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October 11th 1889

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Striking schoolchildren

“Infected by the strike contagion at present passing over Scotland many of the boys at Rattray School refused to resume lessons on Tuesday forenoon and proceeded to Craigmill and subsequently to Blairgowrie but failed to induce the scholars at these places to join their ranks. The strikers caused considerable disturbance but the movement was short lived most of them returning to school the same day, where they were duly rewarded for their pains.” 

There had been a strike at Blairgowrie the previous day. “A band of them congregated at the Cross, hooted and shouted at those who wished to return to work and at some of the teachers who passed and otherwise attracted attention. The sound of the bell and the appearance of the Headmaster however was too much for the courage of the strikers who made a rush back to school where they were promptly dealt with by the teachers for disorderly behaviour - this reckoning doubtless accounting for their refusal to join their Rattray friends on the following day.” 

The picture of school children in Victorian times coming out on strike conflicts with most people’s ideas of Victorian values and Victorian discipline. However the strike movement was sufficiently widespread for it to be the subject of a ponderous, but not altogether unsympathetic, leader in the Blairgowrie Advertiser. “It is rather alarming when one reads of the number of schools throughout the country where schoolboys have come out on strike. They are crying out against their long hours at school and their heavy home lessons. Perhaps there is, in some cases, good reason for complaint. But to play the strike game is not to bring about the relief they think they need……” 

Perhaps everyone was taking it a bit too seriously and the reporter was nearer the mark when he stated that “a demand for fewer hours and less lessons is the nominal reason assigned for the escapade but in fact most of the scholars will confess that they really came out ‘for a lark’.” 

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