Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Intrigue over pupil-less teacher

Ruins of Durness Parish School
The school was left to fall into ruin following its closure

History enthusiasts hope to uncover the full story of a head teacher who stayed in a school with no pupils against his superiors' wishes for 19 years.

Durness Parish School in the far north fell into a ruined state after its last master was eventually sacked in 1861 following a change in the law.

Community company Durness Development Group and locals have been researching the building's past.

It is hoped Court of Session papers will reveal more about its last head.

The overall research project attracted funding from Historic Scotland.

Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (Guard) has also carried out digs at the site and uncovered an ink well and pieces of slate used by children who attended the school.

'No children'

Built in the 1760s, following a campaign by local minister the Reverend Murdo MacDonald, the school had a classroom and accommodation for its teacher.

No evidence has been found so far that it was used for any other purpose after it closed as a school.

Graham Bruce, himself a teacher, has been intrigued by the story of its last master.

He said: "Somewhere in the early 1840s there was a dispute between the parents and the master and pupils began to be withdrawn from the school.

"Ultimately all the pupils were withdrawn and the master was left in a school with no children."

The Church of Scotland sought to sack the head teacher, but he refused to go, arguing that he had a contract and it did not specify that the school had to have pupils.

The row reached the courts and the Court of Session upheld the teacher's contract.

Mr Bruce said: "For 19 years he remained in the school before a change in the law eventually saw him sacked."

He said researching legal documents from the Court of Session could reveal more about the story.

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