Fiona Brown and Alison Grant in the three legged race at the George Watson's Ladies College Preparatory School sportsday in June 1965.
Fiona Brown and Alison Grant in the three legged race at the George Watson's Ladies College Preparatory School sportsday in June 1965.

Edinburgh's George Watson's College Heritage in Pictures: Here are 25 pictures that show life in the Capital school in the 1950s and 1960s

It’s been educating pupils for nearly 300 years, and there was plenty going on at George Watson’s College over half a century ago.

Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 12:54 pm

The college was established when philanthropist George Watson, who was the Bank of Scotland’s first Chief Accountant, left his entire £12,000 fortune to found a school.

After his death in 1723 the Merchant Company of Edinburgh implemented the terms of his will, purchasing a piece of land near the Meadows and instructing a architect to design and build the school.

The foundation stone was laid on May 22, 1783, and the building completed in early 1741, with the first pupils welcomed to ‘George Watson’s Hospital’ in May of that year.

The first roll consisted of just 11 boys but that quickly increased to 86, with the school governers responsible for pupils until the age of 25, finding them apprenticeships or helping them pursue medicine and academia

The hospital school system was seen as a failure by the 1860s, leading the Merchant Company to re-establish George Watsons as an 800-capacity day school in 1870, selling the building to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and moving to the former Merchant Maiden Hospital building in Archibald Place.

A further expansion of the Royal Infirmary in 1924 led once again to the school building being sold and another move - this time to the site of Merchiston Castle School.

Watsonian James B Dunn won a competition to design the new school, which was completed in 1932 and opened by Prince George.

By this time there was also a separate George Watson’s Ladies College but the two merged into a single school 1974 which entered the record books as the as the largest co-educational school in Scotland, with a roll of over 2,400 pupils.

Former pupils include comedian Jack Docherty, politicial Sir Malcolm Rifkind, rugby stars Scott and Gavin Hastings, and BBC broadcast Martha Kearney.

Here are 25 pictures to take you back to life at the school in the 1950s and 1960s.

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