AS A child, I always wondered why it said Govan Parish School Board on the side of my Partick primary.

I was admittedly hazy on Glasgow’s geography at that point but even I knew that Govan was across the river.

I’m not the only one who has wondered why. Over the years, we have had many visitors to the archive searchroom who have asked the same question of other schools in the city.

Years passed before I discovered the answer. It goes back to the Education (Scotland) Act 1872 which we highlighted a few weeks agoin an article about the School Board of Glasgow, one of almost a thousand school boards created by the Act.

The boards were of varying sizes and could include several districts: they did not necessarily follow existing boundaries. A Partick School Board was never created. The responsibility fell instead to the Govan Parish School Board to cover not only the burgh of Govan but also its extensive parish which crossed the Clyde to include areas in the west.

Govan Parish School Board was the third largest school board in Scotland. When it formed in 1873, it was responsible for educating more than 11,000 children. Like Glasgow, Govan initiated an extensive school building programme. By 1896, there were 22 Board schools including the largest, Fairfield School, which could accommodate almost 1800 pupils.

The Board had schools in Craigton, Dowanhill, Govan, Govanhill, Hillhead, Hyndland, Ibrox, Kinning Park, Partick and Whiteinch. These were built in different architectural styles including Italianate, Baroque and French Renaissance. Several were built with a swimming pool including the primary schools of Balshagray, Church Street and Greenfield. Generations of Glaswegian schoolchildren, myself among them, learned how to swim at one of these pools.

Govan had fifteen board members who were triennially elected to manage the buildings, teachers and curricula. Among their number was the philanthropist Lady Dinah Elizabeth Pearce who helped to establish the Fresh-Air Fortnight for sick children. By 1896 the Board maintained a roster of 500 staff which later included John Maclean, the socialist activist and anti-war campaigner.

However, his teaching career at Lorne Street Public School was brought to a premature end in 1915 after his arrest and imprisonment for sedition.

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Whenever I pass my old primary now, I no longer wonder at the name Govan Parish School Board. But it is wonderful that, if you look around, you’ll find other school buildings throughout Glasgow still bearing that name. It’s a visible remnant, along with the buildings themselves, of an educational administrative system which has now been gone for over a century.