Duke of Edinburgh's former school releases new images

17 April 2021

Previously unseen images of The Duke of Edinburgh have been released by His Royal Highness’s former school.

Copyright Major B Varvill R.A.M.C

The images were taken by the great-uncle of a former student, who contacted the school following the sad news of the passing of Prince Philip. They show the Duke in happy times in 1937, sailing one of Gordonstoun’s boats, Diligent. In one image Philip shows his confidence at the helm. In the other he demonstrates his confidence doing the washing up!

‘Diligent’ was a small (14 tons), elderly Cornish trading ketch, which was bought in Plymouth in June 1936 by Michael-Noel Varvill, who was on the school’s staff and was a yachtsman. She was Gordonstoun’s first offshore vessel and was put to work immediately with a cruise to Fair Isle and the Shetlands in July 1936. As such, she was the first of a considerable number of schools’ and charities’ sail training vessels in the UK. She was quite heavily used in term-time and the summer holidays, which benefitted several pupils who had no particular family home to return to.

Copyright Major B Varvill R.A.M.C

On Friday 16th April students took part in an early morning run in tribute to Prince Philip. Morning runs were a compulsory part of the Gordonstoun curriculum until the 1990s. More than 100 students and staff, running in household groups, undertook the 3.5km route from Gordonstoun House to the nearby Coastguard Watchtower, a building which replaced a wooden hut which Prince Philip helped to build in 1935. The Duke of Edinburgh was a member of the ‘Watchers’, a precursor to the Coastguard, during his time at school. He returned to open the new Coastguard Watchtower in 1955. Click here for images of this event, which are not embargoed.

Gordonstoun’s young sailors will pay their own tribute to The Duke of Edinburgh at midday on Saturday 17th April when, aboard the school’s 80ft sail training boat, Ocean Spirit of Moray, they will lay a wreath off the coast of Hopeman Harbour, where Prince Philip first learned to sail. On the shore, a lone student piper will play whilst displaying the Duke of Edinburgh’s Coat of Arms on a banner presented to the Gordonstoun pipe band by Her Majesty The Queen in 2019. Further details are below.

Notes to Editors:

The former pupil who provided the photographs does not wish to be interviewed but is happy for the media to publish the photos providing copyright is attributed to Major B Varvill R.A.M.C

HRH tribute, Saturday 17th April:

Part one – Hopeman Harbour, Hopeman, Moray

1100 A number of students and the Principal is available for interview. The Lord Lieutenant of Moray will also be in attendance and available for interview.

1200 wreath laid at sea from Ocean Spirit of Moray

Part two – Gordonstoun, Duffus Elgin IV30 5RF

1500 students in formal uniform will observe the silence outside the main Gordonstoun school building.

SAFETY/HYGIENE: The safety of our students is our top priority. We kindly ask you to observe social distancing guidelines and wear a face mask at all times, even when outdoors (this is a legal requirement whilst on school premises).

For further information please contact Eleanor Bradford:


Gordonstoun is an independent boarding school which was established in Moray in 1934 by Dr Kurt Hahn, a Jewish exile who fled Nazi Germany. He founded the school with the ideal of developing better world citizens equipped to contribute to society. Gordonstoun has been a pioneer of character education which, as well as academic subjects, includes outdoor activities, sailing, athletics and service to the community. Three generations of British royalty have been educated at Gordonstoun, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Dr Kurt Hahn and the Duke of Edinburgh were the driving force behind the The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Approximately one third of the pupils at the co-educational boarding school receive financial help in order to attend. The school was described as ‘outstanding’ and ‘sector-leading’ in its most recent inspection.