The School and its History

James Gillespie‘s School was the first free school in Scotland when it opened in 1803. It was established by the bequest of James Gillespie and was originally only for boys.
In 1870, it became a day school for boys and girls, whose parents paid moderate fees, though 60 free scholarship places were retained to honour Gillespie’s will. 
In 1926, Thomas Burnett, the headteacher at the time, introduced the uniform, school badge and motto: “Fidelis et Fortis”.  Founders day was celebrated for the first time in the same year.  In 1929 the school became a selective girls-only Corporation Grammar, remaining that way until 1973 when it became a non-selective co-ed area comprehensive, as it has been to the present day. 
In 1953 a detailed ‘History of James Gillespie’s’ was written by Elaine Cynthia Joan Cochrane, S3c, as a school essay writing project. Elaine has now given permission for her essay to be published on this website, chapter by chapter:

History of James Gillespie’s by Elaine C.J. Cochrane, S3c
Preface (PDF) Chapter 1 (PDF) Chapter 2 (1803-1870) (PDF)
Chapter 3 (1870-1914) (PDF) Chapter 4 (1914-1936) (PDF) Chapter 5 (1936-1953)

A further insight into life at James Gillespie’s in the 20th Century can be found in the contents of the School Magazines, several of which have now been scanned and listed on this website.

The school has been on its present site as a primary school from 1945 and as a high school from 1966. In 1966 the high school moved from its site on Bruntsfield Links (1914 to 1966) to the new site on Lauderdale Street when it was opened by H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. After 1973 with the move away from an all-girls school to a co-ed comprehensive and a growing school role, the premises struggled to cope and a new school was built on the site, officially opened in 2016.

Faithful & Brave: A Celebration of James Gillespie’s High School

James Gillespie’s High School

James Gillespie’s High School Parent Council

© Copyright 2024 James Gillespie's Trust. Registered charity number SC022811.