George Heriot School

COURAGE TOUR GOES TO SCOTLAND

I was walking through an old cemetery in Edinburgh marveling at the age of the tombstones when I heard the sound of children laughing and screaming. I understood the screaming, as I was in a cemetery, however laughing? I walked toward the sound and peered through a wrought-iron gate only to see children playing in front of what looked to be a castle. I realized the castle must have been a school. I called two teachers over to asked them the name of the school. It’s George Heriot School. At that moment, I knew I had to present my leadership anti-bullying presentation in this building.

When I got back to Canada, I researched the school. I found out that it was established in 1659 by a goldsmith by the name of George Heriot, who wanted to create a school for orphaned boys. I emailed the school multiple times; however I didn’t receive a response. I revisited Edinburgh and went to the entrance of the school to see if I could drop off an information package yet, I couldn’t get passed the guard that was at the front gate. A woman walked by me and toward the entrance. I figured she must be an employee and asked her if she would take my information package and give it to the school office. She took my information package, but still no response. I returned to Canada.

I continued to send emails to the school. Finally, to my amazement I received a response. I was being invited to present at George Heriot School.

I returned to Edinburgh in October of 2018 and presented to a group of P6 students, which would be the same as grade 5 students in Canada. After the presentation, Leslie Reid, the headteacher, invited me to the dining hall for lunch. I was greeted by students who were excited to see me. Following lunch, I was given a tour by twelve-year-old boys. The coolest part of the tour was going up to the top of the turret. There was a class at the top. I could imagine boys four hundred years ago climbing the castle stairs to get to their classes.

I found out later that J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, used names from the gravestones from the nearby cemetery as character names. George Heriot’s house system also inspired her. That’s where she got the idea for the Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuffs.

I returned to Edinburgh a few months later to do a second presentation. This was in October 2019. I was scheduled for a June 2020 presentation, however it was postponed due to the Covid-19 virus. I look forward to returning to George Heriot in the near future.