Leith Navigation School was founded in 1855 after the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act to provide proper instruction of navigation leading to Master and Mates examinations and certificates. Prior to this such instruction would have been carried out by Trinity House, Leith.
A purpose-built building was opened in 1903 in Commercial St, Leith, and the name changed to Leith Nautical College. Classes were also offered in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture and in time in wireless telegraphy, classes to fishermen, deck boy's courses and catering, radar and electronics. The boys' courses were taught on the wooden-hulled T. S. Dolphin, moored in Leith Old Docks, and formerly the Royal Navy’s original submarine depot ship at Gosport. However, the MN catering courses were centralised in England in the 1970s, the Pre-Sea Department was closed and TS Dolphin sadly scrapped, leaving only a college of three departments.
In 1977 Leith Nautical College moved to new premises in Milton Road East and was officially opened by Prince Charles in 1978. In 1983, as the Merchant Navy declined, the government reviewed nautical education in Scotland and both navigation and marine engineering departments closed in 1987 marking the end for the nautical college. Electrical and marine electronics were the only courses kept on at the former nautical college building – later called Bolam House. This was merged with Esk Valley College in Eskbank to be become, originally, the two site Jewel & Esk Valley College. Part, now, of Edinburgh College, sadly no nautical subjects are taught at the former nautical college, which, however, still supports its original radar mast – all that is left of a proud tradition.
This year would have been the 40th anniversary of the Leith Nautical College Milton Road campus. So in honour of this, the Edinburgh College Development Trust has been working with a steering group, locally based ex-staff and students, to create a Leith Nautical Reunion Dinner. This event will be taking place on the 29 September at The EH15 Restaurant, The Club Building (Top Floor). The restaurant is on the Milton Road campus where 40 years ago Prince Charles officially opened this wonderful historical building.
Group of alumni and ex-staff at the Leith Nautical College reunion, September 2018
Edinburgh College Development Trust is a Scottish Charity, SC044657