Dumfries Academy is the oldest school in the area, with an educational establishment tracing right back to the 14th century, although the present site dates from 1804. The school’s list of notable alumni is substantial, but we wish to focus on just two on this walk.
Haining, born in Dunscore (to the north of Dumfries) and alumna of Dumfries Academy, worked in Budapest from June 1932 as matron of a boarding house for Jewish and Christian girls in a school run by the Scottish Mission to the Jews. When war broke out in 1939, against the Church’s advice, Haining (who was on holiday in Cornwall at the time), returned to Budapest to her post. Hungary, under the influence of a fascist puppet regime was not in fact invaded by Germany until 1944. For this reason it became a place of relative safety (compared to neighbouring countries at least) for Jews who could not escape occupied Europe. Haining maintained the mission throughout much of WW2, and bravely helped the refugees escape to safer countries such as Britain or North America. However, by May 1944 Haining had been arrested by the Gestapo and was initially held in the city, before being deported to Auschwitz-II-Birkenau. At the camp she was selected for work, rather than the gas chamber, but was reported by camp officials to have died in hospital in July 1944.
Haining’s name was inscribed at Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem) as Righteous Amongst the Nations and a section of embankment along the Danube in Budapest was named after her in 2010.
Rev. Henry Duncan
Duncan was born in Kirkcudbrightshire in 1774 and educated at Dumfries Academy, he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a minister. Having worked in banking in Liverpool, before entering the ministry, he was deeply concerned about the poor, and wrote extensively about their conditions which led him to the importance of saving. In 1810, he established Britain’s first mutual savings bank at Ruthwell, just outside Dumfries, giving access to financial services for all of the population previously unserved. Duncan’s bank at Ruthwell is widely regarded to be the first of it kind, although the concept of the savings bank was a fundamentally European one, with such institutions known in France, Germany and Switzerland throughout the 19th century. To this day the savings bank concept espoused by Duncan is a powerful force in European banking, such as the Sparkassen, which can be found on a great many Hauptstrasse throughout Germany.
On Church Crescent, which connects Burns Square and Academy Street, cast your eyes upwards and you will find a statue of Duncan set into one of the buildings.