History of the Society
Early Days: On 12th December 1933 in the YMCA Hall, Cowgate, eight Kirkintilloch men met to discuss ‘the formation of an Antiquarian society’. The names of these men, together with five others who sent apologies but were later much involved, read like a ‘Who’s Who in Kirkintilloch’ during the Inter-War Period, with local businessmen, industrialists and politicians all represented. They included Thomas Johnston, the outstanding politician and author, James Fletcher, a noted local historian of the period, and James Leitch (Snr), Chief Draughtsman of the Lion Foundry, whose distinctive decorative designs can still be seen all over Kirkintilloch today.
Tom Johnston’s Contribution: The first lecture was held in the YMCA Hall on 23rd March 1934, when the noted archaeologist J. Harrison Maxwell provided a lecture on ‘Cup and Ring Markings’. This meeting was chaired by Society Vice-President the Rt. Hon. Thomas Johnston, who also gave the vote of thanks. With all of his varied commitments, the time available to Tom Johnston for Society affairs was necessarily limited, but in 1937 he dedicated his book on Old Kirkintilloch to his fellow Society members.
Early Plans for a Museum: From its formation in 1933 to the present day the Society has by and large gone from strength to strength, although there have been some ‘ups and downs’. During its early years the members were keen to work towards the establishment of a museum in Kirkintilloch. The failure of this project at the time led to the loss of several important collections that had been offered to the Society, when the lack of suitable accommodation resulted in the offers being withdrawn.
The Auld Kirk Museum: Kirkintilloch eventually acquired its museum in 1961, when the Town Council purchased the former Parish Church at the Cross and refurbished it as a ‘historical centre’ or museum. To begin with members of Kirkintilloch & District Society of Antiquaries were closely associated with the Auld Kirk Museum, and indeed it was intended that part of it would be set aside for Society displays. In due course a separate Kirkintilloch Museums Association was formed for the purpose, with many Antiquaries in membership. Nowadays, the running of the Museum is entirely in the hands of East Dunbartonshire Leisure & Culture Trust.
Projects: In addition to the regular winter programme of lectures, an annual summer outing and other outings and visits, the Society has taken part in many projects over the years. In 1978-9, on the initiative of Mrs Margaret St Clair (widow of the Society’s original secretary of 1933, William St Clair), members took part in a local archaeological project to investigate both Roman and Medieval remains in the town. During the late years of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first the Society had an extremely active research group under the leadership of Mrs Mae Pitcairn, which researched and published a great deal of useful information on the area. In 2011 the Society organised and participated in an extensive range of events to commemorate the 800th Anniversary of the Burgh of Kirkintilloch. It was a special pleasure for members to work with a range of other organisations in Kirkintilloch to commemorate this historic event.
Society Milestones: In 1983 the Society organised an event at the Glazertbank Hotel, Lennoxtown, to commemorate its 50th Anniversary. The principal event was an address by Hon. President Matthew Brown on ‘Robert Burns and his Songs’. In similar fashion the Society celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2008 with an event at Smith’s Hotel, Kirkintilloch, when the guest of honour was Mr Robin McSkimming, a former Provost of East Dunbartonshire and an enthusiast for local history. Several current members of the Society attended both 50th and 75th Anniversary events. They feel confident that the Society can look forward to eventually celebrating its centenary in 2033. It certainly flourishes at the present time.
Office Bearers and Committee 2020-21
Dr Ivan Ruddock
Dr David Graham
Mr Don Martin
Mrs Rita Bennie
Mrs Elizabeth Coroon, Mr David Gow, Mr Les Jenkins, Mrs Ianthe McAlpine, Mrs Valerie McClure, Ms Louise Nixon, Dr J Murray Reid
Mrs Mae Pitcairn (Honorary President), Mrs Rosalind McMeekin (Honorary Vice President),
Mr William McNeill (Immediate Past President)