Seafarers unite for Leith Nautical College reunion

Former staff and students of Leith Nautical College came together to mark 40 years since the institution was officially opened with a weekend of celebrations.

Hosted by the Edinburgh College Development Trust, the independent charity that supports students at Edinburgh College, the weekend involved a reunion dinner at the College’s EH15 Apprentice restaurant and a sea-themed thanksgiving service, as well as an exhibition of Leith Nautical College mementos at South Leith Parish Church as part of Doors Open Day.

The reunion marked 40 years since Prince Charles opened a new home for the college at what is now Edinburgh College’s Milton Road Campus. Leith Nautical College itself dates back further, to 1855.

62 old colleagues, classmates and friends, whose maritime careers have taken them to ports across the UK and the globe came together for the dinner to share their seafaring stories and reminisce about their time spent studying at the Edinburgh-based nautical institution with several hundred attending the Doors Open Day exhibition.

Former Radio cadet Alex Auton, who studied at the College from 1977-79, made the trip from Australia especially for the reunion weekend, she said: “When I heard about the reunion, I just had to come back to Edinburgh to see all of my old peers and celebrate the anniversary of the college. Thanks to my experience at Leith Nautical College I enjoyed a successful career in the industry and seeing faces I haven’t seen for over 40 years at the reunion has been wonderful – it seems like only yesterday we were young, wide-eyed cadets.”

During the exhibition at South Leith Parish Church – which has historic links with the maritime community – ex-student George Sutherland, who studied at Leith Nautical College from 1962-63, was reunited with the Benline trophy he won in 1963 for being ‘a cadet with outstanding ability in seamanship’.

The primary aim of the weekend was to pilot running an alumni reunion event to re-engage alumni from one of the legacy colleges. However the reunion weekend also generated income of over £4000 for the Edinburgh College Development Trust the profit from which will go towards helping to enhance opportunities for students at Edinburgh College in the future.

Edinburgh College Development Trust chair Dr Allan Colquhoun said: “Bringing seafarers from across the world back to Edinburgh to mark the anniversary of Leith Nautical College was a very rewarding task for the Development Trust. Celebrating the history of the college with the people who have benefitted from their time studying there was fantastic and it was a joy to see those whose sea-going careers have taken them across the globe coming back to where it all began.

“I’d like to thank everyone who attended the reunion and shared their very interesting and entertaining tales.”