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History Of The
Edinburgh Caithness Association

1837 - 1840

There are four years that will always be landmarks in the history of the Edinburgh Caithness people, namely 1837, 1862 and 1923.

In the month of December 1837 fourteen men, natives of Caithness met in the quiet parlour of the Café Royal, a hostel which still does business at 17 West Register Street, Edinburgh, and formed the original Edinburgh Caithness Association. There, for many years, the members met occasionally to conduct the business of the Association and once a year to enjoy a dinner - the latter, by the way, costing 6s 6d, with “Waiters and a pint of wine thrown in”. Of these pioneers eleven were lawyers, one was an accountant, one a student of medicine and the fourteenth a doctor of medicine.

The founders of “The Edinburgh Caithness Association” - the name which was decided upon at their first meeting - restricted their programme to “Establishing friendly intercourse among natives of Caithness and gentlemen connected with that county residing in or near Edinburgh, whereby they may become better acquainted with one another and, if possible thereby to promote the best interests of their countrymen.” They did not follow the example set by men from other northern counties who had formed societies in the city for “The furtherance of education in their counties, and the relief of distressed natives in the city”. The reason for this omission was perhaps due more to the fact that the directors were aware that there was then little occasion for artisans leaving Caithness for Edinburgh and not to callousness or selfishness on their part.

Records show that from 1820 - 1845 the fishing industry in Wick yielded on an average 88,000 barrels of herring each year, that 760 boats, of which 428 were built in Wick, gave employment to many carpenters, sail makers, coopers and fishermen, besides affecting other artisans more or less directly, not to mention the shopkeepers. On the western side of the county industrial matters were equally prosperous, the flagstone works being the source from which all the principal cities in Scotland obtained their pavements.

On 5th January 1838 however, the members of the Association held a dinner in the Café Royal, and it was at that function that schemes for the foundation of prizes and bursaries for the most meritorious young students of Caithness were inaugurated on the motion of Mr Benjamin MacKay, a master in the High School, seconded by Mr Donald Horne of Langwell, a writer to the signet, who had become members of the Association that session. The motion was enthusiastically agreed to by the entire meeting.

At their next sederunt, which was in January 1839, there were added to the Roll of Members the names of many distinguished men belonging to Caithness, and at each succeeding meeting and dinner more new meeting and dinner more new members enrolled, the financial result being that in January 1840 the Treasurer was able to report £143 in hand.

The first Annual Report was in that year (1840) printed and posted to every member, every minister, schoolmaster, land proprietor and Justice of the Peace in Caithness.

Index Page      1841 - 1870