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The Final Chapter
HISTORY OF THE LONDON CAITHNESS ASSOCIATION
(continued) May, 2003
The Hon. Secretary, Mrs Isobel Stanmore, has suffered severe sight impairment and has been unable to continue bringing the history up to date. At this time the Association has entered its final stages and the appointment of a new secretary is not what the remaining officers wish to do as Isobel has been, for many years, one of the organisers and together with our Treasurer, Miss Catherine Falconer, has kept the Association together. The Minute books and Reports have been passed to me and I will endeavour to finish the job.
In 1976 the executive officers of the Association were as follows:-
President:- Mr William Gunn
It is, perhaps, interesting to note that the last social of 1975 was attended by 28 people paying 50p each making a profit, after the raffle and expenses, of £6.82. The Bank balance then amounted to £301.57.
At the Annual General Meeting on 25th September, 1976 the Hon Treasurer, Mr Williamson, reported that funds, after a donation of £10.50 to the Royal Caledonian Schools and with a small balance at the Post Office, amounted to £352 14. He also reported that one of the Stocks of the Reserve Fund had matured at par and the balance at The Royal Bank of Scotland was then £975.86. He asked the members to consider the reinvestment of a large portion of this sum. Mr Williamson pointed out that the Reserve Fund had been established through the beneficence of a former Caithness man, who had been a member during his lifetime and who wished to remain anonymous. It was his desire that the Reserve Fund, amounting to approximately £2,500.00, should be used for charitable purposes. In the event of the Association being wound up, the Reserve Fund would have to be distributed among charities or used for charitable or welfare purposes preferably within the boundaries of the District of Caithness.
Mr Williamson was, unfortunately, unable to continue in office as he was moving back to the County. His position of Hon Treasurer was taken up by Mr G. M. Leask who was given the task of approaching the manager of The Royal Bank of Scotland to seek his advice on the reinvestment of £900.00 which was surplus to immediate requirements. The manager looked at the remaining securities of the Reserve Fund and concluded that they had a market value of only £814.00. Mr Leask reported back to the committee and it was decided to await the recommendations of the manager. The Bank suggested that reinvestment of the Fund (approximately £1700.00) in Treasury Stock would give a better return and a measure of Capital Appreciation. It was agreed to take this course of action at a special Committee Meeting on 11th December, 1976. The significance of this episode and action will become apparent later in the history.
As for Mr J. H. M. Williamson the retiring Hon. Treasurer, he will be remembered as one of the most loyal and dedicated of the Officers of the Association. Like his father before him he served the Association extremely well. Mr William Gunn, the President, likened him to some of the past members who had given such wonderful service like David Houston, William Taylor and Alec Begg.
Activities during the year included two children's parties, a Burn's supper, a Cheese and Wine party and social evenings. All these functions were well supported and achieved small profits.
However, with hindsight, it was probably about this time that the Association began to loose the fight for existence. The need to provide financial aid to Caithness folk in London was no longer necessary thanks to the National Health Service, the Social Services and increased employment in the County. It became difficult to arrange the Annual Dinner and Dance because the costs of hiring the hall and the catering and the entertainment had increased out of all proportion to entrance fees that the reduced membership could be expected to pay. Valued Officers had retired and returned to the County. The popular meeting place at The Scottish Corporation Hall in Fetter Lane was no longer available and the shift to various other locations in Town before settling at the new Corporation Hall in King Street, Covent Garden, probably cost some members. In addition television and other forms of entertainment were more attractive to the younger generation.
As the vacant positions were filled by new Officers there seemed to be no lack of enthusiasm and every effort was made to provide the traditional social activities that had become the main interest of the Association. 1977 saw a significant drop in attendance's at the functions. The 1976 Annual Dinner was cancelled due to lack of support and the change in ownership of the Horseshoe Hotel but the Mini- Dinner held in April had been a great success. The Burns Supper and Wine and Cheese socials were poorly supported but, from an entertainment point of view, highly appreciated. Mr W. Gunn was re-elected President and Mr G.M.Leask continued as Hon Treasurer/Secretary. All the other Officers were re-elected. Mr W. Gunn was unable to attend at the Committee Meeting in November due to illness and Mr Scott Jamieson chaired the meeting. The usual faithful supporters, Mrs Unwin, Miss Kidston, Miss Falconer, and Mrs Stanmore attended and apologies were received from Mr J. Law and Mr L. Stanmore. An early report on the Dinner and Dance suggested that it had been a success and the Dinner Convenor, Mrs I. Stanmore, remarked on the splendid service give by the staff of the Hammersmith Town Hall.
At a Committee Meeting held on 18th January, 1978, chaired by Miss C Falconer in the absence of Mr Gunn due to Ill Health, members were given the sad news of the untimely death of one of our Vice-presidents, Mr H. Grahame Brock. The records show that Mr Brock had been a member for a great number of years following in the footsteps of his father the late Mr Hugh Brock. He had been a Dinner Convenor for many years and had given the Association the benefit of his great skills of organisation. The Committee extended the deepest sympathy on behalf of the membership to his widow Mrs Christine Brock and his surviving sister Nancy who were loyal supporters of the Association.
In January, we learnt with equal dismay of the death of Mrs Constance M. Gunn beloved wife of the President, Mr William Gunn. She had been a lifelong member of the Association and endeared herself to all who came into contact with her. She was of a quiet and reserved disposition but was always willing to help. She will be greatly missed. Deepest sympathy was extended to Mr Gunn.
It was decided at The AGM in April 1978 to change the day of the meetings to Friday and to hold them at the Court Room, Scottish Corporation Hall, King Street, London.
Meetings during 1978 were held with reasonable success and small profits made but the lack of attendance was still a problem. It seemed such a poor reward for the enthusiasm and dedication of officers but they continued to plan to keep the traditional social functions in the diary but at a Committee Meeting on 4th April, 1979 it was reluctantly agreed not to arrange for a cheese and wine social this year as it always made a loss but to hold an ordinary social in its place.
At the 123rd AGM held on 20th April, 1979 Mr T. Scott Jamieson took the chair in place of Mr W. Gunn who was unfortunately unable to be present. He gave a brief resume of the activities held during the winter session and went on to the re-election of the various Office Bearers. It was unanimously agreed that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, remain our Patron and that The Earl of Caithness, Viscount Thurso and Sir Ralph Anstruther continue as Honorary Presidents. Mr William Gunn was re-elected as President for another year. Mr S. Bignell proposed that the various Vice-presidents be re-elected en bloc and that Mr T. Scott Jamieson be added to the list. This was seconded by Mrs Forbes and carried unanimously.
Mr Gordon Leask handed Mr Jamieson a letter containing his resignation from the position of Secretary. Due to his many commitments he felt that he could not continue to fulfil both the positions of Treasurer and Secretary. His resignation was reluctantly accepted and he was thanked by Mr Jamieson for the loyal service that he had given to the Association and asked if he would stand for re-election as Treasurer. He agreed and was duly elected. His position of Secretary was filled by Mrs Isobel Stanmore who had been a staunch member for many years and she continued to hold this position for the remaining active years of the London Caithness Association.
For the record Mr S.Bignell was re-elected Auditor and the Committee consisted of Mr T.Scott Jamieson (Vice-president), Mrs P. Unwin, Miss C. Falconer, Mr A. Stanmore, Miss N. Kidston and Mr J. Law (Entertainment)
The Annual Dinner and Dance was held at the Hammersmith Town Hall and was a very enjoyable evening with all the trimmings. The haggis was piped in by the Association's pipers, Mr Alec Dunnet and his son Alasdair who addressed the Haggis in the traditional manner. The Hon. Angus Sinclair proposed the toast to the County. Mr Gunn gave warm welcome to Sir Ralph Anstruther, one of our Honorary Presidents, who came bearing good wishes from our Patron, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and Dr Stewart gave a very interesting history lesson covering the Sinclairs and the Gunns and pointed out that we were honoured to have a direct descendant of the original Sinclair Family present in the gathering. Also present was 92 years young Mrs Christina Falconer who had travelled from Edinburgh - I wonder who she was keeping her eye on!
The evening concluded with dancing to Robin Ellis and the Caledonian Country Band with Piping from our two Pipers and everything controlled by Mr Scott Jamieson our very capable M.C.
1980 started with a traditional Burns Supper at the Royal Scottish Corporation Hall in King Street. Mr John Law proposed the toast to the immortal memory after describing the early life of the National Bard. Next came a "Leap Year" social, on 29th February, with sausages and mash, apple pie and cream and lots of cups of tea. Mr Stan Bignell entertained at the piano with a selection of Scottish Airs and the guests were invited to join in games and competitions. A good time was had by all.
As part of the celebrations for the 80th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, The London Caithness Association was invited to send members to a special Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on 17th July. Mr W. Gunn, Mrs L.Gunn, Mr & Mrs L. Stanmore and Mr G. Leask represented our Assn and were very appreciative of the honour of being among the many distinguished guests. The weather was dull but the occasion memorable.
Mr WilliamGunn presided over the 1980 Dinner and Dance held at the Royal Scottish Corporation, Covent Garden. After the traditional start which was conducted by Mr Scott Jamieson together with Piper Alastair Dunnet, Mr Gunn introduced the Hon. John Sinclair as our principal speaker. This was the second occasion that Mr Sinclair had given the Toast to the County and he thanked the President on behalf of himself and his wife for the invitation to be present on such a special night in the calendar of the Association. He had recently returned from a visit to the County and had looked upon Caithness from a different point of view since the arrival, in March, of his daughter Louisa. He wondered how he was going to convey to her all the beauties and joys of the scenery, the people, the history, the traditions and the heritage. When she grows up he intends to introduce her to the people of Caithness and they would demonstrate to her the hospitality and friendship and other fine qualities of the area.
His father in 1959 had seen the possible problems due to the controversy over the principal employer, Dounreay, and had been a prime mover in the formation of Caithness Glass which was a highly thriving Company providing important jobs. He praised the work of the Caithness Tourist Board and their efforts to encourage tourism and he hoped that any future projects would help to retain the essential atmosphere and qualities of Caithness as we know and love it.
Mrs Marguerite Walsh-Atkins ( a member of the well known Halkirk family of Black) replied to the Toast and told Mr Sinclair that her grandfather had served his grandfather for many years when the latter had been the Liberal M.P. For the County. She went on to comment on the splendid education received by Caithnessians and how the fact that they all went to the same schools had created a proper sense of human values because it never occurred to anyone that they were better than the other. Also the sense of humour was very characteristic as evidenced by the prevalent nicknames from former years.
Finally the President in closing conveyed his thanks to all members of the committee for their help to keep the Association active in spite of the fact that membership was going down.
Mr & Mrs Gunn were congratulated on their marriage which took place in March 1980.
Happiness for Mr Gunn was unfortunately short lived. He had suffered for some considerable time with back pains which had prevented him from attending some of our meetings. These pains turned out to be far more serious than originally thought and he died on 14th February 1981. What a bitter blow for his new wife and another disaster for the Association. He was an extremely likeable man and dedicated to his position as President. We had been fortunate in having the likes of William as cornerstones and in these difficult times a new President would be facing a real challenge.
During this year we also lost one of our regular supporters namely Miss Grace Crowe. A letter of sympathy was sent to her sister.
1981 started with the Burns Supper and a Social Evening and the 125th AGM saw some significant changes. Mr Scott Jamieson was elected President and his place as Vice-president was filled by Mr Les Stanmore, Mrs I Stanmore re-elected as Secretary, Mr Gordon Leask remained as Treasurer and the committee was unanimously elected en bloc with the addition of Mrs Doreen Reid. Mr Stan Bignell the Auditor for many years was thanked profusely for his work and wished every happiness and a long retirement with his wife, Nellie, in South Keiss. The records show that he had been a staunch supporter over many years and had provided a lot of entertainment as he was a gifted pianist.
During the year there was much talk of amalgamation with other County Associations in London but the members strongly insisted that The London Caithness Association should not lose its identity.
The Annual Dinner and Dance was held at the Imperial College, Kensington on 6th November. The traditional Haggis was piped in and addressed by Alex and Alasdair Dunnet and the President supplied the essential drams. After the meal the pipers gave a selection of pipe music which was enjoyed by all. Sir Ralph Anstruther conveyed best wishes for a successful evening from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the President thanked Miss Kidston, Mr J. Law and the staff of the College for providing the excellent meal. Mr James Miller of Keiss was this year's speaker and he spoke at great length about the beauty of Caithness and the talent of its people. He mentioned the research work carried out in connection with the Wick Heritage Centre and how it would benefit the tourist trade. Our previous secretary, Miss Nancy Roloff was deeply involved in this project and her local knowledge of the area and the dialect must have been of great value.
The evening was completed by dancing to the Robin Ellis Country Dance Band and the usual good time was had by all!
In 1982 the Burns Supper was held in the Royal Scottish Corporation Hall and the catering was provided by the committee. For the first time members of the Orkney and Shetland and London Perthshire Associations joined us and the evening was a success. At the 126th AGM all the office bearers were re-elected with the exception of Mr J. Law who was moving out of the area. His place was filled by Mrs M. Lewis. Mr Law, a friendly and entertaining man, gave so much to the Association and his leaving was going to give Mrs Lewis a real challenge. Mr Law agreed to continue to attend whenever it was possible.
The sudden death of another loyal and involved member, Mrs Cathie Forbes, was the cause of much sadness. Miss Nancy Roloff arranged, on our behalf, for a floral tribute to be placed on the Family Grave in Wick Cemetery following a special service on 15th April.
The Annual Dinner and Dance was again held at the Imperial College on 5th November. The occasion was honoured by the presence of two of our Honorary Presidents, The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Sinclair, Earl of Caithness and Sir Ralph Anstruther, KCVO, MC. The Earl proposed the Toast to the County and said how pleased he and the Countess were to have been invited on this special evening and that he was pleased to announce that another Clan Sinclsir Society had been formed in Australia. Needless to say that the Association was equally pleased that they had accepted our invitation and remembered that the Earl had been a Speaker at one of our Dinners some ten years ago. Mr John Murray, a long established member, responded to the speech and remarked that the opening of the Kessock Bridge had made the County a lot nearer for those exiled in the South and that he was looking forward to the day that the Dornoch Firth would be bridged.
As usual the dance was a great success.
The London Perthshire Assn joined us for the Christmas Social and the evening was enjoyed by all. A programme of quizzes and Country Dancing plus a buffet full of seasonal fare kept everybody entertained and the evening was rounded off with a raffle with many lucky prize winners. The Perthshire Assn is also suffering from a drop off of members and an unofficial agreement to support each other's function seemed logical. There are very few County Associations still left in London and all are suffering from lack of youthful members to take over positions of responsibility.
Burns Night Supper in 1983 was held in the Corporation Hall and proved to be a most enjoyable meeting. We were joined by many new friends and the Appreciation was given by the President. The catering was done by the committee and very much enjoyed. Equally enjoyed was the social evening on 25th March where Mr John Law organised dancing and a keep fit session assisted by the Evergreen Club. So far our new friends appear to like our meetings but few of them have ventured into Caithness.
At a Committee Meeting on 14th September Mr John Murray suggested that we investigated the possibility of arranging a reception for our Patron Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother prior to one of our meetings. It was felt that Sir Ralph Anstruther could advise on this matter.
At the 127th AGM Mr Scott Jamieson was re-elected President, Mr L. Stanmore remained as Vice-president and Miss C. Falconer was elected Treasurer and Mrs I Stanmore continued as Secretary. Miss C. Falconer held the position of Treasurer from this time until the end of the Association and together with Mrs Stanmore fiercely guarded the Funds of the Association and made sure that even in the hardest of years that the hard earned Capital from the past remained untouched and yielded the highest interest.
It was reported that President Scott Jamieson and Mrs Peggy Unwin had attended a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on the invitation of our Patron. On a sadder note Mrs Christine Brock passed away suddenly and Miss Falconer and Miss Kidston represented the Association at the funeral.
Membership subscriptions were increased to £1 to help cover the increased costs.
The Imperial College was again the venue for the Annual Dinner and Dance. Mr Scott Jamieson, Messrs Alec and Alasdair Dunnet and the Chef obliged with the traditional entrance and reverence to the Haggis. Another splendid meal with Cock a'Leekie soup and all the other trimmings. The Toast to the County was given by Commander Iain Gunn of Banniskirk who was born in Thurso. He spoke highly of the beauties of Caithness and gave a brief history of the Clan Gunn and announced that the Clan Gunn Heritage Centre would be shortly opening in Latheron and he hoped that it would prove to be a tourist attraction. Mrs Doreen Reid responded to his speech and thanked him on behalf of the Members. Although she was not a native of Caithness she had been a supporter for many years and her Grandparents had owned offices in both Thurso and Wick. Over the years Doreen has been the "Raffle Queen" and has eased many a pound out of purses and pockets and even sporrans.
This year the band was that of Stan Watts and the evening ended with everyone happy and contented and Miss Kidston, as dinner convenor, had done another excellent job and was thanked by all.
The final Social of the winter season was held on 23rd March and was well attended by Members and friends. The committee provided a lovely buffet. In the report to the John O'Groat Journal the President appealed for support from the Caithnessians living in or around London. Unfortunately they were all, obviously, engaged on other things.
The 128th AGM was held in the Corporation Hall on 12th October,1984. All the existing Officers were re-elected and Mrs M Walsh-Atkins and Mr G. Brass were elected Hon. Auditors.
The Annual Dinner and Dance was held on 2nd Nov. 1984 at the Imperial College. Mr Scott Jamieson (President) pronounced Grace and the ceremony of the Haggis was conducted by Piper Alasdair Dunnet escorted by Mr John Law. The Rt. Hon. Viscount Thurso of Ulbster was invited to propose the Toast to the County and he began by thanking the Association for the kind welcome he and Lady Thurso had received and for the delicious meal provided. This, he said, was an occasion for nostalgia when we recalled the land of our birth, the days of our youth and friends of our childhood and tonight he was able to bring news of the County. Many things had changed, some for the better and perhaps some not but the most noticeable recent change was the tidying and repair of the older houses in the country, new roofs, windows and front doors had sprung up everywhere and the "wheezy but an' ben" was nowhere near as wheezy as "ye mind it boy"! Thurso, Wick and the villages continued to grow and little groupings of houses had appeared here and there in the countryside. Dounreay and with it Vulcan was doing well and still the greatest employer. Speaking of agricultural productivity in the County, Lord Thurso commented that although the number of people involved in farm work was only a fraction of what it was production remained high. Changes had taken place here too and new breeds of cattle were appearing in the fields but the quality and skill of Caithness stockmen was as good as it ever was. He said that he had no doubt that they would continue to return from the Smithfield Show with a goodly share of the prizes.
The social scene continued to thrive with music and the arts still an important part of life in the County but he felt that the newest growth area was in sport, with the wet suit revolutionising the Caithness Coast and surfers making use of some of the best surfing waves in the world. Canoeists had also featured prominently this year with the Scottish Championships having been held at Thurso East.
However, said Lord Thurso, with all the changes that had taken place there was much that remained the same. The wide sweep of moorland to the distant Sutherland peaks as we cross the Causwaymire is still canopied by the wild wide Caithness sky and the jagged line of hills with Morven topping all still bars the view southward. The same stark cliffs and stacks and goes hold off the North Sea and Atlantic surges, but above all, the same kind of folk still live there, people with the same pawky humour and generous humanity. Incidents he recalled such as old Cannop greeting his father - in- law, Colonel Robertson whom he had not seen for over 30 years, with "Hello Major, are ye no deid yet?" And the late Tom Bain who clapped his mother on the shoulder crying "By Heavens, Lady Sinclair, there aren't many old geezers like you left" He supposed that now he and our other distinguished guest, Sir Ralph Anstruther were the old geezers - there was aye a ready supply- in Caithness it only takes age to mature them. With these concluding words he proposed the Toast.
Sir Ralph said that it was an honour and great pleasure to thank the Lord Lieutenant of the County for proposing the Toast and for his most interesting speech updating us with the current events as it heartened those of us who cannot get to Caithness as often as we would wish, to have first class news from home. It gave him great pleasure to convey to the assembled company a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, Patron of the Association in which Her Majesty extended her best wishes for a happy and successful evening. Sir Ralph added his own wishes that all present would enjoy themselves for the rest of the evening in the company of friends and neighbours.
A delightful and enjoyable evening was, in fact, rounded off by dancing to Stan Watts and his band.
November 20th, 1984 A Memorable Evening.
Extract from the Court and Social Circular dated 20th November 1984.
"Clarence House November 20th. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was present this evening at a Reception given by the London Caithness Association at the Royal Scottish Corporation. Lady Angela Oswald and Major Sir Ralph Anstruther were in attendance"
This was a memorable evening for the Association which was founded in 1856 - 128 years ago. Her Majesty marked the Centenary of the Association by becoming its Patron and this Reception was to show affection and appreciation for all Her Majesty's interest and help over the years.
Her Majesty was received by the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Caithness, the Countess being unfortunately indisposed, and then by the Rt. Hon. Angus and Mrs Sinclair and their son, William.
President, Mr Scott Jamieson introduced to Her Majesty the Vice-president, Mr L. Stanmore: the Honorary Secretary, Mrs I. Stanmore: the Honorary Treasurer Miss C.L.Falconer: Committee Members, Mrs P. Unwin, Miss N. Kidston, Mrs D. Reid, and Mrs M. Brass: Honorary Auditors Mrs M.A.Walsh-Atkins and Mr G. Brass: Honorary Vice-presidents Miss M.A.Roloff (from Wick) and Mrs I Mackay (from Brora) and our Honorary Pipers Messrs Alex and Alastair Dunnet. Representing the Royal Scottish Corporation (The Scottish Hospital of the Foundation of King Charles 11) Mr I.S.MacLeod and his wife and Mr N. MacLeod.
Her Majesty entered the Court Room and met and spoke with each Life Member, Member and Associated Member present.
During the Reception the Pipers played a selection and before leaving Her Majesty was presented with a posy of Lemon Carnations intermingled with Freesia and White Heather by Miss Susan Murray, daughter of Inspector and Mrs J. Murray.
On Her Majesty's departure the Pipers played "Will ye no come back again" and the Officials of the Association stood on the steps on a wet, windy night to wave goodbye.
On 21st November 1984 Mr Scott Jamieson received a letter from Clarence House signed by Sir Ralph Anstruther in his position as Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in which he said " I am commanded by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to thank you for your hospitality yesterday evening. It gave Her Majesty much pleasure to come to the Royal Scottish Corporation and meet so many members of the London Caithness Association in such pleasant surroundings. Everything was beautifully arranged, and I am to ask if you would convey a message of the Patron's appreciation to all those who took part in organising such a successful gathering"
In 1985 the Burns Supper was held at the Corporation Hall and this year the President of the Burns Club of London, Mrs Dorothy Williams and another guest, Mr Jim Kinnear of the Gaelic Society gave the appreciation of the Bard and read poems and spoke on the many facets of his life and the great contribution given to the world through his poetry and love songs. Catering of the traditional fare was supplied by the Committee and Mr Les Stanmore kept the sherry glasses well topped up.
Another Social evening was enjoyed on 29th March, 1985
The 129th AGM saw little change and the Officers for 1985/86 were elected as follows :- President Mr T. Scott Jamieson, Vice-president Mr L. Stanmore, Secretary Mrs I. Stanmore, Treasurer Miss C.L.Falconer, Auditors Mrs M. Walsh Atkins and Mr G. Brass, Committee Members Miss N. Kidston, Mrs D. Reid, Mrs M. Brass, Mr M. Lewis, Mr J. and Mrs D. Murray. Mrs Peggy Unwin resigned from the committee. She had been a loyal and hard working member for a period of 22 years. Mr Gordon Leask was included on the list of Honorary Vice-presidents as an acknowledgement of his service.
The Dinner and Dance was again held at the Imperial College and once more the catering was excellent and the noble dish was again piped in by Alec and Alastair Dunnet but this year the whisky bottles were manipulated by John Murray and the address given by Mr Kinnear of the Gaelic Society. The Hon Angus Sinclair proposed the Toast to the County and spoke of the friendship and loyalty of Caithness folk which was especially noticeable on his recent visit after years of absence from the County. His wife was unable to be present and he said that she regretted that she could not propose the Toast as originally planned.
Mrs Walsh Atkins replied on behalf of the County and she paid tribute to the many newcomers to Caithness. Firstly The Queen Mother had put the County on the map and the development of Dounreay had introduced many newcomers complete with their different cultures. Caithness Glass was showing the skills of the local people far and wide and Berriedale Water was seen in Off Licences in the South.
The president thanked Miss Ngaire Kidston, as Dinner Convenor, for another of her splendid and successful evenings and Stan Watts and his Band rounded off with a programme of dancing.
1986 Royal Scottish Corporation Hall. At the Burns Supper this year the Selkirk Grace was pronounced by the President and the ladies of the committee served the traditional fare consisting of Scotch Broth, Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, home-made apple pie and cream followed with oatcakes, flour scones and shortbread. The "Immortal Memory" was proposed by Mr John Murray and Mr Scott Jamieson led the Country Dancing.
A Social Evening was held at the Corporation Hall on 21st March with entertainment provided by Mr Jock Law who arranged a quiz and donated the winners' prize. Mr and Mrs George Brass were the recipients. The usual exchange of local and Caithness news took place, the refreshments were eagerly consumed and the President served a refreshing glass of wine to all the guests. The Secretary made another plea for support from the many exiles in London through the John O'Groat Journal but once more there was no response.
The 130th AGM, held at the Corporation Hall and both the Secretary and Treasurer reported that the past year had been a very satisfactory one. All the Office Bearers were re-elected and the committee members remained the same apart from the resignation of Mrs Molly Brass. Mr John Murray was elected as additional Vice-president.
We learnt of the death of another faithful supporter - Mrs Janet Sutherland who had been a Life Member. Condolences were sent to her husband.
The Dinner and Dance held again this year at the Imperial College on 14th November was well attended and we were lucky once more to have the company of Sir Ralph Anstruther and the Hon. John Sinclair.
Mr Sinclair thanked Mr Scott Jamieson for the very warm welcome given to him and his wife and reminded us that he had on two previous occasions been invited to propose the Toast to the County.
He had just returned to England after five years in Paris running the Lancaster Hotel and was now enjoying life at 'Cliveden'. Previously he had concentrated on the wonderful aspects of the County and the warmth, friendliness and generosity of its inhabitants and this time he was going to point out the need for development. One important factor came to light on a recent study on the economy of the County over the last 100 years or so, the County had basically relied on one major industry. At the end of the last century (19th) it was the flagstone industry followed not long after by the herring industry and at the present time it was Dounreay. It was hoped that every effort would be made to expand operations in fields other than the breeder reactor. Mr Sinclair went on to say that at some point in the future Dounreay could go the way of the flagstones and the herrings and it would be a serious blow to the economy of the County unless serious future planning is undertaken now. He stressed the need for a strong manufacturing base to support the service industries for there could never be a situation where the service industries would replace the manufacturing industries. There were a few shining examples of what could be done within the County and he singled out 'Norfrost', a successful business that had perfected a strong reliable product and one that suited the market. He had been delighted when Mrs Grant received the award of Business Woman of the Year and wished to add his own congratulations to her.
He went on to suggest that perhaps Finance or a Caithness Investment Trust could be investigated. He was calling on all the Banks in Caithness to join together and help to assemble a sound financial package. The Trust should also contain representatives of all the areas where a new venture needed help.
Mr Douglas Pringle-Wilson, Secretary of the Clan Gunn Society, replied and thanked Mr Sinclair for the seed he had sown and added that Caithnessians had always demonstrated their ability to recover from severe set backs but hoped that they would not find themselves in the same position again. He felt that in some small way the Gunn Society had contributed to the County by way of setting up the Heritage Museum at Latheron.
Miss Ngaire Kidston proposed the Toast to the Guests and welcomed old and new friends before handing over to Stan Watts and his band for the Dance. Ngaire (pronounced 'nighree') is a proud New Zealander and London Caithness supporter. For many years she has been on the committee but has really excelled at arranging the Dinner and Dance. She joined the Association through her friend Cathie Falconer and together they have given remarkable service.
The Burns Supper held on 30th January 1987 saw a change. The President remarked on how pleasant it was to see so many members and friends who had not previously attended. The evening went well and hopes were raised that the newcomers would become regulars. The Bard was honoured in the traditional manner. A cheese and wine social was held on 20th February which was also well attended.
131st AGM at the Royal Scottish Corporation on 9th October, 1987 was again well attended in spite of unpleasant weather conditions. The Treasurer reported that the finances were in a healthy condition and all the Office Bearers and committee members were re-elected unanimously. At this meeting it was pointed out that our Association was one of the only two County Associations still active in London. All credit must be due to the Officer's determination to keep London Caithness available for as long as possible.
The Dinner and Dance at the Imperial College on 13th November, 1987 started in the proper way with the ceremony of the Haggis. Rev. Paul Williamson pronounced Grace, Alastair Dunnet addressed the Haggis, John Murray offered the drams and Scott Jamieson welcomed Sir Ralph Anstruther who came bearing best wishes from our beloved Patron Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
Our principal guest was Mr Robert Maclennan, M.P. who was classified a "day tripper" having travelled to Wick that morning and returned to address the meeting and propose the Toast to the County. In his speech Mr Maclennan said that it had been his shortest visit to Wick where he had addressed a meeting of the National Association of Community Service Workers who had come from all over Scotland to attend.
In a wide ranging speech Mr Maclennan commented on the prominence of natives of Caithness and Sutherland on the political front. In particular he mentioned the Earl of Caithness who was frequently on the radio and television and was a regular speaker in the Upper House. Also Lord Mackay of Cashfern's appointment as Lord Chancellor gave him tremendous satisfaction. Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster was in the 1980's President of the Board of Agriculture. Sir John pointed out the deplorable condition of the County at that time. No roads, no enclosures, vast areas of bog land and how in winter much of the County was impassable. He was instrumental in starting many improvements. The Nature Conservancy Council and the R.S.P.B. were concerned about the planting of many conifer trees because the area chosen was the principal breeding grounds of many rare birds. This had focussed the attention of the nation on Caithness In this connection Mr Maclennan said that he had received more letters from all parts of the country acclaiming the beauties of Caithness than he had received on other subjects in his 21 years in Parliament.
On the development front things were going well. The Osprey Company sited in Wick were marketing their underwater cameras around the world, Grants of Castletown had a virtual monopoly with their chest freezers and Caithness Glass was expanding and had recently acquired a crystal making factory in Kings Lynn. The fishing industry had just obtained three large boats which were landing more fish than other vessels in Scotland.
Thanking Mr Maclennan for his most interesting speech, Mr Leask said that he did not think that there was any person with such a unique insight into the affairs of the County and also the aspirations and problems of its people as a sitting member of Parliament. Mr Leask remembered that as a boy he had watched 33 steam vessels sail out of Wick Harbour on a September afternoon and now 3 vessels were bringing in almost as great a catch.
Vice-president, John Murray, proposed the Toast to our Guests and welcomed and thanked the many members of the Clan Gunn Society for their continued support. The Stan Watts Band was on fine form and the evening enjoyed by all. Well done once more Miss Ngaire Kidston the Dinner Convenor.
Torrential rain in the Capital caused difficulties for members and friends attending the Burns Supper in 1988. The function however went well with the usual generous helpings of traditional fare provided by the Ladies of the Committee. A guest piper, Donald Smith of the London Perthshire Society, led in the Haggis and President John Murray addressed it in the time honoured way. Mark Lewis, a member of the committee, gave the Appreciation and spoke of the great man's humanitarian qualities, patriotism and understanding of people and their problems.
Mr Scott Jamieson reminded the gathering that the London Caithness Association was 132 years old.
A Wine and Cheese Social was held on 18th March in the warmth of the Royal Scottish Corporation's Court Room in contrast to the inclement weather outside in Covent Garden. Ample delicious food, plentiful wine and great company thanks to the efforts of the committee. Mrs Marguerite Walsh-Atkins entertained at the piano with a selection of Scottish songs accompanied by all the guests and Doreen Reid did a fine job selling raffle tickets for the many donated prizes.
The 132nd AGM was uneventful. Miss Falconer reported that the Association's finances were in a very good condition and received a vote of thanks for the efficient way that she had dealt with the accounts. All Office Bearers and Committee Members were re-elected and a pleasant evening was enjoyed by all.
Once again we had our Dinner and Dance at the Imperial College, South Kensington. The opening ceremonial was as impressive as usual and Piper Alastair Dunnet addressed the Haggis. Sir Ralph Anstruther, KCVO. MC. brought the good wishes for a successful evening from our Patron, The Queen Mother. We are so honoured to have the regular support from Her Majesty and Sir Ralph - they never forget and always show interest in our activities.
16 years ago Alastair, one of our regular pipers, had a first date with his wife at a London Caithness Meeting and it was sad to learn that both he and his father, Alex, and their families were moving out of London and taking up residence in the Borders. Good wishes and thanks were extended to them all for their valued contributions to our functions.
Mr Michael Gunn was the principal speaker this year. He quoted letters from the 15th Century - "it is unsafe to go thither on account of the wildness and untractableness of its inhabitants" and "...lawlessness and ambushes by savages are prevalent, so much so that on account of the frequency of their ferocity and depredations, not only are the prelates and clergy driven away but also the inhabitants of those parts are plundered and sometimes burned with their wives and little ones and are put to death by the sword." Since those days, he said "things have changed" The County now had different problems but had overcome challenges before and he was confident that they would succeed again. Speaking of wild things reminded him that the Clan Gunn Society would be making its contribution towards educating the rest of the world about the traditions and colourful history of Caithness and would be supporting Wick's Quatercentenary in 1989 by hosting a reception at the Town Hall. All present were invited should they be in Wick at the time.
The President thanked Mr Gunn for his address and continued by saying that he could think of no one better to respond than the lady on his right who had over the years written in the 'Groat' on many occasions under the name of Mrs Isabel Salmon and he now called her to respond to the Toast under her new name of Mrs Isabel Richardson. She felt sure that all Caithnessians present would join her in appreciation of the thoughts and comments in his speech and how much we enjoy the colour and interest, historical and otherwise, that the Clan Gunn Museum and guided tours of Caithness have meant to visitors and ourselves. As a 'Wicker' brought up in Poulteney it had taken her some time to find out that she too was a Caithnessian and had enjoyed many proud times since then.
The evening concluded with dancing to the Stan Watts Band.
The 1989 Burns Supper was conducted on the traditional lines and the principle parts played by President Scott Jamieson and Vice-president John Murray with mouth watering catering by the committee. Doreen Reid was present and the raffle as popular as ever.
The Wine and Cheese evening was also a successful social evening and Mrs Isabel Richardson entertained the company with items in old Caithness dialect and there was a plentiful supply of news and gossip before the usual raffle. All the prizes in these raffles are donated and there are always lots of winners.
At the 133rd AGM the annual reports of the Secretary and Treasurer were well received and they were thanked by the President on behalf of the members. The election of Officers saw some changes. A new President, Mr John Murray a native of Thurso and an Inspector with the Metropolitan Police was elected. He had been a member for several years and had worked hard as Vice-president. Vice-president Mr Gordon Leask thanked Mr Scott Jamieson, who had held the Office for eight years, on behalf of the Members. He had devoted much of his time towards ensuring the continuity of the Association and would now hold the position of Past President. All the other Officers were re-elected. In recognition of the loyal support shown over almost four decades, Mrs Janet Reeve was appointed a Vice-president. Six new members were accepted into the Association.
Mr John Murray presided over the Dinner and Dance this year held on 10th November at the Imperial College. Once more the meal was excellent and the noble dish was addressed with much fervour by Piper Bruce Wilkie escorted by Mr Scott Jamieson. Sir Ralph Anstruther conveyed the best wishes for a happy evening from our beloved Patron and our two other Honorary Presidents, The Earl of Caithness and Viscount Thurso of Ulbster and the Hon. John Sinclair also sent messages of goodwill.
The principal speaker was Mrs Aileen (Bunty) Gunn of Banniskirk. She began by saying "I'll no disguise from ye - as they say up there- that I'm not a Scot: in fact to paraphrase the Bard - mine, not yours - Some are born to Caithness, some achieve Caithness and some have Caithness thrust upon them. I am in the last category, but as you know Iain was born to Caithness and has spent part of just about every year there ever since. What more natural, then, that he should spend his honeymoon there? So Caithness was thrust upon me one glorious June."
She has graduated from being "Yon English wumman 'at s married wi' Iain' to 'Oh you mean Bun-thy - Iain's wife? Aye she's English........which indulgently explains away my little eccentricities of manner and speech"!
Everybody is impressed with the beauty of Caithness and the skill and determination of its workers and craftsmen and Bunty is no exception - in fact she is probably more enthusiastic about the place than the Caithness born. She went on to tell the story about the young couple who were proposing to sand yacht at Dunnet and asked the Coastguard what the wind speed was. He said that he was sorry that he did not have a wind gauge but that, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his landrover over the cliff!
The fact that she had been invited to propose the Toast to the County was, after 26 years, one of her highlights - she felt that she had arrived and been accepted as a Caithnessian. Her full and very entertaining speech will be placed in the archives in Wick with the other records of the Association.
1990. The annual Burns Supper was held in the traditional manner. Mr John Murray and Mr Scott Jamieson did the honours and President Michael Gunn of the Clan Gunn Society proposed the Toast to "the Immortal Memory"
On 23rd February the Association held a Social Evening which had, as its main attraction, a slide show given by Mrs Margaret Smith on behalf of the National Trust of Scotland. Members were impressed by the beautiful scenery and the commentary by Mrs Smith. The evening was voted a great success and perhaps an encouragement to arrange future functions along these lines.
The season closed with a Cheese and Wine Evening which was well supported and enjoyed by all.
On Wednesday 27th June 1990 there was another milestone in the History of the Association and it seems appropriate to record, in full, the report to the John O'Groat Journal by Mrs Isobel Stanmore our Hon. Secretary at the time.
90th Birthday Tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
On Wednesday 27th June 1990 the London Caithness Association were invited to participate in the Birthday Tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in celebration of her Majesty's 90th Birthday on Horse Guards.
Twelve members, President John Murray, Past-President Scott Jamieson, Isobel Stanmore, Cathie Falconer, Janet Reeve, Dolly Murray, Ngaire Kidston, Doreen Reid, Heather Loveday, Margaret Henderson, Jane and Michael Gunn took part in the march past of the Civilian Organisations associated with Her Majesty.
The Association were also allocated ten stand seats so a goodly number of Caithnessian stock took part in this parade to end all parades.
David Dimbleby in his BBC TV commentary mentioned the London Caithness Association as they passed the dais and said "The London Caithness Association, dear to her heart, which looks after Caithnessians who live in London and get into difficulties, the Castle of Mey the Queen Mother's favourite residence is there" The help to Caithnessians in London was the origin of the Association.
When the RNLI passed the dais he mentioned that some of their contingent came from Thurso, the members of the London Caithness Association met the two men, Norman Urquhart and Colin McCaffrey in the rest area in St James's Park during the course of the day. In his commentary he said that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother had named 7 lifeboats and the last one, only last year near the Castle of Mey at Thurso, which was called the "RNLB The Queen Mother"
All who were present were conscious that it had been a privilege to have been invited to take part in such a unique celebration - the like of which, it was felt, could only have taken place in this country. Those who participated in and those who watched it from the stands will never forget it nor the atmosphere it engendered.
Isobel Stanmore 4.7.90.
We are now up to AGM Number 134 which was held at the Scottish Corporation Hall. The Annual reports from the Secretary and Treasurer were well received and they were given a vote of thanks. The Treasurer said that the healthy state of her accounts was mainly due to the generosity of the members throughout the social season. All the Office Bearers were re-elected. . One Life Member and three Full Members were accepted into the Association. President, Mr John Murray then gave details of the programme for the next season.
The Dinner and Dance was held in the Imperial College again and the menu was up to the usual high standard. This year the Piper was Dave Cornish and he honoured the Haggis in the prescribed fashion. Our President, Mr John Murray proposed the Toast to the County and he outlined the early history of the Association all - of which has been recorded previously. He then spoke of the pleasure he and our Secretary, Isobel Stanmore, had enjoyed when they represented the Association at the ceremony in Wick when the Freedom of the District of Caithness was conferred on our Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
Sir Ralph Anstruther replied and, after conveying best wishes from Her Majesty, told of the events of the year and the celebrations for her 90th birthday. He said that she was pleased to note that the Association was ably represented at the Parade on Horse Guards. The Queen Mother received enormous pleasure by the gift of the Freedom of The District and the reception given to her by the people she met and spoke with on her tour of the County. The Queen's Own Highlanders are the only other recipients of this Honour. The people of the County also subscribed to a lovely picture of the Castle of Mey surrounded by a garland depicting many of the things of great interest to her, Aberdeen Angus cattle, Cheviot sheep, fishing, gardening and even the donkey that lives at Longoe Farm and keeps the young bulls in order! Her Majesty gave a party at the British Legion Hall in Mey to thank the subscribers and it was a very happy occasion. Sir Ralph concluded by giving the latest news of the County,
Stan Watts and his Band gave a happy finale to the evening and many guests went home clutching their raffle prizes. There are always many prizes at our raffles and all are donated by our members.
The Burns Supper held at the Corporation Hall in January 1991 was well attended and a great success. Mr Mark Lewis proposed the Immortal Memory and the guests were entertained by Cathie Kennedy who sang a selection of Burn's songs. Cathie sings in the prize winning London Gaelic Choir. A Cheese and Wine Social held in February was also well attended and enjoyed.
The 135th AGM saw no changes to the elected officers and committee members. Mr Murray presided over the meeting and after the business was concluded the members tucked into a tasty spread provided by the ladies of the committee and exchanged local and Caithness news before the customary raffle.
The Annual Dinner and Dance was again held at the Imperial College with an excellent meal and the traditional ceremony of the Haggis. The Chef was escorted by Mr Scott Jamieson and the Haggis addressed by Piper Dave Cornish. Mr Murray welcomed Sir Ralph Anstruther who carried best wishes from our Patron and further good wishes were received from Hon. President Viscount Thurso. They never forget us and Sir Ralph is always part of our Annual Function.
Past President Scott Jamieson proposed the Toast to the County and he invited all present to take the trip to Caithness along the newly improved roads north over the Dornoch Firth Bridge and the Dunbeath Bridge which had made for safer and quicker travelling. He did add that he preferred the old Struie Road because of its scenic route. The new Caithness Glass factory was proceeding apace at the Airport site and the company was expanding from Wick, Perth and Oban into England.
Trials were taking place of wind turbines and other businesses were thriving in the County.
Mr Murray thanked Ngaire Kidston and Janet Reeve for arranging tonight's function before the dancing to Stan Watt's Band. Dave Cornish concluded the festivities by playing his own composition entitled 'Liberation of Kuwait'.
The 1992 Burns Supper was well attended and the Immortal Memory was proposed by Mr Peter Coghill. Once again the raffle was a great success and there were plenty of donated prizes. Mr Murray was pleased to announce that our Hon. Vice-president Gordon Leask had recently been made a Freeman of the City of London. A well deserved honour. The Cheese and Wine Social which took place in March was also a good evening. The members were entertained by Mr Tom Symington and his accordion and the usual fine selection of wine cheese and other delicacies served by the committee were well up to standard.
The 136th AGM saw no changes and all the existing Hon. Presidents and Hon. Vice-presidents were re-elected and the organising officers remained as follows:-
President Mr John Murray
The Secretary and Treasurer were thanked for their hard work and congratulated for their reports by Mr Murray.
It is a great pity that we cannot persuade all the people who attend our annual Dinner and Dance functions to come along to our other meetings. The Burns Suppers are our next best attraction and the common factor seems to be the Haggis !!! This year the D & D was again at Imperial College and the crowd seemed to enjoy meeting up with old friends and exchanging the news of Town and County. Piper Dave Cornish was in fine fettle and attacked the Haggis with his usual gusto.
Mr Murray proposed the Toast to the County and reminded us that we were one of the only two active County Associations left in London. Mr Scott Jamieson then gave us the Caithness news from his recent visit to the County. The new Glass Factory was open and a treat to visit with a large showroom and viewing area. There was a restaurant and spacious car park and the tourists had apparently no trouble in finding the place. Kestrel were continuing to operate successfully in spite of the difficulties in transporting some of their equipment through the County and out to Sinclair Bay. Pat Grant and her Norfrost continues to go from strength to strength and they don't appear to have heard about the recession. The closure of Dounreay is a bit on the downside but there are still people employed and every effort is being made to create new employment.
The Stan Watts Band soon got the feet tapping and there were no complaints !
Burns Supper in 1993 at the Corporation Hall went well. Broth, haggis, neeps, tatties and trifle were most enjoyable but followed by home-made apple pie and cream and a choice of wine rounded the meal perfectly. Tom Symington played his accordion and Cathie Kennedy gave a selection of Burn's songs.
At a Committee Meeting on the 19th February 1993 it was decided not to renew the covenants to both the Royal Scottish Corporation and the Royal Caledonian Schools because the nature of both organisations had changed and our small contributions could serve a better purpose. It was agreed to investigate Old Peoples Homes in the County and give them small donations in turn. A letter from Sir Ralph Anstruther was received in which was an invitation for two of our members to attend a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. Following our usual procedure of longest serving members Vice-president Janet Reeve and her husband were given this honour.
137th AGM was even more uneventful this year. All the Office Bearers and Committee Members were re-elected and the Secretary's and Treasurer's Reports drew thanks from all present. There were no adverse comments but there were some very constructive ideas for the future which the committee will be pleased to consider. As usual the refreshments were good.
The 1993 Annual Dinner and Dance was held at the Imperial College and unfortunately it was to be the last one. Although this function has been the favourite for members and guests alike the costs have increased greatly and the committee decided that the accrued funds of the Association should not be used to subsidise an event which was enjoyed by a large number of people who did not attend our other meetings. Sir Ralph could not attend this year but the President was able to convey best wishes for a successful evening from our Patron and we also received best wishes from The Earl of Caithness and Viscount Thurso.
Dave Cornish attacked the Haggis with fervour and the meal was up to the previous high standard.
Mr Scott Jamieson led off the dancing to the Stan Watts Band and everybody left in a happy mood not realising that unless things changed radically there would never be another London Caithness Dinner and Dance.
Mr John Murray welcomed members and friends to the 1994 Burns Supper. The traditional fare was served by the ladies of the committee and Past-President Scott Jamieson addressed the Haggis.
Cathie Kennedy kindly gave us a delightful selection of the Bard's songs and the raffle finished off another lovely friendly get-together.
You will notice that there was no Cheese and Wine Social this year. The closing social for 1993/4 season was on 18th March 1994. The committee provided a wide variety of savouries and cakes and Cathie Kennedy and Tom Symington provided the entertainment. The meeting was a financial success and the guests appeared to enjoy the relaxed social evening. But there was bad news. It was to be a farewell occasion for President John Murray who recently retired from the Metropolitan Police and was, with his wife Dolly, taking up residence in Cyprus. Having been members for 20 years and greatly involved in the activities of the Association they will be very much missed. A cheque from the Association was presented to them by Scott Jamieson and a Toast was made to both for a very happy retirement.
With the retirement of Mr John Murray the 138th AGM was Chaired by Mr Scott Jamieson. For the first time in the long history of the Association a lady, Mrs Janet Reeve, was unanimously elected as President. and her husband Edward Reeve appointed Vice-president and Hon .Auditor. The committee consisted of Miss Kidston, Mrs Reid, Mrs Loveday, Miss Henderson and Mr Mark Lewis. Hon Secretary Isobel and Hon Treasurer Cathie kept a tight control on other matters.
Who is the first Lady President?
Janet Reeve was born in Knockally in 1925 and then lived with her parents, Tom and Mina MacBeath at Inver, Dunbeath until joining the ATS during WW2. She married Edward Reeve in 1945 and moved to London in 1947. They had two sons who trained as Highland Dancers in London under the great Jack Maconachie and both became champions. Janet spent every summer holiday in Dunbeath with the children and they became regulars on the Highland Games Circuit in the North. She encouraged her nephews, Thomas and James MacBeath, to join them on the tour and the four youngsters made their marks and for many years won prizes at all the Games. Thomas went on to be a well known runner and won prizes at Powderhall and James took on the "heavies" with great success. Douglas and Raymond stopped competing on reaching maturity but are still remembered for their outstanding performances of the Irish Jig and Sailors Hornpipe by senior Games enthusiasts. Janet joined the Association in 1953 and her sons entertained at many of the meetings.
The first St. Andrews Social was held in the Hall of St Columba's Church in Pont Street. The Committee provided a special buffet supper and this was followed by a programme of dancing. Special Guest was Sir Ralph Anstruther who came bearing a message from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to everyone for a very happy and enjoyable evening. The function was well supported and would be considered as viable for the future.
The 1995 Burns Supper was held in the Corporation Hall and well attended. Our Guest of Honour was Mr Michael Duguid of the Burns Club of London. He pronounced the Selkirk Grace for us and Toast to 'The Immortal Memory' Cathie Kennedy continued the evening with a selection of songs delightfully rendered in her charming manner.
Cathie Kennedy is a great favourite with our members and she entertained again at our closing social for 94/95 together with Scott Jamieson and Tom Symington. Scott has hidden his singing talent all these years but at last we managed to get him demonstrating his ability. The raffle, thanks to donations from the members, was a good laugh and everybody got a prize. It pays for the rent of the Court Room so the committee are equally pleased !
139th AGM held at the Scottish Corporation Hall saw one change to the Officers and Committee and that was the election of Margaret, Viscountess Thurso as an Hon. President. Mrs Stanmore and Miss Falconer gave their usual comprehensive reports which were well received and thanks were given by the President. Refreshments were of high standard and the raffle provided its now customary laughs and cheers.
St. Andrew's Social. This was again held at St. Columba's Church in Pont Street, Kensington. A special buffet supper with wine was arranged by the Committee followed by a programme of dancing. Best wishes for a happy evening were received from our Patron. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother never forgets our main function of the year and has made an annual donation to our funds from the time she became Patron. She really loves her connection with Caithness.
In December, 1995 we learnt of the sudden death of another pillar of the Association, Mr Gordon Miller Leask. Readers will have noted the frequency with which his name was mentioned in connection with his service to the Association over many years. He was born in Wick, educated there and Aberdeen University and served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy during World War ll. Returning to civilian life he took up accountancy and worked with The Royal Scottish Corporation rising to the position of a Life Managing Governor. A true Gentleman friendly and courteous and respected by the many organisations to which he belonged. He was an avid reader of the "Groat" and knew many of the correspondents and liked to recall anecdotes of his meetings with them. Yes he will be sadly missed and at the age of 71 he was still in his prime.
Burns Night in 1996 was celebrated again at the Corporation Hall with the traditional fare provided by the Ladies of the Committee. Mr Michael Duguid of The Burns Club of London proposed the Toast and Cathie Kennedy and Scott Jamieson obliged with a selection of songs. Yes we did enjoy the raffle.
The 95/96 Season ended with a Social. The Committee provided a great supper of sausages, beans, mash and wine - not exactly 100% Scottish fare but we are the London Caithness Association after all! This was followed by plenty of home cooked delicacies in the more traditional style. The newly discovered talent of Scott Jamieson was exploited and he gave us a selection of songs accompanied by many of the members.
The 140th AGM. started the new Season but absolutely nothing changed in the structure of the Assn. The Reports and results were satisfactory and the reporters duly thanked by the President on behalf of the members. Boring? No - everybody had a most enjoyable evening and plans were made for 1997.
The Burns Supper at the Corporation Hall on 24th January 1997 ran along normal lines with Mr Scott Jamieson pronouncing the Selkirk Grace and the Toast to the "Immortal Memory" proposed by Miss Cathie Falconer.
At the Social on 14th March 1997 we had a special evening. A representative from Bell's Whisky was persuaded to come and give a most interesting presentation on the production of their whisky. He gave detailed descriptions of the processes involved and the samples he brought with him were enthusiastically enjoyed. He also brought recommended bottles of water for those who preferred to make their drams last a little longer and everybody was delighted to note that it was Berriedale Water. The buffet supper that night tasted even better than usual and the raffle prizes were outstanding. Thank you so much Bell's Whisky.
AGM Number 141 The membership showed satisfaction by allowing the structure of the Association to remain as before. Once more the Hon Secretary and Hon Treasurer gave detailed reports on the previous year's activities and the meeting was well supported by our faithful regulars and our recently acquired associated members. Local and Caithness news over cups of tea and home-made delicacies interspersed with impromptu entertainment took over but we did not forget the now famous raffle. We get so many donated prizes for what has become one of the main light-hearted parts of our meetings that most of our members go home clutching something.
A St. Andrew's Social was held at the Corporation Hall this year on 28th November. Costs came into the frame when the committee arranged this function because, although membership has remained steady recently, there is not the same interest in expensive activities. It is sad to report that most of our members are now in the senior age bracket and on limited pensions. However they are still keen to get together and seem to enjoy the meetings. Cathie Kennedy and Scott Jamieson entertained us well and amusing anecdotes from Cathie Falconer were greeted with much applause. Yes - the raffle paid the rent again!
The accordion played by Tom Symington set the scene for the Burns Supper on 23rd January 1998. As before, when the Ladies of the Committee provided the catering, the meal was excellent and Scott addressed the Haggis with enthusiasm. A Member of the London Perthshire Association, Elizabeth Brown, proposed the Toast after a very interesting speech and Cathie Kennedy was in fine voice and gave a lovely selection of the great man's songs.
In the absence of the President, Cathie Falconer took command of a good gathering of members and friends at a Cheese and Wine Social on 20th March 1998. It was an enjoyable evening and, although I keep repeating 'enjoyable', our faithful supporters always seem happy to get together and chat and reminisce and tuck into the mouth-watering fare which the committee Ladies always produce.
AGM No 142 on Friday 23rd October, 1998. Members seem well satisfied with the structure of the Association, Officers, and Committee and all were re-elected unanimously. The Secretary and Treasurer gave their reports and were heartily thanked for their efforts. After the official proceedings, members engaged in a general discussion on future plans and activities but nothing new arose to give hopes that we could attract more members. Either the employment situation has improved in Caithness, or Caithnessians have found better places than London to work or they just prefer other forms of entertainment.
The 'faithful' turned out in force for the St Andrews Social in November. Tom Symington and Scott Jamieson entertained and the raffle was its usual success. It has now become part of the tradition that lots of members bring along unwanted gifts and put them into the raffle. They then buy lots of tickets and, when lucky, choose something from the selection on show. People's unwanted gifts then become other people's treasures - or do they!!! It's usually a good laugh.
President Mrs Janet Reeve hosted the Burn's Supper at St Columba's Church Hall on 30th January 1999. A large number of members and friends attended this very popular function which has now become mainly a 'do it yourself' social evening. Tom played his accordion, Cathie Kennedy gave one of her delightful recitals, the Committee produced the traditional fare beautifully cooked, Scott slaughtered the Haggis with vigour and Cathie Falconer proposed the Toast to the 'Immortal Memory'. I am going to say again - another very enjoyable evening. Likewise the Closing Social for 98/99 at the Corporation Hall was well attended by the loyal crowd which was a reward for the hard work of the committee. If only we could get a few more interested.
AGM number 143 followed the pattern of recent years with no alterations to the structure of the Association. It was held at the Corporation Hall, Covent Garden in November 1999. The official business was followed by a social evening of quizzes, chat, spontaneous 'turns' and, of course, the raffle. The membership had increased during the year but unfortunately did not include any Caithnessians. Many of the newcomers had previously been occasional visitors from other Associations or ex-ATS friends of the President who obviously found our meetings agreeable enough to sign up as Associate Members.
It is now becoming a regular thing that we lose some of our respected and loyal members because of the age bracket in which most of us find ourselves. Mrs Coghill had the edge on most of us when she reached the mighty age of 100 years at Christmas 1998 but sadly passed away in February 1999. Mrs Peggy Unwin, who joined the Association in 1959 and gave immense contributions to most of the activities since then, suddenly died in September 1999. The Association gave a donation to create a rose garden in her memory in recognition of her outstanding dedication.
It was at this meeting that it was finally agreed that we would not hold a Burns Supper next year. A sad decision but due to varied difficulties involving catering, fitness of the Committee Ladies, costly venues and kitchen problems at the Corporation Hall, it was no longer a viable proposition.
THE QUEEN MOTHER'S 100TH BIRTHDAY PARADE
10 Members had seats in the Stand including three members who had marched on the 90th parade namely Janet Reeve (President), Ngaire Kidston and Doreen Reid
10 Members took part in the March Past including Scott Jamieson, Isobel Stanmore and Catherine Falconer who had taken part in the 90th celebrations.
The ten on parade had two rehearsals before the actual parade and spent most of the day in and around St James' Park with thousands of others and enjoyed the company of the adjacent organisations. It turned into a great fun day in glorious weather. They were provided with a picnic lunch and given a plastic 'Mac' inscribed with the logo on the back which, fortunately, was only used for souvenir purposes. The WRVS served these 'goodies' in a most efficient way.
As the LCA approached the dais, HRH Prince Charles appeared to draw attention to the contingent and it seemed that Her Majesty gave us all a special wave.
It was a very moving day and all who took part felt honoured to have joined in such a great and unique event celebrating the 100th Birthday of not only our Patron but one of the most loved Royals.
Our President was invited to a reception at St James' Palace after the Parade.
The day had started with security alerts which had closed many stations in the area making it difficult for participants but ended in a lovely family atmosphere as weary folk made their way home amidst enormous crowds.
A committee meeting was held at the home of our Treasurer in Great Bookham, Surrey because of her difficulty in getting to London and it was necessary to discuss the 7% Treasury Stock which was due to mature in September 2001 before the next AGM. All current matters were fully covered and the books were audited. It was agreed to recommend to the Members that the cash received from the Treasury Stock be transferred to the account at the Royal Bank of Scotland. The future of the Association was so uncertain that any long term investment would be pointless. It was also agreed by the Committee that they would do their best to keep the Association alive as long as our Patron survived because of her interest and support.
AGM Number 144 was held at the Corporation Hall on 24th November 2000 and it turned out to be the last AGM of the Association. The meeting was well supported and the reports of the Treasurer, Secretary and Committee received with the usual congratulations and thanks. The Officers were all unanimously re-elected and it was with great sadness that we learnt of the death of another three of our older members, Isobel Richardson, Blanche Taylor and Ruth Sadler.
A discussion took place about the maturing Treasury Stock and agreement reached that the £3156.95 resulting be shared between the three Homes and two Lifeboat Stations that we have regularly supported for many years. Other funds to remain available for current use and to provide small interest income.
Due to ill health and other administrative difficulties it was not possible to hold any meetings during the early part of 2001 but a Committee Meeting was held at Bookham on the 16th October 2001 where it was agreed that we continue to send our annual Christmas donations of £50 to the homes and lifeboats. All correspondence was dealt with but the Treasury Stock money had not been received to date so the Accounts for the year were to be held up until such time as it was in hand. The Accounts were, however, audited. The AGM would be held at the earliest possible date. Problems continued and it was not possible to arrange the AGM or the early Social.
In April 2002 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother died and the Capital went into deep mourning. We had lost our beloved Patron. President Janet Reeve and Secretary Isobel Stanmore were invited to attend the funeral at Westminster Abbey on 9th April and it is impossible to describe the show of grief both there and outside amongst the thousands of mourners. How could the Association even consider seeking another Patron? Her passing really signified the end of an era.
The death of our Patron was followed by the death of Major Sir Ralph Anstruther, Bt, GCVO, MC. Sir Ralph was an Honorary President, great friend and supporter of the Association, who kept Her Majesty well informed of our activities. A charming and friendly man who won the hearts of the lady members and gained the respect of the men.
President, Mrs Janet Reeve, called a special meeting held at the Scottish Corporation Hall on the 24th May 2002. In her opening speech said "We are all getting too old and there is no eligible young interest to take over and keep us going. It is a great shame that such a noble association will shortly cease to exist but what was once a large gathering of Caithness folk has shrunk to a mere handful of supporters who are mainly friends of friends and people from other discontinued London Scottish Associations. At a previous meeting it was agreed that we should try to keep the Association going as long as our Gracious Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was alive because of the interest that she showed. Now, with her passing, the Committee feel that it is appropriate that we proceed with the winding up."
The following resolutions were passed unanimously at the meeting.
(1) The London Caithness Association be closed down after the agreed disposal of the accrued funds.
(2) The Wick and Thurso Lifeboat Crews be both informed and asked to suggest ideas for a memento which would be of lasting benefit towards the enjoyment of the Crews and would be capable of bearing a plaque stating that it was in memory of the London Caithness Association. Value approx. £1000 ( not equipment normally provided by RNLI)
(3) The three Old Peoples Homes be similarly approached and asked to suggest equipment of lasting value worth approx. £1000.
(4) All Members who have attended at least one of the last four meetings be invited to a farewell free buffet and meeting later in the year.
(5) No further subscriptions to be collected.
(6) The records and final accounts be sent to the Archives in the Wick Library.
(7) The President, Vice-president, Secretary and Treasurer to carry out the necessary actions to finalise the closure. Note The Funds that we are distributing have been accumulated over many years for the benefit of Caithnessians and carefully guarded by previous Officers of the Association. In recent years, in addition to providing social meetings, we have tried to make just enough profit to provide some Christmas Cheer to our five worthy causes without touching the accrued funds. Your Officers will continue to honour your trust.
(8) A final meeting and Social to be called to ensure that your wishes have been carried out.
Later in the year the President and Vice-president visited the County and discussed with the five worthy causes the plans for the mementoes. By pure coincidence they arrived at the Thurso Lifeboat Station just before a large number of Vikings called in on their way from Orkney to the Thurso Gala. It was an honour to be included in the party that ensued but the Vikings turned down offers to assist in the pillaging and raping for which history has suggested that they were infamous.
The crew are contemplating spending the gift on a video camera and equipment to be kept on the boat to record rescues.
The Wick Lifeboat Crew planned to spend their money on scheme to encourage youngsters to become interested in the Lifeboat Service with a London Caithness Shield awarded annually to the most promising cadet.
Achvarasdal House are getting large pieces of furniture to add to the comfort of their residents.
Bayview House are putting the money towards the construction of a conservatory to make life more comfortable for the many old people they daily bus in for care. The dedicated staff are continually fund- raising to achieve this goal which is outside the local government capabilities and our very welcome and appreciated donation is regrettably far short of the £20,000 needed.
Pulteney House will erect a large Caithness Slate seat in their grounds based on the design created for the Queen Mother's memorial seat at the Castle of Mey. This will give the residents an opportunity to enjoy the flower garden and lovely view of the sea beyond.
Mr and Mrs Reeve were again invited by Mr Charles Simpson to assist at the Mey Highland Games but this year sadly our Patron was not seated in her usual shelter. It was, however, a pleasure to see Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay, and Mrs Parker Bowles who were staying at the Castle. They were made very welcome and it is hoped that they will make it an annual event.
It was not possible to arrange the final meeting during the latter part of the year due to personal problems affecting the members of the committee and also the refurbishment of the Scottish Corporation Hall which is due for completion in 2003.
It was during a discussion on the remaining funds that the suggestion was made that it would be nice if a memorial to both our late Patron and the Association itself could be donated to the Castle of Mey. John Thurso, MP (Lord Thurso) was asked if a traditional Caithness Chair suitably inscribed would be acceptable to the Trustees. He gained the necessary approval and a chair was ordered from Woodbees of Thurso. He also arranged for Mrs Reeve to present the chair to Prince Charles at the 2003 Mey Highland Games.
There were no meetings during the winter months but regular phone calls kept things ticking over. The final meeting was arranged for 5th September 2003 and Isobel sent out all the invitations and Janet contacted a catering company and agreed the menu before making her usual trip to the County.
The President again visited the Homes and Lifeboats and collected the chair from Woodbees. It was beautifully made from a local sycamore tree about the same age as the Association and seemed to be an ideal memento. At the Mey Games Prince Charles was very interested and was sorry to learn that the Association was to close after so many years. He commented on the quality of the chair and beauty of the wood. He was also amused when he was told of the rail on the chair for drying socks in front of the fire. At his request the chair was displayed in an alcove at the top of the stairs in the entrance hall of the castle.
The final meeting took place on 5th September 2003 and was attended by 28 members. The meal was excellent and the wine plentiful. Tom Symington entertained with a selection of favourite tunes on his accordion as he has done so many times before. The President presented inscribed Caithness Glass Bowls to Isobel Stanmore and Cathy Falconer in appreciation of their many years of dedication and loyalty. Janet also thanked the Members for their support and added that the five good causes had also asked her to express their gratitude for the generous donations. There was a great feeling of sadness as Past-president Scott Jamieson led the final "Auld Lang Syne"
The Association was founded in 1856 in London and the Chairman of the first meeting was Reverend Robert MacBeth who later followed Mr Hugh George, the founding President, as the Association's second President. The final President was Janet Reeve (nee MacBeath). A strange coincidence but no direct connection!
At the end there remained sufficient funds to once again give £50 each to the Homes and Lifeboats towards their Xmas celebrations.
In conclusion I feel that I ought to apologise for poking my nose into such a distinguished Association. I am English and proud of it but in my defence I have become partly Scottish by absorption and partly Caithnessian by amalgamation and association. My wife was the first and only lady President and I have played my part as Vice-president and the London bit of the London Caithness Association. I first experienced the special qualities of the County in 1945 and still enjoy my annual visits. Caithness is SPECIAL. Can I come in?
THE LONDON CAITHNESS ASSOCIATION
Over the years the Association has made many donations some of the more recent ones are listed below:-
1989 A teak seat marking the Wick Quatercentenary
1990 Caithness chair in memory of Nancy Roloff (Secretary) in Wick Heritage Centre
1992 Caithness chair for Thurso Heritage Museum
Caithness chair for Dunbeath Heritage Museum
1994 Annual Christmas donations to Naver House, Pulteney House and Achvarasdal House
1996 Garden Seat for Bayview House.
1997 Annual Christmas donations to Wick and Thurso Lifeboat Crews
1997 Radio Clock in memory of Gordon Leask in Wick Lifeboat Station
2000 Donation of £100 in memory of Mrs Peggy Unwin towards a seat in a local community
Final gifts to the three homes and two Lifeboat Crews together with the Caithness Chair presented to HRH Prince Charles in memory of our beloved Patron Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The chair will remain in the Castle of Mey.