This  is  an  accurate  image  of  a  dormitory  at  Dr  Guthrie's  Boys'  School  in  1970 

There  is  a  100  year  D  notice  on  Dr  Guthrie's  schools  

There are very few photographs of the Guthrie schools. And of those that do exist, I am not allowed to show most of them


From the moment you entered the boys' school until the day you left, you were just a number. I was number 38.

 We had to sew our number on every piece of clothing we had, including our face flannel.

Dr Guthrie's Ragged Schools – Exclusively   for the Impoverished

At the age of 11. My perception of reality was so shaped by seeing violence and cruelty from staff that when I saw a boy being dragged out of bed by his hair in the middle of the night and then being dragged out of the dormitory by his hair, I assumed it was normal and that the boy was just being taken for a cold shower.

At  Dr  Guthrie's  Boys'  School  there  was  no  tap  for  drinking  water  upstairs,  so  if  you  were  thirsty  you  had  to  drink  hot  water.  It  was  a  grim  place

"When I first arrived at the Boys' School at the end of March 1970, there was no matron on duty; there was no matron until February 1972. The staff always measured the weight and height of the boys. The German woman who became matron only started work at the Boys' School in February 1972".

It is important to remember that I did not commit any of the crimes of which I was accused. On the day of my trial I was simply accused and found guilty. I was not allowed to plead not guilty. I was so small. I could barely see the judge from the dock. I should also mention that when I was at the Boys' School there were three boys from my tiny village at Dr Guthrie's Boys' School at the same time, I was one of them and I was the first. We were kept in separate dormitories.


The internal windows of the dormitories were so high that we couldn't look out without standing on a bed, and we were too scared to do that. From the outside, the windows look normal.

We were given a single pillow. Each bed had a red rubber mat that was badly worn, dirty and stained. Next to each bed was a very small, worn-out bedside cabinet.

When the staff came to wake us up in the morning, they would shout 'Get up, you bastard' into the ears of the children who were still asleep. If you were unlucky enough to receive this treatment, as you lay there in a state of shock, your sheets would be torn off and thrown into the dormitory.

When all the boys got out of bed we had to take off all our bed sheets and fold them, including our pillowcase, into a square block at the foot of our beds and then stand at attention at the foot of our beds while our sheets were inspected. Sometimes the staff would throw our folded sheets on the floor of the dormitory if they weren't perfectly folded and make us fold them again.

After our sheets were inspected, we were all marched downstairs to the washroom where we brushed our teeth and washed our faces. Then we were all marched back upstairs to get dressed.

After getting dressed. We were all marched down to the dining hall for breakfast where we were given a very small cup of milk. Sometimes the milk was sour and had a terrible taste. This milk was used for our cornflakes or porridge, and we had to leave some milk in the cup for our tea. Sometimes instead of porridge or cereal we were given a slice of toast or bread with a very small hard-boiled egg. We were given a small packet of Anchor butter to spread on our bread or toast. There was never any sugar, butter or jam on the table. Only a small individual portion of butter was given to each boy. 

The staff dining room was very different from the big workhouse-style dining hall used by the boys. The staff dining room had a long, dark mahogany table with a white tablecloth. They had silver cake stands and a cheese stand with a variety of cheeses and biscuits. They used different fancy plates. I don't know if they ate the same food as the boys, but I remember that their dining room looked lavish compared to the boys', like something out of Oliver Twist.

All the boys were marched down the corridor after breakfast, which led to a door that opened onto the large concrete area. But before we could enter the square, we had to go through a small room where each boy was given a box with our number on it and we had to change our slippers for boots. I don't think my boots were changed for two years because my feet had grown and the boots were too small, causing constant pain.

 In the square, after breakfast, we all lined up in our four dormitories and had to shout out our numbers. Then we were marched up and down the concrete square as if we were in the army. This went on in all weathers - rain, hail, sunshine, even during a blizzard with six inches of snow on the ground. I have this memory that it must have been the year the clocks didn't go back, because it was still dark at 9 o'clock in the morning, maybe the winter of 1970-1971, when all the boys were covered in centimetres of snow, marching up and down the square.

There was a toilet in the corner of the concrete square. I started smoking at the age of eleven because it helped to mask the terrible stench of that filthy toilet. The cubicles had no doors, so you had to defecate in front of everyone. It took me a few days after arriving at Dr Guthrie's Boys' School to realise that I was better off using the upstairs toilet because it was so embarrassing to defecate in front of everyone. I only used the outside toilets when I was desperate. The toilet paper felt and looked like shiny tracing paper and was the cheapest I'd ever seen or used.

 In the winter they sewed up our pockets and we were all freezing. If you put your hands down your shorts to keep warm, you were dragged into the headmaster's office, held over his desk and whipped on your bare bottom with a thick, yellow Scottish tawse.

We just walked around the concrete yard, we very rarely went to the gym or the swimming pool and if we did go to the swimming pool we were usually sexually abused. I don't think I was in a classroom for more than four or five days in the whole time I was at Dr Guthrie's Boys' School and I was at the Boys' School for 29 months. I often wondered why they didn't educate me, they had me trapped, I had nowhere else to go and yet they gave me virtually no education.

 When it was time for dinner, we all went into the small room. We put on our slippers again and went to eat.

We got our dinner around 1pm. and it consisted of soup, lunch, custard, and cake. The food was OK, but that was all we got until we got a piece and jam and a cup of tea around 7.30pm. After dinner we all went back to the little room and changed back into our boots, we just walked around the concrete yard until about 4.30pm, then we changed our boots for our slippers and we all went into the TV room. 

I remember there was a little hut next to the wall that divided the area where we had our sports day, and sometimes I was starving. Carrots and potatoes were kept in this little hut, and sometimes I was so hungry that I ate the raw potatoes. One night I sneaked downstairs to the kitchen because I was starving. I found everything locked up with huge padlocks, and the only thing edible was the hard fat on top of the next day's soup, and I could hardly eat it. 

We got our piece and jam and a cup of tea around 7.30pm then we all marched up to our dormitories, got a shower then bed. Lights were normally put out around 8.30pm

I remember crying in bed one night and the night watchman found me there. When he asked me why I was crying, I explained that I had been hit with a medicine ball and that was why my hand and arm hurt. After taking me downstairs to the headmaster's door, the night watchman and the headmaster got into an argument. I was taken to a hospital in Edinburgh and had an x-ray. My hand was broken. My hand was black, my arm was black up to the elbow. The night watchman left his job after that night and I never saw him again. The night watchman was a decent man, normal compared to the rest of the staff.

At the bottom of the dormitory there was a cupboard with a curtain. This was where we kept our Sunday clothes. You basically tried to find a jacket and trousers that would fit. Some Sundays you would be marched to church and either your jacket was too big or too small, or your trousers were too long or too short. We weren't allowed to wear our own clothes to church, we had to wear what was provided. It was embarrassing to walk the streets of Edinburgh in 1970 dressed like that, we were really ragged.

 The cloth the suits were made of was the worst material I've ever had the misfortune to wear. Even the cheapest curtains you can buy today are made of better material than the Sunday suits they gave us.


One day in winter, all the boys in my dormitory were marched down to the shower block and a black disinfectant was poured into the bottom of the shower. The shower tray was plugged.

The boys' feet had to be sterilised because someone in the school had a verruca.

 Twenty boys were packed naked into the shower block, which had five shower heads. We were made to stand in three inches of disinfectant for up to an hour. We were all naked and shivering in the bitter cold, and I didn't feel human at all.


The dormitories were gloomy, dismal, dreary places. The atmosphere was Dickensian. There were no curtains on the windows and no decoration on the walls. There was just a mirror screwed to the wall - that was it. 

      A  Victorian  workhouse  in  1970 


After  months  and  years  of  being  tortured  and  abused  by  loving,  compassionate  Christians,  we  should  really  thank  this  man 

Thomas Guthrie, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, 1862

Thomas Guthrie was a founding member of the Free Church of Scotland. Guthrie was involved in the government's effort to care for homeless and disorderly children. The first step toward achieving this was a law passed in 1854 (17 & 18 Vict. c. 74) allowing judges to commit vagrant youngsters to reformatory and industrial schools. In 1862, he was appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland.

The use of transportation as a form of punishment was outlawed by the Penal Servitude Act of 1857 (20 and 21 Vict. c. 3). Children who would have been transported to Australia as convicts prior to 1854 now had to be housed in the new industrial, reform, or "ragged schools," as Guthrie referred to them.

Guthrie studied surgery and anatomy at Edinburgh University under Dr Robert Knox, but then concentrated on theology. Robert Knox was a Scottish anatomist best known for his involvement in the Burke and Hare murders.

Guthrie's institutions were always reformatories or industrial schools; they were never Christian ragged schools. This information is freely available online if required. In the 1850s he was asked why he continued to refer to his institutions as 'ragged schools' when the children who entered them were no longer ragged.

Here's an example, freely available online, of how brutal and cruel his so-called "ragged schools" really were, from Hansard 1854, before the Reformatory Schools (Scotland) Bill was even passed

House of Commons.   Wednesday, July 19, 1854

 Reformatory Schools (Scotland) Bill - Mr Lucas MP

"said, he thought that a case of greater oppression could not be conceived than that a magistrate should be empowered by Act of Parliament to send a child to Dr. Guthrie's proselytising school, where it should be kept till the age of fifteen under the penalty of whipping and imprisonment"

Whipping was apparently commonplace at Dr Guthrie's Ragged Schools even in 1854

I only go back to 1854 and these Dr Guthrie's schools - as far from a ragged school as chalk and cheese - seem to have had no other function than to cruelly mistreat and sadistically abuse the children of the poor.

"How Dr Guthrie's schools were able to transform themselves from wretched children's prisons into  some sort of Christian, charitable, ragged school is a complete mystery to me."

In 2023. Is it appropriate to have a large monument in Scotland's stunning capital honouring the man who helped create the country's child prison system?  Hundreds, if not thousands, of children were   sexually abused and tortured in the institutions his statue honours. 

 The statue is a sarcastic mockery of every survivor of Dr Guthrie's schools

Please sign the petition

I have been complaining about abuse at Dr Guthrie's Boys' School since 1988. I haven't made any progress. Some survivors have complained even earlier. Those who have attended one of Dr Guthrie's approved schools / List D schools are completely ignored and disregarded. There is no one to see or hear us, so we might as well be sitting at the bottom of a Fred Dibnah brick chimney. The fact that Dr Guthrie's survivors have to set up a website and a petition to let people know the truth is indicative of the appalling treatment some child abuse survivors have      received in Scotland.