News & Updates

Open Afternoon … 3 March 2012

Once again a very successful Open Afternoon was held in the library of James Gillespie’s High School. We were thrilled to welcome such a wide age range of former pupils, from some who had only left Gillespie’s a few years ago to a venerable ex-Gillespie girl of 95!

It was also an opportunity for former pupils to meet Mr Donald Macdonald, the new headteacher at James Gillespie’s. Mr Macdonald was delighted to be able to chat to former pupils from a variety of generations, and I know that our former pupils were very kean to exchange views with him.

During the afternoon we played the CD (Fidelis et Forte) that had been made by the music department at James Gillespie’s and some of the alumni watched the DVD (Living Stories) that was made several years ago.

Many thanks to those of you who attended and helped to make the afternoon so successful and so enjoyable! And also many thanks to the people who helped to set up the display … without you the afternoon could not have gone ahead!

Tours of Bruntsfield House

On Saturday 26 March 2011 about 35 former pupils of James Gillespie’s High School joined Allison & me for a tour of Bruntsfield House. Mr Wallace, the current head teacher, was delighted to tell us about the illuminated stained glass display created to mark the 400th anniversary of the building of Bruntsfield House. Thank you to Alice and her friends for providing the very welcome teas & coffees! I think everyone enjoyed revisiting a building that had been an important part of their youth. Below are some photos and memories of Bruntsfield House.

“In Primary 2 we had an arithmetic lesson but each week two lucky girls would be taken off up the narrow staircase for an art class. I hated arithmetic and every week I would hope it was my turn. There were so many of us in the class, I’m sure I only got to paint twice!”


“Miss Brodie’s class received a box of Canadian apples and a box of biscuits to have with our milk … after she married and moved to Canada.”


“Making tablet and putting it in bags to distribute as prizes on sports day.”


“The large music room in Bruntsfield House will forever be associated with Mr Somerville’s music classes … trying to beat out 4 different rhythms with different bits of the body … tricky co-ordination!”  


“Interesting to see the old building again … but how was anyone allowed to make such a mess of conversion?”

Running for the Trust!!

The Trust is pleased to announce that, as a  result of donations to Jeremy Hughes’ BUPA Great Winter Run around Holyrood Park on January 8th 2011, a fantastic

£1,185 plus gift aid

has been raised. This will help to support ongoing activities that include student projects involving sports, music and science, the Gillespie Book project and global citizenship within the school.

Open Afternoon … 6 March 2010

On 6th March 2010 we held an Open Afternoon for alumni in the school library.

Many alumni came to browse through our large collection of old photos, admissions record cards, magazines and items of uniform. The hat is always a catalyst for stories and much hilarity!

As you can tell from some of the comments in our Visitors’ Book, everyone enjoyed the afternoon and most people would like to have another opportunity to browse and chat before too long!

“Well organised and most enjoyable … do it again please!”

“Good to meet former classmates.”

“Brought back happy school memories.” 

During the afternoon there was an opportunity to watch the “Living Stories” DVD again. We still have some copies left (£5 + 50p p&p). Please contact Jean Knox if you would like to buy one.


James Gillespie’s link with Zwelibanzi School is a model for others
to follow, enriching young people in Edinburgh and in South Africa
for more than a decade.

Desmond Tutu

On 2 April 2009, to raise funds for the James Gillespie’s Global Citizenship Africa Project, 200 guests enjoyed a celebration of two cultures: Scotland and Africa with an evening of music, song and dance at Zuluceilidh, sponsored by Bizlinx and hosted by Linda Fabiani MSP (Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture) at Mansfield Traquair, Broughton Street, Edinburgh

As well as the opportunity to buy some wonderful jewellery from Scotland’s finest designers and the craftswomen of Umlazi township in South Africa, there was a cultural presentation by the young global citizens of James Gillespie’s High School, which included Highland pipes, Zulu drumming, an African choir, gum boot dancers, Highland dancers, music, songs, poems and prose.

Over the course of the evening an amazing £5900 was raised for the James Gillespie’s Global Citizenship Africa Project.


And it certainly did…..

The 28th and 29th of March 2009 saw the first free ArtWorks@Gillespie’s event showcasing the creative talent that exist in the Gillespie’s community.

Not only did the art work to raise funds but it also worked to gather together and unite people from different generations, different countries and different walks of life. Pieces of work came from Africa, America, China, England, Greece and Scotland. The art works were born on easels in schools and art colleges, in professional artists’ studios and on kitchen tables. They were created by former pupils, grandparents of current pupils, teachers and ex-teachers to say nothing of the astounding body of work created by JGHS students and Zwelibanzi learners.

The art works came in all shapes and sizes: paintings in various mediums from framed miniatures from America to large canvases (brought over from South Africa the day before); silver and bead jewellery; Zulu basket ware made from recycled plastic bags; one dress designed and made from sheets came from one of the learners from Zwelibanzi and another was designed and knitted in Scotland by a JGHS former pupil;  tapestry woven by an ex-teacher and  photographs of restaurant food waste, which explored the tradition of the Grand Tour.  We also received some generous donations from friends of the school for both the silent auction and the art auction on Sunday.

Saturday saw a steady flow of people throughout the day with catering by Saffron Café and a music programme provided by JGHS students. Sunday was much more up tempo –   after an organic African lunch of Bunny Chow and Chakalaka washed down by a South African wine and speeches by Jeremy Hughes and Alex Wallace the art auction kicked off and was expertly led by David Anderson.  Doug Veitch and Rise Kagona (ex Bhundu Boys) then played their unique fusion of Zimbabwean and Scottish music. 

During the two days over 500 art works were displayed, and more than 200 were sold, one piece selling for an astounding £750. With the profit from the bar and the food ArtWorks@Gillespie’s raised £4000. This will be split between the Trust and the African Global Citizenship Project in line with the artists and donors wishes. 

Trust Administrator, Jean Knox

Jean has been working part time since September 2008 in the Development Office and would welcome your comments and contact.  If you are a Former Pupil please contact her, or if you have any ideas or comments for the Trust do get in touch. 

You can send Jean an email by clicking on the link below:

Jean Knox

The Alison Laidlaw Memorial Garden Project

In memory of a very special Former Pupil and Former Teacher 1909-2007.

The garden was opened on Friday June 20th by the son of the only remaining living relative of Miss Laidlaw, her cousin in Canada.

A small file of Miss Laidlaw’s ashes was placed in the garden, just before the opening ceremony.

It was a lovely sunny day and over 80 Former Pupils attended the opening, preceded by lunch and followed by a concert by current pupils and tea.

We were delighted to have so many Former Pupils attend and re-visit the school, some for the first time in many years.  The garden remains open in term time and can be visited by Former Pupils. 

We are grateful to the Trustees of the Laidlaw-Hall Trust for their generous donation towards this project; the funds originated from Miss Laidlaw’s estate.

We are also grateful to Miss Laidlaw’s cousin in Canada and her family, for their generous donation and to those of you who have, or may wish to give a donation.

In Miss Laidlaw’s name, we thank you for your generosity.……………………………………………………..

We felt a garden was the most fitting memorial to Miss Alison.  She loved the outdoors and her modern holistic attitude to education is reflected in the concept.  She would not have wanted a brass plaque, we can imagine her saying “…someone would only have to clean it!”  The garden is designed for the use of the current pupils and staff and is open to visitors and Former Pupils.  We have plans to open this part of the campus to the public, in the future.

The garden design is by Marion Rodger, a parent at the school.  She donated her time and expertise to the Trust.

The garden has been created within the ruined walls of an ancient salt store at the front of Bruntsfield House, near to the ‘famous’ archway.

Current pupils at the school are helping with the restoration and planting.

The garden is a project in process and the opening marks the completion of stage one, further work will be continuing on its design and upkeep in the context of this part of the school campus.

Our last ‘Drop in and Record’ day was on April 26th 2008

We had a great day with offers from more Former Pupils to record their life stories arranged.  On the day, 9 FPs recorded their memories of the school. Over 100 Former Pupils and community members attended, many for the first time and many who met former colleagues for the first time, since leaving school.  

Very positive comments recorded on the day include:

  • Please keep this project going. Gillespie’s was such a wonderful school … a centre of excellence. (Sadie Shields, nee Murphy, 1946)
  • This is an important social history project, not only in relation to James Gillespie’s High School but also for Edinburgh and the Scottish education system.
  • Hope this project gets the funding to continue. It is so very worth while … the photographs, records, notes, etc., not to mention friendships continued. (Catherine Buchan)
  • Most enjoyable. Please continue. (Margaret Buchan, nee Cameron)
  • Would be very interested to see the project continue. Well worth while. Long avenues still to explore. (Lesley Fisher 1960-66)
  • Happy memories, please continue! (Anne Watson, 1964-69)
  • Please keep this project going. It is so interesting & informative. (DB, 1956)
  • It would be a crime if this stopped after such a wonderful response. (Aileen Paulin, nee McDonald)
  • Most interesting exhibits … more please! (Nina McNeil, nee Spence)
  • Well done. Very enjoyable … keep going. (Helen Scott, nee Grieve)
  • This simply has to go on! (Christine Reid, nee Kirkwood)
  • Hope this project goes on. It has provided some lovely positive memories. It has been excellently arranged and managed and it would be a shame to have it curtailed at this point, Miss Marr rules OK!!
  • Please help this project to continue. (Alison Pearson, nee Sinclair, 1957-63)
  • I’m really enjoying volunteering with the Trust as I’m able to meet and talk with so many interesting former pupils & this rekindles many long-forgotten memories! (Jean Knox, nee Dulson, 1952-64)
  • Hope this Gillespie’s project continues into the future. (C.C. 1950-63)
  • Gillespie’s has touched (and continues to touch) so many lives … there is so much more to find out … please keep supporting this project. (Lindsay Cormack nee McNeill)
  • This project deserves funding! (BT Albert)
  • Great exhibition … a wonderful school where good behaviour, respect for others, hard work & individual responsibility were all encouraged. This is “living history” … good luck in future funding. (U.A.)
  • Quite emotional. Brings back so many memories. Proud to be a Gillespie girl at 65! Must keep up the good work. (MRC 1955-59)
  • This project is an important part of Edinburgh’s history. Long may it continue. (Christine Brunton nee Thomson)
  • The class of ’08 have loved learning the history of our school, meeting the former pupils and telling them about our wonderful time here. Please keep this going so that we can come back and see Gillespie’s in the years to come! (Class of ’08)
  • I have enjoyed being involved with my old school. It has brought back so many memories … some good, some not so good, but I am glad I decided to volunteer. (AN)
  • Living History … please keep this project going. (J. Flannigan 1952-58)
  • Living History … one of its kind. Please help it to continue. (Jill)
  • What a great project … it deserves more financial support. (MBK)
  • It was a great pleasure to trace my schooldays as an all girls school to my elder daughter’s 1st year in the comprehensive system & then her younger sister following too.
  • Please continue this wonderful work to maintain historic records of Gillespie’s famous school.

We hope to make a further application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop this project.

Write Up from September 18th 2007 Exhibition

The evening was a resounding success with a room crowded with Former Pupils; many Trustees, the head teacher, several members of the current staff, current sixth year students and helpers from the School Council all helped to make it exciting and popular.

The exhibition stands were displayed again, there was a film showing and talks from Jeremy Hughes and Alex Wallace.

Food and drink was served and a retiring collection raised £240.

A further 18 new database members were added and other records made complete.  Jennifer Craik and Nicola Watson our brave volunteers, both attended to help with processing data.

Exhibition Feedback

  “The evening made me feel as if I mattered – not just then, when I was at school but now, even though I am older, I still matter to the young people I met and I’m proud of the tradition I helped to build.”

  • 130 attendees 
  • Most trustees attended
  • 8 current members of staff attended
  • General absolute approval for the showstands and ‘professional ‘presentation
  • A great atmosphere!
  • Excellent response from alumni
  • Need to build on the momentum
  • Newsletters for FPs or page in current newsletter
  • Excellent new database contacts 
  • More FP contact wanted
  • More exhibitions requested
  • FPs want better access to archives

Following a very successful first year of the James Gillespie’s Oral History Project, ‘Living Stories’, we have enjoyed meeting so many Former Pupils and have established a database of over 570 who want to keep in touch!

Do contact us for ideas for future events: 

Development Office

© Copyright 2021 James Gillespie's Trust. Registered charity number SCO22811.