Crafers Primary School – History and Mystery

Text: John McGregor
Images: John Nielsen

David Francis Whibley was a well-known member of the Crafers/Stirling area a century ago, especially for his horticultural knowledge. Employed for a time by the Stirling Council, he did much work on the gardens along the Main Street, helping to give Stirling its reputation as a beautiful village.

During the 1920s, David’s son, Godfrey, was a student at the then Crafers School on Cox Creek Road, and David was the Secretary of the School Committee. We are incredibly lucky that all of the official letters that he wrote, were written in a carbon book and those carbon copies survive.  

A sample page from David Whibley’s Secretary’s Record Book

Early in the 1920s it was obvious to the locals that the School was inadequate: the rooms were hot in summer and cold and damp in winter, the playground was too small and the rain water tanks often ran dry in summer.  There was frequent correspondence between the Committee and bureaucrats and politicians.  After a while, David began to get the idea that he was being given the run-around, and he let his frustrations be known, in one letter informing the then Minister of Education that he was no better than his predecessor from the Opposition! 

There had been some disagreement among locals about where a new School should be sited as some wanted it on its present site on Piccadilly Road, while others thought that too close to the dangers of the Council quarry. The former obviously won out and the new School was built, but the saga has an intriguing ending.  One of David’s last letters is an apology for something he had said to a woman who, I guess, was another Committee member, in a discussion about the spending of some money. David could not support the Committee’s decision, and submitted his resignation. This was just shortly before the new School was opened.

The School Bell at the “new” Crafers Primary School, now retired.

At the old School, the beginning and end of the school day was indicated by the ringing of a hand bell.  This was replaced by a larger one reputed to have come from the wreckage of the ship “The Star of Greece “, although there seems to be no evidence of this. In recognition of David’s service to the Committee, he was presented with the original handbell. In 1928 the larger bell went to the new site where it did sterling service until replaced by an electric siren.  It still hangs at the School near the steps leading up from the lower level to the main teaching block.

The handbell is on display in a secure glass case in the School Library, along with David’s carbon book of correspondence, and typewritten copies of the letters. There is a mystery associated with David Whibley’s carbon book:  After his letter of resignation, the next several pages have been cut out…so, did he write something in anger which he later thought better of, or did he write something which someone else, at a later stage, decided would be better not being made public? There’s a mystery that will never be solved.

Do you have memories of Crafers Primary School as a student, parent or teacher or as a local resident, or do you have knowledge about David Whibley? Contact us at or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.

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