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
1904 Exhibition album – Painting by Alfred L. Robertson1904 Exhibition album – Garden anemone by Isabella J. Maciver1904 Exhibition album – Primrose showing stages of flower growth by Norman Crichton1904 Exhibition album – showing growth of rose by Evander MacDonald (age 9 years)1904 Exhibition album – studies of flowering redcurrant by A. L. Robertson1904 Exhibition album – seashell studies by Duncan Miller1904 Exhibition album – seaweed specimen1904 Exhibition album – seaweed specimen no 21904 Exhibition album – seaweed specimen no 31904 Exhibition album – painting of knotted wrack seaweed by Charles P. Anderson1904 Exhibition album – painting of serrated wrack seaweed by Charles P. Anderson
Sport and exercise
First girls’ gymnastics class, 1911 (from WJ Gibson collection)Senior girls’ long jump, c.1973Senior girls’ sprint, c.1973Sack fight at school sports day, c.1973Canoeing trip, c.1973Archery class, c.1973Table tennis team, c.1973Golfers, c.1973The ‘Bog Slog’, an annual fund-raising walk across the moor from Barvas to Stornoway, c.1973
School buildings of old
Postcard of Nicolson Institute infant school by David S. Turpie (WJ Gibson collection)The Nicolson Institute Sandwick Road building (WJ Gibson collection)The Nicolson Institute Secondary Department c.1900Opening of the Nicolson Institute Technical Department by Lady Pentland, 1910 (WJ Gibson Collection)Panoramic view of the school buildings (WJ Gibson Collection)Extract from Nicolson Trustees’ Minute book showing specification of original building
Gaelic stories and poems
Page 1 of Gaelic tale ‘obtained from the oral tradition’ by Colin Morrison from 1904 Exhibition AlbumPage 2 of Gaelic tale ‘obtained from the oral tradition’ by Colin Morrison from 1904 Exhibition AlbumPage 3 of Gaelic tale ‘obtained from the oral tradition’ by Colin Morrison from 1904 Exhibition AlbumExamples of pupils’ Gaelic writing from NI Annual 1963Examples of pupils’ Gaelic writing from NI Annual 1970Examples of pupils’ Gaelic writing from NI Annual 1974
Backstage at a school drama production, c.1973Putting on make up before a school drama production, c.1973A school play, c.1973A school play, c.1973School drama, c.1973Orator Hector Morrison, c.1973
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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