Who was Dr Bell?

Rev Andrew Bell LLD, FRSE:  1753 – 1832.

Andrew Bell was born in St Andrews in 1753.  He was educated at St Andrews University where he distinguished himself in Maths.  At the age of 21 he decided to seek his fortune further afield and emigrated to America.

From 1774 – 84, he was tutor to the children of plantation owners in Virginia. He saved £800, returned to Scotland, and decided to enter the church.

He lived in Leith from 1784 – 1787, and then set off for India, in the service of the East India Company.   He worked for the church, but was mostly involved in the Madras Orphanage for sons of soldiers, where he was unstinting in his efforts as Superintendent. He found it impossible to obtain the services of skilled teachers, and so resorted to running the school by teaching the older or more able children, and then making them responsible for teaching the younger ones, in groups.  Dr Bell became convinced of the universal application of this system.

Dr Bell returned to Britain in 1797, because of poor health.  He founded schools in Leith and elsewhere, using the model of his “Madras System”, (including Madras College in his home town, St Andrews).  Dr Bell’s School in Leith was opened in 1835.

On his death in 1832, he left £120,000.  Of this, £10,000 was left to each of the towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Cupar and Leith. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Dr Bell’s School in Leith was taken over by Leith School Board, and became a primary school in 1892.  The building now houses Dr Bell’s Family Centre, Stanwell Nursery as well as private flats.

Find out more about Dr Bell’s Family Centre

Rev Andrew Bell