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Clyne School conversion plans evoke memories

By SPP Reporter

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The boarded up old Clyne School, soon to become a Heritage Centre
The boarded up old Clyne School, soon to become a Heritage Centre

Following last week’s headline story in the Northern Times (Historic school set for new life), Clyne Heritage Society has received many supportive responses regarding the future of the old Clyne School, which Gordonbush wind farm developers SSE are renovating for the use of the Society and the wider community.

The Society is delighted that the article has also elicited responses from people, both locally and afar, with connections to the building, including Mrs Mavor Wilson, who contacted the Society from Dingwall. The school went out of use in 1903, when the replacement school was opened at Academy Place, and the building passed into the ownership of Clynelish Distillery Co Ltd in 1914, when it was converted into 6 dwellings.

As a girl, during her school summer holidays, Mavor Baillie (as she was) used to visit her paternal grandparents, George and Isabella Baillie, who stayed in what she remembered as the 'posh part' of the converted school, the former headmaster's accommodation in the front part. To get to visit her grandparents for the entire duration of the school summer holidays, it was always arranged for Mavor and her brother, David, to be picked up from their home in Dingwall by one of Knox’s fruit lorries on one of their runs home from the south. They would then be dropped off at the door of the old school, directly opposite the fruiterer’s Brora warehouse and she remembers one of the drivers as being Stewart Sutherland.

George Baillie was born in Brora in 1885 to James Baillie and Jessie Sutherland, and was brought up at Bridgend, where James ran his shoemaking business. George followed in the family line and stayed at home until he married Isabella Mavor Thomson in Helmsdale in 1912.

Isabella was born in Aberdeen in 1889, but her parents both died before she was 12 and she and her siblings were taken in by her paternal grandparents, Alexander and his wife Isabella (nee Mavor) in Helmsdale. By 1911 she had moved to Brora and was a Shop Assistant to Kenneth Gordon, Grocer and Ironmonger, at what is now Cunninghams. It is only a short distance between Bridgend Stores and Cunninghams, so George would have instantly noticed the newcomer to the village and obviously became smitten! The newlyweds began their life together in the village, before moving out to Ladiesloch. In the early 1920s, George began working in Hunters Woollen Mill as a Wool Dyer, and the family moved to the Old Clyne School in around 1929, where they had the last of their 5 children, George, born in 1931.

George and Isabella’s first child, James, arrived in 1913 and he married Margaret Rennie in Dingwall in 1938 and Mavor arrived in 1940. Mavor told the Society that she used to sit on the stone wall of the Old School and wave to what little traffic that there was on the A9 at the time, but which included the late Queen Mother on her way north to the Castle of Mey, in Caithness. She recalled that there was a big bath in the building which was never used as there was no hot water plumbing then.

Mrs Wilson is third cousin to Hugh and Donnie Baillie, who still reside in Brora today.

It is such human stories as Mavor’s, regarding the old school and its people, about which the Society is very interested to learn. These stories, tales and anecdotes and especially photographs and documents will be preserved in the new premises as part of its history and any information will be gratefully received. Please contact Nick Lindsay, Chairman of Clyne Heritage Society on 01408 621338 or by e-mail at nicklindsay@btinternet.com

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