From the booklet produced by E Campbell MA for the Society’s Centenary abridged by Ross Fraser.
The original name of this organisation, according to the first minutes of the Society, was the “Scottish Society of Canterbury, Christchurch Branch”. The meeting that took place one hundred years ago (1902) to form this Society was called by members of the Lyttelton Branch of the Scottish Society of Canterbury. Research has uncovered nothing on the Lyttelton branch, or indeed the existence of a previous Scottish Society of Canterbury. The earliest Scottish group in Christchurch was the Caledonian Club, a short-lived group established in 1867 to celebrate Burns Nights. There was then a gap before the formation of the Canterbury Caledonian Society in 1882. One must assume that the Lyttelton Society was the parent body, although it too seems to vanish from trace. Either way, the name of the Society as it now stands, the Scottish Society of New Zealand, was assumed very early on, although the records do not say how or why the name change took place. It simply did.
On the evening of 22nd May, 1902, a meeting took place of selected and interested persons in the rooms of the Yorkshire Society at 158 Hereford Street. Present were fifteen members of the Lyttelton Scottish Society and about fifty Christchurch gentlemen who had received invitations by circular to be present. Presiding as Chief was George Laurenson, a Member of the House of Representatives, and from the Lyttelton Scottish Society of New Zealand. The Scottish ardour engendered by General Sir Hector Macdonald’s visit to New Zealand in 1901 still remained, and the gathered group were intent on their purpose of forming a new Scottish Society in the city itself to celebrate their Scottish heritage. The meeting was the direct result of the work of two members of the Lyttelton Society; Messers D. McKenzie and J. Fraser. In short order it was unanimously resolved, upon a motion put by a Mr James, to form a society in Christchurch for those of purely Scottish descent. The society’s aims were to:
- Gather together all the Scotsmen in the district
- Preserve the records and traditions of Scottish history
- Promote the study of Scottish music, song and literature
- Encourage the wearing of Highland costume
- Render assistance, counsel and moral influence to deserving Scotsmen
- Conserve and build up all that is strongest, deepest and best in the Scottish national character
From the outset it was determined that membership of the Society be restricted to those of purely Scottish descent on their paternal side. This was in contrast to Christchurch’s other Scottish organisation, the Canterbury Caledonian Society. The Canterbury Caledonian Society, like others around New Zealand, had no such requirements for membership.
Members of the Scottish Society were to be males of at least eighteen years of age, who “must be Scotsmen by birth, parentage, or descent on the male side”.
Associate membership was the only category for those who were the sons of Scottish women.
Junior were those males under the age of eighteen years, but who had the necessary prerequisites to become a member.
The annual subscription for members and associates in the earliest years of the Society was set at 10s. For juniors it was 2s. 6d. if the son(s) of an existing member, otherwise 5s.
To become a member was quite an involved process. A prospective member had to be elected at a General Meeting of the Society, after being proposed and seconded by two existing members. It was not until after the Second World War that the rules were altered to make the Society open to all with an interest in the culture and history of Scotland.
The First Year
The first twelve months were tremendously successful for the Society. Fortnightly meetings of members took place in the rooms at 158 Hereford Street. The desire of colonial citizens to maintain links with the Mother Country is shown further by the fact that the first six months of life, the Society shared rooms with the Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cornish Societies.
After six months, however, the Society assumed exclusive access to the rooms. Three large social gatherings were the focus of the first year, with two ‘Forgatherins’ and one ‘Ingleside’.
The Society’s first Gathering of the Clans took place in November 1902.
The Society’s Pipe Band had modest beginnings, being formed in 1902 with nine members. The hope was expressed that the Scottish Society would soon have a Pipe Band “second to none in the colony”.
Highland dancing and choir practice groups also appeared in these early months, to ensure the proper maintenance of traditional Scottish music and dance.
During the first year, the Society adopted a Rampant Lion as its crest, with the words Gaelic motto ‘Cum Daingeann’, or ‘Hold Fast’. The Society also adopted the Royal Stewart tartan around this time, as this has been the kilt tartan worn by The Canterbury Caledonian Society, in order of Council in 2014 the Scottish Society declared the tartan be changed to the Ancient Gordon Tartan which is worn by our Pipe Band.
The Society established as its main decision making body the Council of Management, or as it is more commonly referred to, “The Council”. It comprised of ten members. Each Council member was to be elected at the Society’s Annual General Meeting for a term of two years. Retirement from Council was enforced in rotation with the longest serving members to be replaced by others elected to fill their positions. However, retiring members are able to stand for re-election. From the members of the Council were elected the office-bearers of the Society: the Chief, three Chieftains, Librarian, Treasurer and the Secretary. Another office-bearer outside Council was that of Pipe-Major, elected to play the warpipes at all meetings and entertainment of the Society.
Homes of the Society
1902 – 1905 The Yorkshire Rooms at 158 Hereford Street was the home of the Society. Latterly this address was a building known as Te Waipounamu House.
1905 -1946 In 1905 the Society moved to Crown Iron Works building which eventually became Haines Motors. This was on the corner of Gloucester Street and Manchester Street.
1946 – 1951 The Society moved to 241 Cashel Street, it was constructed of Kauri and had a sprung floor for dancing and a lot of dancing competitions were held here. The hall was burnt down in 1962 by a gas explosion with little damage to the front building.
1951 The Society moved to the Realm Hall, 92 Gloucester Street and re-named it the Scottish Hall. The Society stayed until Avis Rental Cars purchased the building.
1956 The Society then bought our current home, the old parish hall of St Matthew’s Church. Note the roof of what we refer to as the supper room with the two chimney’s.