The Morgan is an imposing landmark building of tremendous architectural significance, designed in 1862 by the Edinburgh architects John Dick Peddie and Charles Kinnear. It opened in 1868 as the Morgan Hospital, a charitable institution providing accommodation and education for “sons of tradesmen and persons of the working class generally whose parents stand in the need of assistance”.

Its benefactor was John Morgan, the son of a Dundee maltman, who emigrated to India at the age of 20 where, with his brother, he became a wealthy indigo farmer. After a lengthy retirement in Edinburgh, he died, aged 90, in 1850. His will was very confusing and was contested so it was not until 1861 that the House of Lords determined that Morgan’s wish had been to bequeath the bulk of his fortune (£73 500) to establish a residential institution in Dundee for the education of boys, similar in character to George Heriot’s in Edinburgh.

The Governors were determined to have a monumental building. The setting chosen sits high above the city, commanding the north east quarter of Dundee and its style is an impressive form of baronial architecture, derived from French chateaux and Flemish guild halls. It is one of Peddie and Kinnear’s finest buildings and it is of international significance, being only comparable in design to Edinburgh’s Fettes College, which was designed by David Bryce and also built in the 1860s.

Original Architectural Drawings of the School

The RCAHMS has kindly given us their permission to display these two images of the original architectural drawings of the school. Their news page has some information on the fire and the schools history.


Crown Copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and
Historical Monuments of Scotland, Dick Peddie and McKay Collection.

The early design for the school was not impressive enough for the Governors, so the turreted central tower was heightened to some 120 feet and elaborate dormer window heads with carved pinnacles and gargoyles were added to the frontage. The building’s decorative details are exceptional, with traceried windows and a delightful variety of Gothic motifs, attenuated chimney stacks and slender lanterns. The roof was decorated with cast iron ridge cresting and ornate wrought iron finials to the many turrets and towers.

The Hospital closed in 1888 because new legislation caused it to change into an educational grant awarding trust. The building was sold to the newly formed Dundee Burgh School Board for £15,000. It was converted into a day school for 650 pupils and reopened as Morgan Academy in 1889 with various alterations, including roofing over the courtyard as a hall.


However, by the early 20th century, pressure for more suitable and additional accommodation resulted in extensive internal alterations to convert the small rooms from the institution into larger classrooms with wide corridors, new toilets and to build a large three story wing to the north.This north range was completed in 1915 and was designed by James Langlands, who was the School Board Architect.

Much of the interior of the school dated from this period and so it would be fair to assess that the principal architectural interest in Morgan Academy was in the external form of the 1860’s building.

The school’s architectural significance was officially recognised with category A listing when Dundee’s first survey of listed buildings was compiled by the Government in 1963; Dundee was one of the first lists and the Morgan was one of only nine A-listed buildings in the city (there are now about 80). The next major addition to the school was in 1991-92, when a large new extension by Tayside regional Council Architects Department was added to the rear of the north range.

Article written by David McDougal and Adam Swan

Brush up your Morgan – by George Stout

How much do you know about the Morgan? Here are the some facts in a series designed to increase your knowledge of Morgan Academy and its history!


Morgan Hospital was the inspiration of John Morgan, a successful native of Dundee who made his fortune in the late 18th Century as an indigo planter in India. Indigo was used for dyeing in the textile trade. John was one of seven children of Thomas Morgan, an ale-house keeper at Mid-Kirk Style, Dundee.


John Morgan died in 1850 in his 91st year, bequeathing £73,500 to the establishment of a Hospital in Dundee. This sum was to be vested in the Provost of Dundee, the Sheriff and one of the Sheriff Substitutes of Forfarshire, the Dean of Guild of Dundee and the Governor of the Nine Incorporated Trades as Trustees for the building and maintenance of an Hospital “for the education, lodging, boarding and clothing of 100 boys, the sons of tradesmen, mechanics and persons of the working class generally, whose parents stood in need of assistance to enable them to educate their families, or who were orphans in need of such assistance”.


John Morgan made several Wills, which became the subject of later litigation. In an early Will he expressed his intention to found a school for 180 boys, in every way similar to Heriot’s Hospital in Edinburgh, but this ambitious proposal was reduced in a later Will to a smaller school for 100 boys.


The City’s right to the Morgan fortune was contested by several other claimants but was finally confirmed in favour of the Dundee Town Council by a House of Lords decision in 1858. It was referred back to the Court of Session and eventually cleared in 1861.


Morgan made provision for twenty Governors for the Hospital, to comprise of the Provost of Dundee, one of the Sheriff Substitutes of Forfarshire, the Minister of the Parish of Dundee, the Dean of Guild, the Convenor of the Nine Trades, the Deacon of the Fraternity of Maltmen, two representatives from each of the Councils of Dundee, Forfar, Arbroath and Montrose, the Presbytery of Dundee, the Nine Incorporated Trades and the Directors of the High School.

The Governors were instructed to acquire three acres of ground for the Hospital on the lands of Craigie or in such other situation as deemed suitable. The portion of the ground not required for building was required to be laid out, partly as a playground for the boys and partly as garden ground.


Morgan Hospital was designed by the Edinburgh architects, Peddie & Kinnear. It was modelled closely on the recently opened Fettes School, designed by the same architects, and not Heriot’s. The building cost was £24,000 (approx. £1,500,000 in present values). The opening ceremony was performed on 5th February 1868.

Forty pupils were enrolled in the first year and thirty in each of the following two years. Boys were not admitted over the age of nine and were obliged to leave on reaching fourteen. Uniquely, the boys were always addressed by their enrolment number, from 1 to 100, and not by name. Some 350 boys were at the Hospital over the twenty years of its life. Those who successively bore the number 1 in that time were David Ramsay, who became a chemist in South Africa, William Taylor (occupation unknown), Robert Groves, a car conductor in Dundee, and Walter Duff, chief engineer on S.S.Framfield.

The Hospital


The Morgan Hospital curriculum consisted of English language, literature and composition, History, Geography, Arithmetic, Writing, Book-Keeping and Vocal Music. Boys with a “superior talent” were instructed in one or more of Latin, Greek, Mathematics and Algebra. Every boy over the age of nine attended a class in one or other of tailor, shoemaker or carpenter or such other trade as directed. On leaving, a boy was entitled to receive all or part of the profits of his work during the preceding years as a reward for good conduct.


Religious instruction formed a prominent part of the education of the boys. The Head Master or an Assistant conducted morning and evening service in the School Chapel and a church service took place every Sunday.


The first Head Master was Mr.D.W.B.Mitchell, previously at the Canongate School in Edinburgh, who served until 1880. He was succeeded by Mr.William Wilson for the remaining eight years. The salary of the Head Master was £200 per annum plus free house, coal, gas and water. There were also two assistant masters, one of whom was required to reside in the Hospital.


Other staff included a Matron, who employed the kitchen staff; a Janitor, who had rent free accommodation in the Porter’s Lodge and whose duties included the cultivation of a vegetable garden, assisted by the boys; and a Warder, who acted as Drill Sergeant to preserve order during meals and who superintended the boys in the playground or on walks.


A typical school day began with a wakening bell at 6 a.m. The boys washed in cold water and assembled in the play-room at 6.30. Only on bath night, with each of the five dormitories taking a night in turn, was there hot water. At 7.30 the boys were marched into the dining room for breakfast. There was a cleanliness inspection each day after breakfast. After a short service in the Chapel, lessons began at 9.00 a.m. and lasted until 12.30 when dinner was served. Classes were resumed at 2.00p.m. and finished at 4 o’clock. There was then some free time until tea at 6 o’clock. This was followed by “prep” until 8.30p.m. when there was another short service before retiring to the dormitory – and lights out.


“Food – glorious food”! The morning menu consisted of porridge and milk – not one plateful, but several, if you felt like it. Sunday was the only day porridge was not served. Dinners were varied, simple but wholesome. The evening meal consisted of a mug of milk (each boy had his own mug) and a quarter of a cottage loaf, with no butter or jam. Only on Sunday was butter provided on the bread. Grace was said before and after every meal.


For amusement, the boys were permitted to play cricket on the lawn in summer. The quadrangle was given over to a tennis court where the Head Master and his friends played. In winter the quadrangle would be flooded for a skating rink for the boys. Other optional activities included the School Band, lessons in shorthand and gymnastics.


In 1888, Commissioners appointed under the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Act decided that the Morgan Hospital Scheme should be modified and the Hospital was taken over by the Dundee School Board for £15,500. It then became the Morgan Academy, a fee-paying school providing primary and secondary education for 650 pupils.

Provision was made for the Morgan Trust to acquire the £15,500 released from the sale of the Hospital and, with the existing invested funds, to provide grants and bursaries on a wider basis. The Morgan Trust still operates on modest scale.

School Crest, Badge and Motto


The origins of the School Crest and Motto are obscure. In Scotland, Heraldic Crests normally have to be vetted and registered by the Lord Lyon’s office in Edinburgh. There is no evidence that John Morgan ever registered a crest, either in Scotland or in England.


It is apparent from his writings, however, that John Morgan would have liked to have been associated with more esteemed families of Morgans, either in this country or abroad. He appears to have been unsuccessful in proving any such relationships existed. It seems likely, therefore, that Morgan devised his own Crest and Motto, basing the former on a reindeer crest of the Morgan Family of Traedunnock in Monmouthshire, to which it bears a close resemblance.


Eighteen years elapsed between the death of John Morgan in 1850 and the building of Morgan Hospital and nothing has been found so far to explain how the Hospital came to use a crest which had a reindeer’s head and a motto “God and enough”. Both feature in tunic buttons worn by the Hospital boys and the Drill-master’s badge and examples of both are held in the F.P.Archives.


An example of what may have been the first blazer badge of Morgan Academy is also in the F.P.Archives. It features the front of the school, the crest of a deer, the letters M A, and the motto “God & Enough”. A later badge, introduced post W.W.1, more closely resembles the modern badge, but has no motto to it. It bears the letters D M A.


Until 1935, there was much confusion about the school motto. Originally “God and enough” in the time of the Hospital and the early years of the School, it went through a transition to “God has enough” and then to “God is enough” during W.W.1.


Although no official statement of changes of motto have been traced, a brochure to commemorate the reconstruction of the school in 1915 gave a detailed explanation as to why the motto was “God has enough”. However, from at least 1914, the school was using a stamp on school books on which the motto was “God is enough”. Confused? So was the redoubtable Rector, Dr.Leighton, who was obliged in 1934 to ask the Lord Lyon which was the true version. The latter declined to become involved in the matter.


The present school badge, considerably embellished from the deer’s head of the 1920’s, bears a reindeer’s head, spear points and drips of blood, together with the motto “God is enough”. It was designed in 1935 by the then head of the Art Department, James (Curly) Watson, who had been a teacher at the school since its formation in 1889. The badge was produced to meet the requirements of the Lord Lyon’s office for registration of the badges of the Dundee schools, Grove , Harris and Morgan.


Following the registration, the Lord Lyon authorised and issued a parchment of “Matriculation” to the school in 1935. This hung in the Rector’s room and was there until destroyed by the fire in 1991. A replacement copy will be issued by the Lord Lyon. The terms of the document can be seen by clicking here.

The House System Part 1


The House System was introduced to the School in 1931/32. The Rector, Dr. Andrew Leighton, was the prime motivator to its introduction with its four Houses, Airlie, Cortachy, Glamis and Mains. He was assisted by Donald B.Stewart, a distinguished former pupil recently returned to join the staff after seven years at Dollar Academy where he had experience as a House Master.

This was the first complete House System to be introduced into a Senior Secondary school in Dundee. A truncated version had been in existence at The Dundee High School since 1925, but it had been confined to the annual rugby competition among the senior boys.


An explanatory article in the School Magazine of Dec.1936 gives the reasons for its introduction at Morgan Academy. “The system was introduced to stimulate interest in school work as well as in sports………The house system ought to have a good moral effect. It is training the citizens of the future to realise the value of corporate work by showing them that one slacker in a team or house jeopardises that body’s chances of success”..


The introduction of the House System was very low profile. No publicity was given to it, even in the School Magazine. The 1931/32 Session was regarded as a “trial year”, involving only the Secondary department where, in theory, each House would have a similar number of 220 pupils. There were no School nor House Captains, no House Masters nor House Mistresses.


The first Boy and Girl School Captains (Douglas Adamson and Margaret Fowler) were appointed in 1932/33, together with House Masters and Mistresses. There were also “unofficial” Boy House Captains for that year – William Anderson(Airlie), Douglas Adamson (Cortachy), Albert Graham (Glamis) and George Murray (Mains) but no Girl House Captains. The Boys’ and Girls’ Literary Societies presented the Trophy for the competition that year. Official Boy and Girl House Captains were first appointed in 1933/34. The Primary Department joined the system in 1933/34. House badges, designed by the Art Department, became available in 1934/35.


In the first year, i.e. 1931/32, all brothers and sisters in the senior school were allocated to Airlie and all “single” pupils were divided among the remaining Houses. Airlie won the competition that year! In succeeding years, new pupils followed their siblings into the relevant Houses or were allocated among the four Houses. This was only one of a series of strange decisions by Dr.Leighton, which badly corrupted the House System from the beginning.


All Morgan Primary pupils were entitled to continue at the Morgan senior school and over 40% of the Secondary department intake each year came from that source. There is a strong probability, therefore, that a much greater representation of family groups in the senior school came from the Morgan Primary department than from the public schools. This would contribute to a bias of numbers in favour of Airlie, as siblings in the school’s Primary department joined their brothers and sisters in the senior school.

Another strange feature of the launch was that Dr. Leighton personally conducted the division into Houses in each classroom – Primary and Secondary. The standard classroom had four rows of double desks and his procedure was to divide the rows between the four Houses. There is anecdotal evidence that the first row selected was frequently the “top row” in the class, which was allocated to Airlie, followed successively by Cortachy, Glamis and Mains.


In the First Year of the senior school, the Register Teacher was responsible for the allocation of all new pupils to the four Houses. Unless the total number was divisible by four, however, Airlie would always have the greatest number and Mains the lowest. A review of First Year classes in the 1930’s shows that Airlie consistently had 10% more pupils than Mains on this basis.


For the first decade, the election of School and House Captains was in the hands of the House Masters and Mistresses, presumably with an input from the Rector. The Captains were chosen “for their moral qualities besides their scholastic achievements. Each must have a strong personality that will have an influence for good; each must be courteous to all, be ever willing to serve in a good cause, be jealously watchful over the fair name of our School – in short, must aim at becoming a perfect human being!”.
(Former Captains, how do you feel you measured up to this?)


Rector Peter Robertson introduced democratic elections for Captains in 1944/45, with the School and House Captains elected by classes five and six.


The method of allocation of Points for the Trophy between Work, Medals and Sport was never revealed to the pupils until 1971. According to an article in the 1939 Jubilee Magazine by Donald B.Stewart, the House averages for school-work each year were very close and did not have a decisive bearing on the final result. The points for Medal winners also had a marginal effect. The results were determined mainly by Sport and Games where numbers could be a decisive factor. The original formula for the calculation allowed for a 50% contribution from Work, 43% from Sport and 7% from Medals. As this method turned out to be unduly favourable to Airlie in the first year, it was subsequently revised to 60%, 30% and 10% respectively, a formula which continued with only minor tinkering until 1972. Those of you older F.P’s who thought that Airlie always seemed to have more people to choose from were probably correct!


Airlie won the Championship seven out of eight times to the beginning of the second World War, the exception being 1932/33 when Cortachy won – due to the herculean efforts of Douglas Adamson – Rugby Captain, Sports Champion, and Science Medal winner. In the 1940’s Airlie won the Star four times, Cortachy four times and Glamis once. (There was no contest in 1939/40). In the 1950’s, Airlie won four times and Cortachy and Mains three times each. The championship became more evenly divided in the 1960’s with Airlie three times, Cortachy twice, Glamis three times and Mains twice.

The House System Part 2

By 1970 there was general disillusionment with the operation of the house system. An anonymous article i the Morgan Academy Newspaper described the current feeling. “Apathy and boredom of the pupils seems to surround the house system, as shown by the small attendance figures at the sports….. the most common pupil grouse us that there is a lack of communication between the people running the system and the pupils and probably both sides are at fault. perhaps if the pupils had more opportunity of finding out how the points system works, how their house is doing and other such things, they would feel more involved and show an increased interest as a result.”
The closure of the primary Department after 1962 had eliminated the core of Morgan pupils “brought up in the faith” and may have contributed to the unwillingness of secondary pupils to accept the old rules at face value.


In 1970/71, there was a new rector, Mr Bewick, and major changes in the staff responsible for administering the House System. A principal failing had been that too much of the administration of sports and games had fallen upon the P/E department and there was a lack of liaison with the House Masters, An internal paper produced by teacher Jack Herd recommended that the administration should be transferred to the staff in general and that a Registrar be appointed to ensure the equitable allocation of pupils between houses


Major changes to the House System were implemented almost immediately and were spelled out in the 1970/71 magazine. these were:

1. A committee of House Masters and Mistresses would reorganise the Points Awards to include “all facets of school work”. In practice this broadened the allocation of points away from sports and games and towards scholastic achievement. It included points to each pupil for passes in Higher and ordinary grade subjects, Bad conduct and lack of diligence lost marks.

2. Inter-house matches would be organised by the Houses involved and not the P/E department.

3. House Boards would provide a running total of points awarded although the winning house would not be disclosed until the annual closing ceremony.

4. Jack Herd was appointed as the first Registrar to allocate pupils to Houses on information provided by the school office.

5. From 1972 the school became organised on a house basis. This was to encourage greater contacts within the House, simplify administration, make attendance a House matter and introduce “House counselling”.


Following the introduction of comprehensive education in 1972, the new system was reinforced by the appointment of Guidance posts and House form-teachers were appointed to strengthen the House System.


The principles of the changes in the 1970’s have largely stood the test of time although the trend towards awards for scholastic achievement has continued, in addition there is an increased number of awards for personal achievement, outside the school, in sports, music and scholastic activities; Points for “Citizenship” include the wearing of the Morgan tie, the use of Personal Organisers and Attendance.


Inter-House games appear to have languished in recent years, possibly because of the unavailability of staff to organise them. In 2001/2 for example, Inter-House games were held only for Association Football. The swimming gala now rates equally in points for the school sports and both rate twice as highly as the Inter-House competition.


Changes to the structure have done little to change the pattern of distribution of the “Star” between the Houses as the following table shows.


In the present decade, Cortachy won the first two years and Airlie the year just ended. Plus ca change!


It is appropriate that, with the transfer to the “new Morgan” the future operation of the House System is among the many subjects currently under discussion at the school. The destination of the House Championship is as keenly contested as ever, as those who have attended the Closing ceremony would testify. The admonitions for the House System seventy years ago continue to have relevance in today’s educational climate and they link surprisingly closely to the current “National Priorities in Education” in Citizenship, Achievement/Attainment and in promoting an ethos of pride in school and pupil/staff relationships.

What’s in a Name – Rector, Headmaster or Head Teacher.

On several occasions prior to his retirement, Mr Alan Constable reflected that he might have been the last to bear the title of Rector of Morgan Academy. For some time in educational circles there has been a preference for the less imaginative title of Head Teacher, although Mr Constable has resisted acquiescing to the current “political” dogma.

As a new appointee comes into office at the School, this is perhaps a suitable opportunity to examine the background to the use of the term “Rector” in the Dundee Academies.

When Morgan Hospital was established as a residential school for boys in 1868, the School Trustees were empowered to appoint a Headmaster to administer the Hospital. The first Headmaster was D.W.B.Mitchell and he was followed in 1880 by William Wilson, who also bore the title of Headmaster.

In 1889, by which time the Hospital had been acquired by the Dundee School Board and was about to be re-opened as Morgan Academy , William Wilson applied for and retained his position as Headmaster of the school. However, in the job description of the post, the title was re-designated as “Head Teacher or Rector under the Board”.

The term “Rector” became instantly acceptable and recognisable to the School Board with references in the Board Minutes as early as 1890 to “the Rector of Morgan Academy”. The Head Teachers in other Dundee Academies were addressed similarly.

The standard of reference was set and thereafter the Minutes of the School Board and its successor the Education Committee confirmed that the title of the Head of the School was Rector, not Headmaster nor Head Teacher. This title was used for all the successive appointments at Morgan Academy .

Mr Alan Constable was appointed in the traditional form as Rector in October 1986 and, despite some subsequent “guidance” to change his title, he continued to use the term Rector until his retirement at the end of 2004.

Although the precise terms of the title of his successor, Mr Stephen Shaw, are nor yet to hand, the comment and the interpretation of the new appointment by the local Press       (together with a similar appointment at Braeview Academy ) is that the new incumbents are “Rectors”. While there may be a current political correctness and fondness for the flaccid term “Head Teacher”, the public is familiar and at ease with the title of “Rector” in its senior schools. It is well established, identifiable and acceptable. Is there any reason that it should be changed?

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