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The History Club is now entering its sixth year catering for a live / hybrid audience. We now have space for 70 people in person, plus a Zoom audience of those unable to join us on campus. 


Membership is open to all 3Ls members. Please note that owing to accommodation problems, the membership list is currently capped at 100, with the accommodation available to us limited to a maximum of 70 people.  New applicants will be eligible for Associate Membership (AM) which entitles them to attend all meetings on Zoom. When possible, Associate Members are invited to attend in person, however this may have to be reviewed.  Membership turnover allows us to upgrade the longest standing AMs to full membership as and when vacancies arise on the full membership list.  A careful note is kept of when people first join.


As ever our aim is to provide a range of entertaining and knowledgeable speakers for talks on all matters historical, with follow up Q&A from our audience.  We also visit places of interest and arrange lunches etc when the opportunity arises.  This is all really quite informal and we do make a point of having some fun along with our learning.  The average session lasts about two hours with around 70 plus participants.


As we moved to a partial live audience in our hybrid sessions, we look forward to continuing our popular post talk breakouts for refreshments, nibbles and chat.

Our club programme is scheduled for the second Wednesday of each month, commencing at 1.30pm and is sometimes supplemented by ad hoc ‘pop up’ events, such as visits to the cinema or local sites of historical interest.  The club fee is £10 per annum.

Contact: Jimmy Reid (secretary)


Provisional syllabus 2023-24

(final titles will be available prior to talks)

11th October

“Assisting in many other ways”: an exploration of the work of female humanitarians in supporting Belgian refugees settled in Scotland during the First World War

Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson

University of Stirling


29th November

History in a hoard: the Viking Age Galloway Hoard

Martin Goldberg


13th December

Glasgow Royal Infirmary: Heritage and Honey

Lorna Clarke, Glasgow Royal Infirmary Museum


17th January

Beyond the Call of Duty: Nurse Edith Cavell in World War 1

Barbara Graham


14th February

Stories from Stamps: Worse things happen at sea

Andrew Shand


13th March

Dr Martin Luther King Jr: a radical leader

Dr Robert Hamilton

University of Glasgow


10th April

Title to be confirmed

Professor Lesley McMillan

Dr Maureen Taylor 

Scottish Cold Case Unit

Glasgow Caledonian University


8th May

Members Talk: Prisoner of War Experiences

Tom Ward, Louise Jackson, Sheila McCosh and Annette McWilliams.


Prisoners of War in WW2

The last talk of the 2023/24 session was given by members who told us about the experiences of their father or grandfather who were all prisoners of War in WW2.

Sheila McCosh, Tom Ward, Annette McWilliams and Louise Jackson had all completed research into the stories which are part of their family history. Their presentation was accompanied by photos and other items of memorabilia.

Sheila’s father who was in the RAF, found himself in the camp Stalag Luft 3, where the Great Escape took place, although he was not one of those chosen to take part. Annette’s father was in the army and was captured in France, while Louise’s grandfather was a prisoner of the Japanese.  Tom’s dad, who was in the Royal Army Service Corps and was evacuated from Dunkirk, then ended up in Egypt, where he was captured in Tobruk.

Each of the men had a completely different experience, being treated differently depending on where they were imprisoned.  All survived and went on to have successful lives, but their attitudes afterwards were mixed as to whether they were bitter or not. 

It was a fascinating insight into their lives and experience, and everyone appreciated them sharing these very personal stories with us.

Photo: Tom, Annette and Sheila

Professor Lesley MacMillan, The Scottish Cold Case Unit, Glasgow Caledonian University.


Fascinating, interesting, informative and engaging, it most certainly was. Lesley was quite upfront that her presentation was not based on a historical event, but as she moved back through time, looking at the cases in which the unit is involved, we gained an insight into the technological advances which have made tracing the missing, or identifying the unknown dead much easier these days. That is easier, not easy.


Mobile phones and laptops say so much more about us than a "Jackson the Tailor" label inside a suit jacket (worn by one of the people they are trying to identify) ever could. It soon became obvious that even in our lifetimes, we were anonymous, whereas today we are tracked digitally and photographically almost everywhere we go.


The Unit operates only on non criminal cases and relies on criminology students giving up their time to volunteer for the often arduous and tedious research.  The unit also benefits hugely from alumni who having started as a student volunteer, continue contributing to the unit and its work. Non criminal disappearances and deaths do not come under the auspices of the police. The objective of the unit is to bring closure to the families of the missing / deceased person. They work closely with the police, forensic anthropologists, forensic oceanographers and a whole host of specialists in their attempts to identify the mystery bodies. It is true to say that those with a criminal past are easier to identify as they have been documented and recorded at least once in their lives.


Currently, the unit (& the police) are not permitted to access the many genealogical data bases which exist. Hence it is still easier to identify someone with a criminal record. The efforts of the unit are further stymied by the erratic record keeping by the police at the time of the disappearance. Sometimes the physical evidence (Clothes, belongings etc) are listed, but either not retained or lost in a vast warehouse of "productions" which, ironically, cannot be produced.


You have to admire the dedication and fortitude of those in the unit for their determination to keep going in their effort to do the best they can to identify people and reunite them with relatives.

Robert Hamilton

Robert Hamilton     Martin Luther King


Martin Luther King was born the son of a Baptist minister and followed his father into the ministry before returning to Alabama to throw himself into the Civil Rights movement. He married Corretta Scott, herself a committed CR activist who is credited with pushing Martin to adhere strongly to Gandhi's philosophy of non violence in every campaign in which he became involved. He recognised that religions which ignored poverty and injustice were doing their adherents no good whatsoever, so became a prominent member of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) which attempted to reach out and coordinate the activities of a plethora of organisations seeking to bring about the change needed to guarantee civil rights in the racially divided Southern states of the USA.


His background as a preacher with tremendous oratory powers, meant that he came to be regarded as the figure head and spokesperson for these groups. His support for causes was welcomed and invited, because organisers knew that his endorsement of their cause was always a positive. He was involved in the Montgomery bus boycott and other boycott campaigns through the 50s into the sixties, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. This was an endorsement of his non violent approach to political change.  He also had to face up to some pretty ferocious and powerful opponents.


Having been granted some establishment credibility with the award of the Nobel Prize, the Kennedy administration were keen to be seen to be standing alongside King, provided of course, that he didn't rock the political boat too much.


Some say Dr King gave his own eulogy when he spoke on the night before his murder. In his, "I have been to the Mountain Top" speech, he claimed to have seen the "Promised Land." Eerily, he also said, "I might not get there!" The following morning he was murdered while standing on the balcony of his motel.

Andrew Shand   "Stamps - Worse Things Happen at Sea" 

A keen philatelist, Andy’s presentation was both educational and entertaining. His stories, which ranged all over the oceanic world, were the product of research after coming across a stamp while perusing the catalogues at stamp fairs. They segued into one another to create an entertaining narrative which started with the theft of a Grimsby trawler and finished with a Clyde built paddle steamer used by the Confederacy to run the blockades during the US civil war.


This was the second occasion this ship has featured in our presentations. Previously the focus was on the Scots Captain of the ship who was hired by the Confederacy when they purchased the boat in Scotland. It was famously swift and made over 20 successful blockade runs (The average being 3 - 5) She was so quick because the Clyde engineers had refined their steam engines to create higher pressures and speeds which allowed their boats to outrun any pursuers and strangely, use less fuel in the process. The blockade running came to an end when she was supplied with a low carbon, brown coal in a Confederate port. This poorer quality coal did not allow the engines to reach maximum performance and also gave off thick brown smoke which made detection and pursuit a straightforward affair.

Edith Cavell  1816 - 1915  Presentation by Barbara Graham

The daughter of a vicar, Edith was a talented artist and linguist and as a young woman, worked as a governess, before nursing her father through a serious illness. in 1896, she started nursing training at the age of 31, working from 7am to 9pm for the grand sum of £10 pa.

Once her training was complete, she worked as a private nurse, as Night Superintendent in St Pancras Poor Law Institute for Destitutes and as Assistant Matron in Shoreditch Infirmary.

In 1907 she was recruited as matron for a new nursing school in Brussels and spent the next few years training others and supervising the building of a training school, until the start of the First World war in 1914. She returned to the UK, but was quickly back in the Brussels Clinic which became a red Cross Hospital treating both Germans and Belgians. She then got involved in hiding escaped soldiers and fugitives, helping run an 'underground' lifeline.

In 1915 she was tricked into a confession, put on trial and sentenced to death, being executed on 12 October.  After her execution, her death was publicised as propaganda, encouraging recruitment in Britain while the Germans portrayed her as a spy.  She was  buried in Norwich Cathedral after a state funeral service, and is remembered in many countries including Canada.

Heritage and Honey


Kate and Hilary our speakers gave an excellent and captivating presentation in two parts. Kate gave a history of Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI)  from its inception in Dec 1794. Designed by the Adams brothers and built at a cost of £8,000 the magnificent building had 8 wards over 5 floors providing 100 beds.  Even in the 1800s there were not enough beds to cope with the demand. 


Surgery in the early days was essentially chopping bits off. In the absence of anaesthetic, speed was of the essence. Glasgow was to become famous for its razor gangs on the early 20th C, but long before then people like Robert Liston were boasting that they could amputate a leg inside two minutes. These blood spattered surgeons worked in unwashed theatres using unwashed knives, usually with the blood of previous patients coagulated on the blade and ingrained into the wooden handles. This may well have led to the infamous saying, “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

Joseph Lister, began to investigate why so many patients were dying after surgery. He also felt that operating on conscious patients was detrimental to their health so he began to investigate the use of ether as an anaesthetic during surgery and successfully carried out the first such operation in GRI.  As well as pioneering anaesthesia, Lister experimented with cleanliness. 


GRI was also home to John McIntyre an early proponent of radio therapy back in the 1920s. He was the first to successfully remove a brain tumour by surgery, despite no x-rays or scanning devices.

As well as famous surgeons there was a doughty lady by the name of Rebecca Strong who was the first ever Matron of GRI. Her methods of organizing the professional training of nurses provided the model for nurse education right through the 20th C. Her office overlooked the glass covered walkway between the nurses home and the hospital, all the better for her to keep her eyes on her charges. She constantly badgered the trustees to keep up with modern nursing developments.


With all of these medical firsts, it was felt that a museum should be established to record and preserve the records and achievements notched up over the years e.g. first ever ultra sound. This idea spawned The Friends of Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Dr Hilary Wilson took us through formation and recent development of the museum in the original Adam building of the GRI. Historically honey was extensively used in medicine as were plants and herbs such as St John’s Wort and Sphagnum moss. These have been incorporated into the museum logo and they now have four beehives which produce highly sought after honey which helps raise funds. Hence, Heritage and Honey.

The Galloway Hoard


The Hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist friend of a Church of Scotland minister on Kirk owned land in 2014. Although it is a Viking era Hoard, the items found were mainly Anglo-Saxon in origin and were probably buried to prevent them falling into the hands of the Vikings who had progressed from sporadic coastal raids from their well recognised long boats, to settling at first in fortified camps, before expanding into and occupying much of the land which was known as Strathclyde and was occupied by the Britons. The Britons had a well established trading community.  The Vikings had taken to raiding these communities, pillaging the monasteries and other sources of wealth, as well as taking people to serve and be traded as slaves.  As the Viking presence became more permanent, people began to protect their wealth by hiding it. 


The Galloway hoard was buried in two parts, with the smaller amount of silver armbands etc being discovered closer to the surface. Thinking that they had retrieved everything from the dig, the archaeologists were surprised when the metal detector continued to give off a strong signal. Beneath a 10cm gravel layer, they discovered the greater part of the hoard, including a cloth covered, ornately decorated and lidded, metal pot or jug. The contents of which are still being analysed and evaluated. As metal detectors were not around in the 9th and 10th C it is postulated that the smaller amount, closer to the surface, was an attempt to fool anyone who discovered the hoard into thinking they had everything, while the greater bulk of the items lay concealed, deeper in the ground.


Modern examination techniques have allowed conservators to minutely examine the hoard even without peeling off the fabric in which some items were wrapped.   After over a thousand years buried in the earth, a certain degree of degradation has inevitably occurred. Conservators are mindful of not doing further damage as they probe for more information. Step in the MRI scanner which produces 3D images and can see beyond the muck and dirty textile covering to reveal the ornate carvings and art works. 

Martin, the curator of the collection, is part of a conservation team within the Museum. They are also helped out by fabric specialists from Glasgow University. They have consulted with museums in China, Samarkand and the Vatican who have all helped in identifying some of the almost unique items discovered in this hoard, found buried in a field in Dumfries and Galloway.


It is a fascinating story, to which this short report cannot possibly do justice. The next exhibition of the Hoard is likely to be in the museum in Kirkcudbright. 

Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson – Belgian Refugees in Scotland


The opening talk of 2023/24 was Jacqueline's account of the refugee provision in Glasgow and therefore Scotland for over 19,000 Belgians displaced by WW1. The Glasgow committee became the de facto Scottish committee with responsibility for the provision of food and shelter for those who began arriving in Glasgow within days of the outbreak of war. Other town, cities and communities provided financial support, but all of the refugees were concentrated in Glasgow. They were accommodated, sometimes in family groups in traditional room and kitchen type housing and sometimes in larger groups who lived together in everything from large mansions to church and community halls, often named after the towns who were supporting them financially.  Each of these hostels was controlled by a "matron" who made sure everybody pulled their weight and contributed as expected, with the children in school and the adults working.


The Glasgow Committee was a committee of the City Council. This meant, in 1915, that it was an all male committee. They fairly quickly set up a female committee to help with the day to day running of the refugee provision. This was populated with middle class ladies, usually with a history of philanthropy as well as a large house which would allow them to house some refugees. Very few accounts exist to record these efforts and the women involved were always recorded as "Mrs John Brown" or "Mrs George White." Records of the women's names are few and far between.


At the end of the war, over 98% of the refugees went home.

Some members of the History Club enjoyed another informative walk around the Calton area of Glasgow, guided by Peter who as always imparted a wealth of knowledge”.

Valerie Reilly: Clarks and Coats – the Paisley Thread Industry

Our April speaker Valerie, who worked in Paisley Museum for many years, gave an incredibly detailed account of the rise and rise of the Clarks and Coats families. It seemed to be all Clarks in the early stages with the Coats appearing later. They gained an industrial advantage at the turn of the 19th C when they were able to produce cotton heddles (an important part of the loom used for weaving) to replace the more expensive silk heddles which had been in use prior to that.

Previous threads had been linen which created a bobbly or textured thread which was no use in the weaving process. The smooth cotton thread made it much simpler to produce finer cloths substantially cheaper than anything produced from a loom with silk heddles.

This apparently simple replacement of silk with cotton spawned an entire multinational industry which eventually operated on most continents on earth. Despite occupying huge chunks of Paisley in the latter 19th C & early 20th C, they no longer operate in the town where it all started. Today, Coats Vyela operates in Asia and South America.

Dead and alive, the families took a philanthropic approach to their hometown. They fully funded the building of the Town Hall: paid for the observatory, which is still in use today (both buildings are currently undergoing refurbishment): Coats Memorial Church; provided parks: built schools; funded a TB hospital; glass covered verandas on the ends of the wings of the Royal AIexandra Hospital and paid for workers in poor health to take fully funded holidays in Largs and Rothesay to help them recuperate. They funded an industrial (approved) school and a technical college whose building is today part of the University of the West of Scotland.

They were the first company to sell thread on a bobbin

They were happy to invest in any technological advancement which came along if it helped increase the profits, but they also invested in the workforce. They had a part time school where workers could continue their education while in employment, and they started a company pension scheme, which was somewhat revolutionary for the times, and included women workers.


They may no longer have a business presence in Paisley, but the legacy they left lives on in many of the town’s buildings.

Photo: Tom, History Club president / Valerie Reilly, speaker / Jimmy, Club Secretary

History Club AGM April 2023

Rosemary Goring, Author and Journalist    The Border Reivers


Author and Journalist Rosemary Goring entertained and informed us with a talk where she  looked at how the reiving had come about and its lasting impact on Borders society.


The Reivers were most active (documented) from the 13th C until about 10 years after James V1 became King of England. The border lands from the Cumbrian fells across the Cheviots and up to the Lammermuirs & Moorfoots is to this day still an extensive and lowly populated area. The poor communications meant that they felt remote from both London and Edinburgh and therefore felt they could do their own thing. Local nobles were tasked with maintaining the law but often they were either corrupt to the extent that they imposed the law for their own benefit or they were powerless in the face of the more powerful clans who robbed, murdered and raped anyone from the local populace to any unwary traveller. Hostages were often taken and held to ransom.


While the two kingdoms existed there was a system of "Marches" on either side of the border. Each country had a Warden of the Marches for the Eastern, Central and Western Marches. These wardens were tasked with, among other things sorting out border disputes as well as controlling their own territory. Such was the level of trust that often meetings took place on horseback, mid stream of a river which formed the border. Lord Dacre was such a Regent. Such was his power in the area that he was considered more powerful than Henry V111, his king. Playing one side off against the other was a common feature of the Borders war lords. When James V1 united the crowns he set about ending the Reivers way of life. It took 10 years to subjugate them and they were never to hold the same sway over Borders life again.


The Reivers’ activity held up the social and economic development of the Borders, and delayed the spread of the "Scottish Enlightenment", as it was difficult to become an intellectual in a socially barren society. They have however left their mark on the region.


Want to know more - Rosemary has used the history of the Border Reivers in her writing, most noticeably, Dacre's War, a historical novel set after Flodden, when an infamous Reiver's family (The Croziers) set out to avenge the death of one of their forebears.

Dr. John Rae – Arctic Explorer – Discoverer of the North West Passage


Club Meeting 8 February 2023           Ken Stewart             The John Rae Society


Born in Orkney, John Rae left as a 16yr old to train as a doctor in Edinburgh. Graduating at age19, he embarked on his career as a ship's doctor with the Hudson Bay Company (HBC). He appears to have been more than competent and guided his crews through many escapades including spending a winter ice bound.

The quest for the fabled North West Passage and the rewards offered for information on Lord Franklin's lost expedition encouraged him to take courses in cartography, navigation and seamanship, which made him a natural leader for the expeditions sponsored by the HBC. He travelled light, with only small a small group of men, making use of snow shoes for travel on land and being quick to adopt the survival skills of the natives and the experienced trappers who formed part of his group. 18 months after his departure he returned with a full complement of men and valuable knowledge to develop the HBC and Royal Navy charting of the area to the NW of Hudson Bay. He was to make three further expeditions.

Willing to seek information from the Inuit people, this led to his first news of Lord Franklin - reported sighting of a group of more than 30 men hauling a boat South over the ice, and information on 3 graves. Another encounter told him of approx 30 bodies who had died of starvation, linked to a strong suggestion of cannibalism.  Unable to visit the site to verify these reports, he had to head back to base before the summer thaws made travel well nigh impossible. During this trip, he eventually discovered what is now named Rae's Sound, the final link in the North West Passage.

On his return to the UK his report to the admiralty was leaked to the press. His report of cannibalism among men of the Royal Navy was not well received, and he was vilified for taking the word of the ‘savages’ and not going to verify the information for himself.  That is why we were all brought up to believe that Franklin discovered the NW Passage and why we have barely heard of the Orcadian who did.

Subsequent expeditions and archaeological work confirmed his findings. He continued to explore after leaving the employ of the HBC and was acknowledged for his accurate charting and his survival skills by Scandinavian Arctic explorers such as Amundsen in the early 20th C. He died in London but lies buried in the grave yard of St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney.


For further information visit:

Club walk round the Gorbals where we learned about the history of the area

Committee in session March 23.jpg

Committee in session

Barbara Graham

At our September meeting, members enjoyed a typically entertaining and informed talk from Barbara Graham on 'Women Munitions Workers in World War One', actually a treatise on Women's place in early 20th century society which went well beyond this title. A marvellous presentation and we expressed our thanks again to Barbara.

Barbara Graham flowers 2.jpg
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