John Watson's School

Sports Day  -  1965

Sports Day 1965 at John Watson's School, Edinburgh

© Reproduced with acknowledgement to Ron Leckie, California, USA


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    Sports Day 1965 at John Watson's School, Edinburgh ©




Ron Leckie

California, USA

Thank you to Ron Leckie, California, USA, for sending me this photograph of  his former school in Edinburgh.

Ron wrote:

John Watson School


"Founded in 1828, this building housed a 'hospital' for orphans."

Engraving in 'Modern Athens'  -  John Watson Hospital ©



"It later grew to become John Watson’s School, a full private school.  There were many of us who owe the foundation of our education to this establishment."

Art Gallery

"The school ultimately closed in 1975, and the building became the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  

In many ways, it is a shame in this author’s eyes that such a grand piece of architecture should now be the home of 'modern art'.  It would really be far more appropriate if it housed some of Scotland’s classic art collections."

Former Pupils

"Since 1975, a group of former pupils has attempted to maintain an FP Club, to keep the memories alive, but due to a lack of critical mass they have decided to close down this effort with a final reunion to be held on September 1st, 2007.

Ron Leckie, California, USA:  July 26, 2007




Alan Wilson

Trinity, Edinburgh

Thank you to Alan Wilson, Trinity, Edinburgh for sending this message after seeing the photograph of John Watson's school above.

Alan wrote:

Pupils' Graves

"Seeing the photograph of John Watson's School reminded me about something that most visitors to the Gallery of Modern Art are probably oblivious to.

At the back of the gallery there a rough path which leads from near the Henry Moore sculpture into a quiet corner.  It's here you'll discover a small graveyard containing the remains of 12 pupils, aged between 7 and 12 years, who died from 1828 through to 1888.  Each grave is marked by a small stone bearing the initials of the child.

Alan Wilson, Trinity, Edinburgh: August 1, 2007




Eelan Hodgson


Thank you to Eelan Hodgson who wrote, asking about why John Watson's school closed.

I don't know the answer to Eelan's question.  If you know it, please email me, than I'll pass on your reply to her.

Thank you.

Eelan wrote:

Belford House

"John Watson’s School, Belford Road, Edinburgh, bought my family home (Belford House) with the aim of turning it into the Girls’ Boarding House.   Belford House was sold about 1954-5 from memory.    We then built a house in the garden, called ‘Mill Lade House’, access to which is via Belford Place, past the Edinburgh Sports’ Club."

School Closed 1975


"I know that John Watson’s School closed in 1975 and it would appear that the Merchant Company Schools absorbed many of the pupils.

Can you tell me why did John Watson’s School close in 1975?  This enquiry is purely out of interest.  I don't think that John Watson’s School was a Merchant Company School."



Allan Dodds

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Thank you to Allan Dodds for providing the answer to the question asked by Eelan above.

Allan wrote:

Direct Grants Legislation

"The Labour Party, newly appointed in 1974, ended the direct grant system for schools the following year when they enacted the 'Direct Grant Grammar Schools (Cessation of Grant) Regulations, 1975'."

The Choice

"This required schools to choose whether to become:

(a) Comprehensive schools maintained by the Local Education Authority OR

(b)  Independent schools without a grant.."

The Outcome

"This meant that private schools, such as Watson's, Heriot's and other independent schools, had to increase their fees dramatically if they wished to remain independent

-  Watson's and others failed to remain independent.

-  Heriot's survived as an independent school, but their fees are currently around £10,000 per annum, whereas in my days at Heriot's they were around £42 per annum!"

Allan Dodds, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England:  December 23, 2013


Gallery of Modern Art

"You rightly say the old school building is now The Edinburgh Gallery of Modern Art.  Having visited it  recently, I would say that the building lends itself more to housing traditional art and old masters!

However, the grounds with ‘small loch/lake’ in front of the old school and the Charles Jencks ‘statuatory’ are well cared for, and the beautiful building is well maintained."

Eelan Hodgson, Edinburgh:  September 30, 2011




Mike Cheyne

Newcastle, Northumberland, England

Thank you to Mike Cheyne for replying to Eelan Hodgson's question above.

Mike wrote:

Belford House

"Like a few Edinburgh private schools  -  eg Melville College and Cranley  -  John Watson's found it difficult to attract pupils given by how much the school had to raise their fees to cover their increasingly high running costs.

The name John Watson was incorporated into George Watson's College, to which a number of pupils transferred when it closed in 1975."

Mike Cheyne, Newcastle, Northumberland, England
Message posted in EdinPhoto guestbook, October 6, 2011




Brian Martin

Abu Dhabi

Brian Martin wrote

School Photos

"I'm attempting to encourage any John Watson's School Former Pupils to upload school photos to out newly created Facebook page.  It's like drawing hens' teeth.

Can you point me in the right direction?  I am trying to find out who the Official School Photographers were. Any ideas?

Any assistance you could give would be greatly appreciated."

Brian Martin, (John Watson School Border 1960-69):   Abu Dhabi, October 18, 2013

Reply to Brian?

If you'd like to provide any photos for Brian's Facebook page, or if you can tell him who the Official School Photographers were, or if you'd like to contact him for any other reason, please email me, then I'll pass on his email address to you.  Thank you.

Peter Stubbs:  November 6, 2013




Ron Leckie

California, USA

Thank you to Ron Leckie, California, USA, for writing again.

Ron wrote:

A new web site for
Former Pupils

"Former pupils of Forms 5/6 at John Watson's in 1965-1967 have kept reasonably connected and have had a few small reunions since 2007.

The old website for the school fell into disuse, so it was decided to create a new one.  So, I put this this new web site together using the free photo site, Shutterfly.

To view, it requires a password which can be requested from the site manager.  All former pupils of the school are encouraged to join and contribute to the site

Ron Leckie, California, USA:  September 14, 2014


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