THE Iconic former Donaldson’s School for the Deaf was among a host of Capital landmarks determined to be “at risk” this week.
Developer Cala Homes bought the A-listed Donaldson’s building eight years ago but work has since stalled and the Playfair-designed school now lies empty while a new buyer is sought.
Sadly, the lack of use meant that the former school was among 46 properties included on the latest Buildings At Risk Register by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
It is a far cry from the happier days of the school, which was founded in 1851 as Donaldson’s Hospital by James Donaldson, and was originally intended to provide for poor children.
Applications on behalf of deaf children were encouraged, and from 1938, pupils were exclusively deaf.
The imposing building is said to have made even Queen Victoria jealous, the monarch remarking that the William Henry Playfair building outclassed her palaces. For all its splendour, however, it was not impervious to damage and during a German air raid in 1916 much of the glass in the windows was destroyed.
For the pupils it was a place of learning, at a time when it was realised that, with proper education techniques, deafness need not be a barrier to achievement.
Youngsters at the school were duly taught not only about sign language and later hearing aids, but wider skills and crafts, with much of their work sold to the public.
The school even had an infant department, recognising the importance of starting early, and was at the forefront of helping deaf children with speech therapy.
So whatever happens to Donaldson’s, it will always have a special place in the memory of the children taught there.