The Nicolson Institute 150th anniversary

The Nicolson Institute opened on 27th February 1873, making it 150 years old in 2023! To mark this milestone we have created some online galleries featuring images from our collections. These illustrate just some aspects of the school’s long history.

At regular intervals throughout this anniversary year we will be publishing a series of vignettes on our blog: brief biographies of former pupils of The Nicolson Institute who have achieved remarkable things in their chosen fields. An overview of the vignettes, with links to each of the biographies, is available here.

A full account of the history, ‘The Nicolson Institute The History of an Island School’ by Iain Smith with Joan Forrest, which drew extensively on archive and museum sources, is scheduled to be published by Acair in 2023.

Journalist Ruairidh Maciver, a former pupil, explored the history of the school’s founders in a documentary which aired on BBC Alba in early 2023. His journey of discovery into the sources of the Nicolson brothers’ wealth took him from the Opium Wars in China to the cotton plantations of America’s Deep South.

The 1904 Exhibition Albums

In 1904, two beautiful exhibition albums were produced to show the work of the school. It is not known where these were originally exhibited, but they provide an excellent insight into the school at that time and include examples of pupils’ work as well as information about the curriculum.

Click on each of the images below to see a larger version:

Examples of pupils’ nature study work from the 1904 albums

Sport and exercise

School buildings of old

Gaelic stories and poems


Archive and museum sources

We have extensive sources in our collections for those who wish to research the history of the school. The principal collections relevant to the Nicolson Institute are as follows:

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