Oral History, Page 1 - Kibble, A Lasting Legacy. Residential, secure, education, fostering, social enterprise, training for young people and youths.



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Kibble 150 Anniversary

Text: Introduction

Supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, Kibble's Lasting Legacy history project has used a range of methods to explore the school's history and development since its establishment in 1859. Research of our archive records and other written sources has been complemented by oral history research. This is an important strand of the project for a number of reasons:

  • It expands on the often rather 'dry' factual information found in written records
  • It allows the human stories of those who have had contact with Kibble to be preserved and re-told
  • The stories provide different perspectives on similar issues over a lengthy time period
  • These stories provide warmth, pathos and humour, often absent from written records


We have recorded the stories of people associated with Kibble from as far back as the late 1940s. Interviewees have included:

  • Retired and long-serving Kibble staff (Education, Instructors, Care, Domestic)
  • Retired and long-serving professionals from the wider Approved Schools system
  • Former pupils
  • Family member of former headmasters

The Stories/Themes: Living

Accommodation - from dorms:

“The dorms were just horrible places - fluorescent lights up... Och it was horrible and I couldn't understand anybody thinking that was a way to live.”

(David Speirs, Electrical Instructor from 1984, Principal Teacher, Science and Technology until 2008)

“…in my time here you were a’ in the wan dormitory. The dormitory stretched fae wan side of the building tae the other side…em…but good time an’ a’. we used to sit up at night and in the summer time the windows were open and all the young girls used tae run by and shout up…’C’mon, c’mon doon! C’mon oot! We’re hae’in a good time here!”

(William Anderson, Kibble pupil 1948-1951)

…to ‘des res’ units:

New education building

New education building

One of the new buildings that have recently been constructed. This building is used by the education department.

“…and it was he, Peter, who had the foresight to think in terms of units…he was instrumental in having that built (the first residential unit), with the idea of adding to it and eventually of course, the old school got demolished and was replaced by housing.”

(Robin Hall, Assistant Governor of Polmont Borstal 1965–1968, Deputy Headmaster of Kibble 1968–1971, Headmaster of Thornly Park Approved School 1971–1981, speaking of Peter Gardner, Headmaster of Kibble, 1952–1982, who instigated a shift from institutionalised living to small, residential units)

“I was stunned, absolutely stunned. I just couldnae believe it was the same place.”

(William Anderson, Kibble pupil 1948-1951, speaking of seeing the new campus and accommodation for the first time)

Morag McLean worked at Kibble between 1974 and 1999 and had a dual role, divided between teaching and caring duties. She recalls that when she worked night shift in her unit she was the only member of staff on duty to look after twenty-four boys but this was rarely problematic:

‘There was no night man. Stuart Connell lived in the wee cottage at the end of Mossedge, which is now used as a unit, near the education building, and if anything happened the boys would just go and knock on his door. The night men were up at the main school and were suppose to come and take a walk down during the night… but the boys were wonderful, they were brilliant. There was a line and they knew that they couldn’t cross that line and they treated you with respect.’

‘It could be anything up to sixty boys with only two (night) staff. My name was David Copperfield at that time – we worked miracles (Laughter).’

(Michael Smith, Night Care Officer, 1973 – 2005)

HRH Princess Anne opens a new building at Kibble

HRH Princess Anne opens a new building at Kibble, 2008

In 2008 Princess Anne visited Kibble and officially opened the new secure centre at Kibble.

This is in stark contrast to today’s very high staff to boys ratios at Kibble.

Jean Lang’s father George Gardner was Headmaster at Kibble from 1928-1952. She grew up in the Headmaster’s house, which was attached to the school, from the age of five, so has a different perspective on living at Kibble:

‘I just remember that we were so integrated into it in a way because there was just that door that separated the family from the school. Just an ordinary door. And then you went down the passage; Dad’s office on the left and the Board’s Room was on the right… Well, it was cramped. I mean there were four of us (children) I wouldn’t say it was ideal because everybody could easily stride in, and that went on for ages. And I felt definitely for…looking back, my mother must have had an awful feeling of no privacy. You know, but that’s the way it was.’

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