Report on the year 2019–20
Presented at the Society's AGM, 9 September 2020.
Presented at the Society's AGM, 9 September 2020.
At our previous AGM on 11 September 2019, none of us could have imagined that our lives would be dominated by a dangerous and infectious virus. We had an ambitious programme of lectures planned. We intended to complement the lectures with special visits to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s The Hill House, and to Myres Castle. But by early March we realised that physical meetings were no longer responsible for the foreseeable future. We reluctantly postponed Marietta Crichton Stuart’s lecture on the 3rd Marquess of Bute.
However, by March we had already enjoyed six out of the ten lectures planned: Scott McIntosh on Steel wheels and iron rails; Bryan Dickson on The Hill House – conservation challenges of a modern masterpiece; Joe Fitzpatrick on the East Lomond Hill – revealing a long-last archaeological settlement; Professor David Munro on the new book by himself and David Anderson on the history of the firm Smith, Anderson; Dr Nicola Small on Jacobite Clans and their stories; and myself on the topic of Why Orkney Matters.
Joe Fitzpatrick’s talk was to have been given jointly with the consultant archaeologist to the Falkland Stewardship Trust, Dr Oliver O’Grady, who had given us two brilliant lectures, one with 77 people present, in previous years. For Joe as for me, Oliver had become a friend, and a much-valued professional colleague, and it was devasting to hear of his sudden death, leaving behind a wife and two small children, earlier this year.
Our aim with our lecture programme is to reveal and deepen our knowledge of history, archaeology, architecture, art and craftsmanship – paying attention to Falkland, to Fife, and to Scotland further afield. Sometimes our lectures even have an international reach.
In spite of all that has happened this year, we can truthfully say that the Falkland Society has lived up to the challenges and has grown in stature. What have we done instead? First, we re-grouped our lectures, went online and delivered by Zoom. Marietta Crichton Stuart spoke about Falkland Palace and I spoke about Padua. Both these lectures are still available at the touch of a button through our website. Second, we established an online Newsletter which now has a circulation list of around 150 individuals, an impressive achievement starting from zero! We will try to keep this going – the feedback we have received is very positive and it keeps us all together. We welcome contributions from others. Two of our three new committee members (Marietta and Jake Bonnett) have made contributions to it. Please let us know if you would like to contribute an article on a topic of interest to other members.
The third area of activity, which has taken literally hundreds of hours, is the preparation of the new book entitled Falkland and its People 1901-1913. Towards the printing and publication costs we have received a grant of £500.00 from the Falkland War Memorial Trust and 11 individuals have sponsored the publication to the tune of £50.00 each. We could do with many more such sponsorships, please, as it spreads the cost and the risk over many pairs of shoulders rather than a few. Come what may, we intend to have the book printed in November and so it should be available before Christmas. We will hand deliver, with pleasure, to all those who have become sponsors. I want to offer our thanks to Thomas Playfair for initiating the book and for doing the archive and newspaper research, to Ross Burgess for his editorial skills and for adding so much more to the book (an introduction to provide context, index, dramatis personae, 54 illustrations and their captions) which will now have 560 pages. We also want to express a special thank you to Marietta Crichton Stuart who has scrutinised the entire text and written an insightful Foreword. She has added immeasurably to the book’s substance and usefulness. Above all I can say, having also been asked to read it, it is an enjoyable book to read: it is one of those books which you can read straight through or section by section, putting it down and taking it up again later.
As if all this were not enough, Ross Burgess has devised the Falkland
Listed Building Survey – he will give our January lecture on this topic, so
I will say no more about it here. But what I can say now is that since 1987
the Falkland Society has been one of the ‘guardians’ – or as we say in
Falkland ‘stewards’ – of the special character of the place which is so much
valued not only by those of us lucky enough to live here or near here but by
literally tens of thousands of visitors from the rest of the British Isles
and from other countries across the globe. What is it we value about
Falkland? To be able to give a precise answer we need above all to record
our built heritage – a kind of snapshot of how it is now – and that is what,
with the support and involvement of many of the owners, the Survey is doing.
Again, as with the book project, it is taking literally hundreds of hours.
More about it in January.
As an adjunct to the Listed Buildings Survey, Ross Burgess has also organised our Photographic Competition. The participants have each submitted ten photographs of the built heritage in Falkland. The judge will be the Master of the Art Workers’ Guild, art historian and painter Alan Powers, who will be spending three days in Falkland next week in connexion with the project we have given him to design the cover of ‘the book’.
I conclude by thanking all members of the committee for their support for our aims and objectives. I want to make an especially warm ‘thank you’ to our Treasurer, Gerardine Clark, who has been a real anchor in the affairs of the Society. She and her husband are going to live in Yorkshire – God’s own country, as we know – but we shall miss them greatly for their involvements across the community and especially for their commitment to the Society.
I am delighted to report that we have three new candidates for serving on the committee. We will have both the experience and wisdom of continuity and the new ideas and energy of new members. A warm ‘thank you’ to them also, and I am looking forward to working with them all, old and new members of the Committee.