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James Gillespie’s High School

– Our Vision and Values

School motto: Fidelis et Fortis (Faithful and strong).

Our vision is to provide a curriculum which enables all learners at James Gillespie’s High School to achieve their potential. We aim for excellence in learning and teaching and expect all learners to be actively engaged in their own learning. We recognise that learning is a lifelong process and is one to which we, as a school community, make a significant and lasting contribution.

Our school values, which demonstrate what is important to us as a school, are:

1. Respect
2. Equality
3. Inclusion
4. Honesty and
5. High expectations/aspirations

Our school is proud of and celebrates the diversity of all of our people and their talents.

History of the School

Who was James Gillespie ?

James Gillespie, a wealthy Edinburgh manufacturer of snuff and tobacco, was born at Roslin in 1726. A plaque on the wall at 231 High Street indicates where his shop used to be and his shop sign – a small barrel marked ‘tobacco’ in gilt letters, with a boy beside it smoking a long pipe – can be seen at Huntly House in the Canongate. The big snuff jar from his shop is in Lady Stair’s House near the Lawnmarket and at Colinton is Spylaw House, where he once lived and in whose grounds he had a mill for grinding snuff. Also at Colinton, in the churchyard of St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, can be seen his tomb with the inscription stating that he left part of his vast fortune for the establishment of “a free school for the education of poor boys”.

In 1803, as a result of the legacy of James Gillespie, a school for 65 students and one master was opened in Bruntsfield Place.

In 1870 the school moved into a larger building where the Royal Blind Asylum now stands at Gillespie Crescent. As the school developed, girls were admitted as well as boys and the number of students exceeded 1,000. During this period it was a preparatory school for the Merchant Company’s Secondary Schools.

In 1908 the Edinburgh School Board took over the responsibility for the school and in 1914 it moved into the building at Bruntsfield Links, until recently used by Boroughmuir High School as an Annexe. By then James Gillespie’s School had a flourishing Secondary Department.

In 1935 Edinburgh Corporation acquired Bruntsfield House and its grounds from the Warrender family. The building of the present school commenced in 1964 and was completed in 1966. The school became a secondary school for 800 girls.

In 1973 the school became an area co-educational Comprehensive School, reorganisation beginning at First Year intake level. By 1978 the school was fully established as a co-educational six-year Comprehensive School.

In August, 1989 the school moved to one site on the completion of an extensive building and modernisation programme.

Bruntsfield House

Records as early as 1381 reveal that the mansion and lands of Bruntsfield then belonged to Richard Browne. Thereafter they passed to the Lauder family, who retained them for the next two hundred years, except for a brief period when the family was out of royal favour.

In May, 1544 the original house was destroyed in the ravages of ‘The Rough Wooing’ – the English attempt to force a marriage between Mary, Queen of Scots and Prince Edward of England. The house was rebuilt in the latter half of the sixteenth century by the Lauders of Haltoun.In 1603 the house and lands passed into the hands of John Fairlie and his wife, Elizabeth Westoun, whose initials appear over the windows and who, in 1605, added the east wing of the house.

In 1695 a descendant of John Fairlie sold the house to the first of its Warrender family owners and it was a later member of this family – Sir George Warrender, M.P. – who made the most interesting contribution to the history of the house. Noticing that the number of windows exceeded the number of rooms by one, he deduced the existence of a secret chamber, whose entrance was duly discovered behind an arras. The floor was blood-stained, ashes were in the grate and a skeleton was later found, buried beneath the window. This chamber became known as the Ghost Room and from it arose the legend of the Green Lady who is said to haunt the upper floors of the house to this day.

Further additions were made to the house in the nineteenth century. These have now been removed to reveal the house as it stood for over three hundred years. The school buildings have been grouped round Bruntsfield House and most of the original trees have been preserved, giving the school a distinctive character rarely found in modern schools.