George Heriot's School

George Heriot's School

Infobox UK school
name = George Heriot's School

size = 250px
latitude = 55.945918
longitude = -3.194317
dms = T
motto = "Impendo" ("I Distribute Chearfullie ["sic"] ")
established = 1628 ("as George Heriot's Hospital")
type = Primary, Secondary, Independent [ [ Scottish Schools Online 2007 - - George Heriot's School - Edinburgh City ] ]
head_label = Headmaster
head = Alistair G. Hector
r_head_label = Chaplain
r_head = Ailsa Maclean
founder = George Heriot
street = Lauriston Place
city = Edinburgh
country = Scotland
postcode = EH3 9EQ
LEA = Edinburgh City
staff = 129 (FTE, as of Sept. 2005)
enrollment = c. 1600
gender = Coeducational
lower_age = 3
upper_age = 18
houses = Castle, Greyfriars, Lauriston, Raeburn
school colours= Navy Blue, White, Black
publication = The Herioter
website =
website_name =

George Heriot's School is an independent primary and secondary school on Lauriston Place in Edinburgh, Scotland, with around 1600 pupils. It was established in 1628 as George Heriot's Hospital, by bequest of the royal goldsmith George Heriot, and opened in 1659. It is sometimes referred to as a public school in common with the traditional independent schools in England and Wales, Fact|date=August 2008 although in Scotland, as in most of the English-speaking world, "public school" usually refers to a state school. ["Oxford English Dictionary", 2nd Ed., 1989, s.v. "Public school", available [ here] .]


The main building of the school is notable for its renaissance architecture, the work of William Wallace, until his death in 1631. [Colvin, Howard (1978) "A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840" John Murray] He was succeeded as master mason by William Aytoun, who was succeeded in turn by John Mylne. [Colvin, Howard (1978) "A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840", John Murray, p.569-70; Gifford, John, McWilliam, Colin & Walker, David, (1984) "The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh", Penguin, p.179-82] In 1676, Sir William Bruce drew up plans for the completion of Heriot's Hospital. His design, for the central tower of the south façade, was eventually executed in 1693. [Gifford, John, McWilliam, Colin & Walker, David, (1984) "The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh", Penguin, p.180]

The school is a turreted building surrounding a large quadrangle, and built out of sandstone. The foundation stone is inscribed with the date 1628. The intricate decoration above each window is unique (with one paired exception - those on the ground floor either side of the now redundant central turret on the west side of the building). A statue of the founder can be found in a niche on the north side of the quadrangle.

The main building was also the first large building to be constructed outside the Edinburgh city walls. It sits next to Greyfriars Kirk, built in 1620, in open grounds in a fine position, overlooked by the Castle directly to the north. Parts of the seventeenth-century city wall (the Telfer Wall) are still to be found serving as the walls of the school grounds. The grounds contain a selection of other buildings of varying age; these include a swimming pool and a granite war memorial.


On his death in 1624, George Heriot left around 25,000 Pound Scots – equivalent to several tens of millions today – to found a "hospital" (then the name for this kind of charitable school) to care for the "puir, fatherless bairns" (Scots: "poor, fatherless children") of Edinburgh.

The construction of Heriot's Hospital (as it was first called) was begun in 1628, just outside the city walls of Edinburgh. It was completed just in time to be occupied by Oliver Cromwell's English forces during the invasion of Scotland during the Third English Civil War; the building was used as a barracks, with horses stabled in the chapel.

The hospital finally opened in 1659, with thirty pupils in residence; its finances grew, and it took in other pupils in addition to the orphans for whom it was intended. In the 1880s, it began to charge fees; however, to this day it serves its charitable object, providing free education to a sizable number of fatherless children, referred to as "foundationers". It was not all plain sailing, however, and in 1846 there was an insurrection in the hospital and fifty-two boys were dismissed. [ Gilbert, W.M., editor, "Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century", Edinburgh, 1901: 116 ]

In 1979 it became co-educational with the arrival of the first girls, and now has around 1500 pupils.

In 1837 the school founded ten "free schools" in Edinburgh, educating several thousand pupils across the city; these were closed in 1885. One of them, with a copy of several of the features of the original Lauriston Place building, is at the east end of the Cowgate.

The school also provided funds for the establishment of an institution which later merged with the Watt Institution (named after James Watt) in the 1870s to form Heriot-Watt College, a technical college that became Heriot-Watt University in 1966.


School Headmasters have included :
*1947 - 1970: William McLean Dewar
*1970 - 1983: Allan McDonald
*1983 - 1998: Keith Pearson
*1998 - Present: Alistair Hector


Pupils at the school belong to one of four houses:
* Lauriston (green, after the school's address, Lauriston Place; named after Lauriston Castle)
* Greyfriars (white, named after the adjacent kirk, Greyfriars Kirk)
* Raeburn (red, after a famous former pupil, Henry Raeburn)
* Castle (blue, after Edinburgh Castle to the north)

chool Publications

The school magazine is called the "Herioter". Published annually, this magazine contains sections for aspects of the school; including clubs and activities, work from pupils, articles on the drama productions of the year and a letter from the headmaster. The magazine is written by many contributors, generally pupil written articles about the clubs, and is designed and edited by 6th year pupils under the guidance of staff. The Junior School-specific Magazine is called the "Junior School Journal" (shortened to "JSJ"), which holds a cover competition for the pupils to take part in. There is also an annual school newspaper called "The Heriot Herald". In addition, there is a less formal internal online magazine written by the pupils themselves and aimed at their peers called "The Blazer", which can be accessed through the school's intranet.

Notable alumni

*Nick Abbot, talk radio presenter
*J. W. S. Cassels, mathematician
*Gavin Esler, television journalist and presenter of "Newsnight"
*John Borthwick Gilchrist, Indologist
*Mark Goodier, Radio One disc jockey
*Professor Sir Abraham Goldberg, Emeritus Regius Professor of the Practice of Medicine, University of Glasgow
*Mike Heron, musician, formerly of the Incredible String Band
*Norman Irons, former Lord Provost of Edinburgh
*Andy Irvine, Rugby Union player
*Roy Kinnear, actor
*Lord Mackay of Clashfern, former Lord Chancellor
*David McLetchie, former leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
*Doug Naysmith, MP for Bristol North West
*Gordon Prentice, MP for Pendle
*Henry Raeburn, painter
*Ian Richardson, actor
*Alastair Sim, actor
*Ken Stott, actor
*Kenny Milne, Rugby Union player
*Ian Milne, Rugby Union player
*David Milne, Rugby Union player
*Nigel Tranter, historical novelist
*Dougie Walker, sprinter
*Gordon Ross, Rugby Union player
*Bruce Douglas, Rugby Union player


External links

* [ George Heriot's School]
* [ George Heriot's School page on Scottish Schools Online]

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