28th September meeting confirmed back at the University

The VUW Law School in the Government Building has reopened for events so we can hold our meeting there – “Mrs. Barbour’s Army” – on the evening of Monday 28th September at 7:30pm (as originally advertised in the brochure).

The story is quite appropriate with our General Election a current topic of conversation, as it deals with the people managing bureaucracy!

August meeting cancelled

We have received notification from Victoria University that, due to the extended COVID-19 Level 2 restrictions, its facilities are being closed to external visitors.

As a result, the meeting this coming Friday 28th August 2020 on the Declaration of Arbroath is postponed until 2021.

Several events in Scotland planned for 2020 to celebrate 700 years since the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath have also been postponed until 2021, including a major exhibition, so we shall aim to tie in with that.

Hopefully the arrangements for our September 28th meeting on Mrs. Barbour’s Army will go smoothly!

28th June meeting confirmed back at the University

The VUW Law School in the Government Building has reopened so we can hold our meeting there – “Scottish Favourites” – on the afternoon of Sunday 28th June at 3pm (as originally advertised in the brochure).

Contributions from members are welcome; please give details to Edith 388-8069 or Linda 567-0557 ASAP (two to ten minutes talk).

(The possible alternative venue – Pipe Band Hall – has been cancelled.)

2020 Programme

Meetings are on the 28th day of the month (Feb-Oct), held at the Victoria University of Wellington Law School*, Old Government Buildings, Lambton Quay (between Bunny and Whitmore Streets);  entrance door from Bunny Street.

NB: The May and July events have swapped – see below.

Vehicle access to Bunny Street is allowed on VUW business; to park in the grounds enter by Lambton Quay gate.

Weekdays: 7.15 for 7.30pm start
Weekends: 2:45 for 3.00pm start [* Unless stated otherwise].

Visitors are welcome (no charge for regular meetings), Scottish blood not necessary! Other events may also be held.


Friday 28 February 2020
James Cook born 1728, son of a Lowland Scots labourer and a Yorkshire village woman

“An infant strong, tough, large-boned with a clutch on survival,”* he went on to a remarkable career. The epic story of Wellingtonian John Cawte Beaglehole’s ascendance as the greatest Cook scholar of the twentieth century in the context of the Cook collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, will be discussed by Dr. Oliver Stead, Curator of Drawings, Paintings and Prints.
[*from J.C. Beaglehole The Life of Captain James Cook, London: Hakluyt Society 1974]

Saturday 28 March 2020 at 3.00pm*
Film: The Belles of St. Trinian’s with brilliant Scottish actor–Alister Sim

CANCELLED due to COVID-19

He heads a great cast of well-known faces–Joyce Grenfell, George Cole, Hermione Baddeley, Irene Handl, Sid James – for this hilarious tale by Ronald Searle (makes a brief appearance!)

Tuesday 28 April 2020
Glamis Castle: mystery, murder and a monster !

CANCELLED due to COVID-19

Glamis Castle (near Forfar, north of Perth) was the childhood home of the late Queen Mother.  NZ Writer Julia Millen will talk about her Scottish family connection with Glamis.

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2019 Programme

Meetings are on the 28th day of the month, held at the Victoria University of Wellington Law School*, Old Government Buildings, Lambton Quay (between Bunny and Whitmore Streets);  entrance door from Bunny Street.

Vehicle access to Bunny Street is allowed on VUW business; to park in the grounds enter by Lambton Quay gate.

Weekdays: 7.15 for 7.30pm start
Weekends: 2:45 for 3.00pm start [* Unless stated otherwise].

Visitors are welcome (no charge for regular meetings), Scottish blood not necessary! Other events may also be held.


Thursday 28 February 2019
300 years of Scottish education

Convenor of the NZ Society of Genealogists Greater Wellington Scottish Interest Group, Max Kerr will talk on 300 years of Scottish education, from the mid-sixteenth century to the Education Act of 1872, setting out how the system developed and what makes it distinctive.

Thursday 28 March 2019
Charles Cameron, architect extraordinaire to Catherine the Great of Russia

Catherine II (1762-96) kept an eye on the courts of Europe to recruit people for hers! She found Charles Cameron (1745?-1812); he served her as interior decorator of palaces, architect for many buildings and other projects. Pauline Quinn has investigated, and will tell us about this Scotsman’s unusual life (aged 30 to death at 67) Unknown in his homeland; lauded, with a great reputation as an architect, in Russia!

Sunday 28 April 2019 at 3.00pm*
Bigger than the Bayeux? Today’s tapestries tell Scotland’s (and other) stories

Recent years have seen several grand scale embroidery projects illustrating history – and it all started in Scotland (inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry)! The Prestonpans Tapestry tells of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s exploits from France to Prestonpans; the Mt. Felix Tapestry – WWI with NZ connections. Kathleen Major has been exploring the stories behind these colourful embroideries and two others. Andrew Crummy is their Scottish designer.

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Scots Scientists and Climate Change: A Crucial Contribution

By Prof. James Renwick, VUW School of Geography and Environment and Earth Sciences [May 2018]


The roster of Scottish scientists, researchers and explorers who have contributed to climate research is far too long to cover in a single essay or presentation. Here, I touch on the lives and works of five eminent Scots who made crucial contributions to climate science over the past few centuries.

joseph-black
Joseph Black (Wikimedia)

The story starts with Joseph Black (1728-1799), the discoverer of carbon dioxide. Black was a prominent member of the “Enlightenment” in Britain, contemporary of James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, and Josiah Wedgewood. He was there at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, helping Watt improve the efficiency of his steam engines, and along the way helping to found the science of thermodynamics. He established the concept of “latent heat”, the energy it takes to change ice to water and water to vapour. The absorption and release of latent heat turns out to be a very important way for the atmosphere to move heat around and regulate the climate of planet earth. For climate change research though, carbon dioxide is even more important. It is very good at absorbing the heat the earth radiates towards space, and it stays in the air for centuries, making it the most important “greenhouse gas” in the long run. Most of the carbon dioxide Watt’s coal-burning machines released in the 1750s is still in the atmosphere, warming us. Carbon dioxide in the air has increased nearly 50% since Black’s time, the highest level it has been for millions of years. Continue reading

The Ryder Cup

By Bernard Quinn [from his talk in February 2014]


The Ryder Cup is a men’s golf competition between two teams of professionals, originally from Europe and the United States, but expanded in 1979 to include players from Europe. Contested every two years, it commenced in 1927. It is named after English businessman Samuel Ryder who donated the trophy.

Gleneagles_Hotel_and_grounds
Gleneagles hotel and grounds (Wikimedia)

Gleneagles in 1921 was the first time that an American golf side had ever been assembled, the first time the nations had come together for a match, and it took place right here in Perthshire. Called The International Challenge, effectively it was the forerunner for the Ryder Cup. Some scribes reckoned that America would win; they had young and hungry players who would sweep Britain’s old guard away, They had to eat humble pie as some of those 51 year olds (Harry Vardon and James Braid) six times and five times British Open Champions respectively, gave their young visitors a golf lesson over the next two days. All agreed these matches should be repeated sometime; there was great potential in the idea of a Transatlantic joust.

The second unofficial match between the United States and Great Britain was in 1926 at Wentworth. Among those in the gallery was Samuel Ryder, an English seed merchant and entrepreneur from St Albans in Hertfordshire who made his money selling penny seed packets. He had taken up golf relatively late in life to improve his health and employed Abe Mitchell, one of the golfing greats of his era, as his personal tutor. Ryder was enthralled by the match at Wentworth. “We must do this again” he said in the bar afterwards and The Ryder Cup was born. He donated a small but striking gold cup that today epitomises all that is good in sporting competition. It cost £250 and the small golfing figure atop the cup, as requested by the donor, stands as a lasting memorial to Abe Mitchell.

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