Comhairle nan Eilean Siar formally opened the new Nicolson Institute in Stornoway yesterday.
The £29 million building serves just under 1100 pupils, is the largest school in the Outer Hebrides and has been operational since August of this year.
The school was opened by former principal of the Free Church College, Professor Donald Macleod who unveiled a plaque to mark the opening.
Also speaking were Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell, Chair of Education and Leisure Services Cllr Catriona Stewart, Rector Dr. Frances Murray and Chair of Sgoiltean Ura and Convener of the Comhairle, Cllr Norman A MacDonald. All the speakers are former Nicolson Institute pupils.
School Captains, Annabel MacLennan and Alasdair Macleod, also performed readings, one in Gaelic and one in English.
This was followed by the Nicolson Institute Band who performed Highland Cathedral in a stunning repeat of their performance in Paris earlier this year.
Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell said: “This is the latest in a series of school openings which I have had the pleasure of attending over the past year.”
He continued: “Not only have we now got almost 50% of our pupils in state of the art educational facilities but the Schools project has also helped to sustain the local construction industry. And this has been against the background of an extremely challenging economic climate.”
Chair of Education and Children’s Services Catriona Stewart said: “Many of us fortunate to be present in this inspiring new school with pupils, staff and honoured guests did wonder if this day would actually arrive. It has been a long and somewhat tortuous journey at times.
“Ten years have passed since the then Scottish Executive gave consent for the Western Isles Schools Project to go ahead. Eight years of debate, decision, design, procurement, financial modelling, demolition and finally two years of building works have left us with 6 new schools resourced to the highest standards the Comhairle can achieve in which the curriculum for excellence can be delivered most effectively.”
Rector Dr. Frances Murray commented: “I feel proud and privileged to be the school’s Rector at this important point in our history and hope that those of you today who are pupils will look back at this time as a glorious new time in the school’s-and your own-lives.”
Western Isles MP Angus Mac Neil, a former pupil of the school, was also at the opening.
He said: “I was delighted to attend the official opening of the fabulous new Nicolson Institute. I attended The Nicolson Institute for 5th and 6th year, as in the 80s it was the only 6th year secondary in the Hebrides. As a former pupil it was an honour to attend today’s official opening as MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar.”
He added: “There was a surprise at the end. All the guests were asked to wait an extra 15 minutes before we could leave the assembly hall, so perhaps it could be argued that I along with councillors and many others were part of the first detention since the building was officially opened.”