New Balivanich primary school opened by former pupils

Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich was officially opened today by former pupils of Balivanich Primary School, May MacDonald and Mary MacAulay.

The new school is the first in Uist for 20 years.

Councillor Morag Munro, Chair of Education and Children’s Services at CNES, said during the opening ceremony: “I am not just pleased and relieved that Sgoil Bhaile Mhanaich has been completed; I am delighted with the facilities available now to the pupils of Benbecula.

“The school is lovely to look at, spacious and light inside, incredibly functional – the designers, with the help of the educational consultants, staff and pupils, have thought of everything and we now have a learning environment which is ideal for the educational needs of Benbecula pupils in the 21st Century.”

Councillor Ùisdean Robertson from Sgoiltean Ùra said: “I wish the pupils and the staff in Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich the very best for the school year ahead – theirs will be the first of many generations who will enjoy this excellent new school.

“It’s particularly pleasing that the school was opened by two former pupils of the old Balivanich Primary School. Like all the Sgoiltean Ùra, Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich is a school of the community and for the community and it’s been given the best possible inauguration in this respect by Ms MacDonald and Ms MacAulay.”

Commenting of the opening of Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich and the opening of Sgoil an Rubha earlier in the week, Councillor Norman A Macdonald, Chair of Sgoiltean Ùra, said: “Works are continuing at the remainder of the Western Isles Schools Project (WISP) and remain on programme and on budget. Sir E. Scott will complete in December 2011, West Side Primary in March 2012 and the Nicolson Institute and Daliburgh in summer 2012, with final completion of all schools by January 2013.”

May MacDonald and Mary MacAulay are both former pupils of the school which was originally on the site of Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich. Both ladies were in the school in the early 1920s, in the years just after the First World War.

Ms MacDonald was born near to the site of the new school and was educated in Balivanich until she was 8 years old, before moving to Glasgow and finishing her schooling there. She spent her working life on the mainland before moving back to Balivanich in her retirement.

Ms MacAulay was born and brought up in Aird, to the west of the new school. Both herself and her late brother Lachlan attended the old Balivanich Primary School. Ms Macaulay worked at home with her parents, who ran a small shop in Aird. During WWII she was employed by the NAAFI and ran their mobile tea bar for servicemen. Ms MacAulay spent her married life in Pennilodden, to the south of where the new primary school is situated.