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Our History

Remarkable Beginnings

With origins dating back to 1239, the High School of Dundee is one of the oldest schools in Scotland

Our Timeline

In 1589 the school moved into its first long-term home in St Clement’s Lane, remaining there for two hundred years. In 1789 it shared a building in School Wynd with the English School, which had been founded at the beginning of the century. Another school, Dundee Academy, was opened in the Nethergate in 1785.

In 1832-1834 the Main Building, with its distinctive Doric pillars, was built entirely from public subscription to house Dundee Public Seminaries, and the three schools were merged. The name High School of Dundee was adopted in 1859, when the School was granted a Royal Charter.

The Constitution of the School is embodied in ‘The High School of Dundee Scheme, 1987’, and sanctioned by an Order of the Court made under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, in May 1992.

In July 2007 the High School of Dundee was the first school in Scotland to pass the charity test under the requirements of the Charity and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, and thus have its charitable status formally confirmed by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).

High School of Dundee Digital Archives

A wealth of records, documents and memorabilia associated with the school exists, much of which is housed in the City Archives, from the time before the High School became fully independent in the 1970s.

Floreat Schola Taodunensis

Floreat Schola Taodunensis (our school song)

In 1834 the three schools of Dundee, the Grammar School, the English School and the Academy, were brought together in the new civic school building, known as the Dundee Public Seminaries, now known as the Pillars. However, despite occupying the same building, they retained their separate identities until 1859, when they were united by Royal Charter under the name the High School of Dundee.

Even after 1859, however, the institution retained its disparate character, and was ruled by nine largely independent ‘headmasters’ (Heads of Department). Because of a lack of agreement, no Rector was appointed to unite the three schools. It was therefore not until after the Scottish Education Act of 1872, then the Harris Endowment in 1882, when William Harris enabled the school to remain independent, that the first Rector was formally appointed in 1883.

The first incumbent, George Ross Merry, was born in Glasgow and attended the University. He then went on to complete an MA at Lincoln College, Oxford. He was a classicist. He became a schoolmaster at the Edinburgh Academy, whence he came to the High School as Rector.

The disparate and disunited nature of the High School at that time meant that there was little in the way of corporate identity or school spirit. He felt this was crucial and so set about to address this. Influenced by what he had experienced first at Oxford and then the Edinburgh Academy, he saw the value of what we now call co-curricular activities, such as sport and music, as well as a more modern approach to the curriculum, in developing young people. He worked hard to secure the acquisition of the Recreation Ground, for example, as Dalnacraig was originally known, thereby enabling school sport, particularly team sport, to take off, for girls as much as boys.

In addition, he also thought that in line with nearly all major schools, it was important to have a school song. And as a classicist he felt it appropriate to create one in Latin. He wrote what became known as Schola Clara and he asked the Music teacher of the time, David Ferrier, to provide the music. Interestingly, in this song he integrates the school very firmly into the mercantile context of the city of Dundee (Floreat mercatura), rather than seeing it as a stand-alone institution. Music unites, song even more so, and so by creating Schola Clara, George Merry helped forge that corporate bond which has brought High School pupils and FPs together for nearly 130 years since 1893.

Schola Clara  (Latin)


Schola clara, hodie
Grato te laudemus
Nos alumni carmine,
Matrem quam fovemus.

Prisca nutrix militum
Vincla qui rupere
Scotis, et pro patria
Bello cecidere.


Taodunum floreat;
Floreat mercatura;
Floreas, schola nobilis,
Aeternum sis mansura.


Mother School, thy children we
Hymn a grateful song to thee,
Thy fame and glory cherishing.

Ancient nurse of chivalry
Who burst the chains of tyranny,
For Scotland gladly dying.


To trade and commerce, to Dundee
Progress and Prosperity:
Noble School, good luck to thee
Now and to eternity.

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High School of Dundee
Euclid Crescent

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