The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club is one of the world's most prestigious literary societies. It has been in existence for 126 years and has a membership of over 200. Most of our membership live in or around Edinburgh, but there is also a considerable number who live in other parts of the UK and overseas.
The object of the Club is to advance the education of the public concerning the life and works of Sir Walter Scott. We do this via meetings, lectures, online publications and excursions. As well as by supporting other groups who share our passion for Scott.
We have around 5 or 6 lectures per year as well as an Annual Dinner, and also a joint lecture with Edinburgh University English Dept. where we award our [Scottish Literary Studies Medal].
The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club has had many distinguished statesmen, novelists, historians and men of letters as its President - including Stanley Baldwin, John Buchan, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Macmillan, David Daiches, Edwin Morgan, Dorothy Dunnett, Paul H. Scott, Magnus Magnusson, Tom Fleming and James Robertson. At our 100th Annual Dinner we were honoured to have HRH Princess Royal as our Honorary Guest.
Notable achievements of the Club
2020: Held our first ever lecture online via video conferencing software
2020: Due to the coronavirus pandemic we had to hold our AGM online for the first time ever.
2020: Lt Cdr Dairmid Gunn OBE decided to retire from the Council after 32 years. He was also Chairman 1999-2002 and addressed the Club on 10 occasions.
2020: Changed the name of our Essay Prize fund to the Public Lecture Fund. From 2021 we will be offering expenses of up to £150 to support events about Sir Walter Scott given to the public or schools in Edinburgh.
2020: Sadly we had to cancel our Annual Dinner due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This was the first time since the Second World War that this has happened.
2019. Sold our Council Minute Books from 1894 - 1986 to the National Library of Scotland. They contained signatures of almost all past Presidents including: Stanley Baldwin, Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, C.S.Lewis, Ludovic Kennedy, Lord Tweedsmuir and Magnus Magnusson. View the 1894-1958 book here: 1894 Minute Book and the 1958-1986 one here: 1958 Minute Book .
2019 Over 5000 pages from all of the Club's Annual Reports and Bulletins dating from 1894 - 2012 were photographed and made available via this website (linked to Past Events and President pages). They contain page Presidential Addresses and lectures given to the Club as well as other Papers of interest.
2019 Agreed to sponsor a Jane Millgate Memorial Lecture at the Triennial International Scott Conference - starting from 2021 with a donation of up to £500 towards the speakers expenses.
2016 Raised £3322 pounds towards restoring the Scott-family graves at Kensal Green cemetery. So far £1008 has been spent on a conservation report. Once we have discovered who owns the grave we can then raise further funds to complete the project.
2015 Sponsored the Scott in Schools Conference. The ASLS held a one day session aimed at teachers to help them teach Scott to School Children. There were talks from Ronnie Renton, James Robertson (video) Douglas Gifford and Martin Philip (video) (amounst other) talked at the event.
2014 Young Lochinvar outreach workshops rolled out to over a dozen Schools in Midlothian. Using a freelance Drama Teacher the workshop brought the poem to life by getting the children to take roles and act it out. Afterwards, when the poem read it had a meaning that the Children could associate with... it even made them think that they had lived the poem. (Photos at Loanhead PS) (Photos at St. David's) - A Schools Pack and Clothing for the participants to wear is available for other schools if they wish to reenact this themselves.
2014 Donated £500 towards the #Waverley200 campaign run by the City of Literature so that free copies of the Great Scott book could be given out around the city.
2013 Began awarding a Scottish Literary Studies Medal
2010 Donated an entire set of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels to the New Club, Edinburgh. The was funded by Fraser Elgin and gifted on behalf of the Club.
2010 Famous Scott fans recorded their favourite Scott text for our website.
2008 HRH Princess Royal was our Honorary Guest at our 100th Annual Dinner
1998 Fraser Elgin was presented with a Crystal Bowl for his services as Hon. Secretary at a special Council Dinner .
1994 The City of Edinburgh held a Civic Reception for members of the Club
1994 Talking About Scott edited by Prof. Ian Campbell and Prof. Peter Garside published
1994 Organised a Centenary Exhibition at Central Library
1989 We began our Annual Joint Lecture with Edinburgh University English Dept. And thanks to Lord Gill we were able to hold this lecture in Advocates' Library each year.
1974 373 members attended the Annual Dinner when Harold Macmillan was our President.
1972 Allan C. Frazer retired from being Hon. Secretary since 1946. Also, David Scott Moncrieff retired as Hon. Treasurer having held the post since 1953. Both were presented with crystal bowls.
1970 301 members attended the Annual Dinner when Lord Kilbrandon was our President.
1967 When Alex Douglas-Home was our President he invited the Club to a Wine and Cheese party at his house. 295 members enjoyed the Summer Party at the Hirsel. Tom Flemming read Border Ballards and Scott's Lyrics.
1959 A Collection was made after the Dinner presided over by C.S. Lewis for a Plaque to be erected a 25 George Square.
1954 The Right Hon. Lady Tweedsmuir became the first female President of the Club
1953 A crystal goblet was presented to Alexander Laurie for being the Treasurer from 1932 to 1952.
1952 To mark the occasion of the 45th Annual Dinner the Scott Monument was illuminated in the evening.
1949 A New Essay Prize Scheme announced to make it easier for Schools to enter.
1948 A special permit was granted for a buffet style Dinner but it was found that the North British Station Hotel (The Balmoral) couldn't accommodate such a large gathering so we had to find an alternative one. The food was cold as it had to be brought in and the PA speaker failed so no-one could hear the President.. but at least we had once again recommenced our Annual Dinners after the war.
1947 Almost re-started Annual Dinner after WWII but the Ministry of Food made such an assembly illegal
1935 290 members attended the Annual Dinner when Lord Macmillan was our President.
1935 Raised funds to preserve the view of Wicks of Baiglie (between Dron Hill and Mundie Hill)
1932 Membership peaked at 638
1932 Over £1000 in funds was raised for Centenary Celebrations which included
1930 280 members attended the Annual Dinner when Stanley Baldwin was our President. The event was also broadcast live to the nation on the Radio.
1927 A Memorial Tablet was placed in Sciennes Hill House by the Club in conjunction with the Burns Association to commemorate the only meeting between Burns and Scott.
1926 A site was given by the Earl of Dalkeith for the Club to place an indicator on top of one of the Eildon Hills. Funds were then raised.
1924 300 members attended the Annual Dinner when Earl of Birkenhead was our President.
1924 Fewer Primary School Children entered the Essay Competition as the Education Authority stopped providing the Novels.
1922 To cut costs Medals were stopped being issued as an Essay Prize... instead a more valuable book Prize was offered.
1921 Kenneth Sanderson W.S was presented with a Bracket Clock in recognition of being Hon. Secretary of the Club for 27 years.
1921 The Club fell back into debt due to the success of the Essay Prize. An appeal was made for donations.
1920 Membership had fallen from 500 to 400 due to WW1 with deaths of many members reported or indicated that they had simply gone missing.
1912 A Bronze and Marble Tablet was erected by the Club in Contin Parish Church to the memory of William Laidlaw. (Sir Walter amanuensis)
1908 The Club was in debt due to the success of the Essay Prize. An anonymous member donated £1000
1902 Started laying a Wreath at the Scott Monument every year on the 15th August. (Some of upto 6 ft in height).
1901 Raised £60 for "The Scotsman" Shilling Fund for Soldiers' Widows and Orphans
1899 Cleaned up Tom Purdie's Tombstone of Sir Walter Scott in Melrose Churchyard
1898 Joseph H. Choate was our Honorary Guest at our 5th Annual Dinner
1897 The Right Hon. Arthur J. Balfour M.P. was our Honorary Guest at our 4th Annual Dinner
1895 Raised funds for a bust of Sir Walter in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey (Sculpter John Hutchison) - At one point we had raised the money to pay for the work... but then discovered the amount required needed to be doubled in order to cover the costs of maintenance in the Abbey.
1895 Started an Essay Prize for Schools in Edinburgh.
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 [Annual Essay Competition] was established to encourage young scholars to study the works of Scott. Sir Eric Anderson, the former 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 was also greatly indebted to the late Fraser Elgin. For over 25 years since the 1980s he tirelessly invigorated the Club and oversaw its 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.
Our Club Logo is of Sir Walter with Spice. The "Cut silhouette" image was taken in 1831 by Augustin Edouart in Edinburgh after Sir Walter had recovered from a serious illness. Our Club have been using it from the 1980s on the cover of our Annual Bulletin after it was chosen by Patricia Maxwell-Scott and W. Fraser Elgin.
Over the years we have had lots of correspondence with various galleries and have so far been unable to trace the owner of the work.
Our Hon. Treasurer has managed to purchase a copy of ‘Ancestors in Silhouette’ (1921) by E. Nevill Jackson from the USA. So, we now we might be one step closer to discovering who owns the copyright as that is where the image was published. Meanwhile he has used the opportunity to update the Club logo to one that more accurately resembles the original.