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London Caithness Association History
On the 31st of January 1856, there appeared both in the John O’Groat Journal and in the now defunct Northern Ensign, an invitation addressed to natives of Caithness, resident in or near London, to a meeting to be held in the Guildhall Hotel, Gresham St. in the City of London, on the evening of Thursday 7th February, at 8pm. The purpose of the meeting was to take into consideration “the propriety of instituting a London Caithness Association. The prime mover behind this project was Mr Hugh George, a native of Wick, a journalist on the staff of the Times, who with fifteen other Caithness men in the Metropolis, had, some little time before, come together to help a known and respected Caithness man who had got into some trouble. Forming themselves into a Committee, they had had the satisfaction of enabling him to get out of his difficulties. They had so enjoyed their meetings, that when their particular object was accomplished, they proposed that instead of disbanding, they should carry on the good work, and help any other fellow-Caithnessian who might have fallen on hard times in the big city. Mr George and his friends were also very much concerned at the difficulties and temptations facing young Caithness men coming to work in London, who might need assistance in finding work, or the advice and good counsel of older men, who would make it their aim to “introduce young Caithnessians to good moral society”. At a time when wages were low, paid holidays not even a dream of the future, and transport uncertain, slow and costly, it could be years before a lad might manage a visit to his home. The proposed Association might well be a vehicle of benefit to the young exiles. Thus, out of a generous gesture to a friend, and the satisfaction thereby obtained, and, one might say, almost by accident, the idea was born.
The attendance that February evening was reported as being at least up to expectation, and, under the chairmanship of the Reverend Robert MacBeth, those present listened eagerly and with approval, to a motion proposed by Mr George, and seconded by Mr James Auld that “it was desirable and expedient to institute a London Caithness Association. The proposal was carried unanimously. Mr George was elected President, Mr MacBeth was Vice-President, Mr Auld accepted the office of treasurer, while the position of secretary was agreed to by Mr JD George. The members of the first committee of the Association also bore good Caithness names, being Messrs David Gunn, David Larnach, James Miller, William Nicol and John Noble. Membership of the Association was to be open to all gentlemen in any way connected with the County. It was not until 1884 that ladies were admitted to membership, although their presence as guests at the various annual gatherings is reported.
This was not the first Association for Caithness exiles, there being already in existence similar societies both in Edinburgh and in Glasgow, and indeed a Mr Levack, then President of the latter, sent congratulations to those who had been inspired to convene the meeting. It was, however, a new departure for London, Caithness now setting an example to other counties, but some years were to elapse before others followed suit. The rules, a copy of which follows, drawn up in April 1856, were to serve as a basis for later County Associations, and remained unaltered until 1965, when rule 111. was amended to allow for the admission of associate members, e.g. other interested persons not necessarily connected with the County, such persons not having the right to vote.
The objects of the Association were as follows:-
1. To promote friendly intercourse between natives of Caithness resident in or near London.
2. To afford all possible facility for the formation and maintenance of beneficial connections and habits by young natives of Caithness on and after their arrival in the Metropolis.
3. To assist by every means in its power natives of Caithness and their dependants residing in or near London, who may stand in need of such assistance, whether members of the Association or not.
4. To cultivate and preserve a knowledge of the history, traditions, customs, etc. of the County.
The subscription of six shillings per annum for gentleman, and, in due course, four shillings for ladies remained unaltered until 1976, when the individual subscription for both sexes was raised to 50 pence.
Now, the Rules, eleven altogether:-
I. That this Society shall be called “the London Caithness Association”
II. That the objects of the Association shall be:-
(a) The promotion of friendly intercourse between Caithness people resident in or near London
(b) To afford all possible facility for the formation and maintenance of beneficial connections and habits by young men and women from Caithness on and after their arrival in the Metropolis.
(c) To assist by every means in its power natives of Caithness, their widows, widowers, and/or orphans, residing in or near London, who may stand in need of such assistance, whether members of the Association or not.
(d) To make subscriptions and/or donations to the Royal Scottish Corporation and the Royal Caledonian Schools.
III. That any person who is a native of Caithness, or connected by relationship or business with that County, shall be eligible for membership, on being recommended by two of the existing members. The vote of at least two-thirds of the members present at the meeting at which such person is recommended for membership shall be necessary to his or her election.
IV. That the subscription shall be:-
Life Members, donation of £5 or upwards.
Honorary Members, £1.1s per annum.
Gentlemen, 6/- per annum.
Ladies, 4/- per annum.
Members in arrears for twelve months shall forfeit the right to vote, and after two years, cease to be members of the Association, but be eligible for renewed membership either by re-election or by payment of arrears.
V. That the management of the Association shall be vested in the hands of a President, Past Presidents. Vice Presidents, Treasurer or Treasurers, Secretary or Secretaries, and a commit of nine – five to form a quorum: the office bearers, to be elected annually, shall be eligible for re-election.
VI. That the meetings shall be held during the months of October to April; the Annual Meeting to be held in January, at which a report of the Association’s proceedings and the Treasurer’s financial statement for the past year, shall be presented, and the office bearers for the current year elected.
VII. That on the presentation of a requisition signed by not fewer than six members, the President shall be empowered to call a meeting of the Society, irrespective of the specified meetings. On such and occasion, the President shall instruct the Secretary or Secretaries to give notice of the meeting to the members, intimating to them the object for which it is held.
VIII. That the Treasurer or Treasurers shall receive the funds and lodge the same with the duly appointed Bank, through which all necessary payments will be made. The accounts for the year shall close on December 31st, and at all times be open to the inspection of the Committee.
IX. That the Secretary or Secretaries shall keep a register of the names and addresses of the members, and a minute of the proceedings of each meeting, which minute he shall submit for the approval of the subsequent meeting.
X. That any application for pecuniary assistance shall be made to the Treasurer or Treasurers, Secretary or Secretaries, or member of the committee of management, who shall draw up a statement of the case, upon which the Secretary or Secretaries shall call a meeting of the Committee to consider the application. In cases of extreme urgency, the Treasurer or Treasurers shall possess discretionary powers to grant immediate relief to the extent of a sum of not exceeding £5.
XI. That the preceding rules shall not be altered except at a General Meeting of the Association, and then only after notice of the proposed alteration has been given to the members at a previous meeting.
Rule XI was duly observed when Rule III was altered to allow for the admission of associate members, and again when the number of Committee members was reduced to seven, and the date of the Annual General Meeting was moved to September.
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