Now an exhibition celebrating its 150th anniversary has opened at Paisley Museum, where it runs until June 7.
The exhibition of archive material, objects, photographs and interviews with staff and pupils, past and present, is based on a social history project coordinated by Elaine Harris. Kibble, A Lasting Legacy traces the evolution of the school, which opened following a bequest from Elizabeth Kibble who left money to "found an Institution for the purpose of reclaiming youthful offenders".
Records show that in its early days, most boys who were sent to Kibble had been found guilty of theft. Typical was John King, 12, who spent three years there after stealing a pair of shoes. Deserted by an alcoholic father after the death of his mother, John trained in the school's shoe workshop, which supplied boots to a poorhouse, and was apprenticed to a Paisley shoemaker on his release.
In 1889, teachers were attracted to Kibble by salaries of Pounds 80 a year, with one applicant for a post, James Marshall - "aged 22 last birthday", boasting of certificates in "chemistry, electricity and magnetism" and expertise in "blackboard drawing".
In 1916, a scathing letter to the superintendent of the school from the Paisley Trades amp; Labour Council, objecting to Kibble boys being hired out to a nearby munitions factory, suggested that the practice had more to do with "financial considerations" than the boys "doing their bit to help their country". They doubted that "the cause of the allies would be seriously endangered by the withdrawal of a handful of halflins" (a Scottish word meaning a half-man).