Royal School Of Dunkeld Marks 450 Years
The dark February evenings have been brighter than usual for residents of Dunkeld and Birnam. Throughout the month, The Royal School of Dunkeld has been illuminated to mark its 450th anniversary. Indeed February launched 5 months of celebration for the school and the wider community, which will culminate in a Royal Garden Party on 27th June.
Believed to be the oldest ‘Royal’ school in Scotland, the school has educated the children of many ancient Highland Perthshire families and former pupils include a Prime Minister of Canada (Alexander Mackenzie), 2015 Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Flora Shedden and sports broadcaster Eilidh Barbour. The roots of education run very deep along the banks of the Tay and a church school would certainly have existed in Dunkeld by the end of the 8th century. Bishop George Brown, Chancellor of Dunkeld Cathedral, founded a Grammar School in the early 16th century for the education of choristers. The precursor of today’s Royal School, this was located in the Cathedral Chapel of St. George until much of the Cathedral was destroyed in 1560 during the Reformation.
A few years later, on 2nd February 1567, the Earl of Moray in the name of King James VI of Scotland granted a Royal Charter for a Grammar School "to be called for all time to come The Royal School of Dunkeld". At the same time the school came under the patronage of the Earl of Atholl and his successors and the original Royal Charter still resides in the archives at Blair Castle. Some of today’s children will have an opportunity to view this remarkable document at the castle and others may see it during the June celebrations at the cathedral and school.
After the school was destroyed at the Battle of Dunkeld in 1689 pupils were accommodated in a building attached to the east gable of the Cathedral, which still shows the marks. By 1798 the scholars numbered 80 in winter and 60 in summer, each paying 2/6d per quarter, and the schoolmaster’s annual salary was £34. During this century the school moved to a building at the foot of Cathedral Street, remaining there until 1891 when it relocated to Culloden House at the Cross. Both boys and girls were educated here, however in 1853 a girls’ school, endowed by Anne, Duchess of Atholl, was established nearby. When this closed in 1898 the girls rejoined the boys in the Royal Grammar School. By 1930, pupils from Dunkeld and schools on the other side of the river in Little Dunkeld and Torwood were transferred to the present building, which carries on the proud name and history of The Royal School of Dunkeld. The bishop's mitre in the school’s coat of arms recalls its Cathedral origins. To help mark the 450th anniversary, the Court of the Lord Lyon is restoring the school’s original coat of arms letter patent.
The Royal School of Dunkeld has always been at the heart of the community and the 450th anniversary provides many opportunities to join in. Any time from now and throughout the spring, former pupils are invited to schedule school visits for sharing memories with children.
Then on June 27th the cathedral will host a special service, local businesses will be invited to decorate their windows, children will be dressed from different historical eras at the school’s Royal Garden Party and local artists will display artifacts created to commemorate the anniversary. The Bridge and Heartland FM will bring you updates on this unique season of celebration in the months to come. Watch this space!
Calling all former pupils and teachers of The Royal School of Dunkeld:
As we celebrate the school's 450th anniversary, we are on the hunt for community archives. Do you have any photographs, cine films, postcards, letters, newspaper clippings especially relating to the school and perhaps the celebrations in 1967? Were you a star pupil who received a prize book or certificate? We would like to display these and make digital copies of some artefacts, where possible, for future generations. All items will be treated with care and returned. Please drop off at the Community Archive, The Cross, Dunkeld.
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