Our History

Our History

Stewart’s Melville College is the result of the merger of Daniel Stewart’s College and Melville College in 1973. We are building our digital archives to preserve the history of Stewart’s Melville College for future generations.

Stewart’s Melville College owes its existence to two very different men from contrasting periods in Scotland’s history. One the poor son of a Gaelic speaking farm worker, born at the time of the 2nd Jacobite Rebellion and the other a well-educated and philanthropic Victorian gentleman.

Daniel Stewart (1744-1814) was born in Logierait in Perthshire and as teenager travelled to Edinburgh to seek his fortune. Through hard work, good business sense and being introduced to the right people in Edinburgh he made a sizable fortune in property and investments. When he died, his will made provision for a free school to be built in Logierait and for the care of his niece, who was not able to live unaided, until she died. On her death in 1844 the second stage of his will came into operation namely the founding of a school for boys of the deserving poor in Edinburgh. Building started in 1849 and Daniel Stewart’s Hospital School opened for 55 boys in 1854. Following the Education Act of 1872 which provided free education for all, the need for such Hospital Schools disappeared and Daniel Stewarts Hospital became Daniel Stewart’s Institution a fee-paying day school. By 1880 it had changed its name again to Daniel Stewart’s College.

Robert Cunningham (1799-1883) was born in Stranraer where his father was a merchant. He studied at Edinburgh University and by 1826 his reputation as a forward-thinking educationalist led to him becoming Head of George Watson’s. By 1832 he had left to set up his own school following a new broad based curriculum he had devised. This school was to be known as the Edinburgh Institution for Language and Mathematics. The Edinburgh Institution changed its name in 1932 to Melville College as it was felt the name was leading to “confusion” in the minds of prospective employers.

In 1837 he left to become Professor of Ancient Languages at Lafayette College in America and this was followed by; a Headmastership in Glasgow, the creation of another school (Blairlodge near Polmont), involvement in the creation of the Free Church of Scotland, fact finding educational tours round the world and philanthropic works. He retired to live in North-West Castle Stranraer where he died in 1883 and is buried in the Glasgow Necropolis.

Stewart’s Melville College Archives are located in Old College. If you would like to visit, please contact us.