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Inverness Field Club

Instituted 1875


In 1875, Mr William Jolly, H. M. Inspector of Schools, was the first President and some words from his first address to the Club bear repeating. "Many good men are deterred from joining any Scientific Society by the idea that great erudition, much scientific knowledge and elaborate papers are asked for and are necessary to constitute efficient membership. Our objects, as a local association, are very much less ambitious and much more human and sensible. We are all learners."

The founding of the Inverness Field Club can be traced back to the series of annual lectures by specialists in their field, funded by the bequest of Miss Mary Ettles. It was an Ettles Lecture on geology given by Professor Young of the University of Glasgow in November 1875 which stimulated the audience to ask the professor to lead an excursion to the Abriachan quarry in 'a persistent rainfall, with a shroud of mist enveloping the valley and a steady depression of the barometer.' The Inverness Courier subsequently published a letter from Dr Thomas Aitken, medical superintendent of the District Asylum, suggesting that a local society be formed, devoted to science and 'the chief natural phenomena of the neighbourhood'. Meetings and lectures, he said, could be held in winter, and the society could be run in conjunction with a field club which would arrange excursions in the summer.

The Inverness Scientific Society and Field Club was duly founded on 8 December 1875, with William Jolly as its first President, at a time when 'Science' meant 'Knowledge'.  Today its meaning is so much more limited that in 1973 the title was officially changed to the Inverness Field Club, which had been its accepted name for some time.

Over the first fifty years nine volumes of Transactions were published recording the talks given, sometimes several short ones in an evening, and the expeditions to interesting places, but rising costs seem to have checked publication in the 1920s. The Transactions are constantly used by researchers into the wide range of subjects covered. The Public Library and the Museum are largely the result of the encouragement of the Club, which used to meet there yearly to inspect the latest gifts and loans. In 1971, following the very successful 'Dark Ages Week' in 1970, a small book was published, 'The Dark Ages in the Highlands,' which contained most of the lectures given at that time and this, too, is well thought of. Unfortunately, the book is now out of print.

From the original Rules, which were reviewed in 1973 and found to need scarcely any alteration, the Club is for 'Study and Investigation and specially to Explore the District.' 'Members may be of either sex' and there were to be 'readings of papers' from October to April and 'Excursions during the summer months.' Though the Club has had its ups and downs, these pursuits still continue, with digital projection having taken over from the colour slides which themselves replaced the Magic Lantern.