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Bell Baxter High School

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School History

textile manufacturer in Dundee.  Baxter was a philanthropist and  gave  to  Dundee  benefactions  like  Baxter  Park  and  the  Albert Institute.  At this time he lived just outside Cupar at Kilmaron Castle.


Dr. Andrew Bell (1753 – 1832) was born in St Andrews and subsequently travelled to Virginia, U.S.A. as a tobacco planter.  In 1787 he journeyed to India and worked as a superintendent at a military orphanage educating soldier’s children.  In addition, he furthered his business  interests and became a wealthy man.  He found suitable teachers hard to find and developed the monitor system whereby senior pupils educated the younger pupils, a cheap form of education, naming this method the Madras System.  He returned home in 1796, promoted the Madras System and by the time of his death in 1832, there were thousands of schools using this system.


He left endowments for two schools in his native Fife, Madras Academy in St Andrews and Cupar Academy (now renamed Madras Academy) in Cupar.  He was buried in Westminster Abbey.


The Madras Academy in Cupar did not use the Madras System as it had fallen out of favour by the mid 19th century.  However, Dr. Bell’s trust continued to provide funds for the school.  In 1872 elementary education was made compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 13 and, as a result, it was decided to re-organise the schools in Cupar.  The main proposal was that the building in Westport used by the Baxter Institute should be handed over to Cupar for secondary education and that money from Dr. Bell’s trust would be used to finance the new school.  Accordingly,  it was decided to name the new school “Bell  Baxter”, this name being used officially for the first time on the 28th May 1889.


Since the existing Baxter building in Westport was too small, the building was extended and on 1st September 1890 the new building opened as Bell Baxter School: this date can be seen carved in the stonework on the front of the Westport building.  The first headmaster was Dr.  Peter McDougall responsible for the 200 pupils enrolled.  In 1903 a new headmaster was appointed, John Dawson and in 1919 he was succeeded by William Douglas.  These headmasters gave their names to the present house system, Dawson and Douglas along with Bell and Baxter; the school created the houses of Howe and Westport in 2013.


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Although schools  had existed in Cupar  from as  far  back as  the 14th century,  Bell Baxter as a school did not come into existence until 1890, taking  its  name  from two  individuals,  Dr.  Andrew Bell  and  Sir  David Baxter.  Bell  and Baxter had been responsible for funding two separate schools in Cupar prior to this date.


On the 18th September 1871, a new school was opened at Westport, The Baxter Institute for Young Ladies, designed to provide “young ladies with a high class education.” This school was funded by Sir David Baxter (1793 – 1872),  a