13864: Nicolson Institute, Stornoway

Àrd-sgoil MhicNeacail

The Nicolson Institute was originally established in 1873, as the Nicolson School, thanks to a bequest from Alexander Morrison Nicolson. Nicolson was a native of Stornoway; a third of his estate was committed to the redevelopment of Mackays School, one of five schools in Stornoway at the time.

Shortly after the bequest was recieved Sir James Matheson put Mackay's School into public trust and renamed the Nicolson Institute.

When the school opened on the 27th of February 1873, it was housed in a new building on Sandwick Road. It was initially only for primary pupils and was managed by a board of trustees. In 1888 the Stornoway School Board took over the running of the school. In 1893 its Secondary department was established, and the school was renamed the Nicolson Institute in 1901.

Over time the other schools merged with the Nicolson Institute: the General Assembly School in 1873, the Free Church School in 1896, and the Female Industrial School in 1901. Amidst other school closures, the Nicolson Institute became the only school in Stornoway. More details can be found at the website of the Institute  and of the Stornoway Historical Society.

Nothing remains of the original school building, other than its clock tower which had been added in 1902. The Nicolson Institute is now housed in modern buildings (its former Francis Street secondary department buildings were used to house Museum nan Eilean between 1995 and 2012). In 2006 the Nicolson Institute had a roll of 1083 secondary pupils, and was still the only full secondary school on Lewis. A memorial to former pupils who died serving in the Second World War was placed at the school entrance.


  • John Sutherland was the first headmaster.
  • In 1893 Mr Forbes was put in charge of the new Secondary department.
  • In 1894 W J Gibson was appointed as headmaster.
  • In 1925 John Macrae took over as headmaster.
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Building or Public Amenity
Type Of Building Public Amenity:
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