The Story of ‘The Register’

Moira Dennis, the Administrator at Logie Primary School, explains how The Register came to be

The chance discovery of the Admission Register at Logie Primary School, listing every child who entered the school between 1881 and 1979, inspired the school’s administrator, Moira Dennis, to search for the stories behind some of the names. The tales that were told reflect the evolution of a rural community, charting changes in healthcare and education, in the role of women at home and in employment, in transport, travel and farming and in personal ambitions.  The Register is illustrated with portraits of the storytellers at their childhood homes, taken by Paul Heartfield, a professional photographer whose daughter attends Logie Primary today. The Register is a celebration of the school’s past and the people who formed the community around it.   

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It was Lenny Nicol's family who really inspired The Register. The farm his family worked, Sleughwhite, is on the cover of the book, lit from the inside by the photographer Paul Heartfield, but normally standing empty and abandoned, the door barred to keep out sheep, the steadings long since fallen out of use. Very near my home, it's a place I'd wanted to know more about, and just after starting work at Logie Primary last year, the opportunity came my way.

I discovered the Admission Register on a shelf in the school office. It listed the names of every child who had entered the school between 1881 and 1979 - and as I opened it, the name 'Sleighwhite' (as it was spelt by the school) leapt off the page. I immediately wanted to know more about the Lachlan Nicol who had lived there, listed as having joined the school in 1898, and by the time I'd turned a few more pages, finding dozens of very local place names and familiar surnames, I wanted to know more about many others, too. I put a notice in the Forres Gazette, hoping to hear from anyone who might find their name or the name of an ancestor in the register. How had their lives turned out?

Margaret McKenzie and Barbara Souter, Cothall Cottages The Register Paul Heartfield photography
Margaret McKenzie was the first to make contact, although she tells me now that she wasn't sure her memories of Logie School in the 1930s and '40s would be of any interest. Her daughter Lynn said they would be, and so did her neighbour, but I'm not convinced that she yet knows how pleased I was that she did, eventually, agree to get in touch. It was a sign that my spur-of-the-moment idea might actually work. 
 
And then came more: Margaret's sister Barbara, Andy Watt and his niece Zinnia, Robert Hope with his mother Peggie Lawrence's story, John Ross with his memories of growing up at Logie Home Farm, now Logie Steading, Kirsty Love and Mary Geddie.  Bit by bit I built up a picture, not just of the school as it once was, but of the broader community, the social changes seen in Dunphail over nearly a century.   I approached others who had been to the school, and was never worried that they wouldn't have a story: everybody does. 
The Register

Reading the register is just a pleasure in itself.  I love the careful script, the varying styles of handwriting, the occasional ink blot and crossing out, reminding me of predecessors who didn't have a delete button to cover their tracks.  It's lovely to turn pages that people have turned before, now that records are kept online. More than all that, though, I love the many insights it offers into life in Dunphail over the decades. It's irresistible to run your finger down the page and  start to trace the history of this place. Scott Taylor, whose name is on the very last page, grew up as the son of the Logie gamekeeper: right at the front, I found the child of a 19th-century Logie gamekeeper, a thread to bind the pages together. 

Scott Taylor, The Register
I spent  many late-night hours browsing ScotlandsPeople, the archive of the National Records of Scotland, a fabulous resource for anyone interested in family or social history. Not everyone knew their family tales: while Lenny Nicol was happy to tell me what he and his wife Linda knew about his grandfather Lachlan, it wasn't very much. As in most families, so much had not been passed down, with questions either unasked or unanswered. ScotlandsPeople was the key to other doors, too: it helped me find out what had happened to a six-year-old girl at Logie who had died after just a few weeks, and - in a spine-tingling moment - led me to a descendant of hers, still living in Forres. The step from 2022 to 1916 was surprisingly short. I sometimes found myself worrying about how people had managed the disasters that had befallen their families and realised that the register is deceptive: the list of names, so regularly placed, implies somehow that all were equal. The reality, of course, was that life was busy dealing very different hands to the children in that book. 
 
Profits from the sale of The Register will go direct to Logie Primary, but this project has always been more than a way of raising money. I wanted to pull together old friends of Logie Primary and keep them with us as we continue with our school's own story. The tales that were told are a celebration of the community around us and a way of acknowledging the people who shaped the place in which we live and learn. Thank you to everyone who chose to share their memories with me. 
 
Moira Dennis, May 2022. Photographs taken from 'The Register' and are by Paul Heartfield

How to Buy a Copy of 'The Register'

Online: https://www.logie.co.uk/product/the-register/

At Logie Steading: Logie Steading Bookshop and Logie Steading Art Gallery (open every day, 10am to 5pm)

In Forres High Street: R&R Urquhart (open Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm)

This beautiful hardback book filled with photography is £20, and all profits go to Logie Primary School Fund to support their ethos of 'No Child Left Behind'.

Thank you