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History Of The
Edinburgh Caithness Association

1939 - 1949

On May 17th 1939, Mrs Shankie was elected convenor of the committee which under her inspiring leadership continued their efforts to build up the fund until 12th October 1939. On that date, as a result of the second Great War - which will be referred to later - the members present at a committee meeting agreed to cancel all functions arranged under the auspices of The Acquisition of Premises Fund and to devote all their activities towards the making of War Comforts for members of the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy connected with the John O’Groat Association and the home County. Following on that decision registration under the War Charities Act 1940 was obtained, and meetings under the convenor-ship of Mrs Shankie were held weekly in her house at 27 Chester Street where wool was handed out for knitting garments was received and parcels made up and dispatched to members of the Forces and Seamen in all parts of the World. Altogether 2,200 parcels to the value of £553 11s, were dispatched during the War period. A very satisfactory effort indeed, primarily made possible by the ladies’ committee in promoting functions of all kinds, assisted by the parent Association, the Literary Society and private individuals. In September 1945 the War Comforts Fund was wound up and the monies in hand were handed over to the Treasurer of the parent Association and the garments left over were given over to the Military Hospital.

At the closing meeting of the War Comforts Committee it was unanimously agreed to record in the Minutes the most grateful thanks of the members to Dr and Mrs Shankie for their outstanding hospitality and kindness during the six war years.

It was no doubt due to the strenuous efforts of the ladies during the War years, and more particularly to the great difficulty experienced in obtaining all kinds of goods when “coupons” could not be produced in the post-war years, that the ladies did not resume their activities in connection with the Acquisition of Premises until 1st July 1948. On that date however, the Committee, with Mrs Shankie as Convenor, was reformed and at once took steps to arrange functions for the augmentation of the Fund. A “Tatties an’ Herrin’ Supper”, Caithness Teas and Whist Drives were held, with the gratifying result that at the end of the financial year 1948/49 there was standing to the credit of the Fund the sum of £1,616 7s.

No one at this stage can foresee the future, but come what may, the imperative necessity is to foster and maintain the magnificent efforts of the past and to aspire to greater success until the object in view is attained.

In connection with a preliminary enquiry held in Edinburgh by the Scottish Education Endowment Commissioner, Mr James Oliver, Educational Convenor, at a Quarterly meeting held on 3rd October, 1932, submitted a very interesting and informative report regarding the origin and administration of the Associations various bursaries.

In 1936 the Association’s bursaries were increased from five to six.

On 5th November of that year Mr Oliver, at a meeting of the Educational Committee intimated that he had received a Legacy of £225 which had been left to the Association by Mr James McBeath, a retired Bank Agent - Mr McBeath who was born at Rattar, Dunnet, served his apprenticeship in the Bank of Scotland at Thurso - and it was agreed to form a Bursary to the annual value of £8 or thereby, the bursary to be called the “McBeath Bursary” and to be governed under the same conditions as the first four bursaries under the control of the Association.

On 20th January 1938 the Association celebrated the Centenary of the original Edinburgh Caithness Association - formed in 1837 - by dining in Crawford’s Rooms, 70-71 Princes Street, Edinburgh. Several well-known gentlemen belonging to the home county and to Edinburgh were present as guest speakers and guests. As a social event the function appears to have been a success, but from the financial standing point it was a failure, the Treasurer subsequently reporting at a meeting on 21st March 1938, that there was a deficit of about £7 on the dinner. He also, at the same time, reported that there had been a loss of £25 on that year’s Annual Gathering. The loss on the Gathering , it was said , was not surprising as the sale of tickets had been gradually dropping year by year. In connection therewith a discussion took place at a meeting on 6th June 1938 as to the advisability of continuing the Annual Gathering in the form in which it was then held. The general opinion seemed to be that the days of Annual Gatherings were gone. Nothing definite however, was decided at that meeting, but it was agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the matter at a later date. The special meeting was duly held on 27th June 1938, and after a full discussion it was decided that the Annual Gathering should be held as formerly, but that the artistes’ fees should be reduced and that the cup of tea at the interval should be done away with. The decision to carry on with the Gathering was justified as the function held the following year (1939) was a success, due principally to the type of entertainment provided.

It may be of interest to note in passing that when a discussion took place with regard to the Annual Gathering of 1940, it was agreed that a Speaker for the evening was not essential unless he was a first class orator.

In September 1939, the “Dogs of War” were once again unleashed over Europe. On the forenoon of Sunday September 3rd 1939, the people of Britain heard over their wireless sets the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announce that we were once again at War with Germany.

What a horrible position, at War again, 21 years after the 1914-1918 War which it was said would end all wars. This war however, was different - everyone was in it - civilians were as much in the front line as the fighting services. Men and women were “called up” and air-raid precautions ere imposed, the whole country being blacked out.

The Association was unable to carry through its normal duties under these conditions and it was therefore decided to cancel most of the usual functions and to hold business meetings in the afternoons. The forming of the Ladies’ War Comforts Fund was approved of, and the proceeds of Functions which were held at intervals were given to that Fund. The members however, at the Annual General in April 1940, declined to adopt a motion of Miss E S MacKay, that there should be paid to the Treasurer of the Comforts Fund such a sum as might be determined from the Social and Benevolent Fund.

The War, which had developed into a worldwide conflagration dragged on until 1945 when Victory was ultimately won at a staggering cost in human lives, money and material.

The Association then resumed its pre-war activities.

On 1st April 1946 members present at the Annual General Meeting approved of an entire reconstitution of the Rules under which the Association reverted to its original name of “The Edinburgh Caithness Association.”

That Annual General Meeting also saw a unique and interesting event enacted. It was on that occasion that the first Lady Vice-President of the Association in the person of Mrs Shankie - a Watten lassie - was elected. Never in the long life of the Association had there been a lady elected to that office, and Mrs Shankie is to be congratulated on her distinction. She is at the moment of writing Senior Vice-President and we hope that in due course she will become the first Lady President of the Association.

The Committee, with Mr T H Cairns, Hon. Secretary, as spearhead, keeping in mind the first object of the Association, namely, “The promotion of friendly intercourse among natives of Caithness in Edinburgh”, were able to arrange a social function each month during the winter season.

The first one, held in October 1946, took form of a Social and Dance in the Walpole Hall, Chester Street, to which new members were invited as the Association’s guests, and it proved an excellent introduction to the season’s activities. A Whist Drive and Dance was held in each of the months of November, December, February and March, and on each occasion they were well attended and much enjoyed. Numerous gifts and subscriptions were received from various Donors as prizes for these functions, and the Committee acknowledged their receipt with gratitude. A Children’s Party was also provided on 11th January 1947 and was voted a great success.

The Annual Gathering was held on 31st January 1947, and was attended by about 300 persons. At this function members returned from War Service were the Associations guests. The Concert programme was contributed to by well known artistes and the Address was given by Sir George A Waters M.A.,L.L.D. Thereafter the company enjoyed dancing until 1 a.m.

The change of premises to the Royal Arch Halls, with their better appointments, for all these functions, except the children’s party, was no doubt a contributing factor towards the success of these functions, but it was mainly due to the revival of interest in the social events after the strain of the War years.

At the end of the financial year in March 1949, the total Funds of the Association amounted to £7,347 15s 9d, and there was a membership of about 1000.

It is a pleasure therefore, in closing, to state that the torch first lighted in 1837, and kindled a fresh in 1862 and 1863, has not ceased to glow. The three in one will from now onwards, we may reasonably hope, continue to shine with even greater warmth and brighter radiance for the benefit of natives of the County of Caithness.

This was written by William Gunn and published in 1977 by The Edinburgh Caithness Association.  At the front of the booklet he thanks C A Malcolm M.A. ph.D for permitting him to include information contained in “A Short History of the Edinburgh Caithness Association” written by him and published in 1924.

Perhaps at a later date we will be able to add the years after 1949.

Index Page   1934 On