Wick High School – A Brief History
At the beginning of the 20th century West Banks Elementary School stood on the area where the cycle shed and the janitor’s house now stand, but in August 1911 the dressed stone building facing West Banks Avenue was opened as Wick High School. Classrooms opened on to the hall (now the crush hall) and the balcony, and at the back there were two large grass playgrounds with the gym and music rooms standing on their own at the far end of the playgrounds.
The new Wick High School was of handsome proportions and striking appearance, the most up to date educational establishment in the North of Scotland with separate playgrounds and entrances for boys and girls. The cost of the ornate building was almost £11,000.
However there was controversy associated with the additional cost of £2,000 for a gymnasium. It was felt that such an expensive building, for the provision of physical exercise, was an unnecessary burden on taxpayers as can be seen below in the press clippings taken from the local press at the time of the build.
The architect’s design of the school was commended. Around the gallery of the main hall there were two art rooms, a physics laboratory, optical room and a chemistry laboratory fitted with fume cupboards to deal with experiments using gases such as chlorine and hydrogen sulphide.
Altogether 416 places were provided. The single oak desks were varnished and of the most recent design and were placed no less than twelve inches apart; thereby eliminating the danger of spreading contagious diseases from one pupil to another.
In March 1937 the education committee proposed an extension to Wick High School and early in 1939 this was completed. This is the wing to the right of the original building viewed from West Banks Avenue.
In 1960 the school was redesigned and the old West Banks School, where two or three rooms had been in use for many years, was knocked down. This huge new extension covered most of the playground at the back of the school and the old gym and music room were demolished. The new extension was opened in 1963 by Professor Donald M MacKay, who had been Dux pupil of Wick High School in 1939.
While these building works were going on, several classrooms in the Old Pulteneytown Academy (now the Assembly Rooms) were in use, and four teachers taught there from 1960 until 1962. Pupils had to walk to and from Wick High School, usually during the intervals but occasionally between periods when timetables could not be altered to accommodate the circumstances.
The last part of the Wick High School to be built was the block standing on its own at the back of the school; hence its colloquial name ‘The New Block’. This was completed in 1970. In addition to these permanent buildings temporary huts were constructed which eventually became a permanent feature of the building.