Autobiography of Elizabeth Beauchamp
Balquhidder Primary School Teacher and Head Teacher 1960 -1972
" I was born in Tain, Scotland's oldest Royal Burgh, in May 1917 while my father was serving in the navy during the First World War. By the early Twenties, there were three of us, all girls, and my father had set up his own printing business in Tain. I went to the Public School there and then to Tain Royal Academy. After getting my Highers, I sat an exam for the civil service and got a post in London in the Scottish Education Department, knowing that, apart from a skeleton staff to be left in London, the rest of us would be joining the staff already in Edinburgh later in the year. We moved up in October 1935.
In 1939 the second world war broke out. I married in 1940. My husband was also in the Department and in November 1941, I returned to the Civil Service. On VJ Day (victory in Japan) August 1945, I applied for my release and was back home a month later. For about twelve years thereafter I was a housewife in Edinburgh.
In 1957 the shortage of teachers was so great that the Government launched a Special Recruitment Scheme urging people who had the necessary scholastic qualifications - and were not more than forty five years old - to apply. My husband had just retired. With great trepidation I applied and was accepted. There were over 200 in my year and about 7 of us not straight from school. I was the oldest of the lot. It was a three year course at Moray House that I had chosen for it was primary school children I wanted to teach - preferably the older children and preferably in a rural school. In June 1960 I qualified and in August that year took up my post as teacher of primaries 5,6 +7 in Balquhidder School in Perthshire.
The head teacher, Miss Stewart had the younger children. There were thirty eight children in the school at the time. I had twenty and Miss Stewart had eighteen. For the whole of that first year she had to teach eighteen children in the dining room of the school house because a new extension was being built on to the school which had only one lofty classroom, the kind where the windows are so high you couldn't see out. It must have been a nightmare for her in the cramped dining room space. No sooner had the extension been finished- and it took the entire school year- than the roll began to fall. After four years Miss Stewart decided to move to Stirling and I took over as head (and only) teacher at Balquhidder School. The roll was something like twenty-six by then.
We had no visiting teachers to help with music, art, needlework and physical education. We did our own. The parents and myself took the older children down to the swimming pool at Callander once a week in the summer. It had to be after school hours, because there was nobody to leave the other children with. In my days of teaching the parents of nearly all the children were connected with farming or forestry. Apart from the children of the managers of the youth hostel, the six children of a Baronet, the Post Office lady, a tradesman and a ministers family (one of whose children was Elspeth Porter), I can't think of any other children whose parents weren't connected with the land. In addition we had more than a smattering of retired people. with a great variety of backgrounds from different professions which added such a lot of interest to the community. Everybody pulled together really well. We were a family. In addition there were a lot of holiday cottages. But it was an ageing population.
At Christmas 1972 I retired. I still had more than the statutory number of pupils for a single teacher school and was feeling the strain. Very shortly after I retired Balquhidder came under the aegis of Stirling, a Labour council, instead of Perth a conservative Council and in no time a second teacher was appointed plus help for music, art, needlework and physical education. Swimming was now a subject for an afternoon to Callander!
But eventually the roll dropped so much that Balquhidder School was closed and the children sent to Strathyre. A few years later there were more Balquhidder children in Strathyre school than Strathyre children. But by this time Balquhidder School had been closed and converted into a private house.
We ourselves had acquired a lovely little cottage just before moving to Balquhidder. We were luckier than we had realised. It was the only property to come on the market for the next five years. It needed a great deal of repair and modernisation. For a whole year we lived with an outside lavatory and the very minimum of cooking facilities. The alterations at the house took two and a half months and were going on at the same time as those at school. No peace anywhere! For years we shared a supply of spring water with nine houses. It constantly dried up during the summer and then we had to put containers into the car and take them to the cemetery on the other side of the river where there was a tap and the water was on mains. In winter our supply often froze. In early 1963 for five weeks we had to walk to the Calair Burn with buckets and break through inches of ice. But it was worth it. Eventually we were put on mains.
Shopping was very different from shopping in Edinburgh. It was great having vans coming to our door. We had grocers, butchers greengrocers, bakers, fishmonger and laundry. The bakers and grocers were very good at bringing up magazines and odds and ends from Callander. There was a little grocer and newsagent shop a few miles up the road at Balquhidder Station (closed station) or you could get your papers by post. Postage was cheap in those day. Doctors came from Callander, Comrie and Killin. Some once a week, some twice. The library used to open in the school on Thursday nights. Now a van makes a tour of the village fortnightly. We used to have a little village Post Office too, run by Mrs Perks in a byre, once part of her croft.
The church situation too has changed. Balquhidder Parish includes the villages of Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and Strathyre. In my day we had a church of Scotland in all three villages with a service in each church every Sunday. The Manse was in Balquhidder. In the eighties Strathyre and Lochearnhead churches closed and it was hoped that the congregation would travel up to Balquhidder but very few of them did. Both these churches were converted into private houses.
After retirement I became more involved with the community; President of The Woman's Guild, Secretary of the W.R.I ,secretary press reporter for the Community Council, Clerk to the Congregational Board, Church Elder and Session Clerk. Soon after retiring I started to write "The Braes O 'Balquhidder. It took me five years, was a real labour of love and brought me visitors from all over the world. It went into four editions. It was first published by Heatherbank Press, Milngavie in 1978. The owner was Colin Harvey who died not many years after. His widow continued the business for a short time but then gave up. By that time they had published three editions. The Friends of Balquhidder Church bought the remaining copies and published a fourth edition. It was done by Whittles Publishing Press, Latheronwheel, Caithness, with new photographs - presumably because Mrs Whittles parents lived in Balquhidder. During this time I also took up water colour painting. There must be a least a hundred paintings around somewhere. In my school days I had two ambitions. To write a book and paint a picture.
You asked if I've written another book. Yes, I have but it's lain in a case for a good twenty years. Its called Please Miss and was great fun to do. Having finished it I was too lazy to do anything about it. Finding a publisher is a bit of a trouble and I kept telling myself I should really re-type it because I think the type had faded a bit. Anyway it didn't get done. At New Year my nephew from Dalgety Bay was up. He knew nothing about the book and insisted that I let him put it on the computer or whatever it is. Technology is all Greek to me. I re-wrote a couple of chapters and he has the job now. Its about training for teaching when you're forty and then teaching in Balquhidder School when you have all the children together like a family and how they help each other. There's a lot of fun in the book. The children are so amusing.
In 1993 my husband died. A year later I bought a house in Tain where a sister still lived, the reason being that I was now 77 and it seemed to me that Balquhidder was not a place in which to grow old once you could no longer drive. Too many transport and shopping difficulties. But what a wrench it was to leave. I'd had 34 years of a full life in a beautiful environment with really lovely people. "
LETi member Olwen Hendry, of Immeroin Farm cottage self catering Glen Buckie, suggested Elizabeth Beauchamp's book for inclusion in our Local Books and Authors section of The Loch Earn Tourism Information website. Olwen wrote to her friend "Betty" We were delighted that Elizabeth took the time to respond and her story arrived on three sheets of quality writing paper, beautifully hand written. Elizabeth had enclosed the information inside a card addressed to Olwen. In the card, Elizabeth confesses that she has "never seen a website". One of Elizabeth's main reasons for leaving Balquhidder at 77 was the thought of not being able to drive as she got older. How interesting then to read "..Without a stick I'd be chair bound....Hope to goodness they renew my driving licence in May (2014), 97 then. Can't believe it."