IT ALL STARTED ON

A HILLTOP

FARM …

 

 

The site of Marr College/Wallacefield Farm as it was in 1901. Sketch by John B. Stevenson.

 

 

   ●The history of Marr College has come under Stuart's spotlight in recent weeks and he continues our Times Past series with a close look at the building of the school and the people involved.

 

Read about how the site of a modest farmhouse was transformed to become the home of the magnificent school building, which can still claim to be one of the finest in the land.

 

And remember to follow our series every week in the Troon Times for the complete history of the town.

                        

 

IT would be quit remiss to start the hypothetical building of Marr College without initially paying two tributes.

 

One to the truly historic site on which it was created, itself a centre of industry and progress; and another to the families who developed it.

 

Thomas Wallace, who died in 1812 was a tenant of the Fourth Duke of Portland on the hill where the College now stands. His steading in such a distant era was little more than a poverty stricken small holding. It did, nevertheless, make advances through the years via the efforts of later generations and became one of the most prosperous milk farms in the area.

 

It was, too, an undoubted haven for smugglers of the past, and it is more than likely that ankers of contraband brandy still lie, snugly concealed beneath the massive walls of Charles Kerr Marr's beneficent gift to the town

 

RESPECTED

 

One of the most respected BONA FIDE residents of the port and a highly successful businessman to wit, David Moore, who died in August, 1921, and who had taken an active interest in local education, had been reared into the hands of the four surviving members of the family.

 

These acres were relinquished in 1927, via the Duke of Portland to the Trustees of Marr, who had regarded this place as an ideal site for a College of note. Once the transaction had been completed, the Trustees caused a dwelling lo be built for the families within hailing distance

of Loans, this to be called Wallacefield Cottage where Jean, the last of the hilltop Wallaces died some 30 years ago

 

And so it was that 1927 heralded the end of one vital era and the start of another,

 

This landmark had been destined to achieve culture of another kind, to the complete satisfaction of everyone concerned a Foundation Stone of a different sort being laid in June, 1928.

 

It is certainly worthy of note that three great‑great grandchildren of Thomas Wallace, the pioneer, actually attended Marr College. Peter became a doctor, Tom a businessman of spirit, with Patricia Jessie Gunn Wallace receiving the supreme educational accolade in the session 1951‑1952 becoming Dux of the school on the site where it all began 150 years previously.

 

So much for the meanderings of the past, returning now to the year of the General Strike 1926, which briefly preceded the demolition of the farm and the clearing of the ground, thence to an architect's office at 164 Bath Street. Glasgow, where Arthur McNaughton was the toast of the Clyde, having gained the most important contract of his career, that namely of Marr College, an establishment of the future with infinite potential, thanks to one of Troon's Bona Fide residents, Charles Kerr Marr.

 

CLAIM

 

Once the territory had been levelled and the plans drawn up, a railway siding was led in from the Old Station and a huge workforce went into action There are several still living today who can claim to have worked on this project of yesteryear, such as Bob and Matt Fulton, David Clearie, Alan McAlpine, Gordon McFie, Vinny Allan, John Milroy, Neil McMillan, Jimmy C Urquhart, John Daniel, Bobby Burrows and wee Willie Burgess who was the tea boy.

 

Mr Burrows commenced his apprenticeship with Matthew Muir and Company in 1928 to soldier on at this building of consequence for almost four years and the first item to be erected was an office for the Clerk of Works, the monocled Colonel Findlay, a gentleman who was accustomed to the rigours of active service; and he was now in the right place at the right time.

 

Mr Burrows told me that he took his first low levels on a foundation course of what was to be a college of learning. The late Mick Johnstone, Cowter McCulloch and Jimmy Hodgson, all stone masons of quality taught him all they knew the hard way and he admits that some of his happiest days were spent at Marr though he professes that he would gladly have returned as a pupil, but for the march of time.

 

Mr David Clearie of Troon had the distinction of putting on the first slate, a Westmortand Peggy, and Mr William Hugh Stevenson of North Shore Road had the responsibility of covering the Dome with copper.

 

The firms involved in the construction of Marr College were as follows: Chief Contractors ‑ Matthew Muir and Sons, Troon and Kilmarnock: Plasterers ‑ Falconer Elder and Sons, Troon; Painters ‑ John Milroy and Son, Troon; Plumbers ‑ Moses and Spiers, Glasgow: Electricians ‑ Messrs Anderson, Glasgow (Carroll and Hutton, Barassiebank, came info the picture later) Glaziers - Andrew Wright Ayr; Upholsterers and Cabinetmakers ‑ Mr A. W. Stevenson, Troon and Mr James Hood and Son, Troon.

 

Bob Garry controlled the plans and the drawing board, and Jimmy Shaw, foreman joiner, became timekeeper, thence to be senior janitor in 1935, his aide de camp being Jimmy Lindsay,

 

Portland Stone was used in all parts of the construction and it was fortunate that the old Portland Street Church was scheduled for demolishing, much of the masonry from this source being transported to the College and used as foundation stone, backing‑up and core work.

 

CONSTANT

 

Most of the freshly quarried facing stone arrived by lorry and rail in a  constant stream, then to be unloaded at the tennis court area in the rough form of huge blocks, there being three band‑saws in waiting to cut them to the shapes prescribed. There was also a Diesel Pan Mill whose purpose was that of grinding to grit the left over bits and pieces, all of which was fed into the cement as a first‑rate aggregate for building. The glass for all windows and doors was the 'miracle' Vita‑glass which apparently filtered out all harmful rays of the sun.

 

In order to facilitate entry to the school, a substantial bridge was built over the railway in 1933. It was demolished in 1977 when electrification was considered.

 

The general design of the completed architectural masterpiece portrayed the dignified, traditional character, and the charm, of Sir Christopher Wren's work of the late 17th century; and it was a credit to every being who worked on it.

 

The College should have been ready for entry by September 1, 1930

 

A highly qualified staff had been appointed and the opening had been fixed for that date, there being little doubt that the Rector was looking forward to a new era in his superlative career,

 

Dr A. R. Murison had been appointed by the Trustees that year as first incumbent from a very large number of highly qualified applicants, and his qualifications for the post were outstanding. A Graduate of Aberdeen University with triple first ‑ class honours in Classics, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, Economic Science, he had entered the First Division of the Civil Service in 1915, but his sense of vocation was strong enough to bring him into the teaching profession as principal teacher of mathematics in Selkirk High School. After a period of active service in the Inns of Court OTC and the Roval Air Force, he was in 1919 appointed principal teacher and second master at Vale of Leven Academy. Within a year he had embarked on a long and distinguished career as a Rector, firstly at Thurso in 1920 where he remained for four years, then at Hamilton Academy in 1924, and finally at Marr College. While at Hamilton, the Rector undertook a detailed study of the Scottish Herring Fishing Industry, his thesis on which brought him further academic distinction in the Award of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Glasgow University in 1930.

 

DIVIDED

 

There was, however, a knot in the educational woodpile. When Charles Kerr Marr made his Will in 1917, Troon schools in the main were under the jurisdiction of the Dundonald School Board, Scotland having been divided into 984 of such districts by the Act of 1872, even if there were many areas with School Boards, but no schools.

 

By a new act in 1918, however, these Boards were abolished, Scottish Educational Authorities being formed in their place.

 

Under the amended scheme Troon had no more than six members on the local adhoc body of 18, its powers over mailers educational being therefore greatly reduced. But this was no more than a drop in the ocean, since the chief control had passed into the hands of the County Council, on which Troon representation was a mere three out of 90 this making matters even worse.

 

Mr Marr did not die until 1919, was fully aware of the change in affairs, but made no alteration to his Will; clearly wishing his last testament to be observed in each and every respect as originally expressed; ALL POWER thus being left, as stated, in the hands of his Trustees, according to their discretion.

 

AUTHORITY

 

It seemed, nevertheless, that the authority now lay with the County Council which became empowered to run the College, to administer a proposed clinic and also to deal with the planned Nursery School; likewise with the restriction of the benefits; and it was similarly fell to determine the area which would be served by the College, provided that Troon children would have priority of admission, the latter assumption also possibly being open to doubt and deviation.

 

Clearly the wishes of Charles Kerr Marr were not to be respected by the upper hierarchy, but they were to be defended to the last drop of local blood by Sir Alexander Walker, KBE and Provost Walter M Donald, staunchly supported by his Town Council, public opinion, Lord Sands, and many member of the House of Commons.

 

Marr College would not open under the trends which prevailed, and in a word, it didn't, until the Scales of Justice gradually swung in its favour, the year being 1935 the final sanction in favour of the scheme for the future government and management of the C K Marr Trust, Troon, being made by the Court of Session on June 1, 1937.

 

 

The Marr College bridge, 1933-1977. Sketch by John B. Stevenson

 

Next week: In retrospect, “Description of a ‘Ghost’ School''.

 

 

 

 

 

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