Robert Gordon's College

Robert Gordon's College (known by the abbreviation RGC) is a private co-educational day school in Aberdeen, Scotland. The school caters for pupils from Nursery-S6.


It originally opened in 1750 as the result of a bequest by Robert Gordon, an Aberdeen merchant who made his fortune from trading with Baltic ports, and was known at foundation as Robert Gordon's Hospital. This was 19 years after Gordon had died and left his estate in a 'Deed of Mortification' to fund the foundation of the Hospital. The fine William Adam-designed building was in fact completed in 1732, but lay empty until 1745 until Gordon's foundation had sufficient funds to complete the interior. During the Jacobite Rising, in 1746 the buildings were commandeered by Hanoverian troops and named Fort Cumberland.

Gordon's aim was to give the poor boys of Aberdeen a firm education, or as he put it to "found a Hospital for the Maintenance, Aliment, Entertainment and Education of young boys from the city whose parents were poor and destitute". At this point all pupils at the school were boarders, but in 1881, the Hospital became a day school known as Robert Gordon's College. In 1903, the vocational education component of the college was designated a Central Institution (which was renamed as Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology in 1965 and became the Robert Gordon University in 1992). Boarding did not return until 1937 with the establishment of Sillerton House. In 1989 RGC became a co-educational school.

The modern school is divided into a Nursery, Junior School, and Senior School, and caters for boys and girls from 4 to 18 years. RGC has long had a reputation as one of the stronger academic schools in Scotland, and follows the Scottish curriculum. In 2006, there was a 90% pass rate at higher, and 35 pupils gained 5+ passes at A grade. 98% of leavers went on to higher education, the majority at Scottish Universities such as St. Andrews, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, but also 10 pupils gaining entry to Oxford and Cambridge.

Arms and motto

The Latin motto of the college, 'omni nunc arte magistra' is understood by all at the school to mean 'now you should use all your masterly skills'.

This has been the motto of the College since 1881 when Robert Gordon's College superseded Robert Gordon's Hospital. It is taken from Virgil's Aeneid, Book VIII, line 441, where the words are spoken by the god Vulcan to encourage his workers.

The crest of the Gordons of Pitlurg is on the left of the coat of arms and the crest of the Burgh of Aberdeen is on the right.

House system

The school operates four houses, to one of which each student is allocated upon entering the school. The houses compete for different sporting and academic trophies throughout the year, and determine each student's form class.

The four houses are:

  • Blackfriars - named for the Dominican monks (or black friars due to their garb), that once had a convent adjacent to the school grounds.
  • Collyhill - named for Alexander Simpson of Collyhill who bequeathed a large sum of money to the school, which allowed for more boys to join the school.
  • Sillerton - The origin of the Sillerton house name is not clear, but it is believed that, in Robert Gordon's lifetime, he was known as Gordon of Silverton (siller being Scots for silver), and on a 1746 map, the school is identified as Sillerton Hospital.
  • Straloch - named for Robert Gordon of Straloch, one of the first graduates of Marischal College, studying humanities, mathematics and philosophy.

Robert Gordon's College follows the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. At certificate level, the school offers Standard Grade or Intermediate 2 courses in S4, Higher usually in S5 and Advanced Higher or secondary qualifications at Higher in S6.

The S1/S2 course is structured by individual departments.

At S3/4 level the first certificate course is introduced. Separate departments have chosen either Standard Grade or Intermediate 2, having decided which course was better for progression. S3/4 pupils choose 8 subjects, including Mathematics and English, as well as Physical Education (and Information Communications Technology in S4). A core course in Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies is also compulsory (as well as this, it can be taken as an Intermediate 2 course).

Extra-curricular activities

During the 1980s and 1990s Robert Gordon's College developed a powerful reputation for its debating. There is an internal debating championship for S1-3 and the college takes part in many other competitions externally, such as the English Speaking Union competition. (The Courier was also a competition until 2009.)

In 2002 the College achieved great success in hockey winning the Scottish Reserve Cup, the Scottish School's Cup and the North District League. The success continues at the college as the North District Under 16 and Under 18 squads are heavily made up of RGC players every year. The 1st XI boys of 2011 have also had recent success, where they won the Scottish School's Cup, making them Scottish school champions for the 2010-2011 season.

In golf they have also had considerable success.

RGC has the highest intake of the Duke of Edinburgh candidates in the whole of Scotland - more than twice as many as any other taking part in the award scheme. In 2006, 66 candidates are doing the Gold Award. In contrast, in 2005, Aberdeenshire Council produced only 6 Gold Candidates.

The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is also renowned for being one of the best in Scotland consisting of the RAF and Army. In 2004, the school won the Military Skills Competition in Barry Buddon. This competition allows the top 7 CCF Army sections in Scotland to compete for the trophy. In 2005, they came 2nd. In 2006, they came 3rd. In 2007 they came 2nd. In 2008 they came 2nd. In 2009 they came 1st. In 2010 they came 4th.

Notable former pupils

Former pupils include:

  • Eric Auld, artist
  • Ian Black was a Commonwealth Games gold medalist, and BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1958 at the age of only seventeen. He later returned to RGC as Headmaster of the Junior School.
  • Martin Buchan, former footballer and captain with Manchester United, Aberdeen and Scotland
  • David Carry, Commonwealth gold medal winner
  • Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson and Stuart Grimes, Scottish rugby players
  • George Donald, one-third of Scottish comedy act Scotland the What?
  • Professor Ian Frazer, who worked to develop the HPV vaccine.
  • Michael Gove, journalist and politician
  • Buff Hardie, one-third of Scottish comedy act Scotland the What?
  • BBC Radio Scotland presenter Robbie Shepherd
  • Nicol Stephen, politician
  • Scott Sutherland, architect and founder of the University's School of Architecture at their Garthdee campus
  • Stewart Sutherland, Baron Sutherland of Houndwood, academic and public servant
  • Robert A. Thom, steam locomotive engineer
  • Sandi Thom, singer
  • Jack Webster, local writer
  • John West, Depute Provost of Aberdeen (elected at the age of 18).
  • Aberdeen City Councillor, Kirsty West, elder sister of John West (above). Elected to Aberdeen City Council in 2007, at age 21, and appointed as Education spokesperson for the council. Also now a Governor of Robert Gordon's College.
  • Sir Ian Wood, Scottish businessman and Chancellor of the Robert Gordon University
  • Peter J. Stephen, Lord Provost of Aberdeen
  • Neil Macrae, Aberdeenshire Cricket Club Captain 2010
  • Joseph Walker, grandson of the founder and current owner of Walkers Shortbread
Charitable causes

Robert Gordon's College is known for its great support of charities within Scotland and the UK. The school's Charities Committee organises and chooses the charity for many different events. Every year there many House events, which earn points for the various houses, such as the Karaoke and Lip Synch. These events raise a lot of money and a recent Comic Relief Talent Show raised over £2000.

The various dramatic societies put on performances on multiple occasions annually which raise money for various charities. In session 2008/2009, donations went to Children 1st, and this session (2009/2010), the chosen charity is the Camphill.

In April 2010, The College worked with Forecourt Art Group to put on an exhibition in aid of the Archie Foundation. 20% of all sales went to the charity, with over £550 being donated.

Rugby club

Gordonians RFC was originally founded by old pupils of the school.

Building Activity

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