There was a burgh school in Kilmarnock from at least the late sixteenth century. The first mention of the town schoolmaster predates the Scottish Parliamentary legislation of 1633 for a school in every parish. In 1629 there is a reference in early records to ‘John Andersoune, scholemaster of Kilmarnock ' who had died that year (quoted in Mackay, 1992 , p.92). But the first indication of a burgh school in Kilmarnock in the late sixteenth century is the education there of Zachary Boyd (c.1585-1633), a relative of the Earl of Kilmarnock and one of the school's most noted former pupils. Boyd was later minister of Glasgow 's Barony Church and three times rector of Glasgow University whose metrical paraphrases of the Bible were popular in Scotland . The burgh school was probably located in College Wynd off Bank Street in the heart of the old town. This older institution which lies behind Kilmarnock Academy , means that the school is over 400 years old.
The parish school was located in College Wynd, behind the Laigh Kirk, in the heart of old Kilmarnock. It was a single-teacher school and was, it would appear, a very simple structure . From its inception it was probably a grammar school which would equip potential university entrants with the necessary Latin. Some time after James Smith was appointed schoolmaster in 1736 the teaching duties were divided between two teachers, one in the grammar (or parish) school and one in the newly-founded burgh school.
The Kilmarnock burgh school probably stood in College Wynd, off Bank St .
John Graham, schoolmaster
in the grammar school from 1763 until 1779, was one of the most colourful
of the early teachers. He was an exceptionally able individual and the
reputation of the school spread with many sons of the nobility attending
from beyond Kilmarnock and even boarders from the American colonies.
Graham later went to London where he became involved in a money forgery
scheme. He was hanged at Tyburn in 1782. It was Graham's successor,
John Duncan, schoolmaster from 1779 until 1797, who was first known
as the rector of the grammar school. In 1752 the school had moved to
a single-storey house at the corner of Green Street, next to the Corn
Exchange that stood on the site now occupied by the Palace Theatre.
Its last teacher, William Thomson, appointed in 1797, was to be the
first rector of Kilmarnock Academy.