There were nine members present - seven of them on the committee.


1. Apologies : Professor Purdie, David Stevenson, John Yellowlees.


2. Minutes  of AGM held on 18 May 2018 : agreed.


3. Matters Arising not on the agenda : we have enjoyed our first full year at the Royal Scots Club, and wish to express our appreciation of the staff's helpfulness


4. Reports :

Treasurer  :  KS said that with an £88 profit on the lunches and the dinner having broken even, the overall loss on the year was £525 pending receipt of the long-awaited £400 convention from HQ.  In recognition that OSCR required that funds be devoted to charitable purposes, it was agreed to offer one-off contributions this year of £750 to both Saltire HQ and RSGS, the former for a musician to travel and the latter towards group travel by disadvantaged young people.

By setting the cost of the lunch at £18, no profit was being made to cover the costs for speakers. The only profit arose from members paying for the full number and not attending every one. The cost of postage had increased. MMacC asked if it would be possible to send newsletters by email. It was agreed to raise this with HQ but not with much confidence, considering the discrepancy of the addresses.

Convenor    Uniquely this year had been dominated by the passing of a whole generation who had been our leaders and friends, and we should begin by recalling :

  • Margaret Hilton, chair of the Society's international committee which promoted Scotland's links with the Low Countries
  • a former national chair, Margaret Street who indefatigably promoted plaques, founded the Leith Civic Trust and helped to rehabilitate the reputation of Dr John Rae
  • Moira Stratton, former Branch representative on the Saltire Council who promoted awareness of the Scots language
  • Dr Joanna Kitchin who over many years collected the tickets at our lunches
  • Andrew Ivor MacDonald who had been active in the Society many years ago and made a final reappearance at our 2018 summer outing
  • Society president Paul Henderson Scott who will be long remembered as a soldier, diplomat, author and cultural commentator on all things Scottish ; and
  • Isobel Wilkie, widow of David who with him received honorary membership of the Society at the National AGM in 2010.

We are the poorer for their passing, but the better for having known them all.

Our numbers also bore the impact of the General Data Protection Regulations. We bade farewell to Sheila and Dr Derek Wagg and to Miriam and Anthony Dilworth whose health has prevented them from playing a continuing part in our activities.

The Edinburgh Philosophical Institution Lecture after our AGM was given by Sian Bevan, who told us that in 2004 Edinburgh became the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, a concept thought up by booklovers to celebrate our printed heritage. The Stars and Stories Project has brought illuminated quotations to dark corners of the Royal Mile, seeking to provide inspiration during the winter months that might prompt people into meandering into their own explorations of its closes.

For our summer outing we took the Borders Railway to Tweedbank where some of us headed with David Purdie to visit Abbotsford. The rest enjoyed lunch at Herge's on the Loch. An open-top bus failed to stop for us, but some took the scheduled service to Melrose, where we visited Priorwood Garden and the Abbey.

We also  fitted in an extra visit at the invitation of our February speaker Simon Fairnie on 5 July to the Musselburgh Museum, where we saw their summer exhibition seeking to promote recognition of the town’s status as the Cradle of Golf. The first recorded game in the world was here in 1672, and it was an application from the Honourable Company of Leith Golfers in 1714 to form the first club that led to promulgation of the game’s rules.

At our first lunch of the season on 6 October, Dr Conor Snowden told us that the British Council is the UK’s agency for cultural relations and is about engaging with the world on what we are good at – arts, science, technology and languages in schools and universities.  The Council has been active in Scotland for seventy years and by bringing arts agencies to Scotland during times of the year such as the Edinburgh Festivals or Celtic Connections,  helps new artists here to engage globally, also taking them abroad   


Our November lunch heard from Christine de Luca that her aim as the  Edinburgh Makar  was to be an ambassador for poetry and to take it into unexpected corners of the city where it had gone uncelebrated. Her Edinburgh Unsung initiative sought to celebrate the people without whose jobs the city would not function, and a visit to the  sewage treatment centre  earned her the Sun headline "Edinburgh Makar writes about poo".


In December Donald Smith told us how our country is blessed with thousands of local traditions concerning wells, chapels, hilltops and islands, which prompted Donald to explore them by walking the old routes, as he has been doing for 25 years.   It is our integral sense of who we are that gives us the strength to respond to the present challenging times when Brexit and "fake news" have distracted us from inequality and poverty, and that is tied to our sense of inspiration from the landscapes to which we have fallen heir.


In January we heard from Barbara McLean about the child-poet Marjory Fleming whose relationship during her stay at the home of widowed aunt in Edinburgh's New Town with a daughter Isabella was a constant theme. After returning to Kirkcaldy in 1811, she was never again to meet Isabella, but her final poem expressing her love for her cousin was sent from her sick-bed just four days before her death. Her first editor Dr John Brown wrote an account of Marjory's life, but Brown's tendency to mawkishness calls its veracity into doubt and it seems more likely that he was appealing to the Victorian obsession with the death of children.


At our February lunch attended by Society President Sally Mapstone we heard from Simon Skinner, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland, that as a child of the 1930s like the Saltire Society, its purpose  was to protect and promote access and enjoyment of Scotland’s heritage. Between 2007 and 2015 there had been a steady decline in visitation to the Trust, and  to reverse this trend it had invested £11M. He cited four developments about to be delivered : encasement of the Hill House in a protective mesh to allow the building to dry out ; the ‘Window on the World’  viewing tower at Inverewe Gardens ; the reopened Brodick Castle ; and the refurbished  Glencoe Visitor Centre.


During a visit on 21 February  to James Clerk Maxwell's House at 14 India Street, Prof Chris Eilbeck told us that Scotland's greatest scientist  was born there in 1831. People did not in those days fully understand the connection between electricity and magnetism, so Maxwell worked out the equations. His study of wave propagation derived a theory for the nature of light, and he predicted the existence of wireless waves and the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum.


In March Diane Watters recalled the National Trust for Scotland's Little Houses Scheme which had its roots in 1930s attempts to save the ordinary old houses of Scotland's small burghs that might otherwise have been lost to slum clearance, shifting after the war according to the political climate and the ever-increasing role of the state. Its leaders' verlapping relationships prompted a climate that sought to embrace all Scots rich and poor alike, but in the 1960s a changed approach saw sale to the highest bidder instead of renting to members of the local community. Thus began the approach of a revolving fund to support the next project which is commonly used to this day by other historic buildings trusts


Mike Robinson told our April lunch that geography seeks to explain the links between different areas of research and interest relating to life on earth. And in Scotland, the RSGS aims to promote geographical understanding and joined-up approaches, whilst inspiring people, championing the best of Scotland and presenting the best examples of world practice. its magazine The Geographer  is currently being used to support a  Government consultation on ‘Building a Good Food nation in Scotland’ – a project to ensure that people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day.


David Purdie regaled our Annual Dinner with tales of the Enlightenment, when Voltaire claimed that it was to Scotland that the world looked for all its ideas on the nature of civilisation, and the number of advances emanating from Edinburgh was  remarkable, extending to whole new disciplines.


I should like to thank you all for your support throughout the year, the Committee for their forbearance and constructive ideas and especially Kenneth Stewart for his meticulous organisation of events and Laura Scott for her excellent newsletters.


Secretary  2019/20 programme :

  • 5 October : Paul Sizeland on Scottish Natural Heritage, Connecting People and Nature
  • 2 November : Andrew Barr on the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath
  • 7 December : Jean Findlay on CK Scott Moncrieff
  • 4 January : Jamie Jauncey great-great-grand-nephew of R B Cunningham Grahame
  • 1 February : Susan Kruse on Highland heritage
  • 7 March :  Tom Brock on Scottish seabirds
  • 4 April : Anne Pia  on her Scots-Italian heritage
  • 1 May Annual Dinner : Duncan Hendry, retiring chief executive of the Capital Theatres Trust                                                                      
  • 15 May EPIL after AGM : Prof Joe Goldblatt on Adaptive Hope
  • 13 June : summer outing to V&A Dundee

After this AGM we could look forward to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution Lecture by Pat Clark on the painter Charles H Mackie.  Then on Saturday 8 June our Summer Outing would be by X62 bus to Peebles, meeting there at 1130 for a visit to the John Buchan Museum.


5. Election of office-bearers and committee : all were willing to continue, and there were no new nominations.  Kenneth Stewart had indicated his intention to stand down as Treasurer in 2020.

6. Any Other Competent Business : none.

7. Date of next meeting : Friday 15 May 2020 at 7 pm in the Royal Scots Club.
(but there was a request to change this so as to avoid a birthday)   ACTION : JY