ACROSS Renfrewshire, children are looking out their pens and pencils and trying on their uniform as they prepare for a new school year.

And for youngsters starting primary school for the first time next week, their experience of the classroom will be significantly different from what their parents and grandparents encountered back when they were children.

A newly-published book – Listen Closely: An Oral History of Kilbarchan 1900-2000 – recalls how school life has developed in the village over the past century.

Myra Goldie, 91, started at Kilbarchan Primary in 1935 and remembers a strange instruction she received from her teacher during one of her first classes.

The great-gran told The Gazette: “We were given slates with a straight pencil and, being a corrie-fister, I had to sit on my left hand.

“They wanted me to write with my right hand and that is seemingly not a good thing to do now but, all those years ago, you did as you were told.”

The Gazette: Myra Goldie started school in 1935Myra Goldie started school in 1935

Despite having to follow strict rules that many of today’s parents would no doubt object to, Myra remembers her primary school days as being a happy time in her life.

She said: “They were all good memories and my favourite subject at school was handwork and sewing.

“You got mugs of Horlicks every day in the wee school, in mugs with wee figures on them, you knew your own mug.

“When that stopped, you got wee bottles of milk, a third of a pint, with cardboard tops that you could stick a straw in.

“When it was cold, the milk was frozen. You had to sit and hold it in your hand to be able to drink it.”

Drew Connell, who started at Kilbarchan Primary in 1941, also has pleasant memories of school life.

The 85-year-old grandfather recalled: “Danny Livingston was the headmaster at Kilbarchan Primary when I was there latterly.

“He was a great guy and I think he was the teacher who let us listen to the Rangers versus Moscow Dynamo game, which was quite a feature at that time in 1945.”

The Gazette: Drew Connell has vivid memories of his time at Kilbarchan Primary, which began way back in 1941Drew Connell has vivid memories of his time at Kilbarchan Primary, which began way back in 1941

For Drew, football played a large role during his childhood in the village.

“We played football all the time, as that was the craze,” he said. “We mainly played down in the public park in Kilbarchan.

“At that time, we didn’t have a football team in the village but I played it at the Boys’ Brigade. I played centre-half most of the time.”

Until 1989, corporal punishment was an all too common feature for those pupils who were less than well behaved.

“The teachers were strict to a certain degree,” recalled Drew. “You still got the strap at that time but I would say we were treated with respect.”

Myra added: “I wouldn’t say we were frightened of the teachers, rather we were in awe of them.”

However, some locals who attended Kilbarchan Primary have less fond memories of their time at school.

One former pupil, who asked not to be identified, said: “In primary five or six, we didn’t have a teacher and they were filling in with teachers from the secondary school and that was horrendous.

“Pulling people up by the hair, throwing dusters at them, prodding them with a pointer – that wasn’t for me at all. I ran away from school. When our mother heard what the problem was, she said ‘We’re not having any more of that.’”

The Gazette: A painting of Kilbarchan’s old schoolA painting of Kilbarchan’s old school

Another former pupil added: “I got belted for forgetting a reader in Johnstone High and also because someone did something in the class and no-one would own up to it.

“Everyone got belted. One vicious teacher took great delight in belting the girls in my class.

“Another teacher was a great big guy and he used to fall asleep. One day, he picked somebody up and said ‘I’ll fillet you.’

“These days, he’d be on the front page of the paper for that sort of thing.”

Graeme Dickie, who started school in 1975, has nostalgic feelings towards his primary school days.

He recalled: “I remember playing conkers, a seasonal round, at the bit close to the road. We would all play marbles.

“There was the big hill that ran parallel with the Masonic lodge, where the big slide was in the winter. If you had your brogues on, people would check and say ‘Naw, yer segs [metal sole protectors] are goin’ tae rip it up. You’re not allowed.’

“Playtime would pass and the janny would come out and salt it.”

The Gazette: This old photograph shows Miss Leggat’s primary two class from 1953This old photograph shows Miss Leggat’s primary two class from 1953

Pupils were banned from leaving the school grounds but this didn’t stop Graeme and his friends occasionally sneaking over to a sweetie shop across the road, where they would spend their dinner money on arcade games such as Battlezone and Pac-Man.

Graeme added: “There was the bakers just down from the antique shop, we used to nip in and get a pie or a sausage roll.

“The woman that ran the bakers, one time, she clocked one of the teachers coming, so the two of us hid in the back of the shop.

“She obviously valued our custom.”

Listen Closely: An Oral History of Kilbarchan 1900-2000 costs £15 and is available from local outlets in Kilbarchan, such as USave, Bobbins coffee shop and E Williams Butchers, as well as online at and

Profits from sales of the book are being split between St Vincent’s Hospice, in Howwood, and the Erskine veterans charity.