Page 21 - Alexander Munro, Early Schoolmaster
ISSUE : Issue 20
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1978/8/1
1854 shows that Munro was operating in a 22* X 28* frame building in good condition. Examination of the other schools listed in the siimmary indicated that the Munro school was the largest for the coimty, fol? lowed closely by Donald Campbell. This building lasted iintil destroyed by fire in 1867. The fire apparently began in a log hut hearby, soon spreading to the Munro house and school. The school reports and summary indicate Mimro's salary at 60 pounds with ten shil? lings per week for boarding, lodging and washing. The 1854 report shows Munro's ser? vice at fifteen years followed by Donald Campbell • these two being the highest in the County. The records for 1854 show that Munro*s high enrollments of the early l840's had declined to forty pupils cover? ing a term of 130 days. This could be a re? flection in tapering off of large scale Scottish migration and the opening of more schools in surrounding areas. The summary shows twenty-nine other coimty-operated schools besides Munro's. Students at the Munro school were able to take courses not offered at any of the other county schools. Composition and French were not part of the curriculum of Munro's nor any other county school. The 1854 report classifies Munro's school as Superior as opposed- to Common or Inferior. Alexander Mi'nro undoubtedly had pride in his school and the people who attended. Found in the original register are his com? ments written in favour of Charles MacKin? non, teacher, who was leaving Munro school and returning to Lake Ainslie. Of Mr, Mac? Kinnon he wrote, "In him is capriciously appeared those natural and required moral endowments... a truly excellent and valua? ble man • a good scholar." Reading Mrs. Charles Archibald's paper "Early Scottish Settlers in Cape Breton," one learns that Miinro educated ministers, priests and men in many good positions. He often expressed satisfaction with his former scholars. Mun? ro facetiously expressed that he regretted not having found a hand in the making of a lawyer. Many of his pupils went far beyond the shores of Boularderie to such places as United States, New Zealand and other parts of Canada. When he ceased teaching, Munro became a member of the board of school trustees. He became chairman in 1865. He was appointed Post Master in I857. At this time Thomas Battersby would bring the mail from Sydney on foot. A mere two or three letters ar? rived at his office and two papers a week initially. By I883, this increased to 15O- 300 letters and several papers. Munro was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1852. A commxinique to Mr. F. MacRae, County Constable, indicates one of the less pleasant tasks Munro had to undertake. To Mr. MacRae, Munro gives instructions re? garding the seizure of "goods and chat? tels" of those who were "assessed for poor rates for the period ending March 31, 1881"..." and that these be sold and the money arising from the sale be used to pay the Slims due; surplus from the sale, less any fees of the Constable and the Justice of the Peace and any "charges of taking and keeping or selling the distress," be rendered to the owners. The signature is in Munro's hand along with his seal. Another article reported to be in Munro's handwriting is a letter of contract con? cerning John Old and the building of a church. Because of his varied and exten? sive knowledge he was probably called upon in matters where correspondence of this nature was required. Another example of this is a draft of a letter to the House of Representatives for the Province of No? va Scotia in which is requested the "usual allowance" for a grist mill and kiln that was erected in the neighbourhood. Munro was also a Collector of Customs. What remains of this devoted schoolmaster is very little. A few letters written by him and/or photostats thereof, the old school register and the Victoria County School Returns at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Halifax. A few pieces of writ? ing are still in the community. A monument in the Man-0-War Cemetery was erected by former scholars and friends in New Zealand, United States and Nova Scotia. The remains of the Munro's home, built af? ter the first was destroyed by fire in 1867. It was bulldozed in 197'7 This article was written by Kevin Beaton of Big Bras d'Or, and won Second Prize in Cape Breton's Magazine Contest in Local History in 1976. Mr. Beaton's article has been ed? ited to permit us to include the texts of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Munro's letters.
Cape Breton's Magazine