Prior to 1874, there is no documentation as to where the school was actually situated in KIllen, but we do know, from the parish records, that there was a school in 1818 when Donald Munro was the teacher, and he married a Janet MacRae.
As a result of the Education Act of 1872, land was acquired by the School Board in 1874 from James Fletcher of Rosehaugh. The cost of the land was £860, an amount which seems unrealistically high for that period, but the document has been thoroughly checked and one may only assume there has been a clerical error. The piece of land was to be in trust for a school playground and teachers’ residence, with a few duty of £3 per annum, a payment which James Fletcher returned.
The running of the school was not without its problems. In 1906, the cost of bringing a water supply to the school was quite prohibitive as there was no supply within reasonable distance. The School Board resisted an expensive scheme thus leaving the school, one would assume, with reliance on the rain water tanks. HM Inspector recommended in 1914 that Practical Household Economy lessons be introduced, but this was not possible due to the inadequate water supply, and so gardening was substituted.
It should be remembered that in 1851, 65% of teachers were men, but by 1911, 70% were women. Women predominated because they were willing, plentiful and cheap to employ, being paid less than their male counterparts. However it was not until 1945 that married women were allowed to teach.
Over the years the school extended its use for the benefit of the community, and by 1932 it was used for religious services.
The provision of a canteen was discussed at the same time as one for Avoch (1946). Mr Hunter suggested that a piece of ground to the north side of the schoolhouse be acquired, as he did not wish the canteen to reduce the size of the existing playground. However he had to give way to the Education Authority in the end.
It is sad that, like so many of the small country schools with falling rolls, Killen School was closed in 1984/85. The Education Authorities should remember that in the country, a school is not merely a building for educating the young, but is a focal point for the community itself.
Killen can claim fame to having one of the most forward thinking headmasters of the Highlands in the 1870s and 80s. He was Robert Stevenson, and we make no apologies for copying such a lengthy extract from the 1918 “Ross-Shire Journal”. This excerpt contains much of the interest regarding education and life in the country from the 1870s to the 1890s as well as an excellent portrayal of the man himself.
Taken from the gravestone in Avoch Parish churchyard:STEVENSON SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF ROBERT STEVENSON, SCHOOLMASTER AT KILLEN FOR OVER 20 YRS DIED 8TH NOV. 1891 ERECTED BY FORMER PUPILS WHO REMEMBER HIM WITH GRATITUDE AS A TEACHER OF EXCEPTIONAL ABILITY A TRUE FRIEND AND A MAN GREATLY BELOVED
It is interesting to note that Stevenson was followed in Killen by another noteworthy teacher, D F Fleming, who later moved to Avoch to become the Headmaster of Avoch Public School.
Those who succeeded with approximate dates were:
Miss Kennedy was from Fortrose and was appointed with a salary of £70 per annum plus an allowance of £5 for the cleaning of the school, the house and the keeping of the garden. She remained in Killen unto the 1920s when Miss Dingwall took over. By 1940, Stewart Hunter was Headmaster.