AT 150 years of age, St Ninian’s High in Kirkintilloch is one of the oldest state schools in Scotland.

Famous former pupils include Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi, The Blue Nile frontman Paul Buchanan and high profile footballers including Scotland, Celtic, Arsenal and Real Sociedad star Kieran Tierney.

The purpose-built school was the area’s first Roman Catholic school and it held its first mass on January 11, 1874. It opened its doors to pupils on January 19, eight days later. Ninety children joined on the first day and the first headmistress was a Miss Mary O’Neill.

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In those days, St Ninian’s served the residents of North Glasgow, Dunbartonshire and as far afield as Stirlingshire, Grangemouth and Falkirk.

There has been drama in its past, from measles outbreaks in the early 1900s, to a hero rescue by a 13-year-old boy called Harry McDernon.

The National: The original building in 1973The original building in 1973 (Image: St Ninian's High)

The local newspaper at the time reported the St Ninian’s pupil “saved the life of an infant girl by jumping into the canal fully clothed.”

The report said: “Mr William Barry, the rector, said there was nothing more valuable and useful to a boy than to be able to swim.

“The rescue took place during the lunch hour…and after changing his clothes McDernon returned to the school without making mention of the rescue incident.

“The rescued girl… had fallen into the water while at play.”

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Young Harry was give £5 for his valiant efforts, the newspaper added.

The current school began its anniversary celebration year exactly 150 years to the day, with Archbishop Cushley as principal celebrant for mass in Holy Family and St Ninian’s church and a reception for invited guests, parishioners and families in the parish hall which from 1895 to 1931 had been the main school building.

There is a whole year of activity planned to mark the milestone birthday, explains headteacher Paul McLaughlin, including classroom “experiences through the decades”, making time capsules, recording digital memories, and the creation of a mosaic to which all pupils can contribute.

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He added: “It is an exciting year for the school, and a joy and privilege for me as headteacher to be involved in marking this significant anniversary.”

The school is also planning to commission a stained glass window for the school oratory, a mural in the social area showing the school through the decades, an exhibition at the Auld Kirk in June and a pilgrimage to Whithorn – almost 150 miles - in August.

A legacy project, the StNinians150 Alumni Fund, aims to help finance further projects and activities and a gala dinner later in the year.