Edinburgh Branch Event: Visit to George Heriot's School SALTIRE SOCIETY EDINBURGH BRANCH VISIT TO GEORGE HERIOT’S Eight members of the Edinburgh Branch including two Former pupils enjoyed a visit during the Easter holiday on 13 April to Heriot’s hosted by the School’s admissions manager Gemma Cousins. George Heriot (1563-1624) was the banker to King James VI of Scotland, moving with the royal court to London in 1603 when he set up at the Court of St James. His legendary wealth inspired the character of 'Jinglin' Geordie' in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Fortunes of Nigel' (1843). He left no surviving legitimate children, but bequeathed a substantial amount for the provision of a hospital and school in his home city for 'puir faitherless bairns'. On a site immediately outwith the Flodden Wall, the foundation stone was laid in 1628 with completion in the 1640s, but commencement as a school was interrupted with its occupation by Cromwell and the first pupils were not admitted until 1659. Notable for its renaissance architecture, the school is a turreted building surrounding a large Quadrangle, and built out of sandstone. The intricate decoration above each window is unique, with one paired exception. A statue of the founder can be found in a niche on the north side of the quadrangle, and the clocktower was added by Sir William Bruce in 1693. The gatehouse onto Lauriston Place is by William Henry Playfair and dates from 1829. The chapel interior (1837) is byJames Gillespie Graham, who is likely to have been assisted by Augustus Pugin : today it remains popular both for year group assemblies and of celebrations by the Heriot former pupil community. From an initial roll of only 30, the school expanded while always retaining even to this day its provision of foundationers, subject to means-testing, for pupils who have lost their fathers, now either parent. Today the school funds the education of 61 pupils who have lost either a father or a mother. Numbered stones round the Quadrangle indicated where each of 180 boys was to stand. A legend from the early days was of a drummer boy whose role was to wake up the pupils. Thus, he was unpopular, and was pushed down a corkscrew stair to his death. Thereafter a faint drumming could be heard whenever there was a full moon ... In the nineteenth century the Governors established 20 outdoor schools in the city's poorer neighbourhoods, the last of which was taken over by the Council in 1923. They also contributed towards the creation of Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh's second University. Serbian pupils were admitted during the Great War: much more recently there have been Syrians, and activities are currently taking place in school to support the needs of the Ukrainian refugees. Day pupils arrived from 1868, and the roll rose from 200 to its present 1665, with girls admitted from 1979. Now the number is too great for the annual Founders Day ceremony to be accommodated in the Quadrangle, so it is held on the east lawn and fortunately is rarely rained off. Built in the 1880s, the Senior Hall was split horizontally in 1988 by the insertion of a mezzanine floor which allows closer examination of the hammerbeam ceiling, and continues to house morning assembly. A lectern was donated by Bank of Scotland to the memory of those who suffered at the Dunblane massacre in 1996.The refectory has been reprovided on the west lawn, releasing the original accommodation (which retains its historic plaques in tribute to benefactors) to become a comfortable staff room, and between it and the Council Room are sporting trophies and photos of past headmasters. Outbuildings around the playground retain the historic names of the school houses Castle, Greyfriars, Lauriston and Raeburn. Keeping the buildings heated to an equable temperature will always be a challenge, with any alterations requiring the approval of Historic Environment Scotland, and a modern problem of seagulls trying to steal pupils' lunches has been addressed by regular visits of a hawk. The School motto “I Distribute Chearfullie” implies a generosity of spirit. Separation of the role of Principal from that of Head Teacher allows more time to be devoted to strategic development. Former Principal Cameron Wyllie said that while at school we should work hard, be kind and be happy. It is more important to achieve a personal best than to measure an overall score. Heriot’s provides a safe space for pupils to feel that they can be themselves as part of growing up.