After the new school was complete, the Trust thought it would be good to have plaques installed at various points to help to explain why the buildings have the special names that they have. Sixth year pupils had been asked to suggest names for each of the buildings based on people with characteristics they admired, and these were their choices:
Malala Yousafzai for the Main Teaching Block
Eric Liddell for the Sports Building
Muriel Spark for the Expressive Arts building
In addition, we commissioned plaques for the Alison Laidlaw Memorial Garden, Bruntsfield House, James Gillespie and the school itself.
Now, if you walk round the school campus, the plaques will help you to understand a little better why the buildings have these names.
For many years the marble bust of James Gillespie looked down on pupils at the school but, at some point when the new school was being built, James Gillespie lost his home and his viewpoint.
Keen to restore him to his former position, James Gillespie’s Trust commissioned Mr Andrew Digance, teacher of Design and Technology at James Gillespie’s High School, to create a cabinet to display the bust.
And we are delighted with the result! Crafted from American Oak and with a glass casing to protect the bust of James Gillespie, the cabinet also has lighting to highlight it. It is sited in the reception area of the school. Thanks to Andrew for such a beautiful piece of work, worthy of the founder of James Gillespie’s High School!
After a gap of several years, Mr Macdonald, headteacher of James Gillespie’s High School has reinstated the old tradition of celebrating Founder’s Day. This year the event was attended by all first year pupils and the members of James Gillespie’s Trust were invited as special guests. The theme for this year’s Founder’s Day was “The Year of the Young Person”.
We were entertained by a classical guitar group, and Sorcha played a piece on the clarsach. In keeping with the reason for the event Mr Macdonald spoke about James Gillespie, setting him in the context of the times in which he lived. Because the tobacco he imported for his snuff manufacture came from Virginia, USA, his trade was associated with slavery, as were so many businesses of that time. But, with no heirs for his substantial estate, when he died he left a very generous sum of money to fund a hospital and also a school for boys aged six to twelve.
Guest speaker Ann Henderson, former pupil of James Gillespie’s, chair of James Gillespie’s Trust and Rector of Edinburgh University, spoke about her experiences growing up in Edinburgh and the importance of treating everyone with kindness and respect. At a time when there is often a marked lack of kindness and compassion in the world, this topic was particularly appropriate and well received.
But Founder’s Day wouldn’t be complete without a rendition of the old school song, a piece of music that I’m quite sure many of you will remember! The S1 choir certainly did us proud! It was a lovely event and, as Mr Macdonald says, we can learn so much from the past and it’s lovely to keep old traditions alive.
James Gillespie’s Christmas Concert, held in the Usher Hall, is the culmination of several months of planning and rehearsing. The concert showcases the many and varied talents enjoyed by the school community: music from the Gaelic choir, the Clarsach group, the wind band, the pipe band and several others.
The school staff and pupils had worked extremely hard to put on a most enjoyable concert and overcoming the undoubted challenge of getting so many people on and off stage at different times was most impressive. Well done to all who gave us such a wonderful event!
The Spark Theatre in James Gillespie’s High School was the venue for a very special event to celebrate the centenary year of the birth of Muiriel Spark, illustrious former pupil of the school. Jane Fowler, in conversation with journalist and writer Alan Taylor, entertained us with stories and anecdotes of Alan’s friend Muriel. Birlinn, the publisher of all Muriel Spark’s novels, gifted a complete set of them to the school.
One of our very special guests was Mrs Doris Keir, a former classmate of Muriel. It was great to hear about another side of Muriel, and I think we all left the school that night feeling that we knew her and her work a little bit better.
To honour the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth, Councillor Melanie Main helped to arrange the Naming Ceremony of one of the paths crossing Bruntsfield Links, a path that Muriel herself would have trod on her way to school each day. Aptly the path is now called Muriel Spark Walk. Former pupil Olga Wojtas was invited to officially open the path on Friday 8 June 2018.
The red sandstone building overlooking Bruntsfield Links was home to James Gillespie’s High School for 52 years, from 1914 to 1966. It is now used by Edinburgh University as student residences and so we have had no access to it for many years. However in April the Accommodation Officer for Edinburgh University student residences very kindly facilitated a visit to the building by alumni. As you can imagine, although we only had access to the stairs & corridors, the visit rekindled many memories of time spent there.
The icing on the gingerbread was an invitation from the new James Gillespie’s High School to call in for refreshments and a chat, with some S1 pupils taking the alumni round their own new school building. A learning experience for everyone! Sheila Donaldson brought photos with her of her time in primary and in secondary. Thanks for sharing them, Sheila!
After four years when the new school was under construction, we were delighted to be able to hold another Open Afternoon for the alumni. We had old photos, school mgazines, index cards, report cards and other documentation, samples of needlework and much else on display for everyone to see.
Janis Croll, former Depute Head Teacher, led some tours of the new school buildings, aided by some very knowledgeable and charming S6 pupils. And a number of alumni took the opportunity to buy a copy, or indeed another copy, of John MacLeod’s excellent book, “Faithful and Brave: A Celebration of James Gillespie’s High School”.
Some members of the Parent Council provided tea, coffee and home baking in Brodie’s cafe, giving everyone the chance to have a good catch-up with old school friends. And of course the afternoon wasn’t complete until the school uniform had been tried on! They arrived early and left at the end of the afternoon very reluctantly – the sign of a good afternoon!
“It was a real privilege to look at old school photos, report cards andmagazines, to be shown round the new school and its wonderful facilities by a most helpful present pupil and to have an opportunity to chat with friends over a cup of tea. My friends and I felt we had not had such an enjoyable time for many a long day.”
Roddy John MacLeod has led James Gillespie’s Trust for four years but, after bringing the long-awaited book project to fruition, Roddy felt it would be a good time to move on to new ventures. We all wish him well and, to mark the occasion, we presented Roddy with a numbered print of the west coast of Harris, a favourite place of his.