Comann Eachdraidh Ionadail Phortrigh


Portree Local History Society

Chair: I. G. MacDonald

Secretary: Marilyn Clarke
Treasurer: Rita Campbell


"The School on the Hill"


Education (and its history) is a topic of perpetual interest, partly because it is an experience shared by all.
Thus it was unsurprising, but nonetheless gratifying, that such a large audience gathered to hear Alister Ross deliver his fascinating, erudite and accessible exploration of the History of Education in and around Portree.


Programme of Meetings: 2008 - 2009

  • October 14, 2008
    High Pasture Cave and developments at Fiskavaig
    Stephen Birch
  • November 11, 2008
    MacLean family of Raasay.
    Iona MacDonald
  • December 9, 2008
    NB VENUE: Dunvegan Castle
    - The Castle, The Clan, The Homecoming
  • January 13, 2009
    All Creatures Great and Small- 50 Years as a Vet on Skye.
    D.J. Maclennan
  • February 10, 2009
    UHI History Department.
    Dr Jim Hunter
  • March 10, 2009
    St Maolrubha & St Columba.
    Norman Newton
  • April 14, 2009
    Col. Jock Collection and Museum of Isles Collection.
    Maggie MacDonald
  • Programme of Meetings: 2007 - 2008

    October 9 - Ian Suddaby - The Excavation at Home Farm
    November 13 - Dr Jeff Stone - St Kilda: Two Decades of Digging and Scraping
    (in association with Aberdeen University Centre for Lifelong Learning )
    December 11 - Dr Martin MacGregor - The Lordship of the Isles
    January 8 - Seonachan MacLeod - Deserted Villages of Skye
    February 12 - Professor Brian Sykes - Vikings in the Blood?
    March 11 - Murray MacDonald - Mobile Banking by Land and Sea in the Highlands and Islands
    April 8 - AGM, with guest speaker - Ronnie Armstrong - Para Handy and the Clyde Puffers

    Previous Meetings: 2006 - 2007

    October 10 - Bill Cowie - Kirk Cave, Rona
    November 14 - Alister Ross – Education – PHS100
    December 12 - Norman Newton - Skye and Raasay
    (in association with Aberdeen University Centre for Lifelong Learning )
    January 9 - Pat Myhill - Telford’s Stein
    February 13 - Fiona MacKenzie – Mairi Mhor nan Orain -
    A song-lecture
    March 13 - Ian McCrorie - The MacBrayne Story
    April 10 - AGM, with guest speaker - Roger Hutchinson - “Calum’s Road”

    All meetings are held at Tigh na Sgire, Portree,
    at 7. 30 p.m.,
    on the second Tuesday of each month.

    Contact us:


Focusing on the Centenary of Portree High School's recognition as a Higher Grade school, Alister outlined and then added detail to the story of education from its earliest references (a school at Duntulm in 1651 and in Portree in 1697) through to his own experiences as Depute Head Teacher and beyond.

His "tour" of the past looked at the impact of the Act of 1872 that made education compulsory in Scotland, and the School's move to Viewfield in 1875/6. Calling on the earliest extant Logbooks, Alister explained the curriculum of the time (including three separate "mathematical disciplines), the staffing of the School (3 in 1903) and the Terrors and Rigour of the Annual Inspection. We were also introduced to the idea of the "pupil teacher" which was a common feature of Schools throughout Britain and which conferred status and reputation on Schools like that in Portree.

The 9 Head Teachers of Portree High School (in a history of 130+) years were celebrated in style, with much attention being paid to Andrew Gillanders of Dingwall, who was Head for a staggering 42 years.

The need for, and development of, Boarding accommodation also featured prominently in Alister's talk. In 1916, for instance, there was a demand for 130 Boarding places. The support of the Carnegie Trust (in providing the first girls' hostel), and the later building of the Elgin Hostel, were both landmarks in this aspect of the School's history.

The salutary references to childhood illnesses such as Whooping Cough, Diphtheria and Scarlet Fever, as well as the more startling outbreak of Smallpox in Waternish in 1904 served as a reminder from the Logbooks that the early School operated in difficult times.

Alister's combination of detailed research and subtly-appropriate anecdote made this a thoroughly enjoyable evening.


Published by Stephen Clarke, on behalf of Portree Local History Society - January 2007.
Photographs, unless otherwise stated Dualchas 2006
The publisher and the Society publish this information in good faith, but cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.
Meeting dates and topics are subject to change.