After 21 years in the post of Chair, George Robertson stood down at the Society’s recent AGM, held in May 2017. He then took on a new position of Honorary President, the third time in the Society’s 47 year history that such a post has been occupied. The Secretary, Cherry Allan, highlighted George’s history with the Society which is summarised below.
“It all started in June 1996 when the Chairman of the day stood down at the AGM with immediate effect, after 14 years of service, leaving the committee and members in something of a quandary. To resolve the situation the previous Honorary President, Mr Andy Lawrence (one of the original founders of the Society) proposed a new Society member and friend of his, one Mr George Robertson, as a prospective Chairman, since his interest in local history made him a likely candidate. George considered the proposal and agreed to take on the role and so began his 21 years at the helm of the Society.
It wasn’t long before new developments were taking place to increase awareness of the Society in the following ways:
- A Society logo was commissioned, designed and produced
- DHS began an annual presence at the October Hobbies and Recreation exhibition
- DHS became a member of the Scottish Local History Forum
- The post of Publicity Officer was created to report the Society’s activities in the local press
In September 1997 the Society moved to larger premises in the Pittencrieff Suite in the City Hotel and so began a steady increase in membership numbers as the Society grew in popularity.
The year 2000 saw the Society’s first overnight trip, to visit Durham’s great Cathedral, with George plotting the route and undertaking costings. A new projector and the first sound system appeared at this time and by 2002 the Society had outgrown the City Hotel and moved to the suitably historic and prestigious City Chambers to accommodate the now 93 members.
Over the years George arranged most of the speakers himself and took the lead in organising the trips which grew in the distances travelled, the variety of historical attractions seen and the time spent away from home, venturing to the Inner Hebrides and even South of the Border on several occasions. In 2006 he formed the “Travel Club”, a core group of committee members working together to ensure a fairer spread of the workload involved in organising the trips. The same year saw the appointment of a dedicated Speakers’ Convenor to secure a variety of quality speakers for the Society’s monthly evening talks.
In 2008 the post of Vice Chair was added to the Constitution in preparation for a prospective new Chairperson and in 2010, along with the committee, George saw the Society enjoy a memorable 40th anniversary celebration dinner at the Pitbauchlie House Hotel. In 2012 DHS was on the move once again to our current premises in the Abbey Church Hall.
Membership numbers continued to rise and reached the dizzying heights of 136 in 2014, our highest ever (trebling the numbers from 1996). The Society website launched in late 2015 to which George continues to contribute many local articles and 2016 saw the appointment of Carolyn Thompson as Vice-Chair, who has now taken over the role of Chair, having already played a highly significant part within the committee along with her husband, Robin.
Over the years George has worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running and success of the Society and all members owe him a great debt of gratitude. He has held the committee and the entire Society together throughout, working with a variety of individuals on the committee, and amongst the membership, on every aspect of Society business. He has stamped his own very personal style on the post and we all take this opportunity to wish him and his wife, Maureen every happiness in his retirement”.
The presentation concluded with a gift from the membership of 2 original prints of Dunfermline scenes from the 19th century, mounted and framed and a card signed by the membership. Finally the committee added their own gift of a presentation box of Macallan whisky and taster glasses, knowing George’s penchant for a dram of single malt!
It is well known that King Robert the Bruce is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, but the story of the discovery of his remains in the 19th Century and the ceremonies surrounding his re-burial are not so well known. In “Robert the Bruce Buried Again” Sue Mowat presents to us a fascinating newspaper article from the time and tells us about the large gathering of Scotland’s “great and good” who were present on the day.
In The Dunfermline Foundry (1816 to 1892), the latest in his series on Dunfermline’s Industrial Past, George Beattie, reports on his study of this pioneering engineering business in the town. The firm was lead by two influential men, the second of whom, John Whitelaw, became the Provost. Under his leadership, the firm supplied cast iron products to prestigious customers across the UK and overseas.
At our April 2017 meeting, Dr. Morna Fleming presented a fascinating talk on “Robert Henryson’s Morall Fabillis”. She gave us an excellent introduction to this major work by the 15th Century Dunfermline poet, which stimulated many questions from the audience. She finished by giving us a couple of book recommendations and some website links “for further exploration”, which I’ve listed here.
- The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, translated by Seamus Heaney (Faber, 2008)
- Among His Personal Effects, by Craig McDonald
- The Robert Henryson Society website at
- The original Glasgow University Robert Henryson site at
- this site includes a modernised edition of the Thirteen Moral Fables by R.W. Smith.
- A dramatised reading of the Testament of Cresseid by Colin Donalti and Morna Fleming at
DID YOU KNOW…
…the story that Ralph Erskine’s mother “died” before he was born?
The Rev. Ralph Erskine was a seccessionist minister in Dunfermline in the early 18th Century, and his statue stands outside the former church in Pilmuir Street. There is a little known tale about his mother, Margaret Halcro, who is buried in Scotlandwell.
In “The Burial Place of Margaret Halcro“, George Robertson tells the tall(?) tale.