DOLLAR ACADEMY has had a number of high profile former pupils.

Among these was one of the most eminent zoologists of the Victorian age, Dr Andrew Wilson, who went on to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

His skills were called upon on numerous occasions to identify creatures, but none was more strange than a sea serpent in the North Sea.

Wilson had been born in Edinburgh on September 30, 1852, son of Francis Wilson, whose great uncle James Wilson was the zoologist at Edinburgh Zoo.

He was sent to board at Dollar Academy for a time before returning to the capital to continue his education at the Royal High School.

He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1872 where he had studied science and medicine.

He lectured at the Royal College of Surgeons where he covered zoology and comparative anatomy.

He specialised in sea serpent stories and read the account in his local newspaper of a creature identified by the crew of the Dundee sloop Dart.

In January 1898, it set out from Peterhead, bound for Montrose and was four hours out when the crew described what they thought was a whale lying directly ahead.

When the vessel got closer, the monster suddenly reared its body 50 feet, frightening all on board.

The skipper steered the sloop off course, but it gave chase. They reportedly heard it making a loud hissing noise.

After chasing the Dart for eight miles it gave up and disappeared beneath the waves. In a letter to The Scotsman newspaper Wilson believed the ‘monster’ was a giant squid, the arms of which could sometimes reach up to 40 feet in length with a body of proportionate size.

He went on that the hissing sound ‘may have been caused by the jets of water ejected in the act of breathing from the funnel of the squid’.

Wilson was also well known for his work on grouse disease. In a paper he delivered at Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh, and later published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, he explained the symptoms of the disease as the ‘inflammation of the respiratory and digestive organs.,’ especially the lungs. He also stated it was highly infectious.

This went some way against received wisdom, but he was proved correct following further dissections by others in the field, narrowing the disease down to a single germ.

Wilson died on August 25, 1912, aged 60 and was buried at Morningside cemetery in Edinburgh.