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History, traditions & ethos
The School was founded in 1828 by Charles
Chalmers. Five years after the School started, in 1833, it moved to
Merchiston Castle, an early 15th century tower in Colinton,
Edinburgh. In 1550 this was the birthplace of John Napier, the
inventor of logarithms. (Today the tower can still be seen in the
grounds of Napier University.) Hence the School took its name from
this building, and the School's coat of arms also derives from
those of the Napier family.
Engraving of Merchiston Castle in 1829
(l), showing the additional tower built when the School moved in;
portrait of Charles Chalmers (r).
Charles Chalmers founded the School as a boys' boarding school,
and it remained at the Merchiston Castle for almost 100 years. In
1930 the decision was made to move to the current greenfield site
at Colinton, some three miles further along the same road. The
present day main buildings date from this time, though 18th century
Colinton House, the original centre piece of the estate, now houses
the Science Department.
The School today. The
main block and boarding houses were purpose-built in 1930. The
School benefits from a well-designed campus and 100 acres of
In today's school, traditional Scottish elements, such as the
wearing of the kilt for formal occasions, are very prominent, and
the Pipe Band features frequently in school life. Rugby is played
enthusiastically throughout the School, and indeed the annual
fixture against Edinburgh Academy, which has now been played
continuously for over 150 years, is the longest established
inter-club match in existence anywhere in the world.
The School is
proudly Scottish and maintains traditions such as the wearing of
the kilt and a pipe band.
The School's motto 'Ready ay Ready' features
in the chorus of the School Song, which was last revised in the
1950s but is much older in origin. This refrain is still sung
enthusiastically by the School on frequent occasions.
The School's ethos is based on people and
relationships, and particular importance is attached to the
development of personal character and moral values in the pupils.
The atmosphere, although in some respects formal, is also one of
pleasant and relaxed collaboration between pupils and
Some notable former pupils, known as
Former pupils have their own
Club, which is active in social events,
reunions, charitable work and supporting the
The first known photo of the School's
rugby team, taken in 1865. Pictured outside the original Merchiston
Castle, the extension building with faux castle walls can be
clearly seen. In those days the team were 20 players a
To understand a typical boy's experience during his time
at Merchiston, see our interactive Merchiston Journey.
© 2015 Merchiston. Charity Number SC016580. Site by UNION DIGITAL
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