Kirkcudbright Academy

Kirkcudbright Academy is a state funded, six-year secondary school in Kirkcudbright, Scotland with about 450 pupils and 87 staff including teaching, support and administration.[1][2][3]

Kirkcudbright Academy
St Marys Wynd

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Coordinates54.8353°N 4.0577°W / 54.8353; -4.0577
MottoRadicem Firmant Frondes (from the roots comes strength)
EstablishedBy 1582
School districtKirkcudbrightshire
RectorMr A Tuffery


There is no definitive date for the founding of the Grammar School that, over time, evolved into today's Kirkcudbright Academy. It is possible that the Grammar School owes its origin to the Church of Scotland's 1560 First Book of Discipline that set out a plan for a school in every parish in Scotland. This plan was not universally successful due to financial limitations but it did result in the creation of some grammar schools in the following years. However, the Grammar School may even have existed in some form prior to this date as there were also cases of pre-existing schools being turned into reformed grammar schools by this initiative. The earliest actual evidence of its existence are Council Records that state that on 6 June 1582, the Magistrates and Council "appoint William Turner, schoolmaster, to teach the grammar school, with salary of 50 merks, to be paid quarterly - viz., Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, and Hallowe'en - and they to find him a sufficient schoolhouse, mail free."

The Grammar School stood on the grounds of St. Andrew's Church, the site of the present Roman Catholic Church, which was given to the burgh by Sir Thomas M'Lellan (the Provost) for the Freres Kirk and orchards, on which site he built his castle, the present ruin.

The school at this time was supported by a combination of kirk funds, contributions from the burgh council and charging parents fees. The contributions of the burgh council were chiefly derived from the common good — that is, the common property of the burgh — consisting of lands, houses, mills, fishings, feu-duties, customs, feudal casualties, entry-money of burgesses, fines, and casualties. A couple of examples from the Burgh Records of Kirkcudbright show that in 1696 the tacksman of the ‘ladle’ was ordered to pay to the schoolmaster £15, 2s. 4d., which shall be allowed to him in the ‘ fore-end of his rent (effectively the Ferryman had to pay £15+ a year for the ferry concession) and in 1696 the schoolmaster of Kirkcudbright received £7 as part of his harvest salary from a fine imposed for 'blood and battery'.

Another, not inconsiderable, source of master’s emoluments was the proceeds of cockfighting, which was common in all Scottish Burgh schools on Shrove Tuesday—Pastern’s E’en. Pupils had to pay a small contribution which was called cock-money. In the Council Records of 1693, the council of Kirkcudbright ordained that the doctor in the grammar school should have the 'cock-money at fastern even, conform to use and wont.’

Education was focussed on the classics but it is possible that other subjects such as French and catechism were taught. It is recorded that pupils, many of whom were boarders, came from a much wider area of Scotland and England with records of a concentration coming from Liverpool and its surrounding areas.

In 1815, the Grammar School amalgamated with two other schools, the English School and the Commercial School to form the Academy of Kirkcudbright. This consolidated school needed more accommodation and so it moved to a new building on the current site in 1818 which had been constructed at a cost of £1129. The accommodation initially consisted of three large class rooms entered from a spacious porch. The Academy also had about an acre of ground belonging to it for the use of the scholars. The site of the building, with the ground was presented to the Burgh by the Earl of Selkirk.

An interesting insight into education in the newly formed Academy in 1843 was provided by the Church of Scotland’s New Statistical Account of Scotland which provided a review of every Scottish Parish. It reports that “The Grammar, the Commercial, and the English schools, are united, and form the Academy of Kirkcudbright. This institution is under the patronage of the magistrates and town-council, and the salaries of the masters are paid by the burgh. There are nearly 200 pupils constantly attending the academy, and the fees for one branch of education vary from 2s. to 7s. 6d. per quarter. In the classical departments are taught Latin, Greek, and French, with ancient geography, &c. Attached to the grammar school is a library consisting of between 300 and 400 volumes of useful literature. It was instituted by the present master in 1837. The teacher of the grammar school is allowed a yearly salary of L.50; and he realizes by fees about L.60. In the commercial department are taught mathematics, navigation, geography, book-keeping, arithmetic, writing, &c. The teacher receives a salary of L.50; and his annual fees amount to about L.90. The master of the English school has a yearly salary of L.40; and his fees on an average amount to L.60. In this class are taught history, geography, composition, and the principles of the English language. The Academy of Kirkcudbright has long maintained a high reputation."

With the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act 1872, the Academy came under the management of the newly created Kirkcudbright School Board. This Act brought in compulsory education for all children between 5 and 13 in Scotland although fees still had to be paid until 1890.

By 1882, Kirkcudbright Academy had 6 teachers and a school roll of about 160 pupils, with numbers split between Primary and Secondary. The Secondary part was still divided into the 3 departments but they were now known as the Department of Ancient and Modern languages, the Commercial and Mathematical Department and the English Department.

The next 2 major developments occurred in 1901: the first was the minimum school leaving age was raised to 14; the second resulted from the Kirkcudbright School Board's decision to raise the Academy to the rank of a secondary school. In order to achieve this the school needed to create science and art departments so during 1901 an entire reconstruction of the school was carried out to provide those departments with properly equipped accommodation. The main building, built of whinstone, and dressed red sandstone, was designed by Alan B Crombie, and was built in 1901, incorporating the earlier school built in 1818. Further extensive reconstruction of the main building was carried out in 1926.

The Cochran Hall, designed by W.A. McKinnel was built in 1931 as a result of a donation by Thomas Cochran of New York in memory of his Kirkcudbright ancestors.

By the mid 1950s the school buildings were severely overcrowded and pressure on classroom space had been relieved by the construction of temporary buildings. These were replaced in 1958 by a major extension.

Pupil numbers peaked in 1981 when the closure of Gatehouse Secondary School resulted in the Academy having over 800 secondary pupils together with 52 members of teaching staff in 17 subject departments. Since then pupil numbers have steadily declined despite a higher percentage of pupils completing 6 years of education at the Academy. This reduction is due to a combination of an aging population reducing the number of school age children in the Kirkcudbright area together with the upgrade of the other surrounding schools; Castle Douglas High School and Dalbeattie High School, meaning that pupils from those catchment areas no longer need attend Kirkcudbright Academy to study for their Highers.

Notable alumni of Kirkcudbright Academy or of the schools that it evolved from

As a side note:

These mean that half of all the Scottish drivers who have ever won a Formula One race (50% - 2 out of 4) and a quarter of all the Scots who have ever captained the British and Irish Lions (25% - 2 out of 8) were pupils at Kirkcudbright Academy

Notable staff

  • Peter Cook, former Rector of Kirkcudbright Academy was the father of Robin Cook, the Labour Party politician.
  • Rev William Mackenzie, (1791-1854) English master 1809-1837, author of History of Galloway. [32]
  • Christian Jane Fergusson, artist[33] taught for a year between 1905 and 1906 on secondment.
  • ????-1985 William James McCulloch, long serving Head Janitor awarded the BEM on retiring


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  2. "Home page - Dumgal - Dumfries and Galloway Council". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
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  20. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  28. Andrew Jones. 1972. The Politics of Reform 1884. P260
  29. {{url=
  30. {{url=
  31. "Obituary: Dr Kathleen Wilson OBE". The Scotsman. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  32. "Old Kirkcudbright". 18 May 2019. Archived from the original on 18 May 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2019. External link in |website= (help)
  33. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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