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History of Montrose
Chapter VI. - Trades’ Schools, now Dorward’s Seminary


THAT building beside the Academy, erected by the Seven Incorporated Trades of Montrose, was opened in August, 1833. The author and the Rev. James Dickson were the first teachers. It was built partly by subscription, for the Trades were not able to give much out of their funds, and I believe the town gave a little help in the end. It cost £700. But before proceeding farther, it may not be out of place to say a little about the situation which I left to come to Montrose. There are no high-ways, but there are bye-ways; and it is not every one that can sit down to write with that dogged determination that Dr. Johnson assumed when he was not altogether in the humour. Therefore, although what immediately follows may not seem to have much to do with the subject in hand, I hope the courteous reader will excuse me. Being up this morning at twenty minutes past five—too early an hour for putting on fire, without which it is not comfortable to sit long in a cold morning—I set out to take a walk to the top of the hill of Edzell, where the wind from the hills was rather cold. From the top of this hill you can see the sea in the distance, and I had not seen it for three weeks before. The hilly country about here very much resembles the Highlands of Argyleshire, where I was tutor to Captain Campbell at Duilletter, near Dalmally, for three years, and where I spent a sort of Robinson Crusoe life, including the day, but without the man Friday. At any rate, on my way thither from Inverary, where I had been assistant to the parish schoolmaster, (Mr. George Riddoch, now at Elie,) "I had to walk 18 miles, and, losing my way, I lay in the hills all night, hanging by hand to a birch tree at the side of a burn, and it was a drizzly night in October. Had it not been that I had a little mountain dew in a small flask, provided for me by Mrs Riddoch, I should have got my death of cold. From the place nothing was to be heard but the murmuring sound of the river Shrae at the bottom of the vale below, and, through the darkness visible, the frowning heights of the grampian mountains on the opposite side beyond. In short, I was in the land of Rob Roy Macgregor; and the hill facing Dalmally Inn and the Parish Church of Glenorchy, on the top of the same hill where I was all night, was that from which the Dugal Creature was thrown down. However, when the morning light appeared, I crawled up with difficulty to a height, and saw the house of Duilletter. The minister said, when I told him of my adventure, that he did not know whether to laugh at me or to be angry. I had been directed the way across the bum by some cottagers, but afterwards lost it, and could neither find my way back nor forward. When I arrived I got into the schoolmaster’s bed, and he brought me some peat-reek whisky in a silver quaich, and in a short time, when the family were up, I was called to the parlour to breakfast, but could scarcely swallow from the exposure. However, after dinner I was all right again.

The previous summer having been wet, the peats had never been got properly dried, and we always had difficulty that winter in getting a fire made, #so the boys and I had to rummage for firewood, and sometimes took a bit of paling when we could get no other. A good fire is a great help to study; but sometimes the landlady, when she looked in, would have grudged us the good fires we had. Tutors in the Highlands are expected to give a hand at gardening or farm work, and I did both, though certainly not obliged, and not able to do much at a time. 1 don’t know how Dr. Chalmers would have liked this, but I felt it good for me, and at last took so much interest in the garden that I would not come in to tea when strangers were at the house,—for, be it observed, we never had any tea unless when visitors came. The landlady was very economical; but the first night I could not think enough why the tea was never coming; at last, however, supper came, and we did ample justice to it. It is a very romantic, wild looking country, at the head of Loch Awe, and from the parlour window we saw the torrent rushing, and dashing down from the lofty grampian mountains not far off. An addition was made to the garden the spring before I left, and new buildings were erected, besides improvements made on the old, and it really cost me no small concern to leave the garden and kail plants that were thriving under my care. In such a retired glen, it was not likely that the children could have any idea of the amusements of a town-life; but I got a great big dragon made and plenty of twine, and set it up among the hills, as I heard here (at Edzell) that Dr. Guthrie did in the country with his own children, and the youngsters were filled with wonder and amazement at the kite flying in the air. Now, this romantic way of living just suited mo, and I never took the cold all the time I was there, though at Glasgow I could not get rid of it, and Mr. C. brought from that splendid city a pair of globes before I left, so that it was no wonder when in the North British Advertiser I saw an advertisement for two teachers wanted for the Trades’ Schools of Montrose, my native town, that I hesitated about leaving. At first I thought it desirable to apply for one of these places, and changed my mind again, and consented to stop, and with the indecision brought upon myself a desperate headache—in fact, gave up all thoughts of it. Again I thought it is a pity not to try to get among my friends, and perhaps secure a permanent situation, so I said to Captain C. that if he would give me the situation for life I would remain; but as that could not be, I got him to furnish a testimonial, and I wrote to the Convener, the late Mr. Thomas Barclay, watchmaker, that as no doubt both of the situations would now be filled up, if he would keep me in view for the next vacancy I would feel obliged. Immediately he wrote me that they had not got a teacher for the Upper School, for writing and arithmetic, and that I should come to Montrose and see about it. So, without delay I wrote to my old school-fellow, Mr. Adam Burnes, to show my letter to certain friends in Montrose. It was a curious coincidence, that on taking my seat at Glasgow on the top of the coach, the late Mr. William Sharp, wine-merchant, was my fellow-traveller, from whom I got all the information about the Trades’ Schools, and how the land lay. He accompanied me as far as Perth, and told me to call upon his brother Charles at Montrose, with whom I remained a day or two, and was treated with much hospitality. Mr. Bumes and he went with me to Mr. T. Barclay, and then Mr. Sharp and I called upon Dr. Paterson. I was introduced to Dr. Smith and others. Mr. Nixon I had heard preach at Dr. J. T. Paterson’s Scotch Church, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland, several years before, and how strange I thought it now to find him minister of St. John’s Chapel of Ease, Montrose. Although in one sense I had only to walk the course, there being no other competitor, yet I was subjected to a very strict examination, and had 35 questions to work and answer on the slate, and afterwards to put down the solutions in writing. Being locked in the lower school while this was in hand, Dr. Paterson would have looked in now and then and said, “If it is any encouragement to you, all you have yet done is right." There was wine and cake set down, but I would not taste till all was over. At last the ministers, Provost John Barclay, and other gentlemen came in and examined my work, and then the Doctor withdrew to a desk and began writing. This was to recommend the Trades to appoint me to the situation. I have to thank Dr. Paterson especially, for he, the late Rev. Dr. Smith, and Rev. Mr. Nixon were all exceedingly friendly. This was like a new start in life again, after all I had passed through. ,

We were told plainly enough that it depended entirely upon our own exertions whether we succeeded or not. We were in what Sir Robert Peel called “ the cold shade of opposition,” and were made to see that we must act upon the motto, omnia vincit labor, and be martyrs to the cause. Nothing in these circumstances can sustain a man but the mens conscia recti, for the test is severe, and it requires a strong feeling of independence to sustain it. Magna componere parvis, such is the case with an independent member of Parliament, who has an eye to the public good, but great is his power. Such was the character of Joseph Hume, and such also is that of his worthy successor. A small independent party may turn the scale when it is nearly equally balanced between whig and tory, and may dispose either to adopt measures which will promote and secure the best interests of the country. To sustain us we had always the approval of the clergy of all denominations at the annual examinations, and in particular, on one occasion, the warm commendation of the Presbytery of Brechin; but there was the painful feeling that the smallest remissness on our part would upset the whole. Mr. Calvert once said to me, “ You are hurting the Academy but it was expected from us that we should give as good an education as was given there, aye, and under every discouragement too. While on his visit to Montrose, Provost Burnes advised his son, Sir Alexander, to sink some money for prizes to the Academy and the Trades, Schools, as the best thing he could do for his native town; and, accordingly, he laid out £100 for this object, the interest of which is still given for prizes. On writing to Sir Alexander in India, acknowledging the gift, he returned me the following letter :—

Cabool, 21st July, 1840.

“My Dear Sir,—I really feel very much obliged to you for your very kind and most friendly expressions conveyed to me in your letter of the 30th of April last. Coming from Montrose, and from an old school-fellow, they conjure up many pleasing associations to gratify me, and bring back to my mind’s eye those days when we so

*Often loitered o’er that green,
When pleasing innocence endeared each passing scene.*

It, I assure you, affords me no small satisfaction to find so small a gift so highly appreciated; and if, under jour able superintendence, the mite which I have contributed towards stirring up a little emulation is attended with beneficial consequences, I imagine at least I shall have more to thank in your kindness of expression to your pupils, than in the value of the gift. To tell the truth, fortune did not use to smile on me on examination-day. I never got a prize in my life, and though, I no doubt, got all I deserved, I remember many an examination passing without any prizes being awarded ; and at a lapse of some five-and-twenty years, I would fain persuade myself that had there been something to give I might have got it—so fondly, you see, do "we cling to the brighter side of the picture.

"I have a very lively remembrance of you at school. You were in the class above me, but not so much advanced in years as to be in another clique. Whether we went to the North-Water—Dun’s Brig—the Point— the Rock of St. Skae—Rossie—to 'catch podlies’ at the pier, or use our Skatchets at the *Cruizers’—woes me! I give a sigh as I think of the cares one brings on himself in after life by adding the affairs of the public to those of himself. That demon, ambition, I fear makes us climb the high hill, as my great relative Burns said, 4 not for the laudable anxiety of viewing an extended landscape, but rather for the pride of looking down on our fellows,’ yet I do feel also that I have the ennobling feeling you speak of, and that I am working for my country’s good, and hitherto that country has nobly rewarded me.

"If I were near you, I might have it in my power to give you a lift 4 for auld langsyne,’ and could I, you may be sure I would—as it is, my worthy father, I am sure, would for my sake do it; nor would my good brother, Adam, fail, for believe me, you have my hearty good wishes for your welfare and prosperity ; and as Cicero said of Virgil, my best wish is that among the youths you send forth there may be many you see shine as magnet spet altera Roma—no MonUsrosarum,—and I ever am,

“Yours most faithfully and sincerely
(Signed)    Albx. Bubhbs.

"To Mr. D. Mitchell, Trades’ School, Montrose.”

Sir Alexander Burnes was one of nature’s nobility—a youth full of promise and of high expectations—his career short as it was brilliant—and always his thoughts turned to home and its endearments—how he thought even of his bed-room ! But oh! that unfortunate expedition he was sent on to restore Shah Soojah to the throne of his ancestors, which he had forfeited by his imbecility. Pity it was that Sir Alexander’s remonstrances were not listened to. His own subjects had discarded him as unfit to reign, and for the British Government to replace such a one was not in accordance with their wonted prudence, better would it have been for Sir Alexander to have resigned his commission, (if that were in accordance with military usage, as it is in affairs of state,) and then by the failure of the design in other hands it would have been seen that Sir Alexander was in the right, and his life would have been saved. Above all, it was an ungracious task for him, who had been kindly and hospitably treated by the reigning chief.

It should be mentioned, that on his visit to Montrose there was a grand public dinner given to him in the Guild Hall, at which the late Lord Panmure was present, and many of his school companions. They were all enthusiastic in their admiration of him, and delighted at the opportunity of bearing a part in such a testimonial of their high appreciation of his merits—it was with such emotion perhaps as Joseph’s brethren felt when they saw him raised to high and deserved honour. His worthy father was there, and made one of his excellent and spirit-stirring speeches. He made an excellent one himself. When he came to notice the improvements in M6ntrose since he left it he spoke thus—“ Beginning at my father’s garden, there is the Academy, and the Trades1 Schools rivalling the Academy—(this was like incense to me you maybe sure, but it was left out of the report of the Review)—and the tall chimneys, like the minarets in our Indian cities.7’ This is all of it that I recollect.

The following notice of Sir Alexander Bumes’s death, which appeared in the Morning Herald of the 8th February, 1842, may interest my readers, as shewing how much he was appreciated by others than Scotchmen, and also as containing a condensed summary of his brilliant career :—

“The late Sib, Alexander Burnes.—This lamented individual, who according to the reports published yesterday, was cruelly massacred in Cabool, was a distinguished member of several of the scientific societies in the metropolis, and well known in the literary world. His age was between 35 and 40, and he entered into the 21st native infantry in 1821. When he held the rank of lieutenant in 1831 he was deputed in a political capacity to the court of Lahore, charged with a letter from George IV., and a present of some horses, to the ruler of that country. The object of this mission having been completed, he next made a journey to trace the course of the Indus, which had been previously crossed only at particular points by former travellers, whilst several points had not been surveyed. He here visited many of the conquests of Alexander, and was the first European of modern times who had navigated the river Indus, an expedition attended with great risk and hazard. He then visited Bokhara, the great seat of Arabic literature in the east, which was known as *Ilium ul Bilad,* the *Mother of Cities.’ On his return from his expedition to this country in 1834 he was made a fellow of the Royal Society, and received the honorary testimonials of several other learned bodies. In May, 1834, he received from the Royal Geographical Society the fourth royal premium of fifty guineas for his navigation of the river Indus, and a journey to Balkh and Bokhara across Central Asia. At the meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society en Feb. 21, 1835, Earl Munster, V. P., in the chair, this lamented individual was elected an honorary member, for having ( fixed with accuracy the position of Bokhara and Balkh, and the great Himalayan mountains, and having done more to the construction of a map of those countries than had been done since Alexander the Great.’ On this occasion he was complimented by Sir Alexander Johnstone for having almost ascertained a continuous route and link of communication between Western Asia and the Caspian Sea, as also for his excellent diplomatic arrangements with the Ameers of Sindh. The museum of the Royal Asiatic Society also contains the Bokhara cloak worn by him in his travels in the Punjaub. He was the author of many papers in the ‘Transactions of the Geographical and Asiatic Societies' and his ‘Travels in Bokhara,’ which went through two editions, are well known. The late Sir Alexander Burnes, who was of a Scotch family, held local rank as lieutenant-colonel for services in A Afghanis tan and Persia, which was dated 8th April, 1886, and shortly afterwards on his return to India, in acknowledgment of his diplomatic and other services, he was knighted, and made companion of the Bath. His services were chiefly devoted in a diplomatic capacity to his country ; but his geographical researches in Central Asia were unequalled by any modem traveller.”

I have only yet mentioned by name my excellent colleague, now the Rev. James Dickson,—but a better teacher of English Grammar, and of the Languages, could not hav£ been selected. If he had only remained I might have been there too. I was pressed enough to be sure. He had the best method of imparting a knowledge of English Grammar of any I ever knew by the questions he put. He could also teach Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and Italian. He helped, indeed, the late Mr. George Milne to translate a book from the Norse language. Many years after he left the Trades* School he received, as I have heard, £40 a-year for teaching in one family in Montrose; and he taught the young ladies Greek and Hebrew, French and Italian—some of these perhaps ministers’ wives since.

The following is a specimen of the letters written in the author’s department of the Trades* Schools—all imaginary of course.

“London, 20th July, 1835.

"My Dear Father,—You have most kindly consulted my feelings in writing thus early in answer to my last. Your letter of 15th instant, which I anxiously looked for, conveyed the most welcome intelligence of the welfare of the whole family. You have no idea how delightful it is to hear from home, when one has left it for the first time to live at a distance among strangers. Tour letter restored me, as it were, once more to my place in the family circle, and I assure you I shall return with increased delight to my business in the counting-house, and when my work is over for the day, Bhali enjoy a ramble about town; but you need not be afraid that I shall associate with any bad companions. My master’s son, William, is just of my own age, and he promised that when he had done his tasks for school he would accompany me and shew any thing worth seeing about the public buildings. He is really a nice boy, I think, and shews early symptoms of being exactly such a business-man as his father. He is my sole companion at present, and if we make any more aquaintance I am determined they shall be well selected, being firmly resolved to be guided by the excellent rules you laid down as to forming connections. I think I shall like my business very well. I rise at five this fine weather, and have time to dress and take a short walk before going to the counting-house at six ; but early rising is no trouble to me now, having been in the practice of attending school so early at Montrose, and I find I am much the better of it, for I enjoy a good appetite still, for all they say about the bad air of London. The sickly, meagre-looks of many of the cockneys must, I am sure, be owing to their sitting up so late, going to places of entertainment, and lying so long in bed. The clerks, and many of the principal partners, even in wholesale concerns in town, are astir at six, and get most of their country orders despatched before breakfast, after which they have more time to attend to their town and other business —such as bringing up the books, &c., it being an invariable maxim with my master, and indeed in all well-conducted establishments, never to let these behind a single day. I begin now to think there is a great beauty in following a regular system, it leaves the mind so free and unencumbered when every thing is over, and enables us to spend the hours of relaxation in a cheerful and profitable manner.

“But my letter, I perceive, is growing lengthy, so I must now take my leave of you, but not without requesting you to favour me with a long letter next, and don’t think anything trifling to mention that you think will interest me.    

“I am, my dear Father,

“Your affectionate Son,

“G L ”

Perhaps a better division of the branches taught might have been that at first recommended by the late Mr. Anderson, parish schoolmaster of St. Cyrus, which was the plan adopted at the outset, and followed for a few years at first with much success—viz., Writing, Arithmetic, &c., in the Upper School, and Reading, Grammar, (fee., in the Lower; but after Mr. Dickson’s retirement it was thought advisable, for various reasons, to make the one independent of the other. The present teachers, Messrs Marr and Ross, are very efficient, and have large classes. The above arrangement, it is likely, would have received the late Mr. Dorward’s sanction, if it had been proposed at the time when the Trades transferred the management to his Trustees. The master of the Upper School has £30 a-year salary, and Mr. Ross £20. Mr. Marr, having pupil teaching, has besides a Government salary.

The scholar who has risen to most distinction from the Trades’ School, is James Scott Robertson, Esq., now purveyor-in-chief at the Horse Guards, whom Lord Panmure, when Secretary for War, sent out to the Crimea, in the same capacity, to put things to rights there, which he speedily accomplished, and of whom the celebrated French cook, Soyer, said, that he was the right man in the right place.


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