Brief History of Dollar Academy
The Success of a Legacy
Captain John McNabb died in 1802. Born to a poor family, he went to sea as a young boy and eventually made his fortune as a ship owner. In his will he specified that the interest on half his estate (some £60,000, worth several millions today) was to provide "a Charity or School for the parish of Dollar and shire of Clackmannan wheir I was born".
There were disputes and long legal delays until Rev. Andrew Mylne was appointed Minister of the Parish in 1815. He had his predecessor’s plan for a hospital school for 40 poor boys and girls overthrown in the Court of Chancery. Instead, he and his fellow Trustees conceived of a great academy to educate the boys and girls of Dollar parish, and also pupils from outside Dollar, who would board with teachers. Full fees would be charged to ‘non-residenters’, while parish pupils would pay fees on a sliding scale, with some receiving free education. To attract pupils from outside the parish, excellent teachers would be appointed.
Top Architect Engaged
Thus, John McNabb’s School or Dollar Institution (later Dollar Academy) was founded in 1818. The original bequest having grown steadily since 1802, Mylne was able to engage the eminent architect, William Playfair, who designed a fitting structure with a splendid Doric façade. Besides the Playfair building, fine houses were built in Academy Place to accommodate teachers and boarders. In 1832, an Infant School was started, taking children from the age of three.
By 1868, a hall had been added to the rear of the Playfair block, and, by 1893, a gymnasium. In 1887, as a result of the introduction of compulsory primary education in 1872, the Academy was refused the right to provide free education to those less than 10 years of age, and the Trustees handed the Infant School over to the new School Board in 1887.
The War Years
World War I claimed the lives of 164 former pupils and staff, and 76 fell in World War II. By 1921, the school had run into financial difficulties and was temporarily administered by the County Council. Former pupils then raised funds for an additional endowment, to allow the school once again to be placed under an independent board of governors, and on 16 May 1934 it was formally handed over to the new governing body.
In 1932, the private Argyll House Prep School was bought by the Academy, but more accommodation was soon needed and the prep and junior departments moved to purpose-built premises in 1937 on land adjacent to the Academy.
Rebuilding after the Great Fire
Disaster struck in 1961 when fire burned out the interior of the Playfair building, destroying the splendid library (and some 12,000 books). Local people rallied to help. Education continued in the Prep School, Harviestoun Castle, local halls, and even in private houses. Concrete and steel were used to rebuild inside the surviving outer structure, and the Playfair building was re-opened by Lord Heyworth in 1966.
Since then, the games hall, the swimming pool and dining complex, the new music department and auditorium (the Gibson Building), the computing and mathematics centre (the Younger Building) and the home economics centre (the Iona Building) have been added. The boarding houses have been modernised, and study bedrooms introduced. Three new science labs were built in 1998, and there have been additions to the Prep School building. In 2005, the new Maguire Building was opened with excellent facilities for Art, PE and Drama and with the circular Captain’s Room for conferences and meetings. In 2009, after careful research into the history of the school campus and sensitive landscape planning, play commenced on a new all-weather surface for hockey and tennis.
200 Years after the Death of John McNabb
In 1975, the government announced that the Direct Grant was to be phased out and Central Regional Council refused to continue the agreement on fees for Dollar Parish pupils, preferring that the Academy become a local comprehensive. The Governors, conscious of the Academy’s long and unique traditions, felt compelled to make the school completely independent. Dollar Academy thrived on this challenge and today provides boarders and day pupils with not only a distinctive academic education but also with an unrivalled range of co-curricular activities. The Academy remains at the forefront of Scottish education and our young people continue to flourish in a supportive environment of enthusiasm, commitment, ambition and enjoyment.
In the early 1930s McNabb’s coffin had been found in a crypt in a disused block in London. Former pupils had his remains cremated, and the ashes of Captain John McNabb now rest above the Bronze Doors. A great seafarer and shrewd merchant, John McNabb with his generous legacy, launched another vessel on which, some 200 years after his death, generations of pupils still learn to sail with confidence and success.
Juventutis Veho Fortunas