The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club has been in existence for over 120 years, having celebrated its centenary in 1994. It has a membership of over 250, most of whom live in or around Edinburgh and Glasgow, but there is a considerable number from other parts of Scotland, and also from England and overseas.
The object of the Club is to foster the name of Sir Walter Scott through meetings, lectures, publications and excursions and to advance the education of the public concerning his life and works.
The Club is the senior and most active of its kind and has numbered among its Presidents distinguished statesmen, novelists, historians and men of letters, including Stanley Baldwin, John Buchan, James Bridie, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Macmillan, David Daiches, and more recently, Allan Massie, Edwin Morgan, Dorothy Dunnett, Paul Scott, Magnus Magnusson, Tom Fleming and James Robertson. In its centenary year we were honoured to have as President of the Club the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.
In May 1893, Dr. Charles A. Cooper (editor of the Scotsman) dined by chance with James Smail and Dr. James Kerr at Holyrood. Over the course of their conversation there arose the idea of forming a Club to honour the life and work of Sir Walter Scott. Dr. Cooper encouraged them to write a letter to the Scotsman and within a year the club was in existence.
The constitution of the Club was framed in June 1894 at a meeting held in Dowell's Rooms, Edinburgh and approved at its first AGM & Dinner in the Waterloo Rooms in November of that year - 161 of the 468 original members being present.
Dr Charles A. Cooper was elected President. He said, "Two duties this Club must perform; one is to honour the memory of Scott, the other is to lead those who as yet have not known him, to the flower-strewn fields that he has prepared for them."
Annual Membership cost just 5s. with Life Membership at 2 Guineas - all applications having to be approved by the then 18 members of Council! Today to the club has almost 250 members.
The objectives of the Club are to preserve the literary reputation of Sir Walter Scott through meetings, lectures, publications and excursions - and to advance the education of the public concerning his life and works. The Club no-longer collects relics of Scott, but is still one of the most active literary associations in Edinburgh.
Within the Club's first year an Essay Prize was established to encourage young scholars to study the works of Scott. Sir Eric Anderson, recently retired as Provost of Eton, admitted at one of the Club's meetings that he would never have gone on to edit Scott's Journal had he not won an Essay Prize as an Edinburgh schoolboy at George Watson's.
Among its Presidents appear distinguished statesmen, historians and men of letters, including Stanley Baldwin, John Buchan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and The Earl of Stockton (Harold Macmillan). More recently the Presidency has been graced by Allan Massie, Paul Scott and the late Magnus Magnusson.
A lady President whose memory the Club particularly treasures was Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott, chatelaine of Abbotsford and gt.gt.gt grand-daughter of Sir Walter. Dame Jean delighted in the creation of the Sir Walter Scott Way, a 92-mile walkway across Border country from Moffat to Cockburnspath, which connected various places which inspired his poems and novels - and which she formally opened in 2003. Dame Jean was also lady-in-waiting to Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, herself a daughter of the 7th Duke of Buccleuch.
The Club is greatly indebted to its recently retired Hon. Secretary, Fraser Elgin. Since the 1980s he has tirelessly invigorated the Club and has overseen its continued presence in the City both as a literary institution and as a vehicle for the continued study and appreciation of the man who remains our greatest novelist.