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Broad General Education and Nationals 3, 4 and 5 topics

Please note that, due to the age, condition and irreplaceable nature of surviving archival material, these workshops are based primarily on high quality images of the original documents.

Image shows volumes of the Register of Deeds on a shelf. Crown Copyright: National Records of Scotland.

Who wants to be an Archivist?

Find out what an archive is and what archivists do in this introduction to the work of the National Records of Scotland. Put your skills to the test in deciphering a range of primary sources drawn from our extensive holdings.

Image shows students participating in a workshop. Crown copyright: National Records of Scotland

Study Skills

This workshop introduces students to using primary sources. They will study copies of various types of archival records, considering their provenance, content and wider historical context, and will think about how they might use the evidence they discover.

Image shows the lion rampant of Scotland, a detail from the illustrative border of the Exemplification of the Act of Union. National Records of Scotland reference SP13/210.

The Thistle and the Lion

Pupils examine replica coins, seals, heraldry and illustrated documents to identify the symbols used to represent Scotland through the ages. They then choose symbols to represent themselves.

Image shows tartan bloomers flying from a flagpole, a detail from a humourous postcard. Image reproduced courtesy of SCRAN.

Tartan: a Chequered Tale

What is tartan, how is it created, and why is it important to Scots? Pupils will use woven samples of tartan and copies of archival documents in their search to understand the history of this famous checked fabric.

Image shows part of the act forbidding the playing of football. National Records of Scotland reference GD3/5/2

Sporting Scotland

Scots have played football and golf for centuries, but pupils may be surprised to discover that they were banned in the 15th century why? This workshop reveals more unusual stories and rules about other traditional sports including archery, curling and Highland Games.

Image shows a battle scene.

The Scottish Wars of Independence

Pupils investigate this turbulent period in history using replica coins and seals and copies of documents,to find out about kingship and power. Please specify whether you wish to book:
Workshop 1: From the death of Alexander III to William Wallace, 1286-1305, or
Workshop 2: The Rise and Triumph of King Robert I, 1306-1329.
2 versions are available for each workshop: one for primary pupils and one for secondary pupils.

Detail of image showing the signature of Mary Queen of Scots. National Records of Scotland reference GD112/40.

Mary, Queen of Scots

In this session younger pupils use archives to investigate the early life of Mary Queen of Scots. They look closely at examples of her handwriting, seal and coins to find out about the young queen, and experience for themselves the difficulty of writing with a quill pen and ink.

Detail of image of a witness statement. National Records of Scotland reference JC12/1/31.

Witches on Trial

Between 1563 and 1736, witchcraft was a criminal offence in Scotland, punishable by death. Pupils study evidence presented in a number of 16th and 17th century Scottish witchcraft trials to understand why they took place and how the accused were dealt with.
Recommended for secondary pupils.

Image shows part of a witness statement in the case of John O'Neill, a climbing boy, in 1840. National Records of Scotland reference JC26/1840/286.

Victorian Scotland
Workshop 1: The Case of the Climbing Boy

A dead body has been taken to Mrs McCallum’s house – whose is it and what caused the death? Pupils investigate what happened to a climbing boy in 1840 using transcripts of the evidence collected at the time. They then decide who should be put on trial and, as members of the jury, declare their own verdict.

Detail from a 19th century image showing an elderly lady, Grandmama, and a young girl, Daisy Webster. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/1208/1/6.

Victorian Scotland
Workshop 2: 'Our Glen', a Snapshot in Time

Pupils look closely at copies of photographs preserved in a Victorian album entitled ‘Our Glen’ to find out a wealth of detail about the Webster family, their servants and the estate workers who lived in Glen Creran in Argyll in 1866.

Image shows a drawing of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse Eilean Mor. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Victorian Scotland
Workshop 3: The Flannan Lighthouse Mystery

What happened to the three light-keepers who vanished from Flannan Lighthouse in December 1900? Using transcripts of the contemporary evidence gathered by the Northern Lighthouse Board, pupils retell the story and draw their own conclusions as to what happened.

Image shows detail from a census record featuring an entry for Charles R Mackintosh. Crown copyright: National Records of Scotland.

Counting Heads

The first official Scottish census took place in 1801 and it has been repeated every ten years since then. Why do we have a census and how is the data used? Pupils will have the opportunity to read and use the data in a census return, as well as considering how Scotland’s population might be counted in future.

Image shows part of a recruitment poster. National Records of Scotland reference GD16/52/60/1

The Impact of the Great War in Scotland
Workshop 1: 1914-1915

What was life like in Scotland at the start of the First World War? This workshop uses copies of contemporary posters, photographs and documents to provide pupils with an insight into the immediate impact of the war on ordinary people’s lives from August 1914 to December 1915.

Image shows an extract from a government document concerning an air raid on Leith, 2 April 1916. NRS reference HH21/8/1

The Impact of the Great War in Scotland
Workshop 2: 1916

During this year, conscription was introduced, Zeppelins dropped bombs on the east coast of Scotland and David Lloyd George replaced Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister. Further afield, fighting continued in Gallipoli and escalated on the Western Front. Pupils use copies of contemporary archives to research the development of the war in its second year.

Image shows part of a photograph of St Kildans at the jetty. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/713/15

St Kilda
Workshop 1: Living on the Edge

What was it like living on St Kilda, a small isolated community on ‘the edge of the world’? Using copies of records created by officials and visitors to St Kilda, pupils find out about the island and its people and why they left their homes in August 1930.
Recommended for primary pupils.

Image shows part of a photograph of St Kildans at the jetty. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/713/15

St Kilda
Workshop 2: Planning the Evacuation

On 10 May 1930, government officials received a petition from the inhabitants of St Kilda asking for assistance to leave the island. Pupils consider the surviving evidence to assess how the petition and evacuation were handled and whether the right decisions were made.
Recommended for secondary pupils.

Image shows detail of street plan of Greenock, with bomb hits from 6th-7th May 1941 blitz marked in red. National Records of Scotland reference HH50/162 p.6

The Second World War
Workshop 1: The Scottish Home Front

Pupils 'meet' some of the people who lived on Baker Street and Ingleston Street in Greenock during the Second World War. Pupils will build a picture of what these streets looked like and find out how the war affected the lives of the residents.

Extract from a report by the Northern Lighthouse Board including the following words: At 3.45pm on 21st Jan... single enemy aircraft a... buildings, 2 bombs were... first registered a direct...west gable end of the... dwelling houses, comprising...Principal's, 1st and 2nd... National Records of Scotland reference NLC10/3/63 p.448.

The Second World War
Workshop 2: New Light on the Scottish Home Front

Using the records of the Northern Lighthouse Board, pupils discover how lighthouses were affected by the Second World War, how the responsibilities of the light-keepers changed, and how they defended themselves, their lights and their families.