Holy Cross Academy – The Life and Times of a Catholic School

School reunions are often regarded as rather awkward, embarrassing events, but in 2007 a very unusual school reunion took place in Edinburgh. It was to celebrate the centenary of a school which no longer existed – Holy Cross Academy – a school which had closed in 1969, nearly 40 years previously. Hundreds of former pupils – the youngest in their 50s – attended to celebrate the fact that while no longer in existence, the school had made an enormous contribution to society and to their lives. Founded as a church school in 1907, mainly to educate young Catholics for the teaching profession and entrance to university, the school was taken over by the local authority after the 1918 Education Act. It remained a selective school until 1969 when, with the arrival of comprehensive education in Scotland, it closed to make way for the new St Augustine’s. Former pupils included two Cardinals, two ambassadors, one Lord Mayor of London, various artists – including Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Demarco – several footballers, countless teachers, and many successful people in public life.
This unusual reunion was such a resounding success, that it was decided a book should be written about the school, to ensure that the history of this amazing institution would not be forgotten. Historian and former pupil Norah Carlin researched the Holy Cross story from archives, documents, and personal memories, and the result is the extremely readable “Holy Cross Academy Edinburgh – The Life and Times of a Catholic School”. The book is in two parts. In the first part, Carlin the historian gives us a rigorous and extremely well documented account of all aspects of the school’s story , which very much follows the social history of Scottish education, and the place of Catholic education within this system. The setting up of the school, the role of women, the events of the war years, the lives and background of those connected with the school – many Irish, Italian, and later Polish – are all told with a good eye for detail. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a bygone world. The second part of the story consists of personal reminiscences – individual memories and accounts that cover a broad range of topics. For anyone interested in a part of Lothian life that has vanished, but certainly not without trace, this is a lively and fascinating read.

Holy Cross Academy Edinburgh: The Life and Times of a Catholic School 1907-1969 by Norah Carlin is available through Amazon

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