Last ditch attempt to save Portobello school doomed to fail

A LAST-DITCH bid to save a historic former Portobello primary school looks doomed as bulldozers are expected to roll in on Monday.

Saturday, 17th November 2018, 5:07 am
Residents complaining about the former St John's Primary on Hamilton Terrace/Duddingston Road. Pic:
 Neil Hanna Photography
Residents complaining about the former St John's Primary on Hamilton Terrace/Duddingston Road. Pic: Neil Hanna Photography

The Evening News told last month how campaigners are desperate to save St John’s on Duddingston Road believing it to be an important piece of education heritage.

News of the impending demolition comes as Edinburgh arts guru and former St John’s pupil Ricky Demarco made an impassioned plea for an 11th hour reprieve.

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

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Artist, writer and philosopher Richard Demarco at Craigcrook Castle in Edinburgh. Pic: Gareth Easton.

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

Mr Demarco attended a meeting of the Northfield and Willowbrae Community Council on Thursday night where the future of St John’s was raised.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said the legendary artist and promoter. “And it’s linked to another great building in Portobello, St John’s 

Another esteemed figure to wade into the fight to save St John’s is Edinburgh University historian Sir Tom Devine.

The city council want to demolish the site and replace it with a park it pledged to deliver as part of the new primary and senior school development.

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

It 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.

Some campaigners want to see it become an alternate new home for the Palette community arts centre after its base is knocked down as part of Meadowbank work.

Campaigner Beverley Klein believes such a community arts venue at St John’s could earn the council £130,000-a-year in rent.

And she called on Richard Demarco’s archive proposal to be tabled at next week’s full council meeting.

“Richard Demarco has a valid proposal to put the building to good use with the wraparound park going ahead,” she said. “Also, many local artists are desperate for alternative studio space so everything is up for grabs.”

But as far as the city council is concerned, the demolition of St John’s is a done deal.

A spokesman said: “It has been public knowledge for several years that the old St John’s RC Primary School would be demolished to be replaced with a new park in line with the Bill that went through the Scottish Parliament.

“Public consultations have taken place and the demolition of the building is due to start on Monday.”