Location: Mull and Iona
the natural world, travel by sea

The school in Gometra

"The school in Gometra was once just a tiny cottage and faced the sea — in fact the sea almost came up to the door step! From the school windows we could watch the seals - hundreds of them - flopping in and out of the water and basking on the rocks. Birds too were in abundance. There was a round stone in the middle of the road and every day thrushes came with the whelks they picked from the sea shore and broke the shells on this particular stone to extract the food from inside the shell. We thought it was very hard work! You could hear them tapping away from inside the school.

"A very elderly gentleman was the teacher before I took over. There were twelve pupils in the school then and they were very very shy. They were quite intelligent but it was quite a problem getting them to talk. They had done no hard work of any kind, nor projects. I set the boys to make fishing nets and the girls to knit and sew. I also introduced them to the many wild flowers which grew on the island. We pressed them and named them and gradually they lost their shyness and became very eager pupils.

"One Saturday I took them to Staffa for a picnic. In those days it was the fishermen from the island that went out to meet the steamer from Oban to take the passengers to Staffa. We went out with them. Fingal’s cave was a source of wonder to them. In the cave we sang a song and after each line the echo resounded round the whole cave to the amazement of the children and the delight of the passengers from the steamer. The captain then invited the pupils to inspect his ship! That was truly a great day for them."

(Memories of Miss M. MacLean, past teacher of Gometra, Notes on Gometra School, Mhari MacFadyen, Tony Burgess, Angus MacColl, 1972, Manuscript in Gometra Archive.) Extracted from Gometra: a history by Roc Sandford.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.