Dr Bell's School




Jim Stewart

West Lothian, Scotland

John Stewart was born in Leith in 1934 and attended Dr Bell's school from 1939.  Here are a couple of short extracts from John's memories of attending Dr Bell's school in Great Junction Street, Leith.

John wrote:

From 1939

Setting off to Dr Bell's School

"Each morning I would encounter Bill Wright the postie, weighed down with his postbag coming down the street, and at other times `Condie` the plumber with his toolbag balanced on one shoulder without a steadying hand, and his grease-laden cap lying flat on his head.

`Ding! Ding! Ding!  The schoolbell pealed out from its niche high up on the side of the building as I was meandering down Brewery Lane.  Off I set as fast as my little legs could carry me.  Reaching the policeman on duty outside the school, no lollipop man then, he'd greet me with a "Never early are you?".

John Stewart, Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland,  February 7, 2006




Jim Mowat


Thank you to Jim Mowat, who attended Dr Bell's School from 1940 to 1947  for sending me these memories of the school.

Jim wrote:



"I attended from 1940 to 1947 as I lived then in Kirk Street.

Three of my teachers were Miss McPherson, Mrs Mackie and Miss Duncan.  The  headmaster in those days was Mr Barrie.

I remember Miss Steele wearing her striped blazer and cycling to school from somewhere down Ferry Road.  She was probably a nice old soul but she terrified most of us."

School Dinners

"I never had school dinners but if I remember correctly those who did had go to Bonnington primary for them"


"I remember Mr Mckenzie who ran the football.  Our star player was Jock Buchanan who played for Hibs,  and was understudy to the great Laurie Riley,  and then I think played for Raith Rovers.

Mr Mckenzie went on to be head of Newhaven Primary School."

Jim Mowat, Edinburgh:  October 5, 2007




Patricia Moore

Leith, Edinburgh

Thank you to Patricia Moore, Leith, for leaving a message in the EdinPhoto guest book

Patricia  wrote:


Happy Memories

"I have such wonderful memories of Leith  -  Dr Bells primary school from 1953, then David Kilpatrick's from 1960 to 1963.

I'd love to contact anyone from Leith that may remember me:

The Duthie family

 Maureen from No.16

Helen Douglas

Paddy Trainor

all wonderful street pals that will be in my warm memories from my childhood."

Patricia Moore, Leith, Edinburgh:  December 17, 2009

Reply to Patricia?

If you'd like to reply to Patricia, please add a reply to the message that she left in the EdinPhoto guest book on December 17, 2009


email me then I'll pass your message on to her (assuming that I have discovered her email address by then).

Thank you.     -  Peter Stubbs:  December 19, 2009




Sarah Scheiman


Sarah Scheiman wrote:


International Workcamp

"I've enjoyed reading about Leith's history.  I'm considering a return trip to Scotland this fall, and wanted to know if Dr. Bells School in Leith was still standing.  I hope to see it again.  It will bring back so many memories to me.

During the summer of 1959, after college graduation, I was in an international Quaker workcamp in Leith and we stayed in Dr. Bells school and worked in the homes of the elderly in Leith.

l and another American plus 7 other nationalities were in the camp, about 20 of us altogether.  We painted, cleaned and repaired apartments as needed.  Altho it was almost 55 yrs ago, it was one of the most memorable times of my life.

Seeing the dock area and meeting these wonderful elderly people who had been thro so much during their lifetime was such an inspiration to all of us.

Also working in teams of 2 or 3 with team mates of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds was a wonderful experience and certainly enriched my life.

On the last day of workcamp, we invited all the folks in whose homes we had worked to Dr. Bell's School for a lunch and a farewell program. When they sang
                           " Will Ye No' Come Back Again"
there wasn't a dry eye of the workcampers in the room."

Sarah Scheiman, USA:  April 15, 2014


"Hi Sarah:

Dr Bell's School

"Thanks for your memories of the workcamp at Dr Bell's school.  If you do visit Edinburgh this year, I hope you have an enjoyable visit here.

Yes, Dr Bell's school is still standing.  I don't know what its current use is, but it appears to have recently been refurbished.  It still looks very much the same from the outside as it would have looked when you stayed there."


"As for the rest of Leith, you'll notice some changes that have occurred over the past 55 years.  There are now many more restaurants in Leith, but most of the heavy industry has gone.

The docks area has changed.  The docks still have some commercial traffic.  There are no longer any passenger ferries operating from Leith, but cruise liners have become regular visitors to Leith Docks during the summer months.  The docks now include:

large new apartment blocks and other new housing

a large shopping centre and cinema complex

-  an Asda supermarket

-  a health club, a hotel and a casino!"

International Workcamps

"During my first few years in Edinburgh, from the age of 18 (in 1963) I was a member of International Voluntary Service.

IVS members spent weekends, throughout the year,  decorating old people's homes in Leith and elsewhere in Edinburgh.  We used materials mostly donated by the Leith paint and wallpaper company, Craig & Rose.  I remember lots of pink + white paint, and wallpaper with pink roses!

I also spent time on IVS Workcamps of the type that you mention, elsewhere in Britain, and our IVS Edinburgh Group made the arrangements for similar workcamps for international volunteers who came to  Edinburgh.

These volunteers were accommodated in Dr Bell's School.  They made good use of the facilities there, including the swimming pool.  I spent some time with the volunteers there in the evenings, after they had completed their voluntary work for the day."

     Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  April 15, 2014


Old Leither Web Site

The Dr Bell's school page on John Stewart's 'Old Leither' web site included more of John's memories and other people's memories of Leith.

Sadly, John died after a short illness in January 2012, and his  Old Leither' web site has finally come to an end.  However much of the material from that site can still be accessed on:

-  the Spirit of Leithers website or

-  Alan Bett's Leither website.


Dr Bell's School Photos

Hannah Spence-Thom, USA, writes

"I attended Dr Bells Primary School from 1947 until about 1954.   I had school photos taken every year but it seems that no one saved them.  I just wonder if there is anyone out there that has some.

I have lived here in the USA for almost 40 years, but have never forgotten my roots or my memories.

Hannah (Anna)  Spence-Thom  USA:  September 14, 2007

If you have any of the old photos that Hannah is looking for and would like to contact her, please e-mail me and I will pass your message on to her.

Thank you.    - Peter Stubbs,  September 15, 2007.


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