James Gillespie's High School

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James Gillespies High School
James Gillespie's High School logo.png
Mottoes Fidelis Et Fortis
(Latin: Fidelity and Strength)
Established 1803
Type State school
Religion Non-denominational
Headteacher Donald J Macdonald
Founder James Gillespie
Location Lauderdale Street
Local authority Edinburgh City
Staff FTE 81.9 (2006)[1]
Students 1080 (2006)
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Website www.jghs.edin.sch.uk

James Gillespie's High School is a state secondary school in Marchmont, Edinburgh. The school is a comprehensive high school, educating pupils aged 11 to 18. Its current campus consists of primarily 1960s buildings alongside the 16th century[2] Bruntsfield House. The catchment area is in the centre of the city.[3]

The school's curriculum includes Scottish Gaelic.


In 1803 as a result of the legacy of James Gillespie, an Edinburgh Tobacco Merchant, a school for 65 students and one master was opened in Bruntsfield Place and administered by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh. In 1870 the school moved into a larger building where the Royal Blind Asylum now stands at Gillespie Crescent. As the school developed, girls were admitted as well as boys and the number of students exceeded 1,000. In 1908 the Edinburgh School Board took over the responsibility for the school from the Merchant Company of Edinburgh Education Board, James Gillespie's legacy having run out many years before.

In 1914 the school moved into the building at Bruntsfield Links, until recently used by Boroughmuir High School as an Annexe.

In 1935 Edinburgh Corporation acquired[citation needed] Bruntsfield House and its grounds from the Warrender family.

The building of the school in Lauderdale Street commenced in 1964 and was completed in 1966. The school became a secondary school for 800 girls. This added 3 teaching blocks, a separate library, swimming pool and gymnasium to the original Bruntsfield House building.

In 1973 the school became a co-educational comprehensive school taking in boys and girls. [4]

In 1978 ownership of the school was taken over by Edinburgh District council, the school uniform became optional. At this time the school also started to use an annex at 7 Gillespie Street to cope with a rising intake.

In 1989 the school moved to one site on the completion of an extensive building and modernisation programme.[5] Formerly the High School divided the student population into four 'houses' - Warrender, Roslin, Spylaw, and Gilmore. The houses would compete in intramural sports events, etc. The house system lasted into the early 1980s. Since then the buildings of the High School campus adopted the names of the houses with the addition of a new name, Bruntsfield. Each of the house (now building) names reflects a connection to the name of a locality in, or a historic family from, south Edinburgh.

In 2005 the school adopted 3 new 'social communities' (like the house system but without competitions only for arranging social guidance) based on James Clerk Maxwell (Maxwell) Henry Raeburn (Raeburn) and Aung San Suu Kyi (Kyi.) [6]

In 2007 improvements were made to the fabric of the school's buildings after a state inspection found significant deficiencies in several of the 1966 structures. There was a campaign to build a new school.[7] Following consultation with parents, students, staff and the wider community a new school has begun to be built on the existing site.[8] The school has no uniform.

In July 2013 work started to replace all the school buildings apart from Bruntsfield House which is a listed building.

Notable Former Pupils[edit]

Notable Former Pupils of James Gillespie’s High School (1803- 2014) and James Gillespie’s Boys School (from 1929 to 1973)

1. John Leslie - television presenter and actor; 2. Grant Stott, his younger brother - long a star of local radio and the King’s Theatre pantomime and a quintessential Edinburgh personality; 3. Dr Ewen Stewart - one of Britain’s foremost and most respected authorities on the care of people with HIV and Aids; 4. Moira Jeffrey , journalist; 5. Ben McPherson, journalist and acclaimed novelist. 6. John MacLeod – award-winning journalist and author; 7. Finn McGrath - film director; 8. Mark Munro (BBC) - part of the production-team behind Mrs Brown’s Boys; 9. Robert Cavanah – actor who has appeared in countless television dramas, most recently as Ian Chamberlain in ‘Emmerdale’; 10. Rupert Ford - brilliant scientist and meteorologist; 11. Dr Sam Mohiddin - eminent cardiologist at the London Chest Hospital; part of the team who saved Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba after he collapsed on the pitch in 2012; 12. Linda Urquhart –Chairman and sometime Chief Executive of Morton Fraser Ltd, one of Scotland’s most astute and respected businesswomen, holds a rack of directorships, gives to the wider community as a member of the Development Board of the Prince’s Trust Scotland and an Ambassador for Girl Guiding UK, and in 2012 was honoured with an OBE; 13. Herbert Snell Gamley - eminent sculptor of the early twentieth century; his statue of King Edward VII stands at the Palace of Holyrood House and his work also adorns the Usher Hall; 14. Henry Raeburn Dobson - noted portrait-painter; 15. Christopher Wood - landscape artist; 16. Alastair Sim - star of stage and screen; best known for ‘Scrooge’ (1951) and as Miss Fritton in the two ‘St Trinians’ films; 17. David Steel, politician, now Lord Steel of Aikwood – Britain’s youngest MP at his election in 1965, leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 to 1988 and first Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament; 18. Ronnie Corbett - diminutive and much-loved comic and the surviving half of ‘The Two Ronnies’; 19. Dorothy Dunnett - historical novelist; 20. Edi Stark – broadcaster; in 2003 wrote, produced and narrated a BBC Radio Scotland documentary about the school, ‘Crème de la Crème’; 21. Michael Thomson – actor. Best known as the wry, lanky Jonnie Maconie in BBC hospital drama Holby City. 22. Muriel Spark – novelist of international stature who drew heavily on her years as a ‘Gillespie’s Girl’ (from 1923 to 1935) for her celebrated The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, subsequently adapted for stage, cinema and TV; 23. Craig Howieson - international table tennis player and potential Commonwealth Games medallist; 24. Callum Skinner - international track cyclist; 25. Conrad Balatoni - professional footballer with Partick Thistle 26. Damien Hoyland - professional rugby player with Melrose and Edinburgh Rugby 27. Anna McCorquodale - consultant paediatrician at Newcastle Infirmary. 28. John Panciw, consultant psychiatrist in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear

Updated 26 March 2014


  1. ^ Scottish Schools Online: JGHS. Retrieved 5 May 2008
  2. ^ http://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-127-516-C Retrieved 28 October 2008
  3. ^ JGHS Catchment - Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 5 May 2008
  4. ^ JGHS Our School. Retrieved 26 Jan 2014
  5. ^ JGHS Our School. Retrieved 5 May 2008
  6. ^ "Message from the Head Teacher - August 2005". http://www.jghs.edin.sch.uk. 
  7. ^ Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 5 May 2008
  8. ^ "BBC News - Work starts on new James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh". BBC Online. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°56′12.20″N 3°12′1.62″W / 55.9367222°N 3.2004500°W / 55.9367222; -3.2004500