News & Updates

Gillespie Gathering

Alumni at the Gillespie Gathering

On Saturday 13 May 2023, alumni were invited to join in a Gillespie Gathering, enjoying a glass of wine or a soft drink and some nibbles. We found some school blazers from over fifty years ago, and some of the alumni still fitted them!

Some of the old uniform items

These school box hats were the bane of our lives but we were very adept at making them as small as possible and pinning them to the backs of our head.

Alumni attending the Gillespie Gathering

There were copies of photos to search through, quite a number of old school magazines and, of course, time to catch up with old school friends.

Drawing of a unicorn, from the old school badge.

And I think Miss Andrew and Miss Steel would have been quite impressed with our rendition of the old school song, as loud and clear as ever!

The Golden Age of Edinburgh

In February, 2023, we invited Eric Melvin to talk to the alumni about what was known as the Golden Age of Edinburgh. Inspired by Lord Provost George Drummond, Edinburgh burst from the confines of the medieval Old Town and started to build what even then was described as the New Town. At the same time as Edinburgh was being transformed physically and socially, its intellectual reputation saw the City referred to as “The Athens of the North.” This was due in no small part to the reputation of the University which attracted some of the finest academics of the day to live and to work in Edinburgh.

Eric Melvin's talk to the alumni

With their shop in the High Street, the Gillespie brothers were witnesses to exciting times. Their successful tobacco and snuff business saw them amass a fortune which they left to the City to support charitable enterprises. Their generous legacy continues to this day.

The alumni who managed to attend this fascinating talk were delighted with Eric’s presentation and enjoyed refreshments provided by the Parent Council and a good chinwag with old school friends afterwards. Thank you, Eric, for a memorable presentation!

Message from JGHS Trust

Earlier in the year, members of the Trust had really positive discussions with both Pupil Voice, and the Parent Council, about working together for the good of the whole school community. We were looking forward to supporting the Basketball initiative, and the students on the S1 Residential, and had supported the S6 students in their Common Room project. The situation for all of us has now changed dramatically, and we want to remind teachers, parents, carers and students that the Trust can still be a source of support. Small grant applications are on our website or contact us on

Ann Henderson Chair JGHS Trust

James Gillespie’s High School Concert 2019

Once again the staff and pupils of James Gillespie’s High School have put on a fabulous Christmas Concert that showcases the pupil’s many amazing and varied talents. It was very much a night of music with offerings from several different choirs from the school community (including one for P7 & S1 children), the pipe band, junior & senior wind bands, junior & senior string orchestras, clarsach ensemble and guitar ensemble.

What makes the concert even more enjoyable is the way everything runs so very smoothly. Thank you to all – those on stage and behind the scenes – for giving us a great evening!

Book Launch

On Tuesday 3 December 2019, former pupil Norma Allan launched her new book ‘Box Hats and Blue Stockings’ – a collection of memories and other memorabilia from the era of the Girls’ School. The event took place in Riddle’s Court, off Lawnmarket, and many alumni came to hear about the book, chat with friends and generally enjoy pleasant company on a chilly December afternoon.

James Gillespie’s Trust was delighted to support Norma’s book launch and several Trustees attended (Ann Henderson, chair, on right of Norma). If you would like a copy of the book but were unable to attend the event, please email the Trust at and we will pass on your request.

Plaques for the School

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:

Plaque about James Gillespie's High School
  • 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.

Plaque for the Alison Laidlaw Memorial Garden

Now, if you walk round the school campus, the plaques will help you to understand a little better why the buildings have these names.

A New Home for James Gillespie

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.

Marble bust of James Gillespie

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!

Founder’s Day 2019

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”.

classical guitar group at James Gillespie's High School

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.

Ann Henderson, guest speaker at James Gillespie's High School

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.

S1 choir singing the school song at James Gillespie's High School

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.

JGHS Christmas Concert

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!

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