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 Rectors of K.A.

 Dr James Clark 1907-1926



The New Academy

(1808-72)

The foundation stone of the first building known as Kilmarnock Academy was laid on 25 June 1807. The architect of the new building was Robert Johnstone, who also designed the Laigh Kirk, Kilmarnock (now called the Laigh West High Church ). The town needed new structures to cope with the changes brought about by industrialization. The new school was one of them. It was opened on 26 April 1808 with William Thomson as its first rector. A simple building consisting of two storeys containing four classrooms, and bounded by London Road , Green Street and the Kilmarnock Water, its site was behind where the Grand Hall now stands. It was insured for £600. A detailed map of the school on this site can be viewed at http://www.nls.uk/digitallibrary/map/townplans/kilmarnock.html and click on the graphic index XVIII 13.10. The school can be easily detected on the north bank of the bend in the Kilmarnock Water (the map can be enlarged by subsequent clicks on the area to be viewed).

 The picture on the left shows a side view of the  Georgian section of the Grand Halls - originally  part of  the Academy, opened in 1808.



The new Kilmarnock Academy was formed through a merger of the town's grammar school (so-called because it taught Latin which was necessary for university entrance) and the burgh school. It aimed to provide a high standard of education, comparable even with that of the universities, adapted to the modern world for the surrounding district. By 1868 the syllabus included English, Mathematics, classical and modern languages and bookkeeping. Unlike the academies in Ayr and Irvine , however, art was not, as yet, taught.














The new Kilmarnock Academy was formed through a merger of the town's grammar school (so-called because it taught Latin which was necessary for university entrance) and the burgh school. It aimed to provide a high standard of education, comparable even with that of the universities, adapted to the modern world for the surrounding district. By 1868 the syllabus included English, Mathematics, classical and modern languages and bookkeeping. Unlike the academies in Ayr and Irvine , however, art was not, as yet, taught.

Where Kilmarnock Academy triumphed over the other two schools was in its science teaching. The school's eminence in Ayrshire for science at this period was largely due to Thomas Lee, the mathematical and commercial master from 1843 until 1875. On Saturdays he took his pupils into the country for applied mathematical work and brightened his lessons with anecdotes and blackboard drawings.

The major problem which the school faced was financial. There was no central government funding available and the school was largely dependent on the fees paid by the parents of the pupils. The working-class industrial character of Kilmarnock meant that the town's middle class was small, and few pupils could afford to stay on at school.

In 1868, out of Kilmarnock Academy 's 250 pupils, only nine were over 16. A consequence of this was that income from fees was small, as costs for the elementary education which most of its pupils were pursuing were low. By the mid-1860s the school building was in a poor state. A government report noted:

“The furniture is bad and worn out. The necessary repairs are not done in a liberal spirit by the heritors or the Town Council. There are gaps in the windows from broken panes of glass which seems no-one's duty to repair. The floors and the walls were uneven and dirty…. Altogether the place presents an appearance of dilapidation and decay” (quoted in Boyd, 1961 , p.154).