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(Local History librarian based in Haddington)

The First parochial school was founded by Rev John Davidson. minister of the Parish Kirk. who built the church, the manse and the school, largely at his own expense, at the end of the 16th century. When he died in 1604 he left all his money to endow the school.
Latin. Hebrew and Greek were taught and Alexander Hume became master in 1606. He later wrote a Latin textbook which was the first to be accepted by the Scottish Parliament for use in all schools. Another famous schoolmaster was John Cunningham. alias Dr Fian. who was indicted of witchcraft and tortured during the North Berwick witch trials in 1660. He was burnt at the stake in 1661 at Castle Hill. Edinburgh.
In 1616. a Privy Council Act recommended the establishment of a school in every parish and this was ratified by Parliament in 1633. A further Act in 1646 required the provision of a "commodious hous for the schole". plus a stipend for the schoolmaster of not less that 100 merks nor more than 200 merks. to be paid yearly at two terms. However, in 1674/75 the presbytery was informed that in Prestonpans "ye master of ye gramer school hath but a mean provision and that 80 merks gch (which) have been formerlie payed by the heritors to the schoolmaster arc now withdraw".
By 1674. there was an "official" English school in Prestonpans as well as the Grammar School and James Reid was master, while Waller Buchanan was "doctor" of the Grammar School. There were also several private teachers who were paid by the kirk session for admitting the children of the parish poor to their classes. One of these was Elizabeth GulIan who received quarter-payments consistently from 1675 till the end of the century.
An Education Enquiry ordered by the House of Commons in 1834 reported that there were four private schools in Prestonpans. three kept by men and one by a woman teacher. Each taught English and Writing. There was one schoolmaster at the Parochial School who was paid 34 pounds 5 shillings, with 50 pounds in school fees. He taught English Writing. Arithmetic and Geography. However, the Inspector commented that: "Education in this parish is at a low ebb. Amongst a large number of the parents there is a meIancholy indifference to the instruction of their offspring, which cannot be soon remedied. Infant Schools are much needed and natural history ought to be taught."
A Report published by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools in 1841/42 mentions four schools. The Parochial School was the biggest with a school roll of 130. then there were two female schools with rolls of 65 and 20 respectively and finally, one adventure school with 36 pupils. Adventure schools were usually set in towns where the state schools could not cope with the large numbers or where the established teachers were inefficient or unpopular. The Report described the school as being built of stone and lime with a slated roof. in good repair, but far too small, the schoolroom measuring only 27 feet by 22 feet. and 10 feet in height. The only apparatus was a blackboard supplied by the Heritors but there was a playground and also a residence for the schoolmaster who. at this period, was Mr Thomas Fargie. a former carpenter, who had trained at the Edinburgh Sectional School and had started teaching six years earlier. He was unmarried and earned an annual stipend of 34 pounds 10 shillings, plus school fees which amounted to 60 pounds. The Inspectors described his character and method of teaching as "favourable".
On the day of the inspection there were present 50 boys and 49 girls out of a total school roll of 130. The children were described as "neat and clean". They started school at four or Five years of age and left at 13 or 14. They were taught Arithmetic. Geography. History' and Etymology. Quarterly fees were charged of 2/6d for English Reading, four shillings with Writing and Five shillings with Arithmetic. The children had to take an annual examination set by the presbytery and were given an autumnal vacation of six weeks.
The original Grammar School building was replaced in later years by another one. erected on the same site in Kirk Street. When the new public school was built in 1881 the old school was vacated and was purchased by the Co-operative Society in 1883.
Until 1881. there were three separate schools: the Parochial School whose headmaster was Mr George Hunter: the Free Church School whose head teacher was Mr James Wallace: and a Works School at Morison's Haven, where the teacher was Mr Sinclair. When the School Board was set up in the 1870s. it was decided that Prestonpans would be better served by one large school with suitably qualified teachers. When the new school was opened. Mr Hunter retired and Mr Wallace was appointed headmaster, while the Morison's Haven School continued for a time.
The new school was considered a very Fine building with a playground that was second to none in the county Indeed, His Majesty's Inspector of Schools recommended Newbattle School Board to examine the pIan of Prestonpans School when constructing their own new building. The number of
pupils increased so rapidly that by 1900, the building had been enlarged twice, and there were eight teachers besides the headmaster and a large staff of ex-pupil and pupil teachers.
The school became known as the "Grey School" to differentiate it from the Red School and the White School which were the buildings added later to house the growing number of pupils.
In 1924. a secondary school, Preston Lodge, was opened. It was highly selective and soon gained a high academic reputation. In 1954 it became Comprehensive and in 1967 the building was destroyed by fire. A new Comprehensive School was built in 1969 costing well over a million pounds. and a new Primary School was built in the grounds of the burnt-out Secondary School.
In 1970, the old Junior School became an Infant School and the older children moved to the new Primary School. A new Roman Catholic Primary School was built in 1968. replacing the old Cuthill Junior School. The Grey School has been demolished, the Red School is used for other purposes and the White School houses the infants.

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