Edinburgh is a city of statues and monuments: Rabbie Burns, David Livingstone, even Greyfriarâ€™s Bobby, are proudly immortalised as â€˜sonsâ€™ of Scotland.Â The National Monument, Royal Scots Regimental Memorial and the Scots American Memorial sit amongst tributes to the bravery of the Scottish legions who lost their lives in war.Â Each is imposing and enduring, such that we should not fail to forget our history and legacy.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the concept of a â€˜living memorialâ€™ is a more recent, perhaps more transient, phenomenon.Â Not so.Â Quietly tucked away in the elegant New Town with a view of Queens Street Gardens is the Royal Scots Club, which is exactly that â€“ and has been for nigh on a hundred years.
Then as now, the aims of the Club were to provide a tribute to all those who had fallen in the Great War whilst applauding and maintaining the sense of comradeship that bound the soldiers of The Royal Scots (now The Royal Regiment, and the oldest Infantry Regiment of the Line in the British Army) regardless of their background and origins, as they faced the horrors of war.
In 1919, Colonel Lord Henry Scott, fourth son of the sixth Duke of Buccleuch and Honorary Colonel of the third battalion, attended an all-ranks meeting and suggested the building of a war memorial that was more than a monument: the so-called living memorial.Â As well as a tribute to those who had lost their lives, the Club would be a meeting place for all Royal Scots past, present and future, and the hub from which all schemes for the benefit of The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) could be developed.Â Scott reputedly used the term â€˜we are all gentlemen nowâ€™ to propose an idea surely far ahead of its time: certainly the war effort and experiences had done a certain amount for general egalitarianism but in the first decades of the twentieth century â€“ and long after â€“ the British social class system remained very much in evidence.
The Clubâ€™s original home was in the former American YMCA hut in St Andrewâ€™s Square.Â Three years later, in 1922, following an extraordinary fundraising drive, the substantial buildings in Abercromby Place â€“ purchased at the â€˜very reasonableâ€™ price of Â£5, 460 19s 6d (almost 5.5 million sterling today) â€“ were renovated to become the permanent address of the Royal Scots Club.
Times change, and through the years between the first and second world wars, the membership of the club was necessarily broadened to invite sons and male relatives of The Royal Scots, and much, much later, women were finally welcome.Â Today, the Club is the last of its kind in Scotland.Â Whilst it proudly maintains its regimental roots, it is open to sympathetic all-comers â€“ military and civilian â€“ and women make up 37% of the membership of approximately two thousand. John Lloyd, the current Chairman of the Membersâ€™ Committee (and, incidentally, lifelong pacifist) says that the only prerequisite for membership now is that a person is â€˜clubbableâ€™ â€“ interested in being part of a Club steeped in history, meeting like-minded people, and enjoying comfortable facilities and a thriving social and educational programme.Â The membersâ€™ library and private sitting room remain very much as they must have originally been, but the Club is now also a commercial venture, housing a boutique hotel, restaurant and conference/meeting facilities open to all.
These days the concept of a living memorial is mainstream and varied: from parks and playgrounds to Facebook pages and blogs we have developed increasingly organic ways to honour individuals and events of personal and social significance.Â Still, the Royal Scots Club can live on in the knowledge that in such a world, and in a city of monuments and memorials, it remains something of a trailblazer.
For more information on the Royal Scots Club including its history, public facilities and membership:
Tel : +44 (0) 131 556 4270