Campaigners' 11th hour move to save Portobello school

Campaigners are aiming to stage an eleventh hour deputation to save an historic former Portobello school building which is to be demolished.

Monday, 19th November 2018, 6:45 pm
Updated Monday, 19th November 2018, 6:49 pm
St John's old primary school on Duddingston Road. Pic: Jon Savage
St John's old primary school on Duddingston Road. Pic: Jon Savage

The city council wants to pull down St John’s Primary School, on the corner of Hamilton Terrace and Duddingston Road, pledging to replace it with a park as part of the new schools development.

This has been met by a public outcry with residents believing the building to be an important piece of education heritage.

Edinburgh arts guru and former St John’s pupil Ricky Demarco has thrown his weight behind the cause in order to preserve the former school site for years to come.

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He has lobbied Lord Provost Frank Ross with a proposed future use of St John’s – to house part of his exhaustive arts archive.

Contractors are currently on the site preparing to rip down the building next week but Mr Demarco has insisted the campaigners are not finished yet.

He told the Evening News: “We want to halt this demolition. St John’s helped me become the man I am today and it needs to have a future.

“I believe the beautiful building could be the home of a centre of history for that part of Edinburgh.

“It is incredibly important for Edinburgh to recognise Portobello and its history. Portobello is just being ignored and that’s why we need to protect it by stopping this demolition.

“I want to lead a deputation and stop this demolition from happening. It is absolutely nonsense. God knows how many thousands of children have been taught in that school. We want to go to the site and show how much we care for this building and Portobello history.”

Mr Demarco credits the school which he attended in the late 1930s and early 1940s as his “inspiration”.

Built in 1924, the Neo-Georgian building was designed by renowned school architects Reid and Forbes.

The site is thought to be the first newly-built Catholic school in Edinburgh, and possibly Scotland, after the Scottish Education Act 1918 integrated denomination schools into the state system.

Campaigner Beverley Klein has backed Mr Demarco’s vision saying the city council needs to seriously consider it.

She said: “Richard Demarco has a valid proposal to put the building to good use with the wraparound park going ahead.

“With this new scenario now emerging, I would like to think many people would join in by going to the site and showing their support.

“It seems to me that Mr Demarco’s idea is something which can be and in my opinion should be explored. It is a beautiful building with so many features that we would love to save.”

An online petition to Save St John’s has attracted almost 1,200 signatures.

A council spokesman said plans have been “public knowledge for several years” and demolition is scheduled for later in the year.

He added: “In line with the Bill that went through the Scottish Parliament in 2014 for the building of the new Portobello High School the Council is committed to building a new park on the old site for St John’s.

“Public consultations have taken place regarding the whole school site project which included the design of the park for which planning permission has been approved.”

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