School History

Trinity Academy, Craighall Avenue, Edinburgh, EH6 4RT

This article orginally appeared in the Trinity Academy Centenary Magazine published in 1993

A Brief History of Trinity Academy

Building work on Trinity Academy should have started on July 11, 1891, with the traditional dram over the foundation stone - laid with full Masonic honours by Leith School Board chairman Robert Somerville - but his wife was a temperance supporter and would not allow it. Instead, each man received a book, From Dark to Dawn in Fiji, and the enterprise was launched into the late Victorian age on the era's twin pillars of Empire and disciplined self-improvement.

Building delays, which were to characterise the century to come, led to the original contractors being struck off the Board's list, but on September 4, 1893, Craighall Road School, as it was first known, was opened with Thomas Trotter, formerly of North Fort Street, as Rector. With a frontage deemed 'of a superior kind to most other schools' it had cost £18,850 and five shillings, (excluding the purchase of the land from the Laird of Bonnington, James Clerk-Rattray) and had all modern conveniences - electric bells and voice tubes connecting the Rector's room to the classes and Cowan's patent gas lamps throughout.

The formal opening was carried out by Miss Flora Stevenson on February 1, 1894, but already there was controversy. The Board intended making all the elementary departments fee-paying, waiving fees only for the secondary, but a dissenting member wanted free education and complained to the Scottish Office. He pointed to friction at Leith Academy, with those paying fees looking down on those who did not. 'Objection was raised against their presence, as, being lower caste, they were injurious to the school,' he wrote. The majority prevailed and fees were paid at Trinity until the comprehensive schooling debate, three-quarters of a century later.

In 1895 the first one hundred and twenty-seven pupils were presented for Leaving Certificates in Mathematics, Arithmetic, English, French and German - eighty-one successfully. Inspectors were openly critical in those days ‘grammar needs smartening... sluggishness in oral work' but the school's reputation grew. In 1901, the year of Queen Victoria's death, the school became Trinity Academy under the new Rector, Thomas Duncan. Edwardian inspectors were increasingly enthusiastic but the Great War loomed, a conflict which was to claim seventy-one former pupils and two teachers out of some three hundred who served.

As early as 1919 Trinity began to outgrow its main building and plans were drawn up for a new secondary block. It was to take forty-three years! In the meantime, access to Bangholm was negotiated. In 1925 James Scott arrived as Rector and the following year - how did they cope without it until then? - the House System was created.

Plans for a new block were again on the drawing board when the Second World War broke out. Many pupils were evacuated to Macduff on the Moray Firth until normal classes resumed in 1941. The following year Dr Albert Weir became Rector and at the height of hostilities, in September 1943, the school celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. In this war Trinity lost sixty-two former pupils.

Post-war landmarks during the rectorship of Alexander Neill between 1953 and 1969 were the completion of the new secondary block in March 1962 and the removal of the primary school from the huts at Bangholm to the new school on Newhaven Road in January 1968.

Trinity’s sixth rector, William Brodie, arrived in 1969 at a time when educational tides were turning, fees were being phased out, and the days of selective schooling in the public sector were numbered.

In September 1974, Trinity Academy merged with David Kilpatrick’s to become a fully comprehensive secondary serving North and West Leith, Newhaven and Trinity. Adjustment was difficult at times and there was the added inconvenience of running a split site, first with the David Kilpatrick building and then, after 1981, with the Holy Cross annexes. Declining school rolls across the city even led to the possibility of closure of the school or of merger with Leith Academy. However, there was life in Trinity yet. The objective of the current Rector, Peter Galloway, has been to combine the best elements of Trinity’s traditions with the aspirations and methods of a modern comprehensive. With pupil numbers on the increase, and with the school on a single site, Trinity Academy looks forward to continuing the tradition of turning out well-rounded citizens..

War Memorial Back

You can read an article about the school’s War Memorial by clicking on the picture above.