Caledonian Philatelic Society


A Century of Scottish Philately

In 2006 to celebrate the Centenary of the Caledonian Philatelic Society, the Society compiled and published a book entitled:

“A Century of Scottish Philately”

The book contains much of interest to all involved in philately.  Its main chapters are :

The following notes about the society are compiled from the 1st chapter of the book “A Century of Scottish Philately” written and compiled by Dr Stewart Gardiner FRPSL as part of the Caledonian Philatelic Society’s Centenary celebrations.

The Birth of the Junior Philatelic Society of Scotland

On 14th February 1906 at 7 o’clock , several stamp collectors met in the rooms of Messrs. Douglas, Cook and Co., Stamp Dealers, 562 Sauchiehall Street , Glasgow , to consider the formation of a Philatelic Society. The outcome of this meeting was that the first general meeting of the “Junior Philatelic Society of Scotland” was held on the 28th February 1906 , and a President, Office Bearers and Committee were elected.  

The Caledonian Philatelic Society was originally named the Junior Philatelic Society of Scotland but changed its name in 1930; a previous proposal to alter the name of the Society in 1922 was defeated.  The first President was Sir John Ure Primrose, Lord Provost of Glasgow , and afterwards the first honorary President of the Society, a position he held until his death in 1923. One of the founding members and a member of the first committee was Sergeant Philippe Durand who continued his membership well into the 1970s.  Many current members knew Philippe Durand and that memory of him provides an evocative link back to the origin of the Society.

Meetings were held fortnightly, first in Messrs. Douglas Cook’s rooms and then in various venues in the city centre.  The Society has met regularly from 1906 until the present time except for periods during the two World Wars.

The first Exchange Packet was issued in April 1906. The Library was formed one year later in 1907 and has been constantly added to over the years by purchase and donation and is now one of the best and most comprehensive in Scotland .  In May 1907, the Society decided to use the Stamp Collectors’ Fortnightly as its official organ.

The Society jointly with others in Scotland held a Philatelic Exhibition in conjunction with the 5th Philatelic Congress of Great Britain in Edinburgh in 1913.

In October 1914 the Society decided that members on Active Service be allowed to continue their membership as long as they remained with H M Forces.

Confidence and Entrepreneurship in the 1920s and 1930s

The Society was well established by the 1920s and it is clear that it had gained confidence.  In 1924 the 11th annual Philatelic Congress of Great Britain was held in Glasgow and Philippe Durand, one of the founder members of the Society, led the organization of a Philatelic Exhibition arranged by the Art Galleries Committee of Glasgow Corporation.

In 1926 the Society launched the Scots Philatelist which became its official organ.  This publication lasted for five years and was followed by Philately in Scotland which was jointly published from 1932 to 1934 by a number of Scottish societies.  These ventures into publishing were never repeated by the Society.

The 25th Anniversary (1931-32)

The 1931-32 session began with an Extraordinary General Meeting called to discuss the future of the Scots Philatelist, the house journal of the Society which had been published for the previous five years.  The discussion concentrated on the estimated unsustainable loss of £15 for the forthcoming session and the meeting decided by a 4 to 1 vote to discontinue the journal’s publication.  Dr Corbett, the editor, was profusely thanked for all his efforts over the past five years. However during 1932 discussions began with the Edinburgh Philatelic Society over the joint publication of a new journal, eventually leading to the birth of Philately in Scotland .

The first general meeting of the Society began with the announcement of the admission of 23 new members, an ironic situation given the demise of the Society’s journal.

The 50th Anniversary (1955-56)

The 50th anniversary of the Society was celebrated in style with a philatelic exhibition in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. There was a reception in the Glasgow City Chambers hosted by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Andrew Hood, on the 27th February 1956 , the opening day of the exhibition.

The membership of the Society was 250 during the 50th anniversary session, close to its all time peak of 300. 

The 75th Anniversary (1980-81)

On its 75th anniversary, the Society hosted the annual Congress of Scottish Philatelic Societies at Stirling University.  One souvenir produced to mark the anniversary was a miniature sheet depicting a booklet pane with a St Andrews cross which was first printed in 1906, the year that the Society was formed.

Display to the Royal Philatelic Society London

The Society was invited to give a display to the Royal Philatelic Society London in May 1969: this honour confirms the standing of the Society in British Philately.  There were contributions from 37 members. 

The Social Side of the Society

There is a long tradition of social events held by the Society. This has helped to engender a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, although until the 1980s a new member could find their first few meetings a little daunting – a tyro in the company of many experts!

The first record of an organised social evening is of an Anniversary Dinner held on March 1st 1924.

The tradition of formal dinners continued for many years. In recent years more informal social evenings have been held in February each year. Currently these events are held in the Wickets Hotel in the west end of the city and consist of dinner, an auction and quizzes and are much enjoyed by the members and their spouses.  As philatelic societies do at every opportunity, a souvenir cover is created as a memento. 

Growth and Decline and Hopefully Stabilisation

The membership of the Society settled at around the low fifties until after the First World War when it grew rapidly to around 150 in 1926. It stayed at about that level for the next twenty years and then rapidly grew to a peak of 300 in 1947 when the British Philatelic Exhibition came to Glasgow. There then followed a decline levelling out during the 1960s and 1970s.  The decline continued until the early 1990s when it slowed and the membership may be stabilising at around 85 but that may be a somewhat optimistic view.

The two periods of rapid growth came after the end of the two World Wars: perhaps a reaction against the bloodshed and an attraction towards more gentle pursuits?

The Society Today and the Future

The Caledonian Philatelic Society had 84 members at the end of the 2004-05 session.  This is substantially down from the peak of 300 in the late 1940s but the rate of decline has been slowing.  The average age is rising with very few younger members joining the Society.  This is not unique to our Society: it is a national trend.  Should we be pessimistic about the future of the hobby and the Society?  I think not, as although the number of members has been declining, the average attendance has risen over the past few years and over 30 members attend most meetings.  Although the number of stamp collectors and philatelists has certainly been declining in the United Kingdom , this trend has not been seen in other European countries such as Germany and the Scandinavian countries. In China and India , the hobby is expanding rapidly as those countries develop and their citizens retain more disposable wealth.  We should therefore not be pessimistic but work hard to promote and preserve the hobby but perhaps on a more international basis.  The international side of the hobby has been growing dramatically through the use of the internet and its on-line auctions such as e-Bay.

The Caledonian Philatelic Society has had an illustrious past as outlined in this chapter. The remaining chapters celebrate further the Society’s centenary by highlighting its famous members, the exhibitions it has supported and the journals it has published.

We all look forward to the next session during which the Society takes centre stage and will host the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain for the second time and the Congress of Association of Scottish Philatelic Societies for the eighth time