History of the Banffshire Field Club

Thomas Edward

The Banffshire Field Club was founded in 1880 by a number of professional and business men, though among them was the shoemaker Thomas Edward (left), the famous self-taught Banff naturalist. An enthusiastic membership soon gathered and that summer three excursions were held, one led by John Home, the geologist, to Gamrie, another by the Reverend John Wilson to Fyvie, and the third by William Cramond, the historian, to Cullen.

The club was part of the Northern Association of Literary and Scientific Societies and hosted their third annual joint meeting, in Banff, with representation from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Ross-shire and Nairn. Following the reading of papers by various members and supper at the Fife Arms Hotel, by 8a.m. next day hundreds of spectators watched the procession of carriages, each drawn by a pair of horses, first stop at the Old Church of Boyndie, then at Boyne Castle, followed by the Old Kirk of Cullen and finally Cullen House.

A business meeting was held on the lawn, before the carriages took the guests back to Banff. Following a paper by Mr Thomas Edward, the club decided to print his paper and distribute it to other societies, and also decided that all future papers would be printed by the Banffshire Journal and be free to members. This is the source of the papers held by the club's transactions secretary today. An early secretary was James Spence, who founded the Buchan Field Club, which is still in existence. Another member, William G. Craib, the botanist, compiled The Flora of Banffshire, published by the Banffshire Journal in 1912. He later became Professor of Botany at Aberdeen University and added three further supplementary lists.

During the First World War, the club continued to meet, but no excursions were held. Postwar, between 1923 and 1937, contributions to meetings were from Mr Alistair Tayler and his sister Henrietta, among others. From 1925 Dr W. Douglas Simpson, librarian at King's College, Aberdeen University, contributed articles and led excursions to Boyne, Findlater, Spynie and Elgin Cathedral, Auchindoir, Rhynie, Essie and Rothiemay Castle. Many of his printed talks have detailed sketch maps and photographs, still available from the transactions.

From 1939 to 1958, the club was in abeyance, but after a public meeting in Cullen in 1958 it was reformed as 'The Banffshire Society', quickly gathering 203 members and four juniors. 'Society' prizes were given for studies in botany, natural history and biology, to encourage young people to join. The Banffshire Society lapsed in 1966, but was re-founded in 1974 under the old name of the Banffshire Field Club. Its aims, agreeing with the 1880 constitution, are 'to explore the district ... inquiring into the Geology, Botany, Natural History, Archaeology, etc.' Members are drawn from a wide area - from the former County of Banffshire and further afield.  

On 10th September 2005, the Banffshire Field Club celebrated the 125th anniversary of its founding with a lunch at the Banff Springs Hotel. The chairman was Mr James A.S. McPherson, CBE, FSA Scot, JP and there was an audio-visual presentation by Dr David Findlay Clark, OBE, DL, entitled 'Tribute to Thomas Edward', and some views of the former tile and clay pipe works at Blackpots, Whitehills, near Banff.   

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