Why Merchiston?

Educating boys for over 175 years

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.

Merchiston Castle in 1829 Charles Chalmers framed

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.

Main school

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 beautiful grounds.

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.

Pipe band at the school

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 staff.

Notable former pupils

Some notable former pupils, known as 'Merchistonians', are:

Former pupils have their own Club, which is active in social events, reunions, charitable work and supporting the School.

1864-65 1st XX

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 side!

To understand a typical boy's experience during his time at Merchiston, see our interactive Merchiston Journey.