The recent decision by Aberdeenshire Council to sell the former Burgh Buildings in Banchory might create a touch of nostalgia and certainly something of an event, however mild, for Burnetts.
Education has a remarkably long history in Banchory; longer, as it happens, than some of the most famous and prestigious educational institutions in Britain! The honours go to the town’s patron saint, St Ternan, whose early monastery, established sometime in probably the 7th century AD, was a centre for the teaching and conversion of the Picts. This small rural seminary, which stood on the north bank of the Dee below the present East Church, retained its importance through the middle ages, and several Scottish Saints are said to have been educated within its precincts.
Sir Thomas Burnett, the Laird, erected in or near the present churchyard, a new and spacious grammar school with its accompanying school-house, and endowed it with 5000 merks on October 29th, 1651. It was further endowed by a Dr Alexander Reid the son of the local minister who was physician to Charles I. The school taught ‘Latin, English, Writing and Arithmetic’. One hundred years later, in 1750, the Lady Burnett School was opened, providing education for girls and a few small boys, in particular teaching ‘sewing and good manners’. In 1838 a school at the west end of the village was erected and paid for by Lady Burnett and was initially used by the Rev William Anderson’s Sunday School In 1843 it replaced the Lady Burnett School. It was rebuilt in 1858 and became known as the Reid and Burnett School probably around 1880. It continued in use right up until 1911 when the building became the Burgh Offices, and later the Council Offices.
Around 1840 there were as many as ten small schools in Banchory financed by the Parish or independently. The original Grammar School, built in 1651, was undermined by floods in 1799 when it was removed to an old house on the north side of the turnpike road where it remained until 1824. A new school house was built in 1829-30 but in 1854 when the Deeside Railway was being constructed the school had to be removed and a new building was erected opposite the East Parish Church. The building is now the offices of Strutt Parker and known as St Nicholas House.
A Free Church School was opened in 1844 in a house which had been used as a smithy adjoining the site at Loanhead where the new Free Church had been erected in November 1843. Although far from ideal it continued in use until in 1861 a new school was built behind the Church and which now survives as flats (1998), previously the Station Hotel and renamed later as the Kerloch Hotel.
Changes following the Scottish Education Act of 1872 first led to the Grammar Parochial School becoming the Banchory Central School in 1873 and its amalgamation with Loanhead School in 1878 when the New Central School was established on the present site of the Academy. A further change occurred in 1893 when a Secondary Department was established under a separate teacher and then in 1908 it became a Higher Grade School. In 1911 the School absorbed the Reid and Burnett School and in 1925 it became Banchory Secondary School finally becoming Banchory Academy in 1948.
The Reid and Burnett school had 112 girls when it was closed in 1911 over a quarter a century after it opened. A record of which Burnetts are proud to have been associated.
Regardless, with the property under offer, we wish the new owner well and hope that the building will continue to benefit the community.
I am grateful to the Banchory Heritage Society for the information and the attached.
James C. A. Burnett pf Leys