent and mimicked him for days.

I still have a class photo and I think I can still name most of my fellow pupils. I may even have got some of them right! I wonder how many readers recognise themselves in the picture, or a friend or family member?

1939 Coalburn Primary School Class Photo

1939 Coalburn Primary School Class Photograph

Back row, left to right: John Purdie, Willie Wilson, John Cook, Willie Walker, Alan Campbell, Robert Steele, Dan Smart, Andy Brownlie, Bobby Greenshields, Sandy Turner, -?-.

Middle row, left to right: Robert Nicol, Willie Munro, Willie Overend, Lizzie Fotheringham, Rachel Bryson, Helen Ross, Helen Cook, M. McLean, Bert Brown, John Baxter, Donald Black;

Front row, left to right: -?-, Cathie McGaffney, Ina Overend, Jean Currie, Netie Davidson, Mary Shaw, Chrissie Strang, Margaret Marshall, Willie White;

Seated front; Alex Marchbanks.


Andy Brownlie, Frimley, Surrey, August 2020

Related links

  1. A History of Coalburn School, Peter McLeish. It is available at the Heritage Centre on Tuesdays or by contacting Peter directly through the contact page on this website.