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FAMILY STORIES

 

 

The Lindsay's of Coldridge
1896 - 1925
by
Mary Cox (nee Lindsay)

 

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

EXTRACTS FROM SCHOOL LOG BOOK
1896

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 the Modulator.

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 51.

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………………..

 
   
 
 

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