I always knew that
my father had been born in Devon and that his father
had been head master of a village school but it
was only when I started researching into my family’s
history that I discovered the extent of my grandfather’s
involvement in the village life of Coldridge.
David Robert Lindsay
(my paternal grandfather) was born in Kirriemuir,
Scotland and trained as a teacher but came to London
to improve his fortunes. There he met and married
my grandmother Mary Elizabeth Overton in 1890. Mary’s
family was originally from Norfolk but like my grandfather
they had moved to London to make a better life.
After a spell in London,
David Robert took up the post of Master of Coldridge
School in 1896. Mary took sewing classes at the
school as well as generally assisting and went on
to qualify as a teacher and Mistress of the school.
The family, together with David Robert’s sister
Jean Lindsay, lived in the School House throughout
the period they were in Coldridge.
My grandparents had
four children – Lionel (Lol) and Bertie were
born in London whilst my father Ian and Gertrude
Lucy were born in Coldridge. During the First World
War Bertie and Ian joined up, Bertie serving with
the London Scottish and Ian with the Somerset Light
Infantry. Both are commemorated in the Roll of Honour
in the Church and I am proud to say that my father
was awarded the Military Medal. I have been able
to find very little trace of Lol, apart from the
fact that at one time he played for the village
football team. Gertrude helped out at the school
from a young age, standing in for her mother who
had poor health.
The most rewarding
part of my research was to discover the School Log
Books written up by David Robert in the Devon Archives
in Exeter. What an insight into village life they
provide. Not only do they contain details of the
children’s educational achievements (or non-achievements!)
but they also paint a vivid picture of life during
the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The weather appears
to have been terrible much of the time – gales
of wind, torrential rain and heavy snow. Epidemics
such as diphtheria and measles took a heavy toll
on village life and there were many prolonged closures
of the school. Children were also taken out of school
to help with the harvests and forced to leave school
at an early age - something David Robert found hard
to tolerate. Whenever the school hall was required
for some function (such as a ball), the school was
closed. When the weather was severe children were
unable to get to school. In fact, over the years
and certainly during the winter months, the school
seemed to be closed almost as often as it was open.
David Robert appears
to have been something of a disciplinarian and was
no stranger to the birch. There were even complaints
from some parents over what appeared to them to
be excessive caning. Although my grandfather started
out with great enthusiasm and high hopes, I rather
fear that over the years he became somewhat disillusioned.
This was due in part to the continuing poor health
of his wife Mary, who had to give up teaching in
1918 but to his own deteriorating eyesight. The
saddest sentence in the final Log Book is the one
dated 31st March 1925 which simply reads “My
duties as Master terminate today.”
I would encourage anyone
who has the time to visit the Archives in Exeter
and look through the Log Books for the period. I
only had a very brief time there but the amount
of local information is vast and creates a truly
vivid account of the times.
Unfortunately, I have
no photographs from the period but the illustration
on the Home Page of the website shows the school
and school house during the period when the Lindsays
were active in the village and the class standing
in front of the church may well contain members
of my family.
I know there are some
members of the Coldridge community whose parents
have passed on memories and anecdotes of the Lindsays’
school reign and I should really welcome any further
light they can throw on my family.
David Robert Lindsay
Master of Coldridge School
6th January 1896 - 31st March 1925
FROM SCHOOL LOG BOOK
Jan 6 David Robert Lindsay commenced duties as Master
of this school today. Mrs Lindsay undertakes the
sewing and generally assists. Taken as a whole the
school is extremely backward. In writing and setting
down sums there is a great want of care. Discipline
is very lax. There is a prevailing tendency to cover
the mouth with the hand to facilitate whispering.
Singing evidently has only been taught by ear, as
the children have not the slightest conception of
10 After trying over
each class for the week have resolved to restart
each class in the ensuing week, each subject. Average
for the week 46.5. Number on Register 54. No. Present
13 Re admitted Lilian
Newcombe and Lily Dymond.
17 Work has gone on
fairly well during the week. Discipline slightly
improved. Great lack of punctuality still. Received
from Mr Hannaford 3 doz. pencils and 2 doz. pens.
Slight improvement in the weakness of the writing
in copy books. No. on Register 56. Present 52. Weather
has been very stormy during the week.
24 Work progressing
very slowly. The children seem to be brightening
a little and are taking considerably more interest
in their work. Average for the week 48.6. On Register
56. Present 52.
30 Standards I and
II improving in Reading, general improvement in
Writing throughout the school.
The school being required tomorrow (Friday) for
a ball, will be closed for the day. Average for
the week 48.3. On Register 56. Present 54.
Feb 7 Work progressing
very slowly but satisfactorily. The Board agreed
to supply maps which I hope to receive next week.
Average for week 49.9. On Register 56. Present 55………………..