Famous Former Pupils

Memoirs
  Sir Alexander Fleming

  Lord Boyd Orr

James Stevenson 1st Baron Stevenson (1873-1926)

Businessman and Civil Servant

Lord Stevenson was the first person from Kilmarnock to be elevated to the peerage. It would appear that his career at Kilmarnock Academy was interrupted - perhaps because his parents had to withdraw him due to inability to pay school fees - for when he enrolled in 1887 he had a previous admission number. He left school in 1888 to work for Johnny Walker, working his way up to become joint managing director of the company. He was credited with having coined the phrase 'Born in 1820 - still going strong', one of the most successful advertising slogans in Scottish industry.

During World War I he worked for the government in the Ministry of Munitions, being made a baronet in 1917. After the war he held a number of government posts and he chaired the committee responsible for the British Empire Exhibition in 1924-5. After the Exhibition it was proposed that the stadium erected for it in Wembley, north London, should be demolished. Stevenson successfully fought for its preservation. Its twin towers still stand as the most-prominent feature of Wembley Stadium, 'the home of English football'. In 1924 he was made Baron Stevenson of Holmbury.

When Lord Stevenson died in 1926 the Gold Berry, the Kilmarnock Academy school magazine (see Kilmarnock Academy: Extra-Curricular Activities), carried the following obituary of him:

The late Lord Stevenson must be mentioned here as an old pupil of Kilmarnock Academy. That "the child is father of the man" is well shown in Lord Stevenson's case. The vigour of youth was followed by amazing work and versatility later in life. While in business in the employ of Messrs. John Walker & Son's, he cultivated the literary and musical tastes which he possessed.

During the Great War the title of Baronet was conferred on him in recognition for his services. During ten years he toiled unceasingly, and produced the brilliant work which earned his reward. He is, however, chiefly known as Chairman of the Standing Committee of the British Empire Exhibition-known as "the man who saved Wembley" by his excellent handling of the tangled affairs. His reward was the elevation to the peerage

. His successful career was due to to his pleasant disposition, tact, and ability at the head of affairs. Old pupils who knew him feel regret: present pupils feel, on the other hand, pride that the first commoner of Kilmarnock to receive a peerage was also a pupil of the Academy.

Goldberry (1926) ©Kilmarnock Academy