School Histories

The School has had no less than five major histories published, plus an assortment of smaller publications from time to time. History is also available in other forms, including Annual Reports, Schola Regia Editions the WW1 and WW2 Rolls of Honour, a wealth of play and concert programmes, prospectus, sports histories and others. The last two formal histories, published in 1974 and 1997 respectively, have summarised versions which are available from this document. All five histories have been digitised, and are available as searchable PDF’s on application.

Steven’s 1849 History

Until around 2015, the practice was that all school leavers were given a complimentary version of the current school history: around that time, supplies of the latest version (John Murray’s 1997) dried up, and given a lack of funds, real historians, motivation and the emergence of the US-style pupil produced year-book, the option of digital records came naturally. In the first couple of years, leavers were given a DVD of the digitised 1974 and 1997 versions (and sundry other files), and by 2017 a digital history with an extensive menu had been created and a ‘Credit Card USB‘ containing well over 10 Gb of history was given to all 200 plus school leavers. Covid and a lack of funds pretty well scuppered that initiative, and the latest (economy) option is to publish some of the digital history on this website, this article being among the early components.

The principal paper volumes are as follows:

1849

For some reason, a Herioter was chosen to write this version (as opposed to contemporary teachers for the other four). William Steven D.D. produced a fine tome of close on 600 pages, and given it was the earliest version, it may be said to contain the best record of pre 19th century school history – subsequent versions appear to have utilised much of his research. This book was entitled ‘The History of the High School of Edinburgh’. It was to be a further 10 years before the ‘Royal’ prefix was added – for an explanation click here.

1911

The 1911 history occupies a much more modest 195 pages, and was written by James J Trotter, a serving teacher of German. His abiding passion however, is clearly seen to be Cricket, accounts of which occupy quite a portion of the book.

1934 (Revised 1949)

W C A (Bogie) Ross, Royal High boy and man, Cricketer extraordinaire, deputy rector and History master penned this modest (165) page history.

WCA (Bogie) Ross

The practice of signing the book started with this version, Masters on the inside front cover, fellow Scholars at the back. The examples shown were donated by Ian B MacGrain, school leaver in 1956.

‘Bogie’ Ross was Royal High ‘Man and Boy’, featuring in many photographs of his beloved sport – Cricket, generally speaking looking slightly detached… The photo shown on the right is an illustration on the early pages of his book. He undertook a revision of his volume, which contained accounts of many aspects of the Second World War. He was also Editor of the 1949 WW2 Roll of Honour.

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1974

John B Barclay, who also wrote ‘The RHS Club – a memoir, 1849-1999’, was responsible for this edition. At 152 pages, it demonstrates that successive editions lent heavily on past ones, not requiring to embellish the facts too much. A summary version of this history is available here, and is also available in the digital history along with the full (152 page) PDF version of the book

1997

John Murray, Music maestro and Depute Rector penned the 1997 version, which (in 2022) remains the latest paper version.

John taught Music at the School from 1971 to 2003, and was Assistant and then Acting Rector from 1979 and Depute Rector of the School in 1997-1998 during Matt MacIver’s absence. He obtained a doctorate in a study of Rector Alexander Adam (1768 – 1809), so was perfectly placed to author this, the latest paper version of the School’s History. This 134 page, 60,000 word history is very comprehensive until its final chapter (1989-1997), which will mean that any future substantive volume will require to commence around 1990. A summary version of this history is available here, and is also available in the digital history along with the full (134 page) PDF version of the book