Not long after the Club was founded, we set-up an Annual Essay Competition to encourage children to study the works of Sir Walter Scott.
It was an amazing success and within 15 years over 7000 school children were reading the prescribed book and of those almost 5000 submitted an essay into the Competition each year -- and most of these were Primary School Children!
In fact, it was such a success than the Club went into debt with the costs of running it and providing the prizes. But luckily in 1908 an anonymous member donated £1000 which save us from collapse. The Club went into debt again in 1921 so it was decided to stop issuing the Medal as a prize in order to cut costs.
The children were told at the start of the school term which book they had to read. Then before Easter time, under the superintendence of the Headmasters of each school the children would write their Essays. Pupils were expected to answer two questions- one in each section. Three hours were allowed for the Secondary and Higher Grade Schools for the paper (no more than 1000 words), and just two hours for the Primary and Evening Schools (up to 500 words in length).
The Prizes included the Club Medal and a book - usually Lockhart's Life of Scott, Scott's Poems or copies of Tales of a Grandfather.
Interest in the competition dropped a little after WW1 but rose back again quite quickly. But, sadly it began to decline from 1924 when the Education Authority said they would no longer provide the books for the children. From 1937 less than two dozen schools took part. In 1949 a new Prize Scheme was announced to make it easier but interest continued to wane. Finally, after almost 70 years the Essay Prize was discontinued in 1965.
Interestingly, 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.
We no longer run an Essay Competition. We did try a couple of times to revive it...but without any major success. But since 2013 we have awarded a Scottish Literary Studies Medal - details of the winners shown at the bottom of this page.
How do you think you would have got on? Try a few of the Annual Essay Competition Questions - click on the link below:
We no longer run an Essay Competition. But since 2013 we have awarded a Scottish Literary Studies Medal in conjunction with Edinburgh University English Dept.
2013 Jeni Cumming was the first winner of the medal. She attained a first-class degree in English and Scottish Literature this year. The prize was awarded specifically for her work on the course "Gender, Nation and the Novel" for which she received the exceptionally high mark of 81 (the first class border is 70). This included an essay on Scott, Hogg and Austen marked at 83.
2014 Kirsteen Reid graduated with an excellent first-class degree in English and Scottish Literature. The medal was awarded for her first-class performances across a range of Scottish Literature courses, including 'Modern and Contemporary Scottish Poetry' and 'Gender, Nation and the Novel 1790-1830'--a course which includes some of Scott's novels. Kirsten is not only an excellent reader of Scottish Literature, she is also writing it. After receiving the outstanding mark of 80 for her Creative Writing paper, has been accepted onto the highly-competetive Msc in Creative Writing at Edinburgh. The Department of English and Scottish Literature greatly values its connection with the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club and we are delighted to have a worthy winner of this distinguished medal
2015 Ian Anderson had graduated with an MA in English and Scottish Literature. He was awarded our Medal for his work in the honours courses ‘Contemporary Scottish Literature’, ‘Robert Burns and the Eighteenth Century’ and ‘Gender, Nation and the Novel’—a course which contains a significant number of Scott novels. He tells us that his favourite novel by Scott is "The Bride of Lammermoor" Ian is returning to the University of Edinburgh to take an Msc by Research. He is researching working-class literature and its role in intellectual life, and will focus on the question of what makes a work of literature ‘popular’?