Praise for William Sewell School Teacher

By Rosemary Bailey

This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

Ed: Recently we received the following email from a non-member:
This card, 4” x 6”, was among some family photos.  I have no idea what the connection of William Sewell is with my family.  Someone must have thought it was of importance to save it all these years. I have passed by this card many times over the years but today I thought I would follow up on this card and try to read what is written. I ended up viewing it with a magnifying glass and could read its content.  It doesn’t fit into my family tree.  I entered William Sewell Esq. into the search engine and your [society’s] website came up.  Does this item have any meaning to you or anyone in your group?  Please advise.
Bye for now,
Robert Little, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Robert has very kindly transcribed the contents of the card and they appear overleaf with some biographical details of William. If you can identify him, please contact me (email on back page) and I will let Robert know.

William Sewell card in the possession of Robert Little

Address Presented to
William Sewell Esq.
LLB. FELS. by the Renfrewshire Local Association of the Educational Institute of Scotland
Dear Sir:
Having heard that after fifty years of active service as a Public Teacher, you have resigned your position as Head Master of Pollok Academy, we, your Brethren of the Renfrewshire Local Association of the Educational Institute of Scotland, feel we can not let the occasion pass without testifying our respect for your talents and our esteem for your virtues.
In the extended period of our professional intercourse that respect has deepened into regard that esteem has ripened into affection. Others, besides ourselves have recognised and appreciated these talents and virtues.
As a Parochial Schoolmaster, your Brethren have acknowledge your merit by raising you to the highest offices they have had it in their power to bestow and have frequently entrusted to y our management important Educational negotiations.
As a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland from it’s foundation, you have taken an active part in all its varied work, have been for many a most useful member of all its important Committees and of many of it’s Deputations to allied Educational Organizations and to Government and P_____P_____ this distinguished honour of being appointed it’s President and of residing over one of it’s most splendid Congresses. Further in recognition of your services as an Educationist. The University of Glasgow in 1887, conferred on you their highest mark of distinction. The degree of Doctor of Laws, and In all these honours, your fellow teachers feels themselves likewise honoured.
We thank you cordially for all you have done by your influences and advice in the course of Education and behalf of Teachers, we acknowledge, indeed, that few have done so much for either. We thank you specially for the great Benefits you have by your care and zeal, conferred upon our Local Association.
We are glad your retirement from the heavy cares and responsibilities of a __ Educational Institution which has been so eminently successful under your direction does not break the ties that binds you to us as fellow members of the Institute. We hope still to enjoy the great advantages of your matured experience, insight and ability in the many important and difficult questions that interest us as Educationalists. It is therefore, with earnest sincerity, we add our wishes, ____length of days many be accorded you by a Gracious Providence and with health and happiness h in the eventide there may be light.
In name of the Renfrewshire Local Association of the Educational Institute of Scotland.
We are, Dear Sir, Ever cordially yours
Robert CB Watt, Chairman, Jas Maxton, Secretary, Robert Thexton, Treasurer
Glasgow 5th December 1891

Pollock Academy, Pollockshaw where William Sewell taught.
Photo courtesy of Gerald Blaikie

The only record Ian Sewell, our Sewell Research Co-ordinator can find is the 1881 census which suggests William was born in about 1817 in Teviothead, Roxburghshire. He was living at 7 High Cartcraigs, Pollokshaws and was married to Ellen, his occupation not surprisingly was schoolmaster. It looks like two children were living at home, John George (28) and Helen Jack (sic).
Ian did glean a bit about Pollock Academy. By 1856 the existing Parish School in Pollockshaw had become too small to meet the demand for education even although fees were still being charged. Pollock Academy replaced it soon after and William Sewell was the first headmaster. Pollok Academy, which stood at the adjacent corner of Maida Street and Pollokshaws Road from Pollok Parish Church, was designated a school of secondary or advanced, education in 1893, at that time one of the earliest in the country. The building was demolished in 1968. In 1879 William became President of the Educational Institute of Scotland, now the oldest teachers’ trade union in the world, and in 1889 received the honorary degree of Doctor of Law from Glasgow University.