HC Deb 15 April 1889 vol 335 cc592-6
MR. HUGH ELLIOT (Ayrshire)

I beg to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold her consent from the scheme for the management of the endowments of Blair's charity, in the parish of Galston, Mair's Free School, in the parish of Loudoun, and Brown of Waterhaugh's Charitable Foundation, in the parishes of Galston and Loudoun, approved by the Scotch Education Department (by Act), and now lying upon the Table of the House, in so far as regards the provisions relating to Mair's Free School, in the parish of Loudoun. The scheme to which this Motion relates concerns three endowments, with regard to two of which I have no objection to make, and have nothing to say. My objection relates to the third scheme only—namely, that which is applicable to Mair's Free School, in the parish of Loudoun. That endowment was intended for the benefit of the people in the vicinity of the village of Darvel, and was distinctly left for the purposes of free education. There can be no doubt whatever in regard to the intention of the founder in that respect, as he clearly and explicitly declared that the endowment was left in favour of establishing a charitable free school at Darvel, though he ought also to have declared that it was for the purpose of educating children free of all expense. Up to the present time the endowment has been carried out in many respects in accordance with the wishes of the founder, and the net income is £150. The recipients of it are children of the working classes residing in the village of Darvel, to whom it has given free education. Why should thy Education Commissioners step in and interfere with this happy state of things? They find the endowment carried out according to the wish of the founder, and yet they come forward and pass the scheme which now lies on the Table of this House, and under which they divert the money intended for free education to the purposes of secondary education. Out of 418 householders at Darvel 412 petition against this scheme, and it is in their name that I now object to it. The endowment, under its former condition, worked well, and I think in a question of this sort the feeling of the district ought to be considered. I object to it, because I think it is an attempt to change the class of beneficiaries and alter the intentions of the founder. When the Educational Endowments Act was passed it was distinctly stated that the class of beneficiaries intended by the founders should not be changed. I believe these promises had an enormous effect in passing the Bill, which was carried after most inadequate discussion. I do not believe it would ever have passed at all had not these promises been made to the House. I object to this scheme also because it introduces competition among children of tender years in elementary schools. Children under 10 years of age may compete for bursaries. I think it is the very worst way to confer benefits on these poor children, by causing them to compete for £5 to £10 bursaries. I have had considerable experience of elementary schools, having been Chairman for a length of time of the School Board in a rural parish, and I have no hesitation in saying that these £5 and £10 bursaries are simply money thrown away. I am perfectly certain that it would be infinitely better if the money were applied to the giving of free education to poor children in elementary schools. That was the intention of the founder, and I believe the very best thing that could be done. I should like to protest, as far as I am able, against the Education Act of 1882. I object most strongly to the many schemes which have floated from that Act, and I object to the procedure under it. I think that procedure is partial and ignorant. I think it deceives the people, who think that this House is a sort of Court of Appeal from the Education Department and from the Endowments Commissioners. It is no Court of Appeal; it is the Education Department over again stating their own case in this House; and I believe I am representing the feeling of a number of people when I say that it is a perfect farce for these Bills to be brought before the House. I protest against these schemes in general, and this one in particular.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from the Scheme for the Management of the Endowments of Blair's Charity, in the parish of Galston; Mair's Free School, in the parish of Loudoun, and Brown of Waterhaugh's Charitable Foundation, in the parishes of Galston and Loudoun, approved by the Scotch Education Department (by Act), and now lying upon the Table of the House, in so far as regards the provisions relating to Mair's Free School, in the parish of Loudoun."—(Mr. Hugh Elliot.)

*MR. JAMES CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)

I hope, without encroaching too much upon the time of the House, that I shall be able to show that this Scheme is not open to the objections which my hon. Friend has brought against it. The people of Darvel, whose memorial he has referred to, cannot, I think, have known what the provisions of the scheme were, or they would not have memorialized as they have done. I must say that the trustees of the fund have never shown uncompromising hostility to the scheme. On the contrary, they have shown that while they preferred to have their Trust left as it was, yet they were ready to meet the Commissioners in a reasonable way, and suggest amendments of the scheme. Their suggestions were considered, and, to a certain extent, were adopted. And the memorial to which my hon. Friend has referred was drawn up at a time when the scheme had not been published in its final form—the memorial being dated Christmas, 1887, and the scheme not being submitted until the following year. The bequest of Mr. Mair was for free education, but only to a limited extent. His intention was that from 80 to 100 children only should receive free primary education. The school has been attended by about 120, and it was stated in evidence to the Commissioners that this provision of free education in Darvel was rather in excess of the requirements of the place. In proof of that, I may state that for some years past there has been no selection of applicants. According to Mr. Mair's instructions, certain classes of the poor were to have a preference, but for some time past all who have applied have been admitted. It must also be remembered that although Mr. Mair gave particular instructions as to the kind of education to be given—and his views on education were not particularly advanced—he also said that if there was any surplus it should be applied to the education of promising children, evidently pointing to something better than that indicated in his instructions to the trustees with regard to the free school. The Commissioners have proposed in this scheme to throw together the endowments of two parishes —Galston and Loudoun—which are very much of the same nature. They propose under this scheme to give as much in free scholarships as they believe is needed by the parishes, and certainly quite as much as was contemplated by the founders of these endowments. In regard to the parish of Loudoun, it has only one-third of the whole endowments, and in order that it may not suffer—for Galston has necessarily the larger representation upon the governing body—it is stipulated in this scheme that a proportion of at least one-third of these free scholarships shall be reserved for Loudoun and two-thirds of that third at least shall be reserved for the parish of Darvel. In this way the village of Darvel will get as much in free scholarships as Mr. Mair originally intended, and its chance of several bursaries in addition. It is rather wide of the mark to speak of changing the character of the endowments. In the scheme it is expressly stipulated that these bursaries shall only be given to promising children of the character indicated by the founder—children whose parents require assistance to give them education. But there are other benefits under this scheme. There is £100 to be given to the School Board of Loudoun for the express purpose of improving the education in the public school of this same village of Darvel, and, at the same time, there is the share of £100 for the clothing and maintenance of the free scholars. In other words, the poor children of Darvel will receive as much free education as the benevolent Mr. Mair intended, and, in addition, provision is made for the higher education of promising children. The whole question is this—whether these endowments are to be used for the purpose of saving the school rates of the parish, or whether they are to be used for the better education of promising and poor chil- dren. The question is whether this is the property of the ratepayers, or the property of poor children, and, if the latter, I hope the House will have no difficulty in rejecting the motion of my hon. Friend.


All these schemes are very often criticized in the same way and on the same lines, and, therefore, I ask the leave of the Rouse to withdraw my Motion.

Motion by leave, withdrawn.

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