The Mary Erskine School

The Mary Erskine School
Motto Mitis et fortis
Established 1694 as Merchant Maiden Hospital
Type Independent day and boarding school
Principal David Gray
Location Ravelston
Students 750 (approx.)[1]
Gender Girls
Ages 12–18
School fees Day: £10,584 ; Boarding: £21,162 per Annum (2015)[2]

The Mary Erskine School, popularly known as "Mary Erskine's" or "MES", is an all-girls independent secondary school in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was founded in 1694 and has a roll of around 750 pupils. It is the sister school of the all-boys Stewart's Melville College (SMC) with which MES shares a coeducational nursery and junior school for pupils aged 3–11.[1]

The majority of its pupils live in the surrounding area (Edinburgh, Lothian and Fife) but boarding facilities are available. About 3% of the pupils are boarders.[2] The school is non-denominational but claims to have a broadly Christian outlook.

Both MES and SMC are managed by the Merchant Company of Edinburgh which is also responsible for the city's George Watson's College. In 2014 the combined Erskine Stewarts Melville school claimed to be the largest independent school in Europe.[3]

Although the school is single sex, many activities, although not teaching, are carried out jointly with the boys from SMC. The sixth (final) year of the school is co-educational.[4]

The Mary Erskine School at the Ravelston, Edinburgh site


The school was founded as a hospital school for the daughters of Edinburgh burgesses[5] in 1694 as the Merchant Maiden Hospital by Mary Erskine (a prominent Edinburgh banking businesswoman[5]) and the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh in the Cowgate, Edinburgh.[6] In 1870, it was refounded by act of Parliament as a day school, renamed as the Edinburgh Educational Institution For Girls and had grown to 1,200 girl students. In 1871 it moved its premises to Queen Street, Edinburgh[6] and became familiarly known as Queen Street School.[7] The school was renamed again as Edinburgh Ladies' College in 1889, and to its present name, "The Mary Erskine School", in 1944.[6]

In 1966 the school moved to Ravelston, Edinburgh and in 1977 the Mary Erskine School merged with an all-boys independent secondary school Stewart's Melville College which is located approximately one mile (2 km) from the MES campus and The Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools (ESMS) was formed.[6] Together MES and SMC have a co-educational Junior School which caters for pupils from three to 11 years old. Nursery to Primary 3 are housed on the Mary Erskine campus, with Primary 4 to 7 on the Stewart's Melville campus. The combined sixth (final) form of both schools is coeducational.[8]

Mary Erskine School was voted the Scottish Independent School of the year in 2012.[9][10]


The school is involved in a wide variety of sports, most of which are coached by mixture of staff from general departments as well as the Physical Education (PE) department staff. Sports include Aerobics, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Cricket, Cross-country, Curling, Dance, Equestrian, Fencing, Football, Golf, Highland Dancing, Hockey, Sailing, Skiing, Squash, Swimming, Tennis and Volleyball.[11]


MES excels particularly in hockey,[12] with over 6 teams competing at senior level and many pupils playing at National level. Pupils have the opportunity to play for the Erksine Stewart's Melville Former Pupil Hockey Club once leaving sixth form.

Ravelston Sports Club

"Ravelston Sports Club" is a large on-site sports centre and gym opened in 2000 and is split across both campuses. The sports centre is mainly used by pupils for PE lessons and sports training, but is also open to members of the public with a monthly membership fee. Extensive rugby and cricket pitches and athletics facilities are located at the school's sports grounds in Inverleith.

Music and Drama

Almost 800 children sing regularly in choirs performing in all kinds of venues from the Usher Hall to St Peter's in the Vatican, from Songs of Praise[13] to sharing the stage with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.[14] In addition to this 300 children from Primary 4 to senior sixth Form play in school orchestras and bands (including Pipe Band and Jazz Band).

Boys and girls from the Junior School have had favourable reviews while performing over 680 times in professional West End touring musicals including over 220 appearances in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Senior pupils have won prestigious scholarships to American Drama Schools and starred on TV.

Pupils have access to and frequently perform in SMC's "Tom Fleming Centre for Performing Arts" (formerly "Performing Arts Centre").


Since 1965, the school has organised an outdoor education programme for the boys of SMC and the girls from MES in the third senior year.[15] It is located in the north of Scotland at Carbisdale Castle, a historic castle which has been converted into a Youth Hostel. The trip consists of a number of outdoor activities that vary from year to year including hillwalking, orienteering, golf, kayaking, team-building activities, visits to nearby historic sites and environmental studies of the surrounding woodland. Carbisdale Castle has a plaque of the Stewart's Melville College badge in its foyer above the main door.


Between First Senior Year and Fifth Year pupils are split into house groups. There are six different houses (named after areas of Scotland):

Each house has a Head of House tutor as well as a form tutor for each year group who is responsible for pupils' well-being.

These houses correspond with the houses of the same names at Stewart's Melville College, and are the basis for the 'ESM Challenge'. This is a series of annual events involving both the boys and girls in each house. It covers a wide variety of school societies, ranging from the House Music Competition to the Inter-house Hockey. The competition comes to a climax on Sports Day with a 4x100m relay between each house. The winning house is then awarded a cup at the school's prizegiving ceremony.

Senior Sixth form

When pupils enter the sixth (final) form they are merged with the boys from Stewart's Melville College. Classes take place at both school sites, with buses operating regularly to transfer students between the two. There are approximately 240 students in a normal year group.

In sixth form students are largely independent. Students have a tutor (twinned with another at the other site) with whom they register in the morning, and who also helps them with their British university UCAS applications.

All members of the sixth form are prefects and are expected to help out with duties around the school sites. The maintenance of the prefect body is the responsibility of a Head Boy and a Head Girl, along with five deputy head boys and five deputy head girls.

School Uniform and Colours

In 1994 the school adopted the present uniform which includes a navy blue and red kilt designed by the company Kinloch Anderson,[16] a blue blazer, white blouse and red tie.[17]

Colours and Half-Colours can be awarded in Sixth Form to pupils who excel in non-academic areas (such as music, drama and individual sports).


Pupils at Mary Erskine's mainly sit Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) examinations, including (as of 2013) National 4, National 5, Higher Grade and Advanced Higher Grade levels. The English GCE Advanced Level examinations can also be sat in art and music. As is the case with many independent schools MES has examination results well above the national average. For example, in 2013, 86% of pupils passed Higher grade exams at the A or B level and passed an average of five Higher Grade exams each.[2] Almost all leavers were planning to go on to higher education.[18] In 2015, popular destinations included St Andrews (11), Glasgow (18), Edinburgh Napier (3), Aberdeen (12), Newcastle (2) and Northumbria (5).[18] In 2014 and 2016, Mary Erskine's was top of the Sunday Times list of independent secondary schools in Scotland using the Scottish Examinations system[19][20] and in 2015 was judged the best Scottish School by Advanced Highers by Best-Schools.[21]

Former Pupils Guild

Upon leaving MES, students have the opportunity to join the Mary Erskine Former Pupils Guild[22] which was founded in 1884.[23]

Notable former pupils

See also Category:People educated at the Mary Erskine School


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (2014) School Details – Mary Erskine The Guide to Independent Schools, Retrieved 8 March 2014
  2. 1 2 3 Miller, Nikki (Editor) (2014) "School Guide Edinburgh & The Lothians, 2015 Annual Issue", Select Publishing Ltd.
  3. (2014) Erskine Stewart's Melville School The Tatler Schools Guide, retrieved 8 March 2014
  4. (2014) The Mary Erskine School The Good Schools Guide, Retrieved 8 March 2014
  5. 1 2 Erskine, Mary, 1629–1707 Scotland's People, National Records of Scotland, Retrieved 13 June 2014
  6. 1 2 3 4 "History". Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools. Retrieved 19 November 2007.
  7. Roberts (2007, p. 44)
  8. "Structure of the Schools". Archived from the original on March 5, 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  9. Allardyce, Jason (17 November 2012) Mary Erskine and Boroughmuir top our schools guide The Sunday Times (requires subscription), Retrieved 8 March 2014
  10. 1 2 Leonard, Sue (2012) In Tune with the Times The Sunday Times, Retrieved 8 March 2014
  11. "The Mary Erskine School :Clubs and Societies". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  12. Roberts (2007, p. 115)
  13. "The Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School". Forth 2 - The Greatest Hits. Bauer Media. 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  14. "The Land of the Counterpane in Childrens Chorus & Orchestra". Howard Blake official website. Highbridge Music. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  15. Roberts (2007, p. 120)
  16. School Uniform Mary Erskine School FP Guild web page, Retrieved 13 June 2014
  17. (23 April 2008) Independent schools: M-W: The Mary Erskine School The Scotsman, Retrieved 13 June 2013
  18. 1 2 "Academic success: Leaver Destinations". Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  19. "The Sunday Times Schools Guide, League Tables; The top independent secondary schools in Scotland (Highers/National 5)". The Sunday Times. London, UK. 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. (subscription required (help)).
  20. "The top Scottish Independent secondary schools for Advanced Highers/ Highers/ National 5". The Sunday Times: Parent Power Secondary. 2016-11-27. p. 2.
  21. "UK School League Tables; Best Scottish Schools by Advanced Highers". Education Advisers Ltd. 2015. Retrieved 2016-11-27.
  22. Mary Erskine School FP Guild website Retrieved 25 October 2014
  23. Roberts (2007, p. 181)
  24. O'Ryan, Lydia (2002) Drew, Joanna. (12 of 50). National Life Story Collection: Artists' Lives British Library, Retrieved 16 October 2014
  25. (2014) Jenny Foulds Biography 1MDB, Retrieved 8 March 2014
  26. Bressan, David (14 June 2011). "A women geoscientist in the Dolomites: Maria Matilda Ogilvie Gordon". Field of Science. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  27. Williams, Richard (1993). Royal Holloway College, A Pictorial History. Surrey: Royal Holloway College. p. 28. ISBN 0-900145-83-8.
  28. "International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004" Europa Publications, Routlidge, Page 341, ISBN 978-1857431797 Also available on the Internet at Google Books
  29. Sheila Scott Macintyre School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrews, Retrieved 3 October 2014
  30. 1MDB, Retrieved 27 June 2015
  31. Steven, Alasdair (6 September 2004). "Anna MacLeod". The Scotsman. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  32. O'Leary, David (16 May 2013) Bikinis at the ready for beach volleyball The Scotsman, Retrieved 2 April 2014
  33. Lavery, Jen (28 October 2013). "Actress Chloe Pirrie goes from burgers to Baftas". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  34. Dr Winifred Rushforth OBE Electric Scotland, Retrieved 16 October 2014
  36. Burnside, Elspeth (28 June 2013) Lynsey Sharp facing fitness race for world trials The Scotsman, Retrieved 2 April 2014
  37. Creese, Mary R.S. and Creese Thomas M. (2010) "Ladies in the Laboratory III: South African, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian Women in Science: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries" Scarecrow Press, Page 93, ISBN 9780810872899


  • Roberts, Alasdair (2007). Crème de la Crème, Girls' Schools of Edinburgh. 91 Brick Lane, London, W1 6QL, U.K.: Steve Savage Publishers. ISBN 978-1-904246-20-6. 

Coordinates: 55°57′10″N 3°15′15″W / 55.95278°N 3.25417°W / 55.95278; -3.25417

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