Pictou Island is a small, five miles long island situated in the Northumberland Strait approximately halfway between PEI and the mainland of Pictou.
Pictou Island’s first school was built midway between the East and West End of the island in the 1850s. The school was constructed about the middle of the island to try and evenly disperse the distance walked by the children. Pictou Island children usually always had to walk the distance to and from school. There was no such thing as school buses and most times the islands only road being a dirt road wouldn’t be fit to drive on especially during spring or winter. I remember those years in the 1950s and 1960s when we would don our rain jackets and walk to school in the rain. We often would plough our way through or walk over large snowdrifts in the winter. Many times the island’s only road would be blocked with snow during winter months. John Angus MacMillan operated a small dozer on the island and would often open up a trail through island fields so we could get back and forth to school.
The first island school was destroyed by fire in 1874. Within a year, those earlier energetic Pictou Islanders rallied together and constructed a bigger and better school that would seat up to 50 students. The class list register shows 31 students attending this school in 1893. The register again shows 47 Pictou Island students in 1920. One student that year was my father, Vincent MacNeil Turple who was then in Grade 5.
My father in later years became known as the Master Lobster Boat Builder from Pictou Island.
I clearly remember that little one-room schoolhouse. When I was four years old, my older sisters Rita and Rosemary would take me with them to school. Helmut Bruauer was then the Pictou Island schoolteacher and was the last teacher to teach in that school. The black board went completely across the back wall. There was a pot-bellied wood burning stove sitting on a hardwood floor about the middle of the school. The desks were long with an attached bench that would seat two students side by side. These desks went from the back to the front of the room on either side of the stove. This school accommodated Pictou Island children for approximately 82 years.
In 1957/1958 a new school was constructed by Higgin’s Construction from the mainland. Stan Porter from Abercombie was the job foreman. The following Pictou Islanders worked on the new school’s construction. Roy and Gordon McCallum, Alvin McLean, Logan MacDonald, Hugh McFarlane and Vernie Rankin.
This new school was constructed with the finest of art at the time. It was fully wired with florescent lighting in the ceiling. There was an entryway built on the school, which contained a broom closet and two washrooms – “Boys & Girls”, which were fully equipped with sinks and flush toilets. In this entry, there was a stairway leading to the proposed furnace and locker room in the basement. Unfortunately, there never was any general island electrical hookup for lighting, furnace or for running water for washrooms in the school.
During 1961-1962 while attending that school, I with a lot of help from my dear mother did the janitor job. That job paid $10 per month and was a lot of money at that time.
The first teacher to teach in the new school was Dave Mackay. Dave with his wife Ann and family stayed on the island until 1960. Dave was a brilliant person whom I greatly respected and admired.
My next teacher on Pictou Island was Edward MacMaster from Caribou who taught the 1960-1961 year. Ed gained respect from all students for he was the type of teacher who when he spoke, you listened. Teachers in those years could discipline a student when they did wrong. No student dared to talk back to his or her teachers during those times especially to Ed MacMaster. Maybe those traditions should never have changed.
Edith MacAloney last taught me on the Island in 1963-1964. She came from Mahone Bay.
We had a fenced off school playground area directly behind the school. Students would play ball or field hockey in this playground during their daily lunch hour.
The island school was used for weekly community card games. Many nights there would be fourteen tables being used with four islanders to a table. The school was also used for dances, parties and the election polling station.
There were 39 of us kids attending this new school in the first year of its construction. Two years later in 1961 that number had decreased to 25. In 1967 that number was down to 12 and one year later was down to 6. In 1971, Billie MacMillan, my good friend whom I grew up with from Pictou Island taught three children at this school. The school was then closed for a number of years, as were all one-room schools in Pictou County.
The school was sold to Pictou Islanders for $1. in 1972 and used as a community center. The community center was reopened as Pictou Island Home School program in 1986. Four children from two different families were the first to use this program. The teacher would go over part time to test the children on their skills. One week a month they would attend classes at the Church Street Elementary School in Westville. Students were not confined to inside classrooms. They enjoyed nature hikes in place of science to help understand the ecology of the surrounding area.
Two Pictou Island students who profited from this style of education were Amy and Moria Harding, daughters of David Harding and Maureen Hull. Dave moved to the island in 1974 and Hull in 1976. The Harding girls were taught by their parents and also received help from the Dept. of Education. They have since gone on to attend Harvard University. A picture of Moria was published on the front page of Time magazine October 19, 1998 and a history of her education was enclosed.
Many prominent Pictou Islanders went through the three Island schools. To the best of my knowledge the island thus far has produced many fine men and women including eight teachers, twelve nurses, one geologist, two lawyers, at least one master boat builder and two Municipal County councilors. Thirteen young island men had enlisted into the navy during wartimes.
Department of Education has established a CAPS sight at the Pictou Island school in year 2000. At present time in 2003 there is one child being educated at the island’s school.
People who taught school on Pictou Island.
1878-1879 – William Grant
1885-1887 – Cassie G. MacDonald
1896-1897 – Mary M. Kennedy
1900-1901 – John D. MacKenzie
1902-1903 – Marion Park
1906-1907 – Olive Carmichael
1907-1908 – Marion Reid
1908-1909 – Edna Reid
1909-1910 – Christena Gilchrist
1910-1911 – James Turple (my grandfather’s Elias Turple’s brother)
1911-1912 – Annie Harris
1912-1913 – Helena Crooks
1913-1914 – Miss MacEwan
1914-1915 – Rena Carter
1915-1916 – Donelda MadDonald
1916-1917 – Florence MacDonald
1917-1918 – Rena Carter
1918-1919 – Rena Carter
1919- 1921 – Hazel Sutherland
1921-1922 – Isabel Kirkwood
1922-1923 – John Skinner
1923-1924 – Barbara Rundle
1924-1925 – Greta Langille
1925-1926 – Jessie Douglas
1926-1927 – Jessie Sutherland
1927-1928 – Florence Ross (married Pictou Island’s Andrew MacDonald)
1928-1929 – Margaret Ross
1929-1930 – Annie Hannah Fitzgerald
1930-1931 – Kathleen MacBeth
1931-1932 – Lillian Beck
1932-1934 – David Dickson (mother was Jen Turple Pictou Island)
1934-1935 – Dorothy Belyea
1935-1936 – Ethel Ward
1936-1937 – Charles Dan Taper
1937-1938 – Doris MacKeil
1938-1939 – John Harris MadDonald
1939-1940 – Claudena Matheson
1940-1941 – Bryon Yuill
1941-1942 – Marquerite Tibbel
1942-1943 – Delta Thurbur (married Pictou Island’s Sydney Hooper)
1943-1944 – Jennie Mildred Fraser
1944-1945 – Hilton MacCully
1945-1946 – Vernon Smith
1946-1947 – Betty MacLean and Florance MacDonald
1947-1948 – May MacCallum ( married Pictou Island’s Heck MacDonald)
1948-1949 – May MacCallum and John Harris MacDonald
1949-1953 – John Harris MacDonald (married Pictou Island’s Lexie MacDonald)
1953-1954 – May MacCallum and Mariam Wong
1954-1955 – Miriam Wong ( married Pictou Island’s Hector MacCallum)
1955-1957 – Helmut Bruauer
1957-1960 – Dave MacKay
1060-1961 – Edward MacMaster
1961-1965 – Edith MacAloney
1965-1966 – Alfred MacLean (Pictou Islander)
1966-1967 – Heather MacPhail and Linda Hemphill
1967-1968 – Linda Hemphill (married Pictou Island’s Sterling MacCallum)
1968-1969 – Viyi Sailens
1969-1970 – Sandy Munro (Pictou Islander)
1970-1971 – William MacMillan (Pictou Islander)
1886- 1989 – Myrna MacDonald
1989-1991 – Carla Lamey
1991-1994 – Anne Slater
1994-1996 – Lori Munro
1996-1997 – Angela MacLean
1997-1998 – Tracy Langille
1998-2000- Sharon Henderson
2000-present- Janice MacPherson