The Nicolson - Past, Present & Future

The Past

The Clock SchoolIn 1873, five brothers called Nicolson, all from the burgh of Stornoway, donated money to help establish the school. The second youngest of these bothers, Alexander Morison Nicolson, is considered to be the founder of the school; when he was tragically killed by a boiler explosion on board a ship in Shanghai harbour at the age of thirty-three, he left almost £2000 in his will to found a school in his native town - "for the education and rearing of destitute children, in the hope that I may be indirect means of rendering some assistance to the children of some of my oldest acquaintances".


Springfield NorthThe only part of the original school, then called "The Nicolson Institution", still standing is the Clock Tower near the junction of Matheson Road and Sandwick Road. The school was renamed The Nicolson Institute by a decree issued by the Court of Session in 1901. For its first twenty years the school was only a primary school. Gradually secondary classes were established until the school offered a full P1 - S6 education for it's pupils. In 1969 the school became purely Secondary when the Primary Department became a school in its own right and moved to a purpose-built building on Jamieson Drive, vacating the Springfield South ("Pink School") and Matheson Hall buildings as well as the Clock School and some of the South Huts.

Over the years, as the roll increased, new buildings were added such as the Francis Street building (now the museum) in 1896, Matheson Hall (1904), Springfield South (1937) the Main Building (1957), the Science Block (1974) the Art/Music Block (1976) and the English/History block (1989). Under the leadership of Mr WJ Gibson (1894-1925), the school began sending senior pupils straight to university and became one of the leading Scottish state secondary schools.

The Nicolson InstituteWe send around 100 senior pupils to university every year with many more going into further education colleges, training and the world of work. We are right at the forefront of the most recent educational developments and are now a truly comprehensive school, catering for all levels of ability and allowing all pupils to develop their full potential. Our former pupils in every corner of the world are proud to say they attended The Nicolson Institute.

The Present


Since August 2012 the school has moved into a brand new building alongside the council offices on Springfield road.  Some of the older parts of the school have been kept, with Springfield North and the Old Gym renovated and linked via a glass corridor to the new building.  The clock tower has been integrated back into the grounds, and Matheson Hall has also been fully refurbished and is used as the central ICT hub for all the schools.

You can download a PDF on the history of the Nicolson Institute here.

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