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Leith Nautical College

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.

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 wireless telegraphy, classes to fishermen, deck boy's courses and catering, radar and electronics.

Old Nautical College, Commercial Street, Leith

The boys' courses were taught on the wooden-hulled TS Dolphin, moored in Leith Old Docks, and formerly the Royal Navy’s original submarine depot ship at Gosport. However, the Merchant Navy 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.

TS Dolphin at Leith

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 British Merchant Navy continued to declined, due mostly to the use of “Flags of Convenience” the government reviewed nautical education in Scotland and both navigation and marine engineering departments closed in 1987 marking the end for the nautical college.

Jewel & Esk Valley 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, the Jewel & Esk Valley College. Now a part 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.

The radar mast on top of the college building brings back memories as I was the one responsible for the Lofting and template making of this mast, once completed the Platers built the mast. Glad to hear that it may still be around as I have not been able to get down that way for many years.

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