Dr Guthries boys school Liberton Edinburgh

This  is  a  photograph  of  Dr  Guthrie's  Boys'  School  in  the  mid-1960s,  before  the  outdoor  gymnasium  was  built.  The  place  looks  grim,  and  believe  me,  it  was  grim 


   Here's  some  old  newspaper  stories 

    Kilmarnock Herald and Ayrshire Gazette - Friday 14 November 1947 

Allegations that all was not well at Dr Guthrie's boys' school in Edinburgh were made by Mrs. R. Lambie "Saltcoats" at last month's meeting of the Education Committee held in the County Buildings on Tuesday.

Mrs. Lambie said there had been frequent escapes from the school and that boys from her district had returned home after escaping with tales of beatings they had received.

   Kilmarnock Herald and North Ayrshire Gazette - Friday 12 December 1947

         Boys at Edinburgh school harshly punished.      


     The Scotsman - Monday 26 September 1949 


   Twenty-seven boys from Dr Guthrie's boys' school escaped last night. 



                                                Westminster 1950 "MP Mr. Ross                                            

Is the hon. Lady aware of the serious state that this school was in about six months ago, as reported in a Committee of this House; that we found the buildings were entirely unsuitable and gloomy, the children poorly dressed, and the atmosphere oppressive; and that we thought the best use was not being made of public money?

 Will she consider closing the whole thing down?

  02 May 1950 vol 474 cc1568-9 


In 1854 the House of Commons exposed Dr Guthrie's schools as harsh and oppressive, and in 1950 the same House of Commons exposed the same institution for even more violent and harsh practices.




Yet the same institution continues to be portrayed in the Scottish media and now on the internet as some sort of philanthropic Christian ragged school.

 I still remember the staff party when the statue of Dr Guthrie was awarded B status in 1970.

 Both my hands were broken at the time.

Children who were detained in Dr Guthrie's schools, which were essentially children's prisons, were frequently subjected to sexual abuse, cruelty, and torture. This abuse was so prevalent that it was considered normal by the unfortunate children who had the misfortune to be trapped there 

 This abuse is completely unknown to the people of Scotland.

Had it not been for the creation of a Facebook group, a petition and then a website by survivors, this truth would never have come to light. 


  The Scotsman - Friday 30 June 1950 

      Dr Guthrie's Boys' School responds to criticism in the House of Commons

A Mr Scott speaking for Dr Guthrie's said, referring to criticism that the buildings were unsuitable, "it's an absolute lie, Dr Guthrie's school at Liberton is one of the brightest schools in Edinburgh"  Another spokesperson for Dr Guthrie's, a certain Bailie George Romanes, said the intelligence of the children seems to be below par. Another spokesperson for Dr Guthrie's, the Marquess of Tweeddale, said there was no doubt that boys had been sent to approved schools who were really mental cases. Other speakers included a Mr Charles Guthrie, W.S chairperson of the general committee of the schools and the grandson of the founder of the schools.

"Before Dr Guthrie's I had an irregular primary education. I received virtually no education after I entered Dr Guthrie's. Today I have some vocational qualifications, but thanks to Dr Guthrie's I have no educational qualifications.

Although the dysfunction of my family undoubtedly had an impact on my education, I was able to read, write and do well in maths before I entered Dr Guthrie's.

I hope that the Scottish authorities, particularly in the child abuse inquiry, are not classifying Dr Guthrie's survivors, like Dr Guthrie's spokespeople, as people of below-par intelligence.

God forbid, they might even classify us as mental cases"

Guthries Approved school Liberton Edinburgh

Children  who  have  been  abused  within  the  walls  of  the  school  have  cried  so  much  that  the  building  is  drenched  with  horror 

The escapes continue.....

Edinburgh Evening News - Monday 5th June 1961

Three boys aged 11, 12 and 13, who escaped from Dr Guthrie's approved school in Edinburgh, were today apprehended in Starbank Road near Newhaven Fish Market. 


Edinburgh Evening News - Saturday December 9th 1961

Two boys from Dr Guthrie's approved school in Liberton, Edinburgh, who went missing at 8 o'clock last night, were apprehended by police in Newington Road a few hours later. 



 Report from 1969

Corporal punishment was used in Scotland 10 times as often as in English approved schools.

Max Paterson wrote to John McPherson, HMI responsible for approved schools about the true picture of beatings. Punishment books in approved schools did not reflect the actual number of beatings or that some pupils were held down, Mr Paterson wrote.

He urged ministers to bring in an immediate ban on belting on the buttocks which he described as “vicious in the realm of punishment or of attitude” It also had sexual undertones.

On one visit to another school, I was told by the headmaster, as a 'joke', that a child, an 11 year old, bent over the desk to receive his punishment, had soiled himself after two strokes. The child had panicked, jumped and run around the room.

The head said: 'You should have seen the job I had before I caught him to give him the rest'.

The school was Dr Guthrie’s Boys’ in Edinburgh


    The Scotsman - Wednesday 31st December 1975 


   Sadly, the same Max PATERSON mentioned above in the Tes report has been sacked from his job at another 'List D' approved school. 

    Here's an extract from a letter someone wrote to the paper.

"do those responsible for, and concerned with children in trouble, really not approve of Max Paterson's views on childcare? Or are officials, - whether centrally or locally employed - so muzzled by the form of their office, that they are unable to speak out?" 

dr guthries boys school edinburgh dormitory

Although MPs in the House of Commons called for the Boys' School to close in 1949, it continued to operate until 1985.


Dr Guthrie's Boys' School was clearly a cruel institution in the 1940s, but it seems that the Scottish elite had more influence than Westminster MPs.

  Apparently, all they had to do was to make derogatory remarks about the boys being intellectually challenged and mental cases.

 Then they were allowed to abuse the boys for another 35 years with total impunity. 


The place was as miserable in 1970 as Westminster MPs described it in 1949


" In winter we wore corduroy shorts and jackets, and all our pockets were sewn up. Some days you were literally freezing to death, and if you dared to put your hands inside your shorts to keep warm, you would be dragged into the headmaster's office, held over his desk, and belted over your bare bottom.

 The toilet in the corner of the square was stinking, and there were no doors on the toilet cubicles, so you were forced to defecate in front of everyone".

Dr Guthries Boys

 Dr  Guthrie's  Ragged  Schools – Exclusively  for     sadists  to  abuse  the  Impoverished 


Given the apparent legal immunity and lack of accountability of Dr Guthrie's Association, 2024 could just as easily be 1854, 1949 or 1950. These people remind me very much of the Catholic Church in the early 1990s, and no one is allowed to voice their displeasure with this institution that supposedly cares for vulnerable and defenceless children.

Were any people arrested for abusing boys between 1947 and 1949? Did anything happen to the voluntary organisation that ran the schools in 1950? Were these people censured in any way? The fact that the schools were still in existence in 1986, controlled by the same voluntary organisation, leads me to doubt that.

Again, now in 2024, I'm aware that nobody has been arrested and these people are still getting superstar treatment. They claim they have nothing to do with the schools or the abuse, but they have our records and we need their permission to access them as survivors.

They have the audacity to donate to charities that support victims of child abuse, but they won't apologise to the survivors of Dr Guthrie's schools. They have the money to donate to child abuse charities, but they have not made a single contribution to the Scottish Government's redress scheme.

Holding the Dr Guthrie's Association accountable seems to be a challenging task. Whether it was Ayrshire Councillors or MPs in the House of Commons calling for the schools to close, their views were deemed irrelevant.

The individuals and organisation responsible for the vile abuse of children have not been held to account by the police, the child abuse inquiry or Scottish law. 

It is also irrelevant whether or not survivors have come forward with complaints, some of which describe the most horrific forms of abuse imaginable. 

Consulting a lawyer is also irrelevant. 

Why are they above the law? 



Dr Guthries ragged schools Exclusively for Sadist

This website is informing the public in Scotland and the rest of the world that the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is nothing more than a total cover-up and whitewash. Some survivors are being treated like second-class citizens by this inquiry. They also know that the average life expectancy of a child who has been in care is only 63. However, private fee-paying schools were investigated by the abuse inquiry in 2021. Private school pupils tend to live into their mid to late 80s, as they must be aware.

I have nothing against private fee-paying abusive institutions being investigated. I was in favour of investigating these places in a questionnaire I completed years ago, and I am in favour of investigating these places today.  But in any genuine, honest inquiry, people with an average life expectancy of only 63 years would expect the institutions that abused them to be investigated first, not at the very end, as is the case with this Scottish Abuse Inquiry.

 It is because it is so clear that children who have spent time in care have a relatively short life expectancy that I raise this unethical situation.

At the time of writing, 28th October 2023, they have still not investigated Dr Guthrie's Schools. They are deliberately ignoring victims of serious abuse in order to delay action against the institutions we have complained about.

 They want most of us to die before they deal with institutions like Dr Guthrie's Schools.


If you are a former Guthrie boy or family of a former Guthrie boy and would like to leave a comment on this page,

please don't hesitate to contact me using the links at the bottom of the home page


Anonymous  comment  1

I was also an inmate at Dr Guthrie's Boys' School and I can assure you all that it was bad. I broke my right hand playing bulldog there and they told me it was just a bruise, which wasn't true because when I was 18 I had to have the nerves removed from my ring finger and little finger.

At 67 I still have a black spot on my forehead where a teacher stabbed me with a pencil. I had a teacher who tried to molest me sexually so I kicked him and ran away and was caught by the police and taken back there and called a liar and made to drop my trousers and pants and then beaten with a leather strap.

There is so much more to tell, like my father visited me and I had a blinding headache so I was taken to the matron who put me in the infirmary and later that day I was forced to have sex with her and in the evening with her assistant.

I was placed there for so-called care and protection, but it was the staff we needed protection from and the reason I was placed there was because of family problems, so I ran away from home and the children's panel decided that I should be placed there.

 As I understand it, Dr Guthries was an approved school, much like a junior prison for bad boys, but why would I have been placed there for running away from home?


Anonymous  comment  2

For a so-called Christian institution, they certainly didn't show me any Christian love. 

Christmas Eve 1971. I was the only boy left in the school. I had no home to go to. I was waiting to be transferred to a remand home. Everyone had left, except me.

 I was watching choirboys on television, then cartoons came on. The headmaster came and asked me what I was doing, "I told him I was watching cartoons".

He turned off the TV and told me to find a brush and sweep the square.

Here I am, 13 years old, all alone, sweeping the square. Christmas Eve, stars in the sky, all the lights on in the building. Sweeping the square at 6.00pm on Christmas Eve.

It's very difficult to express the cruelty, barbarism and sadism of the staff towards the boys who simply had the misfortune to be in such a terrible place.


There was a photograph of Baldy on the Internet, taken around 1978. He's in a dormitory. He's smiling!

When I saw the photograph in 2007, it was the first time I had ever seen him smile. 

He was a cruel, sadistic bastard.


 Please sign the petition below.

 Do not let them get away with horrible child abuse

Petition Dr Guthrie statue Princes St Edinburgh