Our Schools

Scottish Charity No: SC009747

The Merchant Company Education Board (Scottish Charity No: SC009747), under the chairmanship of the Master, is responsible for overseeing the work of two Governing Councils, established in 1989, one covering The Mary Erskine School and Stewart’s Melville College (ESMS) and the other for George Watson’s College. In all three schools, demand for places is strong, academic achievement is consistently high and extra-curricular activities thrive.

The Merchant Company Schools help to shape future generations of business and professional people for Edinburgh, Scotland and the wider world. The schools have evolved from hospitals for orphans and destitute children into predominantly day schools which provide high quality education for boys and girls in Edinburgh.

Membership of the Merchant Company Education Board is determined by an Educational Endowments scheme and consists of The Master, the Treasurer, the two Chairmen of the Governing Councils, the two Principals, the two Finance Chairmen, the Property and Buildings Chairmen and six other elected Members, not all of whom are Members of the Merchant Company. The School Governing Councils, which meet regularly, are sub-committees of the Education Board and consist of 13 members, 8 of whom are appointed by the Education Board.

Scotland’s long-term economic prosperity depends on the quality of young people attracted to careers in commerce and industry. A major initiative by the Merchant Company is fostering the enterprise culture, and forging new links between the schools and local companies. Members have the opportunity to help develop real partnerships between teachers and pupils and commerce and industry by taking part in enterprise in our schools.

The Company also aims to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in young people and to give the teachers a broader insight into business life today.

The Merchant Company’s Charitable Trust also encourages and supports young people in a wide range of entrepreneurial projects, benefiting the wider community.

ESMS (The Mary Erskine School & Stewart’s Melville College)


The story of ESMS is in fact the history of three separate institutions. 

In 1694, the Scottish businesswoman and philanthropist Mary Erskine founded the girls’ school that would bear her name.  The widow on an Edinburgh apothecary, made the donation in response to a proposal by the Merchant Company to establish a foundation for the education of daughters of the burgesses. This makes the Mary Erskine School one of the oldest girls schools in the world.

Melville College was founded by the Rev. Robert Cunningham in 1832.

Daniel Stewart’s College was opened in 1855 from a bequest by Daniel Stewart, an officer of the Court of Exchequer, and was housed in the magnificent buildings designed by David Rhind, in Queensferry Road, which the school still occupies. 

These three institutions formally united in the 1970s and by the turn of the 21st century they had developed into the largest family of independent schools in Europe.

ESMS provides a unique offer which combines co-education with single-sex education. Children are taught together from Nursery to Primary 7, after which they then enjoy the benefits of single-sex – but very closely twinned senior education – before joining together again in a co-educational Sixth Form.

George Watson’s College


George Watson’s College for boys was opened in Archibald Place as a charitable hospital in 1741 by the Merchant Company from the bequest of a successful Edinburgh merchant and financier, George Watson.

In his will he left money so that children from less advantaged backgrounds would be able to enjoy the quality of education available to those more fortunate. This legacy continues.

In 1871 a girls’ school, George Watson’s Ladies’ College was founded to provide similar educational facilities for girls in Admiral Duncan’s House in George Square.

The two schools merged in 1974 to create the co-educational school at Colinton Road and today George Watson’s College provides education from pre-school to S6.

MCRBS Pension Fund

This is a final salary pension scheme for Merchant Company staff and administrative staff at the Merchant Company schools. It has been closed to new entrants since 2011. The attached document outlines the investment policy followed by the Trustees of the Fund.