The little school at Eckford closed in 1963 and is now a private house. The primary school children now go by bus to Edenside School and the older children to Kelso High School. The difficulties of teaching a century ago are apparent from the sometimes agonised entries in the School Log Book. In 1861, the salary of the school was fixed at £50 per annum with fees. In those days, payment was by result and a rigorous examination was held by Her Majesty’s Inspector each March. Pity the poor headmaster if the weather was bad or attendance poor so that the pupils could not pass the examination.

In 1874 it is recorded that the school received the following grant :

54 for attendance @ 4/- £10.16.0
54 singing @ 1/- £  2.14.0
54 Discipline @ 1/- £  2.14.0
9 Infants @ 8/- £  3.12.0
96 Standards @ 3/- £14. 8.0
(33 passed in Reading, 29 in Writing, 34 in Arithmetic)    
44 Grammar and Intelligence @ 2/- £ 4. 8 .0
44 Geography and History @ 2/- £ 4. 8 .0

Deductions £2.10.0

Amount earned by the school, £40.10.0 and of this small amount the domini was allowed two thirds, the rest being used by the School Board, presumably for maintenance of the building. (One shilling is five new pence.)

The conditions for teaching must have been appalling. The entry for June 7th 1887 states, “Admitted three more pupils this morning. The number on the roll is 83. Have as yet got no notice of appointment of assistant.”

As the pupils ranged in age from 5 to 12 years, it must have sorely taxed the abilities and patience of the teacher.

Complaint, too, is made of the physical state of some of the children. In the days before medical examination became compulsory, many pupils were attending school with eye and ear defects that nowadays would be treated instantly. On dull days the light was so bad that they could not read their slates and in 1881 the domini wrote, “Had there been any opportunity, we should have been much better of the Electric Light” (The capitals are his.)

Truancy seems to have been greatest when the Duke’s hounds were in the district. According to the teacher, the boys were encouraged by their parents to run after the hounds, otherwise their fathers would consider them degenerate. Entry after entry complains of truancy on these occasions. It is amusing to note that the surnames listed among the persistent offenders are those still common in the district.

One poor schoolmaster struggled for years to overcome this problem. Over and over again he reported it. On one occasion he wrote, “March 18th. Six boys ran off at the dinner hour in quest of the Duke’s hounds which happen to be in the district. On their return an effective punishment with cane or tause (leather strap) will be administered.”

“March 19th. And they got it.” Twentyfive years later, he seems to have succumbed to the inevitable and wrote, “Foxhounds here today and every boy vanished. Perhaps this is one of the best forms of physical exercise after all and Eckford is in time honoured. The teacher does not feel justified or inclined to punish half the school!”

But not all was either work or punishment. There were treats too. In December 1877, “had an exhibition of pictures by the magic lantern on Monday evening”, and in 1879, November must have been an exciting month. There was a harvest home at Easter Wooden and some of the children, “having been up all night, were unable to come to school”. Later in the same month comes the entry, “Today the photographs of the scholars were distributed among them and gave great delight to them.”

As far back as 1874 there was entered that “Wednesday was a trip to Edinburgh.” The days of the excursions to Spittal (near Berwick) were yet to come. After the Second World War the annual Spittal Trip started when parents and children had a day at the seaside.

One charming entry reads, “An amusing instance of the strength of child faith occurred yesterday afternoon. The Assistant gave a Scripture lesson on ‘Christ walking on the sea.’ On the way home, one little fellow thought he would try the feat and after making frantic attempts to walk on a flooded burn, went head over heels into the same.”

Holidays in those days were different. The school broke up in mid-August and did not re-open until late September. New Year got a week’s holiday but the school did not close on Christmas Day until 1899. The old custom of ‘barrin oot the maister’ took place on the shortest day of the year and nearly every year the pupils achieved their end and got a day’s holiday. There were holidays too on the village fast days before the communion in May or November for the hiring of hinds in Kelso and Jedburgh and on St. James’s Day in August.

Epidemic diseases were more common and diphtheria, measles and scarlet fever were causes of anxious times. There is reference to ‘crystal pox’ but influenza is not mentioned until 1895. A poignant entry occurs in 1916, for on February 4th there was ‘no drill, as Pte. A. Sanson, 2nd Batt. Scots Guards, who is home on a weeks leave from the front in France exhibited and explained to the pupils the different parts of a soldier’s active service equipment.’

On the roll of Honour in the church of those who fell in the war of 1914-18 is the name of Pte. Adam Sanson of the Schoolhouse, Eckford. He had spent part of his last leave with his father and the school bairns. He is one of the 35 whose names are honoured forever, along with those who fell in the Second World War, the men from this peaceful place who went to war.

The Second World War brought evacuees to Eckford, not without turmoil, for the school did not have sufficient desks and chairs for the newcomers. At first there were seventeen children and a teacher from Edinburgh but one by one they returned to the city during the ‘phoney war’ period and a year later only three Edinburgh children were still at Eckford.

Modern days brought new techniques. The school had the longed-for electric light and lessons came by radio and sometimes television.