Who were the 23 Gentlemen who attended the first ‘Let it Blaw’ in 1881

by untangledwebl

In 1883, Club Secretary John Fairbairn started his 52 year handwritten record of Club affairs by retrospectively writing brief reports of the Club’s first two Suppers in 1881 and 1882. Unfortunately, his report of that first 1881 Supper did not list those in attendance, although it did say there were “23 Gentlemen” present. So, who were the “23 Gentlemen” in attendance on that first night ? Is it possible to work out who they were ?

Founder Members

Definitely in Attendance although not Founder Members

but who were the 12 others ?

Almost definitely Peter Henderson, son of Landlord and Founder Member Alex Henderson.
Peter was staying with his parents at Henderson’s Inn on the occasion of the first Club Supper there.
Almost definitely John G. Laird, son-in-law of Landlord and Founder Member Alex Henderson
John too was staying at Henderson’s Inn with his family on the occasion of the first Club Supper there.

Probably James Pearson Jnr., son of the first Club President James Pearson Snr.

Probably James Fairbairn Jnr., eldest son of Founder Member James Fairbairn Snr.  His younger brothers were there so it’s seems likely that he too would be involved.

Probably James Raeburn. Although not mentioned until 1883 when he proposed a Toast and performed the
duties of Croupier. James was the next door neighbour of Club Founder and First President James Pearson Snr.
Probably William Waterston. Not mentioned until 1883 when he proposed a minor Toast before giving the Immortal Memory in 1884. He was a General Merchant & Grocer in the village so would have been known to all.
 Probably David Hardie who proposed the “Toast to the Lasses” in 1883.
Would he have proposed that Toast in his first year at Let it Blaw ?
Probably Peter Auld who proposed the “Toast to the Success of the Club” in 1883.
Would he have proposed that Toast on his first visit ? Peter farmed land at Buteland, very close to John Potts and David Wyllie mentioned below.
Probably John Potts who farmed 250 acres at Bankhead Farm and at Westbrook. This was part of the Cockburn land which was near enough adjacent to the land at Buteland farmed by Peter Auld.

Probably David Wyllie Snr. who farmed land at Haughead. He was well enough known to the Founders for them to appoint him to a sub-committee in late 1882, so it seems reasonable to assume that he was ‘probably’ one of those who attended the first ‘Let it Blaw’ Supper in 1881.  This is backed by the fact that a close neighbour in 1881 was John Potts (above) whose Bankhead Farm was adjacent to Thomas Horsburgh’s (above) blacksmith in Glenbrook Road who we know WAS at the first Supper in 1881.

Possibly William Smith, a Tailor in the village in the early 1880s. In 1883, Club Records show that he was appointed to the same sub-Committee as David Wyllie (above) late in 1882. That would surely have been unlikely in his first year of Membership so, perhaps, he too was part of the original 23 Gentlemen.

Possibly Robert Orr. Not much is known about Robert’s early years as he doesn’t appear to have a background in Balerno but, by 1881 when ‘Let it Blaw’ was founded, he was working in Balerno Village as a Joiner, renting a house from Founder Member James Fairbairn Snr. who, by coincidence, ran his own Joinery business employing six men. There’s nothing to prove that Robert worked for James Fairbairn, but there is evidence to show that Fairbairn assisted his employees find accommodation. Robert was an active participant in the 1883 Supper singing “There Was a Lad” and reciting the “Address to a Haggis”; the first recorded rendition of this poem at ‘Let it Blaw.’ Would he have been invited to do this on his first visit to the Club ?

Possibly John Aikman Snr. and/or John Aikman Jnr.  Nothing is known about this father (62) and son (21) who worked as blacksmiths at Thomas Horsburgh’s Johnsburn Smiddy in 1881.  They don’t appear in our Club Records until, on Friday 27th May 1910, a farewell meeting was held to mark the departure for Canada of Club Member Robert Torrance. It was recorded in the minute of that meeting that “Various members contributed to the enjoyment by giving songs and recitations. One Member sang “To the West, to the West, to the Land of the Free” as he had done exactly 28 years before on the occasion of John Aikman, Johnsburn, leaving for Chicago. This departure would have been in 1882 when only the barest records exist of Club activities and attendees were not listed. Could the Aikmans have attended our first Supper in 1881 ?

That’s 25 names of which only 11 are confirmed. It’s likely most of the other 14 suggested would have attended the first Supper in 1881 but, unfortunately, it will never be known. That aspect of our Club’s records will remain, forever, incomplete.

With the exception of the 11 known to have been at the first Supper in 1881, it’s emphasised  that other individuals named on this page are based on interpretation of Club Records, Local Records, and official Historical Records of the area, combined with a degree of speculation at the hand of one individual Club Member. Anyone with other views will be heartily welcomed, and an amended version of this Page will no doubt be published at some future date.