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Chapter 11: School Jubilees

It has always been claimed that the School was founded at the latest by 1256, this being the date of its earliest mention in history. Thus 1906 saw the 650th Anniversary of that founding, which by happy chance coincided with the Quater-centenary of the University. Both celebrations were on a grand scale, and many who had made their way through the School and on to the University returned to the City for the occasion. Whereas the University had arranged a week of events to mark the anniversary, the Club held what is still the largest social gathering in its history at the School on Tuesday 25th September 1906. To give some idea of the scale of the function it should be noted that the School received a whole week’s holiday so that the organising Committee and a large number of workmen could have full and unhindered control of the buildings. North of the East wing there was a tent-covered dance floor. The Gymnasium (then in the Westfield building) was adapted as a concert hall; in the old Library and in the adjacent Museum corridor there were refreshment rooms and buffet; while the Hall was furnished with comfortable seats, palms were scattered here and there, and the platform was occupied by an orchestra which contributed music during the Reception and at intervals throughout the evening. The Reception was due to start at 9 pm, but there was so large a crowd long before then that the time was advanced by half an hour. In the end nearly two thousand people attended. The proceedings included a series of short speeches by distinguished guests who included Lord Strathcona, Chancellor of the University, and Dr. Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1951 the Executive addressed the question of how best School and Club might mark the Sept-centenary of the School in 1956. By early 1952 the Sub-Committee charged with preliminary discussions reported that the Town Council had agreed to the formation of a joint Committee of Councillors, School Staff and FPs to discuss appropriate celebrations. It was also reported that Dr. W. Douglas Simpson had agreed to write a history of the School in time for publication in 1956. A first meeting of the Joint Committee revealed that the Town Council, and especially the Lord Provost, was sympathetic to the general idea of large-scale celebrations. By early 1953 there was talk of an approach to the Scottish Education Department to mark the occasion by providing a Swimming Pool. The Executive favoured this, because it was already long-term Education Department policy to provide pools for secondary schools, and the Town Council was already obliged to provide a second Gymnasium at the School, to which a Swimming Pool was an acceptable alternative.

Out of the blue, in the middle of 1954, the first doubts were raised – by an FP historian, as it happens – on the basis that the excerpt from the Statutes of the Cathedral Church of Aberdeen dated 1256, which had always been cited as proof of the existence of the Grammar School of Aberdeen at that date, were not in fact evidence of the School’s existence in that year. The Joint Committee sought help from Professor Sayles of the Chair of History at Aberdeen University who gave it as his opinion that there was no positive proof that the School was founded in 1256. In the light of this the Committee recommended that 1956 could not be regarded as a firm date for the Sept-centenary.

At a meeting of the Executive on 26th October 1954 it was resolved “that in the absence of positive proof at the present time of the founding of the Aberdeen Grammar School in 1256 the Executive of the Aberdeen Grammar School Former Pupils’ Club is of the opinion that it would be inadvisable to celebrate the year 1956 as the Sept-centenary of the founding of the School but, in view of the equal lack of positive evidence to the contrary and pending further investigation, will continue to use the phrase ‘founded prior to 1256’”.

There the matter rested for nearly fifty years until, in the continuing absence of any evidence to contradict the long-held belief about the School’s age, the Executive, in consultation with the School, resolved to mark the 15th Jubilee in 2006. A major fund-raising campaign was mounted which realised almost £30,000. This has funded the refurbishment of the War Memorial in the School Hall, a commemorative plaque in the entrance hall of the School, the provision of audio-visual equipment in the refurbished Rubislaw pavilion as well as the provision of the Canada Clock at Rubislaw. The event was marked by a joint School and FP production, “Bon Record”, in HM Theatre, a special Annual Dinner and by the publication of 1256 and All That by David Yule.  


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