Dr Guthrie’s Schools, Edinburgh

One of the great joys of researching family history on behalf of others is when you encounter archives previously unknown to you in the pursuit of your quest. I’ve discovered via health board records that my client’s grandmother was resident in a Dr Guthrie’s school in the 1930’s. I previously had not encountered this name but have since become familiar with the organisation. Dr.Thomas Guthrie was a Victorian minister and philanthropist who established the Edinburgh Original Ragged Industrial Schools in 1847 to educate some of the destitute children found on the city streets.  Over time the schools evolved, coming into the state education system around 1920 and later becoming ‘approved schools’ for the care of juvenile offenders and children requiring protection.

Although some of the personal records for these schools are closed for 100 years, I’ve obtained permission for my client to access the admission registers herself at the National Records of Scotland which will hopefully give her information about the family that her grandmother came from. The NRS catalogue suggests that these registers record the pupil’s name, age, birthplace, where, when, and by whom ordered to be detained, with what charged, term of detention, when admitted, name/address/occupation of parents, birthplace, parish, state of instruction and disposal. I look forward to accompanying my client to access these records very soon. As there are no other family links available this is the only way that my client can trace her family background so we are very hopeful of a positive result.

Records of Dr Guthrie’s schools covering the period of 1852 to 1985 are kept by the National Records of Scotland under reference GD425. Details of how to get permission to access specific records is included on the NRS Catalogue

49 thoughts to “Dr Guthrie’s Schools, Edinburgh”

  1. Our visit to the NRS Historical Search Room went well. Once we had her fixed up with her Reader’s Ticket (she just needed to bring 2 photos and some ID) we were brought the Admissions Register for the Dr Guthrie’s Girls’ School, we quickly were able to find her grandmother, age 15, in the Register in 1939. She’d been referred by the RSSPCC because she was considered to be ‘In Moral Danger’ at home. It turns out that she was being looked after by a married couple described as her guardians, and they were reported to be ‘Not of Good Character’. So we’ve still not found her parents, although I’ve since found one or two clues which suggest that the wife of this couple may have been related to the girl’s mother. A search of the birth records failed to find an exact match for her grandmother taking into account her location , year of birth and her name. So the search goes on and I’m sure we’ll get there in the end.

  2. Was resident at dr Guthrie’s 1969/70 would like to get in touch with girls who were residing with me then

    1. go and look in Facebook, there is a closed group in Facebook and in the group there is a few ladies who were in Dr Guthries at the time you were there.

          1. Hello Gerrard I was also in Dr Guthrie’s in the 60s and the abuse was ongoing at least a decade before your arrival I remember the boys swimming naked after running around the football field in winter first boys in the pool broke the ice because the janitor started the boiler to heat the water but you may know that little punishment is nothing compared to the degrading abuse we had to endure I can only hope your time in Guthrie’s was not the HELL that I and my fellow pupils has to suffer I was 13 years old when I arrived for rehabilitation now fifty nine years later I still remember that terrible place daily.

    2. I was at dr Guthrie’s girls school too in 1969/1970. My name then was Margaret Sandison. ( known as Meg). It was February 1969 to August 1970. I still remember a lot the girls names . If you remember me I’d love to hear from you. I came from Elgin.

    3. Hi. I see you were at dr Guthrie’s girls school from 1969/1970. I was there from February 1969 to 1st August 1970. My name then was Margaret Sandison . I came from Elgin in the north east of Scotland. What was you’re name back then as we both must have been there at the same time. Meg.

    4. I was placed in Guthries boys from 77- Dec 79. I was removed from the Assessment centre up from Guthries mid 77 when I told the child sociologist about the sexual abuse that had happened to me. While in Guthries I was accused of stealing the lead from the windows. Which I hadn’t done and the senior care worker (the guy with the beard and smoked the pipe). He called me into his office on a Sunday night when returning from w/end leave. He told me that I had to admit to the theft. I refused and he punched me in the upper chest and broke my ribs. I was in so much pain on the Monday morning that they called the nurse in. She had reported that I had food poisoning and had to stay in bed for a week. When I was in my bed the care worker who hit me came in and told me that there was no point in me saying anything as the police would not believe a criminal especially one who was in Guthries. Nothing was ever said about it again. I have tried to get my records but they have blanked everything out just the dates. Nd the best of the reports that I received is they got the dates wrong when I left. I left frid 21st Dec 1979 but they have me as leaving a year later. I started to wonder if I was wrong and checked back my tax records with the government tax site. And I was rite it was jan 1980 that I started paying tax in my first job at Aarnots on the bridges in Edinburgh. So my time in care and protection with Edinburgh Council is a made up joke to them.

  3. For those interested, in 1892 at least 4 girls from Dr Guthries were emigrated to Canada as “Home Children” for indentured service as follows:

    WALKER Elizabeth, age 16
    BARROWMAN Sarah, age 16
    FAIRLEY Jane, age 16
    MURRAY, M, female, age 16

    They travelled to Canada on the Sarmatian, departing Glasgow 02 July 1892, arriving Quebec 13 July 1892. They were first taken to the St. Andrews Home in Montreal, Quebec, Canada before being placed out to indentured service.

    In Canada, these children have become known as the “British Home Children”.

    LeeAnn Beer
    BHCARA BHC Registry Admin.

  4. I was in Dr Guthrie’s Girls School in the spring of 1972 for four months. Would be nice to catch up with anyone who may have been there at the same time.

    1. I was there 1969/71 my name was Susan gray and I was from Aberdeen the other girls were Carrie Joyce Cheryl Margaret

      1. I was in dr Guthrie’s girls school from Feb1969 to Aug1970. I did reply to you but I don’t know if you received it. I remember a lot of the girls at the time I was there but your name doesn’t ring a bell. I’d love to hear from you. Meg

  5. Hi my name is William Mckechnie was at Dr Guthrie’s from 1965 to 1969 does anyone remember me please get in touch.thanks

    1. Dear William, I am an English woman now aged 70 who spent about 7 months in 1968/9 doing voluntary work at Dr Guthrie’s Boys in Liberton. I remember my mother down in Kent being utterly horrified by my plan to go up to Edinburgh to work there as I was only aged 18/19. Nevertheless I still went. Upon my arrival I was told that there had been a lot of trouble locally with the school so they couldn’t recruit staff so I was given the job (unpaid) as the assistant matron under Elizabeth Mackenzie, a lovely woman but very strait laced from a family of wee frees. I still remember her taking me to her church one Sunday, an unnerving experience, very formal with all the women in hats apart from me. I do have fond memories of all the staff. Was it John Millar who was the Head? A nice family.

      I have fond memories of the camp in Dunbar.Though there was a difficult day once when some of the lads stole some live crabs and let them loose on the kitchen floor! I cannot remember now what happened next. No doubt someone sorted out the problem.

      i hope you have managed to enjoy a good life. I do wish I had bothered to keep in touch with some people there but of course being young, fancy free and careless I did not ..

      My good wishes to you,
      Sally Adams
      020-8874-0643

    2. My mum was here in the late 70s her name then was Lucy Arthur and is still her name now, she has loads of memories some good but some not so good my uncle was in the boys bit around the same time George Arthur

    3. Hi William I left Dr Guthrie’s just as you arrived are you as surprised as I was reading that the abuse was still being dished out in the seventies/eighties l believe you must have seen abuse or even been abused because it went on for the couple of years that I spent there did you have to swim naked in the freezing pool ? well there was a lot worse than that going on when I was a pupil.
      By for now William
      Take care
      Gus.

    4. Hi William I was there 19 64 to1966 then was transferred to Geilsland school Airshiire .My name is Geoff Corbett.

  6. Was in guthries girls school from 78 until march 1980 there is a facebook page for anyone that wants to catch up

  7. We’re having a demonstration, outside the Scottish Parliament, on the 2nd Sep at 11am, 2020.
    We will be demonstrating and objecting to the pittance the Scottish parliament is offering abuse victims. They are offering a measly £10k but before they hand over the pittance. We must sign a waiver giving up our legal rights to take the abusers and institutions involved to court.

    1. I was in dr guthries when I was 10 years old in 1980 my name is Derek Tarbett and I am from Dundee. Does anyone remember me?.
      I was abused many times when I was there. My email address is
      tarbettderek@gmail.com.

    2. Fred I can’t access Facebook to talk about Dr Guthrie’s I was a pupil early sixties I would be happy if you could email me.
      gusnotman@gmail.com
      I have already put a reply to Gerrard on this site hope to hear from you.
      Best Wishes
      Gus.

  8. Hi there I was in Dr Guthrie’s for a term not sure if I was there same time as yourself but my older sister was there before me

  9. Over the last few years there has been a range of responses to this post that I made about Dr Guthrie’s Schools 6 years ago . To some, the experience appears not to have been a particularly negative one but to others, it was an abusive time and it has clearly had a profound effect on some of you. I do hope that, if that was your experience, that you have made a submission to the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Please check out the link below if you haven’t done so already:

    https://www.childabuseinquiry.scot/

    Thanks,

    Andrew Armstrong

    1. adminaa.

      I want to thank you for making this website and keeping it up to date. There aren’t many Dr. Guthrie-related websites. Your blog allows us to post comments and find other groups to join.

      1. Thanks Fred – Very happy to host it here. It’s clear that there is a need which is perhaps not being met elsewhere. If I can do anything to help bring together those who spent time at Dr Guthrie’s then I feel it is worthwhile.
        Andrew Armstrong

  10. The Dr. Guthries Facebook group presently has 30 members.
    We are between the ages of 72 and 50.

     https://www.facebook.com/groups/1581096342197510/

  11. Hi my name is David Nicol. I was in
    Dr Guthrie”s. From 1957 to 1961 I was in
    Stair house. Does anyone remember me.

    1. Hi David there is a Dr Guthrie’s group on Facebook the link is above in Fred Crainer June 23 2020 good luck

    1. David go to Fred Crainer’s post above June 23 2020
      He is one of our administrators click on the Facebook account

  12. Regarding the child abuse inquiry… Recently, I’ve started asking myself. Why didn’t they just continue to ignore us? “Wouldn’t that have been better?” Prior to 2015, I hardly ever considered the abuse I had as a child due to the obvious negative effects it would have had on my mental health.
    I came close to being resistant to memories. But because of this child abuse investigation, I’ve thought about the abuse I suffered almost every day. I erroneously thought that I may someday receive justice. But it’s all been a complete ruse. Most survivors over 50 are going to get nothing except a pittance of £10,000. Most of the abusers are dead, so they can’t be punished. Some institutions are getting away with everything, no matter how awful their abuse was. It would have been better for the survivors of my generation if they had never looked into child abuse.

  13. Hello to all who suffered at the hands of abusers at Dr Guthries staff in their institutions I,m Davy Smith on of the Admins at Fred Crainers group. What we suffered at their hands people do not believe, most of the staff in these places were ex military. .I was placed into Dr Guthries Boys school on the 9th October 1967 for so called Care and protection and looking at the copy of papers I managed to get I do not recognise what was supposed to have endured before I was placed in there as its full of mistruths. The only good memory I had in there was when the headmaster used to read to us at night, His name was Mr Miller, after he died the deputy headmaster took over and he was a nightmare. The science teacher at that time tried to sexually molest me so I kicked him and ran away from the school and was returned by the police and when I gave my reasons for what I had done and what that teacher tried doing to me I was called a liar and was made to drop my trousers and underpants and was beaten across the backside with a leather belt several times. My right hand got broke in the gym during a violent game called bulldog and I was told it was just bruised but a few years later I had to get nerves removed from my ring finger and my little finger as they were trapped in where the bones were broken. I have a black dot on my forehead where I was stabbed in my head with a pencil by the art teacher and even now more than 50 years later when shaving that black dot brings back memories of that hell hole..

  14. I want to ask the people reading this blog if they remember the man who was responsible for Dr. Guthrie’s boys’ school summer sports days in 1970 and 1971. I know what I called him, but according to my lawyer, Dr. Guthrie’s association said he never existed and they had no name for him. He did exist. He was tall, over 6 feet, had a limp, or was slightly lame. He always carried a walking stick that he converted into a chair. He spoke very posh, like he was a lord or royalty. He had a brand new Range Rover in 1970 or 1971. It was blue. He had a blue Land Rover with a C reg plate “1966”. He also had another old pre-1963 plate blue Land Rover. This man also took the boys to the swimming pool, to Thornton Lock’s summer camp, and to Monynut Water. Does anyone remember this man? He was an abuser, and he and Dr. Guthrie’s boys’ school are getting away with serious abuse.

    1. Yes I remember him he made us call him god he was swimming instructor I’m sure big tall black headed guy I was there from 1965/1969

      1. I can’t remember him having black hair, more brown, light colored. He did speak very posh and he always carried a walking stick that could double as a chair. Apparently, according to the Dr. Guthrie association, this man didn’t exist as they had no record of him.

      2. Neil you might be interested in joining the Dr Guthrie’s System Survivors there are a couple of guy’s in the group the were in Guthrie’s at the same time as you, take care and good luck.

  15. We now have 999 signatures on our petition, and I’m happy to see that 999 more people agree with us that the statue honouring the man who established Scotland’s child prison system and whose family brutally ran the industrial schools, approved schools (List D) schools for 100 years while posing as devoted Christians should be taken down.
    A thousand strangers believed we were abused. I regret that I cannot say the same of Scottish lawyers.
    To all the survivors. The next time you visit Princes Street, don’t feel alone if you see the monument there. There are 999 more excellent people behind you. Over 120.000 people have seen our petition. The truth about the institutions run by Dr. Guthrie’s is also being revealed.
    Our petition will be kept open. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to persuade people to sign a petition to have a statue removed. Many perceive it as woke, left-wing cultural destruction. Others have good reasons for wanting a monument removed. We also have a valid justification for requesting the removal of the statue.
    To us, the statue acts as a constant reminder of trauma and suffering.

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