Alison Bonfield

Saltire Society’s First Secretary

Alison Bonfield is a woman who, as George Bruce revealed in his 1986 pamphlet about the first fifty years of the Saltire Society, had a massively influential role in the establishment of the Society’s constitution, and continued to influence its work for many years. Bonfield, the Society’s first secretary, has been declared as the instigator of the Society’s first meeting, held in Glasgow University. Bruce writes that the idea for the first meeting arose from exchanges between the historians Andrew Dewar Gibb and George Malcolm Thomson which were passed on to Alison Bonfield by Andrew Dewar Gibb’s wife. It is generally understood that the first meeting of the “Saltire Society” was met with ‘initial gloom’ which matured into a ‘more positive spirit’ when another meeting was arranged.

Bruce writes that in a speech given in 1947, Bonfield stated that the Saltire Society was Andrew Dewar Gibb’s idea, despite the fact that Alison’s manifesto, written in 1936, became the Society’s constitution.  Therefore not only did Bonfield arrange the initial meetings for the Saltire Society, she also wrote the Society’s first constitution, for which she received the commendation that it was ‘an alpha prose’ from Professor Fordyce. Bonfield studied Classics at Cambridge and was secretary of the Women’s Students Union in Glasgow in 1936. According to documentation Bruce refers to, Bonfield remained humble and refused to take any credit for the founding of the Society, claiming she ‘always maintained that Professor Dewar Gibb, Professor of Scots law in the thirties was the on lie and first begetter of the Society.’ Entrusted with the organisation, administration and promotion of the Society, Bonfield is one of the most significant figures in Scottish cultural history without even knowing it.   


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