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
60 thoughts to “Dr Guthrie’s Schools, Edinburgh”
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.
Was resident at dr Guthrie’s 1969/70 would like to get in touch with girls who were residing with me then
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.
Do you know if there is a group for the boys which I believe was directly across the road ?
Was in the boys one in the 70s was a hateful place ,abuse was the norm .
We have a face book page for ex Guthries boys/girls. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1581096342197510/
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.
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.
Omg you was in the same time as me remember you well I think if I remember right you had quite curly hair I was Susan gray at the time I came from Aberdeen
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.
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.
i was in dr guthries in 74 would love to hear from anyone who was there at same time
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”.
BHCARA BHC Registry Admin.
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.
I was there 1969/71 my name was Susan gray and I was from Aberdeen the other girls were Carrie Joyce Cheryl Margaret
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
Hi my name is William Mckechnie was at Dr Guthrie’s from 1965 to 1969 does anyone remember me please get in touch.thanks
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,
Hi Sally would you have any photos of the school . William x
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
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
Hi William I was there 19 64 to1966 then was transferred to Geilsland school Airshiire .My name is Geoff Corbett.
I was in dr guthries from 1965/1968 my name is Neil dearie
Was in guthries girls school from 78 until march 1980 there is a facebook page for anyone that wants to catch up
I was there in 79 x
There are two face book pages for Dr Guthries Schools. One of the groups is open, the other locked. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1581096342197510/. You might have to join face book to get access. The groups have ex boys and girls who spent time in a Guthrie’s approved schools. The age range roughly between 64-50.
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.
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
I remember u dem tarbert im evelyn Stewart from perth I was also in dr guthries girls school and rannoch moor in strathmartine road dundee then burnside in kirkton did u have red hair
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.
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
I was in Guthrie girls school in 75 and was allowed to go to Liberton hospital to volunteer
I was in Guthrie in 76,
I volunteered in Liberton hospital too, at the Physio dept.
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:
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.
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.
The Dr. Guthries Facebook group presently has 30 members.
We are between the ages of 72 and 50.
Please support the petition by signing it.
The statue offers the public a very erroneous idea of Dr. Guthrie’s schools.
As a former inmate, I have firsthand knowledge of what it was like to attend a Dr, Guthrie’ school.
I see the statue every time I go to Edinburgh, and it bothers me greatly.
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.
Hi David there is a Dr Guthrie’s group on Facebook the link is above in Fred Crainer June 23 2020 good luck
Hi David join the Dr Guthrie’s group on Facebook the link is on the posts above ^
I would like to join the group,
David go to Fred Crainer’s post above June 23 2020
He is one of our administrators click on the Facebook account
David have you tried to join Dr Guthrie’s group
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.
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..
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.
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
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.
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.
Hi is reading your messages,
I was a resident at Dr Guthrie’s boys school at the age of eleven, I’m now nearly 65,
Before that I was in larchgrove and Cardross
I would agree with everything that I have read on this page from others in the way that we were all treated in regards to the daily abuse that we suffered,
I remember his name for some reason that has always stuck in my mind I will never forget him he was called Mr Gas,
another name I remember is mr Tom who was the PE teacher but as far as I can remember he was one of the better teachers,
Mr gas was one of the main culprits of most of the abuses that I endured, I also remember his Caine seat very well as we used to get a good hiding with it during away trips along with anything else he had close by used as a weapon, including his leather belt that he would hit you with after he removed your trousers,
I have no words to describe his level of cruelty towards me and a lot of other boys while in that place,
I was there in nineteen seventy, but thing’s that had been long forgotten are gradually coming back in the way everyone was treated,
I am still struggling to come to terms with anything that happened to me and others from that time, but there are no records kept from back then to help fill the blanks,
Everyone new what he was about, probably long dead now but hopefully he’s where he belongs now,
Edinburgh newspaper left a message on our petition,
I’m a reporter at Edinburgh Live. I’d like to pick this story up. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone opposed to this statue or impacted by the Guthrie schools can contact me!
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.
Our petition has been successful. A newspaper in Edinburgh published an article about Dr. Guthrie’s institutions.
I want to express my gratitude to Change.org and to everyone who promoted, shared and signed the petition.
The decent people of Edinburgh are now aware that Dr. Guthrie’s schools engaged in horrible child abuse. Our petition has exposed them for what they actually were. In 1949, Mps in Westminster wanted the boys’ school to close. The Scottish establishment had been aware for years that Dr. Guthrie’s staff had mistreated hundreds of the youngest, most helpless children, treating them like meat, and this abuse continued up until the boys’ school closed in 1985 and the girls’ school in 1986. They got away with it by blaming the children’s disruptive behaviour for the abuse and making derogatory remarks to justify it. They somehow managed to achieve B-List status for the statue in 1970. All of the abuse hushed up and white-washed by the Guthrie family, the church, and their powerful allies.
In my opinion, the Edinburgh elite will continue to ignore the survivors and have no intention of removing the statue, but thanks to Change.org, we were able to make the truth public. The fake child abuse inquiry can’t help them now. They have been exposed.
If you read the newspaper story, Edinburgh Council provided the following information:
In the newspaper piece, they claimed that they were unaware of the petition and that they had not rejected my request to have the statue taken down. They did reject my petition request. The same group informed me in a different email that they would not consider the Change.org petition. They were aware of the petition, as I can demonstrate.
Keeping in mind that, when children in Dr. Guthrie’s schools were being molested and tortured, this is the same council that gave the statue B-list classification. A leopard is said to not change its spots.
Congratulations on the petition and getting the publicity from the paper. I’m sorry to hear about your terrible experiences.
I am thinking ahead to when the abuse enquiry concludes and how the institutions will respond. I expect there will be a pressure to make public apologies.
Understandably, you’ve asked for the removal of the statue. But this puts you directly in the firing line from the right wing anti-woke brigade. Before you know it, a gang of nasty trolls will be up in arms defending the statue (which they hadn’t heard of until now) and attacking you as a “woke liberal who wants to erase history”. You don’t deserve this but I’m afraid you’ll get it.
I wonder if you’d thought of another path which might actually have more impact in the end.
Imagine the garden around the statue was named the “Edinburgh abuse survivors’ rememberence garden”. With the statue at its centre. It would feature panels sharing the statements of abuse, and apologies and promises from the institutions, and links to abuse survivors’ charities.
The opening of the garden would give a public opportunity for truth and reconciliation.
As part of the council’s reparations, they would agree to maintain the installation for as long as the statue remains.
Rather than “erasing history”, you would have added a counterbalance which will allow all those who see it to take their own view. The trolls will find it hard to object to that and might actually cheer it on.
Rather than Guthrie sitting in pride of place with dignity as he does now, he would forevermore be surrounded by the reality of the abuse.
Whatever happens, I hope that you eventually get a meaningful and public acknowledgement of your experiences and can find peace of mind.
I am as far as i am concerned a survivor,
I have lived through all of my life trying to keep all of the darkest times and memories from my childhood years locked away somewhere within but recently although very patchy memories are gradually coming back,
I have lived my life with knowing that I have always treated others with respect including my own children those days back then were the darkest,
Very different times,
When I left there I never had much of a normal life because of that place, I was put in there at the age of eleven through childrens panels,
I never had much in the way of schooling because of none attendance
I never went back to school because of the mistreatment and mistrust of adults along with no confidence, I always dodged school until I managed to get a job at age fourteen using my brothers name, until I was old enough to use my own in a different job,
I gradually learned to get on with my own life although not the best at arithmetic or spelling
I have never been unemployed, as you learn to deal with things from the past in a different way,
I would support your suggestion 100% of keeping that statue in place with all of the statements from survivors all around it,
Just to let everyone know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and provide the proof that we were never broken by their actions back then,
Let people make up their own minds,
I apologise for the delayed response; I’ve been ill for the past two weeks. I’ve been in severe pain with my left hand semi-paralysed, caused by being stabbed in the spine with a key whilst in the care of Dr. Guthrie’s boy’s school.
I’ve been ignored by the abuse inquiry and the system. The only option I have to confront Dr. Guthrie’s boys’ school and expose them for what they really are is through the statue petition. I’ve already had the “anti-woke” brigade accuse me of wanting to destroy culture and history. They fail to understand or don’t want to understand why I’m objecting to the statue.
The petition is, in my opinion, being mostly ignored by Edinburgh City Council and the abuse inquiry in the hopes that it will eventually fade and disappear from the public’s eyes.
I believe what is happening in Scotland with our child abuse inquiry is that children who were put into care under care and protection orders are being treated differently from other abused children. They are classifying us as criminals instead of children who were abused in care and treating us unfairly. The abuse some of us experience is way beyond what most other survivors experienced, but strangely, we are the last group to be investigated. Also, I find it impossible to find a lawyer on legal aid in Scotland who is prepared to take the institutions that abuse me to court. I now deeply regret ever contacting the abuse inquiry. It’s taken almost seven years for the police to interview me, and I have received no apology, and nobody that I’m aware of has been arrested.
It’s now been over seven years since I first made contact with the abuse inquiry. After 46 years of waiting, I was finally expecting some sort of closure, possibly arrests, and possibly compensation. After more than seven years, I’ve got nothing. No arrest, no compensation, no apology, and the inquiry still has to investigate Dr. Guthries.
How many abuse survivors have died since December 2015? This abuse inquiry is so bad that I actually told them eight weeks ago not to use my statement, and they have ignored me and will continue using a statement I have objected to and withheld permission for them to use.
Instead of giving us closure, they are giving us nothing but stress. It’s just reinforced my belief that the system does not care much about abused survivors, especially those who suffered in approved schools and remand homes.
So much for the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. This is what’s really going on in Scotland.
The police informed me. From records in the Michael Library in Glasgow. According to South Lanarkshire Council, Calder House remand home in Blantyre in 1970. The man who locked me in a cupboard for two weeks and gave me a razor blade; the man who poured insecticide down my throat; the woman who sexually abused me when I was 11—they have no records of any of them. None of these people have received any pension from South Lanarkshire Council. None of these people exist.
In Dr. Guthrie’s boy’s school in Edinburgh in 1970. Also nonexistent is the man who sexually assaulted me and eight other boys and made naked videos of us.
What a cover-up! It’s difficult to fight for justice in Scotland. I feel like I’m sitting all alone, inside, at the base of a Fred Dibnah brick chimney.