Former Canna teacher shines light on island school’s history in new book

NO F37 Canna book
NO F37 Canna book

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Thirty years after starting her research, former Canna teacher Kate Riley has had her book about the island’s tiny school published.

Kate taught in the one-teacher school for six years from 1986 and that experience forms the basis of ‘Canna Schooldays’, just published by Stornoway-based Acair Books.

Kate Riley, pictured, taught in Canna's small school for six years. NO F37 Kate Riley
Kate Riley taught in Canna’s small school for six years.
NO F37 Kate Riley

Kate told the Lochaber Times: ‘After 30 years of research in numerous archives and gathering stories and information from former teachers and pupils, I completed my book which was published by Acair – based in Stornoway – and released during lockdown.

‘I was fortunate enough to secure a substantial and very generous grant from the Strathmartine Trust, which believed in my book, towards its publication for which Acair was grateful whilst struggling during lockdown.’

She continued: ‘Canna Schooldays’, although primarily the history of the wee island school which opened in 1878, also reflects the way of life on Canna and the Small Isles in general during the decades that passed after it first opened, including the two world wars.

‘The dependency on the sea and the land for food and a livelihood are reflected in the absences of the older children expected to help. The absence of all age groups due to being unable to get to school during extreme weather conditions or because of damage to the precarious plank footbridge linking Canna to Sanday, as well as pandemics of measles, scarlet fever and whooping cough, for which there were no inoculations or antibiotics in the early days, illustrate a very different way of life during the late 1800s and 1900s.

‘The book also reflects the islanders’ dependence on the other islands, especially Eigg, for the minister, priest, the original school board and, finally, a doctor.’

Kate has lived in Dumfries and Galloway for the past 18 years since leaving Fort William.

Canna Schooldays is available from Muck craft shop, Mallaig Heritage Centre, Mallaig Toys and Gifts, the Land, Sea and Island Centre in Arisaig and the Highland Bookshop in Fort William.

It is also available from the Waterstones or direct from Acair with reviews of the book on both company websites.

 

NO F37 Canna book

Extra pic:

Kate Riley, pictured, taught in Canna’s small school for six years.

NO F37 Kate Riley