Old Glasgow Club
Minutes of ordinary meeting of Club held at Adelaide’s, 209 Bath Street on Thursday 11 February 2010 at 7.30pm
Mr Gordon (President)
Mr Gordon welcomed members to the meeting.
There were apologies from Anna Forrest, Sallie Marshall and Margaret Davidson.
The minutes of the last ordinary meeting held on 10 December were approved, proposed by Mr Kerr and seconded by Mr Little. There were no matters arising.
Mr Gordon reported that the January meeting (Members’ Night) had been cancelled due to the exceptionally bad weather. Directors had phoned round all the members to ensure that all knew of the cancellation in advance of the meeting.
Mrs McNae reported that the 2011 Members’ Night would be held in February instead of January; the SGHET (South Glasgow Heritage Trust) AGM would be held on 12 March at 170 Queen’s Drive; there would be a visit to Orkney Street Police Station, Govan, on 27 March; the Tappit Hen bowling tournament would be held on 27 May; the Club Outing would be held on Saturday 12 June to the Secret Bunker at Anstruther.
Mr Graeme Smith intimated that he was compiling a book of reminiscences of the Alhambra Theatre, and invited club members to contact him with any material or recollections which they had.
Mr Gordon introduced Mr Roddy Macpherson, Senior Partner of Messrs. Rutherford and Macpherson, Messengers at Arms, and also a leading light in the Nomads Club, who would speak on the topic of The Real No 1 Lady Detective.
Mr Macpherson admitted that he had never been to a meeting of the Old Glasgow Club, though he had been given a copy of the 75th anniversary book written by Captain Durrant, president from 1939 to 1947, and he noted that the President in 1975 had been Murray Blair, who was still a Club member. He had learnt about the Club’s history starting with a letter in the paper on 2 July 1900, and noted that the Club’s Centenary book on page 63 talked about Henry Wilson, Messenger at Arms,20 who was the first Superintendent of Police; this indicated a connection between Messengers at Arms and the police.
Private detective work was often done by Messengers at Arms, and Mr Macpherson, in expanding upon the connection between the two, noted that fictional detective work (eg Taggart) was often more exciting than real detective work, which is referred to in a book “The New Road” by Neil Munro as “gathering hints and tracking rumours”.
In 1902 an advert appeared for the Younger and Younger detective agency, advertising itself as the only office with a staff of male and female detectives, who would “secretly ascertain where he or she spends time”. Detective work was also Mrs Warne’s profession; Kate Warne, born in 1833, was perhaps the first lady detective. In 1856 she answered an advert for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and she helped to foil a plot to assassinate President Lincoln. She noted that ladies had an eye for detail and were good observers. Detectives were not employed in the police force until 1933, and thus private detective agencies were in the vanguard of the women’s liberation movement.
The Citation Act of 1540 gives messengers at arms the task of serving summons. In England this task is done by private detectives. Until 1 January 1977, the Messengers at Arms main task was gathering information in divorce cases, and Mr Macpherson then entertained the audience with some hilarious extracts from his firm’s files (released under the 50 year rule), such as a full recounting of the movements of a Mr Morris seen in London, the tale of a Mr Macdonald staying at the Sherbrooke Hotel in Glasgow with a Miss Park, where evidence was difficult to collect (Mr Macpherson’s grandfather had billed the client 8 guineas), and a case where it was recorded that “there was a woman in bed and Mr Higgins was dressed in night attire”.
Moving on to his own experiences, he told of a man 60 foot up a tree throwing a bottle of Buckfast at him, and of the diplomatic wrangling over a painting showing Messengers at Arms in action, where ownership was claimed on behalf of French, Belgian and Scots Messengers at Arms.
He also told of notable detective stories written in 1926 by Alexander Morton, a competitor to Rutherford and Macpherson, including the case where a family thinks that they have got away with their crime, but wee Sandy (aged 7), overhears them saying that the villain is tucked up in a hotel in Union Street, so the detectives get their man. Morton’s stories also include tales of absconding bankers, and the investigation of a racket in 1878 involving copies of the Evening Citizen newspaper.
Mr Macpherson’s only regret was that Mr Morton was not a Mrs, and therefore his tales are not those of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency.
Vote of thanks
Mr Jim Robertson proposed the vote of thanks. Members had been enthralled by the nomadic approach to his subject by this Happy Wanderer, and Mr Macpherson received a stirring round of applause.
The competition winner was Isabel Muldownie, who was one of 6 who correctly identified the miniature version of the Statue of Liberty on the City Chambers.
Mr Macpherson intimated that he had some spare copies of his book on the history of Rutherford and Macpherson, and he was willing to present these to members in return for a donation to Club funds.
The next directors’ meeting would be on 4 March and the next ordinary meeting on 11 March, where Jim Mearns would talk on the subject ”What use is archaeology”?
Mr Gordon wished all a safe journey home.
JN Gibson, Recording Secretary