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Steve Savage Publishers Ltd
CoverTies that Bind

Boys' Schools of Edinburgh

Alasdair Roberts
sample extract

also by Alasdair Roberts:

Crème de la Crème
isbn 9781904246299 rrp 19.50 hardback illustrated 224 pages

After writing Crème de la Crème, his lively and entertaining survey of Edinburgh's girls' schools, Alasdair Roberts has turned his attention to the city's boys' schools. The High School dates back to medieval times, and Heriot's opened in 1659, but the Edinburgh boys' schools really took off in the 19th century with the transformation of boarding 'hospitals' such as George Watson's and Daniel Stewart's into day schools, and the author covers those developments in some detail, as well as looking at earlier history and later developments, such as the founding of schools such as the Academy and boarding schools like Fettes, Merchiston and Loretto. He also writes about education in the classroom, on the games fields and in the wider sense. Alasdair Roberts describes the impact of two world wars on boys' schools -- that of 1914-18 being particularly devastating. Recently these schools have come under pressure both economically and politically, and general social change has contributed to all but one of Edinburgh's boys' schools becoming coeducational. Illustrated with drawings and photographs, Ties that Bind is a worthy companion to Crème de la Crème.


Alasdair Roberts attended an Edinburgh boys' school before reading History at Edinburgh University. After adding an Education degree from Glasgow University and teaching high school in Montreal, he joined the staff of Aberdeen College of Education. He has written extensively on both history and education and his books include Crème de la Crème and Out to Play: the Middle Years of Childhood. After retirement, he was a full-time writer living on the NW coast of Scotland. Alasdair Roberts died in 2021.

'This book must have involved a considerable amount of research and will itself now be a source of information for all interested in the subject ... The part that deals with the contribution made by young men from these schools to the First World War is genuinely moving. It is commonplace to talk about the horrors of that conflict, but Alasdair Roberts brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by boys just out of school. It is the finest part of the book ... The book will be of great interest to anyone who has been to one of these schools, but beyond that will fill a gap in works of sociological history of Edinburgh ... This book is a pleasure to read. It is well produced and well illustrated ... It is elegantly written. Alasdair Roberts belongs to a generation taught to write carefully, succinctly and without cliché or affectation.'
-- Andrew Bell, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club

'These fascinating volumes ... are descriptive histories, full of colour and incident ... colourful details which cover not only educational principles and ethos, pedagogy and discipline, uniforms, sports, pastimes and inter-school rivalries, but also riots, murder and even accidental death in pioneering science labs, along with a portrait of the original St Trinnean's.'
-- Raymond Ross, Times Educational Supplement Scotland

'A worthy follow-up to Crème de la Crème, his book about Edinburgh girls' fee-paying schools. All you ever wanted to know about the origins, education, traditions, personalities and particular "esprit de corps" of each school is examined. ... This is a lively and thought-provoking account which must surely appeal to all those who still ask, "Which school did you go to?"'
-- Elizabeth Sutherland, The Scots Magazine

'A fascinating read'
-- Scotland magazine