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

35 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.

  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

    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

  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

    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.
      I have already put a reply to Gerrard on this site hope to hear from you.
      Best Wishes

  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:



    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.


  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

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