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The Nicolson Institute: The History of an Island School by Iain Smith with Joan Forrest will be published on Wednesday 29 November 2023 by Stornoway-based publishers Acair.

The book celebrates the history of the Nicolson Institute from its inception which came about due to Alexander Nicolson’s bequest.

“To the most approved charitable institution in my native town for the education and rearing of destitute children even, I bequeath one-third part of my entire property in the hope that I may be the indirect means of rendering some assistance to the children of some of my oldest acquaintances," wrote Alexander Nicolson.

There will be three launch events held for the publication of this book.

  • Wednesday 29 November  – The Nicolson Institute, Stornoway @ 7:30pm
  • Thursday 30 November – Clan Macquarrie Centre, Borve @ 7:30pm
  • Monday 4 December – Partick Burgh Halls, Glasgow @ 7:30pm

All three launch events are open to the public and free of charge. 

How did the tragic death of a young Stornoway engineer in Shanghai in 1865 lead to the birth of an island institution which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2023?

Iain Smith brings together letters, school magazine features, records of meetings, a treasure trove of photographs, and a previously unpublished school history to tell the story of The Nicolson Institute, its founding fathers, and its place in the history of Scottish education.

The book contains almost 200 photographs of pupils, staff and sporting teams – both in black and white and colour – which will bring back many memories for everyone with connections to The Nicolson Institute.

Professor Matthew Maciver, former Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council, said: “As a former pupil I welcome this history of a school that means so much to many. It is an informative and meticulously researched history of an island school that has been the springboard for the many islanders who went on to make their mark on the world.

"In addition, the book also reflects the increasing involvement of the school in the wider life of its community, especially in the development of Gaelic Medium Education. A fitting tribute to the Nicolson Institute as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.”

Catherine Dunn, former teacher of Gaelic and English and former Director of Education, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “The Nicolson Institute has played an important role in my life from the time I went there at age 12.

"After university I returned as a teacher and from there went to work in the Education Department, where interaction with the Nicolson, as our largest school, was a key part of my work. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be part of it in all these roles and to have made lifelong friends along the way. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to Iain Smith for having devoted so much time and effort to bringing us this tremendous work. It will have a very appreciative and interested readership that will enjoy having memories refreshed as well as having background information as to how the school developed and how it responded positively to changing educational and community requirements.”

Iain Smith, author, said: “Angus Nicolson's 100 year history (compiled with a team of school students) forms a substantial part of the book. It was never formally published. Now, their story can be told at last. I am grateful to Professor Malcolm Nicolson for putting his father's work into the public domain.”

Angus Morrison, Acair Manager, said: “We’re hugely excited to bring this book to publication, particularly this year when 150 years of the Nicolson Institute has been celebrated. It contains a feast of information and photographs across many generations and will be a real talking point among families and friends alike as they reminisce on their own time at this iconic island school.”

“We would like to thank Roinn an Fhoghlaim (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), Sgioba na Gàidhlig (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), Horshader Community Development Trust, The McCaig Trust, The Nicolson Institute, Point and Sandwick Trust and Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn for their funding support to bring this piece of history to fruition. We would also like to thank Bòrd na Gàidhlig for their support to Acair with funding.”

The Nicolson Institute The History of an Island School can be pre-ordered on Acair’s website from tomorrow (Wednesday November 1)  –