Honorary members 1908 to 1921

1908 Theodore Roosevelt, Earl of Cromer, George Bernard Shaw
1909 Sir Donald McAlister
1910 Sir George B S Douglas
1911 Sir Herbert Maxwell of Monreith
1912 Lord Haldane
1913 D T Holmes
1914 Robert Bridges
1918 Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
1919 Admiral Sir David Beatty, David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Marshal Foch
1920 Andrew Fisher, Prof. Robert S Rait
1921 Andrew Bonar Law, Sir Andrew Duncan

 

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Earl of Cromer (1841-1917) Honorary member 1908

His life & work:

A British statesman, diplomat and colonial administrator, Evelyn Baring had been ennobled, as Viscount Errington and the first Earl of Cromer, in 1901. He was British controller-general in Egypt during 1879, part of the international Control which oversaw Egyptian finances after the khedives' mismanagement, and during the British occupation prompted by the Urabi revolt, agent and consul-general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, retiriing when the new Liberal government under Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman decided to adopt a more lenient policy towards Egypt.

His letter, written from Newlands Corner, Merrow Downs, Guildford, on February 1st 1908:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     I beg that you will convey to the Irvine Burns Club my high appreciation of the honour which they have conferred on me in making me an Honorary Member.
     I remain, Dear Sir,
     very faithfully yours
     Cromer

His headed writing paper includes, as often in those days, the name of the nearest railway station - "Station, Clandon L & S W R." (London & South Western Railway)

The letter is adddressed to R Boyd, Esq., the Hon. Secy

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) Honorary member 1908

His life & work:

Roosevelt greatly admired the works of Burns. Apart from his comments in the letter below, he wrote, in a 1903 letter regarding a Burns celebration in Nashville, Tennessee: "The poetry of Burns, though I suppose we must admit it is preeminently for Scotland, is for all the world."

The 26th President, from 1901 to 1909, a Republican, he was noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity. He followed the assassinated President McKinley, and remains, at 42 when sworn in, the youngest President ever. Roosevelt was also the first of only three sitting presidents to have won the Nobel Peace Prize (the others being Wilson and Obama).

The "Scotch blood" mention is interesting, and puzzling. In a speech in 1898, he said: "I'm half Irish myself as well as half Dutch." His father's ancestors were Dutch - the Roosevelts were Dutch colonists who had been in New York since the mid 17th century. His mother Martha was a Southern belle from a slave-owning family in Georgia, surnamed Bulloch. Roosevelt's great-great-grand-father was Archibald Bulloch, the third Governor of Georgia - Archibald was the son of James Bulloch and Jean Stobo (the daughter of a Puritan minister, the Reverend Archibald Stobo), immigrants from Scotland to South Carolina in the 1720s. Thus his Scottish connection was from five generations earlier, yet conflicts with his own statements!

His letter, written from the White House, Washington, on Feb 11th, 1908:

Notes:

Sir
     I much appreciate the honor of being made an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club; I wish it were my good fortune to see your Burns Manuscripts.
     Of course I am a great admirer of Burns - I suppose everybody is - and my Scotch blood gives me a certain proprietary interest in him.
I accept the membership with pleasure.
With thanks I am
     sincerely yours
     Theodore Roosevelt

On headed paper, the letter is otherwise in his own hand.

The letter is addressed to Rob. Boyd, Esq., Hon. Sec., Irvine Burns Club.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Honorary member 1908

His life & work:

Shaw's plays were first performed in the 1890s. By the end of the decade he was an established playwright. He wrote sixty-three plays and his output as novelist, critic, pamphleteer, essayist and private correspondent was prodigious. He is known to have written more than 250,000 letters.

Adelphi Terrace, from where his letter comes, was built c.1770 and demolished in 1936, and number 10 has a place in the history of the LSE. During the second half of the nineteenth century, number 10 accommodated various clubs, the best known being perhaps the Crichton Club which was there in 1891–6, but in 1897 a lease of it was taken by Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fellow Fabian, whom GBS married; afterwards they lived there until 1927. The London School of Economics and Political Science, founded by GBS and three other Fabians in John Street in 1895, was moved here in 1897 and remained until 1900, when, admitted as a school of London University, it removed to a new and more adequate building at its present location in Clare Market.

His letter, written from 10 Adelphi Terrace, W.C., on 1st June 1908:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     I am much obliged to the Irvine Burns Club for the honor it has done me in admitting me as an honorary member. I do not know how it divined that I am a bit of a Burnsite; for I have never, as far as I can recollect, made any public allusion to Burns; but it is a fact that I read a good deal of Burns in my youth, and found that the taste for him was born in me.
     yours faithfully
     G. Bernard Shaw

The letter is addressed to Robert Boyd, Esq., Honorary Secretary, The Irvine Burns Club.

Sir Donald MacAlister (1854-1934) Honorary member 1909

His life & work:

A physician, following appointments at Cambridge University, he served as Principal of the University of Glasgow from 1907 till 1929, and, on retirement, appointed Chancellor, holding this position till his death in 1934..

Born in Perth, a native speaker of Gaelic, he is said to have spoken well in 17 other languages, apart from English. From 1904, for an unbroken period of 27 years till 1931, he was President of the General Medical Council. He was knighted in 1908, and created 1st Baronet of Tarbert in 1924.

He presided over a period of spectacular growth in academic departments and the University Chapel was one of several important new buildings completed during his time in office. The approach from Irvine Burns Club, we may guess, would have reflected his appointment as Principal.

His letter, written from University of Glasgow on 27 January 1909:

Notes:

Dear Sir
     I am grateful to the Irvine Burns Club for conferring on me the privilege of its Honorary Membership, and I ask you to convey to the Club my appreciation of its courtesy. The honour is not less pleasing for being unmerited on my part.
     I am
     Yours very truly
     Donald McAlister

 

Sir George Douglas (1856-1935) Honorary member 1910

His life & work:

George Brisbane Scott Douglas, a Scottish poet and writer, also a Baronet, he was born in Gibraltar, the home country of his mother, Dona Sanchez de Pina. He authored some of his books under the name of Sir George Douglas.

Springwood Park had been bought in 1750 by the Douglas family, and Sir George was the fifth Douglas owner, and the 5th Baronet. He never married and managed to combine the running of a large country estate with writing prose and poetry. His successor, who never lived at Springwood, died without issue and in debt, and the estate was sold.

Sir George had a great interest in local history and recorded many tales told by his gamekeepers and other worthies. He was widely published in his lifetime and his work includes New Border Tales (1892); Poems of a Country Gentleman (1897); Diversions of a Country Gentleman (1902) and The Border Breed (1909). His authoritative history of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles was published in 1899 by William Blackwood & Sons.

His letter, written from Springwood Park, Kelso, on 30.1.10:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     I beg to acknowledge receipt of your notification of my admission to the Irvine Burns Club as an Honorary Member, & at the same time to express my sense of the honour of being connected with a Burns Club of such old standing, which is also associated with the scene of an interesting tho' obscure episode of the Poet's youth. I am, dear Sir,
     Yours faithfully
     George Douglas

 

Sir Herbert E Maxwell (1845-1937) Honorary member 1911

His life & work:

Sir Herbert Eustace Maxwell was President of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society between 1900-1902. One of the key figures in the development of Scottish archaeology, he inherited the estate of Monreith, Mochrum, in 1877. In the same year the Ayrshire and Wigtonshire Archaeological Association was formed with Maxwell as one of its vice-presidents. He began to build up a large collection of archaeological objects, many of which had been found on the estate by his tenants. The vast majority of these were donated to the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, now part of National Museums Scotland.

He also carried out a number of excavations in Wigtownshire, most notably at St Ninian's Cave and at St Medan's Chapel, Kirkmaiden.

Maxwell was involved in archaeology at a national level. As MP for Wigtownshire (1880-1906) he was a keen supporter of the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act. To encourage other landowners Maxwell offered a number of archaeological sites on his estate for guardianship by the state under the new act. These sites included the standing stones at Drumtroddan, the Wren's Nest stones and the Iron Age fort at Barsalloch.

Maxwell was President of the Society of Antiquaries from 1900 to 1913. He was also the first Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, a post he held for 26 years. He was Lord Lieutenant of Wigtown 1903-1935.

(source: Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura)

His letter, written from Monreith, Whauphill, Wigtownshire, on 27th January 1911:

Notes:

Dear Sir
     I have to thank you for your letter of 23rd inst. and to request that you will convey to the members of the Irvine Burns Club an expression of my sense of the honour they have done me in admitting me as an honorary member.
    It is a high privilege to be associated in this manner, however distantly, with the name and memory of one who attained an unrivalled place in the literature of our land.
    I am
    Faithfully yours
    Herbert Maxwell

The letter is addressed to Robt Boyd, Esq., Hon Secretary, Irvine Burns Club.

Viscount Haldane (1856-1928) Honorary member 1912

His life & work:

Haldane was an influential British Liberal Imperialist and later Labour politician, lawyer and philosopher. In 1885 Haldane was elected Liberal Member of Parliament for Haddingtonshire, a seat he held until 1911. He was Secretary of State for War between 1905 and 1912 (initially under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman), during which time the "Haldane Reforms" were implemented, including the creation of the Territorial Army.

Raised to the peerage as Viscount Haldane in 1911, he was Lord Chancellor (succeeding the Earl Loreburn) between 1912 and 1915. He later joined the Labour Party and once again served as Lord Chancellor in 1924 the first ever Labour administration.

His letter, written from the War Office, Whitehall, S.W., on 19th January 1912:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     I have your letter of the 18th January and beg that you will convey my thanks to the Irvine Burns Club for electing me an Honorary Memnber.
     Yours very truly,
     Haldane of Cloan

The letter is, apart from his signature, typed. It is addressed to Robert Boyd, Esq., Irvine Burns Club. The address is embossed, so does not appear on photocopies.

Daniel T Holmes (1863-1955) Honorary member 1913

His life & work:

This information is from an affectionate family memoir, written by his grandson Tony Benn (Hon. Memb. 2002) and published in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ in 1990.

Daniel Turner Holmes entered Parliament as a Liberal MP for the Govan division of Glasgow in a by-election in 1911, serving till defeated in 1918. He was not really a politician at all, but a scholar who had been persuaded to stand, being a lecturer who could hold audiences spellbound with accounts of historical events and the light that they threw on current affairs. In that capacity he represented perfectly the deep commitment of his fellow countrymen and women to education and the importance of learning – describing himself as “a worshipper at learning’s shrine”, more interested in his books than anything else, and as an author and poet of some considerable ability.

Born in Irvine in 1863, he was the second son of James Holmes, a steeplejack, a deeply religious man, and Elizabeth Turner, who bore eight children, five of who died in their youth – all from preventable diseases. At the age of three he insisted on going to school with his elder brother. Later, sitting for an external degree at London University, he came first among all the examinees from all over the country. He continued his studies at the Sorbonne and became head of the English department at Paisley Grammar School.

From 1904 to 1908 he travelled around Scotland lecturing at local literary societies, travelling by train, steam boat, mail coach, horse bus, pony trap, wagon cart, and foot, in all weathers. He estimated that he had spoken to over 40,000 people. Everywhere he found a tremendous passion for learning. Of the weavers, he commented that they “had far clearer views on politics than most of their legislators”. A discussion on the Mull ferry on ‘Has the Deity unlimited Free Will?’ saw some of the ship’s crew joining in. In Feb. 1911, he gave a lecture at the Irvine Literary and Debating Club on 'The Teaching of John Ruskin', the chairman being Wm Hall, and the vote of thanks being given by R M Hogg.

His maiden speech in the House of Commons on the Temperance (Scotland) Bill held his fellow MPs with his humour: “I do not expect that, in our generation at least, alcohol will ever be out of date and when I look at the history and even the climate of my native country I know quite well that my fellow countrymen will never be sickeningly abstemious or ostentatiously teetotal”. He was also known as the “Poet Laureate of the House of Commons”, leaving a notebook full of the most amusing verses about his colleagues and contemporary affairs.

In October 1942 he was made an honorary burgess of the Royal Burgh of Irvine. His daughter, Margaret (herself a scholar, an honorary member of the Hebrew University) married William Wedgewood Benn, then MP for Leith, in 1920.

Tony Benn, remembering his grandfather as a kindly and absent-minded old man, always ready to teach his grandchildren, comments: “There are not many scholars in parliament, which is a great pity, for politics seems to have degenerated into abuse as a substitute for exposition and our society is the poorer for it. Daniel Holmes represented, faithfully, in the House of Commons, that passion for learning that has ‘always characterised the Scots’.”

 

His letter, written on 21.1.13:

Notes:

Dear Mr Boyd,
     I am extremely gratified that the Irvine Burns Club has made me an honorary member. No honour could be more pleasing to me. In lieu of a greeting for the Anniversary, I enclose some verses on our old town.
     I am
     Very Faithfully Yours
     D. T. Holmes

Mr Boyd was Hon. Secy of the Club.

 

Robert Bridges (1844-1930) Honorary member 1914

His life & work:

Robert Bridges wanted no biography written about him and made a conscious effort to thwart any such attempt. The eighth of nine children, his father died when he was eight, and his mother remarried; he seems to have had a rather idyllic mid-19th c. childhood. He practised as a physician until lung disease forced him to retire in 1882, but he had published his first collection of poems before that, in 1873. In 1884 he married Monica Waterhouse and spent the rest of his life in rural seclusion, first at Yattendon, Berkshire, then at "Chilswell", on the edge of Boars Hill, Oxford, where he died.

He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1913, the only medical graduate to have held the office.

His letter, written from “Chilswell”, Oxford, on Mar. 29, 1914:

Notes:

Dear Sir
     I find your letter of Jany 19th without any note of its having been answered. Pray accept my apology for the unintentional neglect: and let me now thank you for the honour that you have done me in electing me an Hony Member of the Irvine Burns Club. I am a thorough admirer of the Poet: and as on one side of my family I have Scotch antecedents, I consider myself entitled to share the national enthusiasm.
     I wish that I could foresee any likelihood of my being able to take any advantage of the hospitality of your Club: but I hope that you will consider me a sympathetic member;
     I am your sincerely
     Robert Bridges

I have so many more letters sent to me than I can hope to reply to that the delay in my acknowledgement of your letter is easily accounted for.

The letter is addressed to Rob. Boyd, Esq., Hon. Sec., Irvine Burns Club.

Field Marshal Douglas Haig (1861-1928) Honorary member 1918

His life & work:

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig of Bemersyde, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC, was a British senior officer during World War I. He had been knighted, for his work in the War Office as Director of Military Training on the General Staff, in 1909. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from 1915 to the end of the War. He was commander during the Battle of the Somme, the battle with one of the highest casualties in British military history, the Third Battle of Ypres, and the Hundred Days Offensive, which led, after the time of this nomination by Irvine Burns Club, to the armistice in 1918.

In November 1918 Haig refused Lloyd George's offer of a viscountcy, partly as he felt it was another snub as his predecessor Sir John French had been awarded the same rank on being sacked, and partly to use his refusal to bargain for better state financial aid for demobilised soldiers, whom Henry Wilson told him were amply provided for by charity. He held out despite being lobbied by the King, until Lloyd George backed down in March 1919, blaming a recently sacked pensions minister. Haig was created The 1st Earl Haig (with a subsidiary viscountcy and a subsidiary barony) and received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and a grant of £100,000 to enable him to live in the style appropriate to a senior peer (he had asked for £250,000).

His letter, written from General Headquarters, British Armies in France, on 22nd Jany 1918:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     Many thanks for your letter of 14th inst. in which you tell me that I have been admitted an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club.
     Will you please express to the Members of the Club my hearty thanks for the great honour which they have done me. I am very proud to belong to the Club both because of its historical associations as well as on account of the fine patriotic spirit which evidently exists in the Club, and which has led to so many of its members joining the Army and serving abroad at this time of crisis in our country’s history. I note with great satisfaction that the Chairman & Vice-chairman are now serving with the Forces in France. I heartily congratulate them on the fine example which they have set us all.
     & Believe me
     Yours Very truly
     Douglas Haig, F.M

The paper is embossed with a crest.

The letter is addressed to The Hon. Sec., Irvine Burns Club.

He refers to the President Rev. John Paterson and the Vice-President solicitor J Irving Moffat serving in France.

Admiral Sir David Beatty (1871-1936) Honorary member 1919

His life & work:

Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty PC, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO, PC was a Royal Navy officer. After serving in the Mahdist War and then the response to the Boxer Rebellion, he commanded the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, a tactically indecisive engagement after which his aggressive approach was contrasted with the caution of his commander Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. He is remembered for his comment at Jutland that "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today", after two of his ships exploded. Later in the war he succeeded Jellicoe as Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet, in which capacity he received the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at the end of the War. He then served a lengthy term as First Sea Lord.

His letter, written from H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth on 13 January, 1919:

Notes:

Sir,
     Will you please express to the members of the Irvine Burns Club my warm appreciation of the honour they have done me in electing me an Honorary Member of their Club.
     I am, Sir,
     Yours faithfully
     David Beatty
     ADMIRAL

The letter is, with the exception of the signature, typed.

It is addressed to R M Hogg, Esq., Irvine Burns Club, the Hon. Secy.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945) Honorary member 1919

His life & work:

When Asquith resigned as Prime Minister halfway through the First World War in December 1916, and Bonar Law refused to form a government, Lloyd George consented to the king’s request and became, for three years, to quote a contemporary encyclopedia, “almost the dictator of the country”. Never losing heart, he led the country to victory.

His earlier career, after becoming an MP in 1890, by 19 votes, aged 27, was marked by his spirit of independence, caustic wit and pungent utterances. When the Liberals cam to power in 1905 under Campbell-Bannerman, he was appointed President of the Board of Trade, passing the Patents and Designs Act. In 1908, he served Asquith as Chancellor of the Exchequer, being responsible for the Old Age Pension Bill and presenting the famous 1909 Budget (passed only after a new election) featuring drastic reforms, increased taxes, and new taxes (such as the new tax on petrol for motor-cars). In 1911 he presented another great reform, the national Health Insurance Act. In 1914, he arranged for huge war loans, unprecedented in the history of the country. Appointed Minister for Munitions in 1915, and putting through the Conscription Act of 1916, he succeeded Lord Kitchener at the War Office in 1916. An impressive legacy even before his Premiership.

His later successes included his contribution to the 1919 Peace Conference and his 1921 negotiation of the Irish settlement. He served as Prime Minister until October 1922. In his final months as PM, he published his memoirs, there was an outcry that a PM who had led his country during a bloody war should profit from his book, and he announced that the profits would be “devoted to charities connected with the relief of suffering caused by the war” – an interesting parallel with another war leader’s similar decision in 2010.

A recent biography of Lloyd George is that of Roy Hattersley – an account, according a reviewer, “of underhand political manoeuvres, of misrepresentation to the point of mendacity, of cash for peerages, [and] of personal enrichment”. Lloyd George knew, as did Disraeli, that a political career could not be forged by modesty and restraint, and “his lack of scruples, his use of any available ends to achieve his means, and his ceaseless philandering” are not faults unique to this politician.

Lloyd George was the only PM to speak English as his second language (Welsh being the first), a Chancellor who laid the foundations of the modern welfare state, and the last Liberal PM (though of a predominantly Conservative coalition). He served Caernarvon Boroughs for 55 years, until raised to the peerage in the New Year Honours of 1945, less than three months before he succumbed to cancer.

His letter, written from 10 Downing Street, Whitehall, S.W.1, on January 18th, 1919:

Notes:

Dear Sir,
     I thank you for your letter of the 10th January, informing me that I have been admitted an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club. I very much appreciate the honour accorded me, and have pleasure in accepting the kind invitation of your members.
     Yours faithfully,
     D Lloyd George

The letter is, with the exception of the signature, typed.

The address is embossed, so does not appear on photocopies.

It is addressed to R M Hogg, Esq., the Hon. Secy at the time.

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) Honorary member 1919

His life & work:

The 28th President of the USA, from 1913 to 1921. His acceptance letter was written just over a week after, on January 8, 1918, Wilson made his famous Fourteen Points address, introducing the idea of a League of Nations, an organization with a stated goal of helping to preserve territorial integrity and political independence among large and small nations alike.

He intended the Fourteen Points as a means towards ending the war and achieving an equitable peace for all the nations. He spent six months in Paris for the Peace Conference (making him the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office) and worked tirelessly to promote his plan. The charter of the proposed League of Nations was incorporated into the conference's Treaty of Versailles.

For his peace-making efforts, Wilson was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize.

His letter, written from the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, Paris, on 16 January, 1919:

Notes:

My dear Sir:
     May I not acknowledge with appreciation your letter of the 10th of January and say how much I am gratified and honored to accept the honorary membership so graciously offered me by the Burns Club of Irvine? Pray express to the members of the club my sincere gratification that they should so evidence their kind friendship.
     Cordially and sincerely yours,
     Woodrow Wilson

The letter is, with the exception of the signature, typed.

It is addressed to Mr R M Hogg, Hon. Secy, Irvine Burns Club - note the US "Mr" rather than the UK "Esq." of the time!

Marshal Foch (1851-1929) Honorary member 1919

His life & work:

Ferdinand Foch, after earlier promotion and recall, was ultimately appointed "Generalissimo of the Allied Armies" in the spring of 1918. He played a decisive role in halting a renewed German advance on Paris in the Second Battle of the Marne, after which he was promoted Marshal of France.

On 11 November 1918, Foch accepted the German request for an armistice. Foch advocated peace terms that would make Germany unable to pose a threat to France ever again. His words after the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years" would prove prophetic; the Second World War started twenty years and sixty-five days later. In 1919 he was made a Field Marshal in the British Empire, and in 1923 a Marshal of Poland, adding to a long list of military decorations.

His letter, written by the Chef de Cabinet du Maréchal FOCH, le 25 Janvier 1919:

Notes:

Monsieur le Secrétaire,
     Le Maréchal FOCH a été très touché de la décision prise par le “Irvine Burns Club”, et m’a mandé de vous faire tenir, ici, la sincére expression de ses vifs remerciements.
     Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Secrétaire, l’assurance de mes distingués sentiments
Chef de Cabinet du Maréchall FOCH
J Bardoux

An attached carte de visite bears two printed lines and two hand-written lines:

Le Maréchal Foch
Commandant en Chef les Armees Alliées
Avec ses remerciements
F Foch

Translation: Dear Secretary, Marshal Foch has been very touched by the decison taken by Irvine Burns Club, and has instructed me to pass to you, by this note, the sincere acknowledgement of his warm thanks. Yours faithfully, dear Sir, J Bardoux

The letter is, with the exception of the signature of the Chef de Cabinet, typed. Foch's signature is on the carte de visite. Whether Marshal Foch saw the nomination (or the acceptance) is not known.

On his cartes de visite, Foch seems to have generally written the third person possessive adjective 'ses'.

Andrew Fisher (1862-1928) Honorary member 1920

His life & work:

Andrew Fisher was born in Crosshouse, a mining village near Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire, Scotland, the second of eight children. His education consisted of some primary schooling, some night schooling, and the reading of books in the library of the cooperative his father had helped to establish. At the age of 10 he began work in a coal mine. He worked six days a week for 12 hours a day. He then had a 4 km trek to go to night school. At 17 he was elected secretary of the local branch of the Ayrshire Miners' Union, the first step on a road to politics. The union called a strike in 1881 to demand a 10 per cent increase to wages, but this was to prove ultimately unsuccessful and Fisher lost his job as a result. After finding employment at another mine, he once again led miners to strike for higher wages in 1885. This time, he was not only sacked but also blacklisted.

Unable to find work, Fisher and his brother migrated to Queensland in 1885. Despite leaving his homeland, Fisher is said to have retained a distinctive Scottish accent for the rest of his life.

In Australia, he was elected to the Queensland Assembly in 1893 and the first Federal Parliament in 1901. He became Australia's fifth Prime Minister in 1908 (a minority government), gaining that office again in 1910 (the world's first Labour Party majority government) and again in 1914. Fisher served as Australia's second High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1921.

His letter, written from the office of the High Commissioner, Australia House, Strand, London, W.C.2 on 10/1/20:

Notes:

My Dear Sir,
     I have just received your letter of 9th instant advising me of the honour conferred by the Irvine Burns Club making me one of its Honorary Members.
I accept the position with pleasure and thank the members for thinking me worthy of being associated with them in doing honour to the immortal memory of Robert Burns.
     If fortune favours I hope to pay the land of my birth another visit at no distant date and then will seek an opportunity to thank you in person for your great kindness.
With good wishes
     Yours faithfully
     Andrew Fisher

The letter bears the crest of Australia.

Andrew Fisher had been born in Crosshouse.

Prof. Robert S Rait (1874-1936) Honorary member 1920

His life & work:

Robert Sangster Rait, of Aberdeen upbringing and education, made his mark as a Scottish historian, holding the chair of Scottish History and Literature in the University of Glasgow, from 1913 to 1930. The Chair was newly-created, funded through the proceeds of the 1911 Scottish Exhibition held in Kelvingrove Park. Prof. Rait engaged more closely with students than was traditional for academics at the time, inviting students to tea at his home. He was also, from 1919, Historiographer Royal of Scotland. A prominent intellectual figure in Glasgow, he frequently contributed letters and articles to the 'Glasgow Herald', often anonymously.

In 1929, Rait was appointed Principal of the University, building on his already close relationship with students, and making time for both students and staff. When, in 1933, he was knighted and returned from London to Glasgow Central station, he was met by hundreds of students and escorted to the University in a carriage drawn by Blues and led by the band of the OTC. In 1933, he succeeded John Buchan as President of the Scottish Historical Society.

The effect of the Depression on the University finances in the 1930s took its toll on his health and a serious illness in 1935 led to his death the following year.

His letter, written from 31 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, on Jany. 10. 1920:

Dear Sir,
     I am greatly obliged by receipt of your letter of the 9th inst., in which you inform me that the Irvine Burns Club have done me the honour to elect me as an Honorary Member. I beg that you will convey to the Club my sincere thanks for the distinction thus conferred upon me, which I have great pleasure in accepting. I am proud to be associated with a Burns Club of so old a date and possessed of interesting links with the Poet himself, and it gives me great pleasure to know that your too generous appreciation of my work has led you to add my name to your distinguished Roll.
     I hope, some day, to have the honour of meeting my fellow members of the Irvine Burns Club.
     I am
     Yours faithfully,
     Robert S Rait



Hon. Members 1921:

two other nominees who accepted, though their letters are no longer extant

The following two nominees also accepted. Their letters were read to members at the Annual Celebration on 25th January 1921, but seem to be no longer extant.

Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923), leader of the Conservative Party 1911-1921 (at the time of his nomination), and later Prime Minister (1922-23). Born in New Brusnwick, when his widowed father had remarried in 1870, his aunt, returning to Scotland, had brought Andrew with her. As an MP, he represented Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown 1900-1906, Dulwich 1906-1910, Bootle 1911-1918, and, at the time of the nomination, Glasgow Central 1918-1923.

Sir Andrew Rae Duncan (1884-1952), lawyer and industrialist, later President of the Board of Trade 1941-42. Born in Irvine (at 8 Waterside) to missionary George Duncan and wife Jessie Rae, he was President of the Club in 1927, and presented the plaque marking the Drukken Steps made famous by Robert Burns. At the Club's 1926 Centenary Dinner, President John Hall said: "We welcome him to our midst tonight fresh from his important mission to our brethren in that wonderful land of vast resources, and we trust that his efforts to bring together all parties concerned in one of the greatest industries of Canada, will have an abundant reward." This refers to his 1926 appointment by the Mackenzie King Canadian government to investigate Maritime discontent; his recommendations of freight-rate reductions and subsidy increases were implemented, but suggestions for subsidies based on fiscal need and transportation use to encourage regional development were ignored.

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