Braemar Royal Highland Society was born quietly and in humble circumstances as the Braemar Wright Society during the third week of July 1815, as a result of late 18th century enabling legislation, designed to encourage the formation of mutual assistance societies.
Entrants had to pay 10/- (50p) initially, plus 1/- (5p) per quarter, in return for which there was provision for an annuity for members on reaching the age of 70; sickness and death benefit, and a widow's allowance. Many such societies were formed during this period, but few survived for more than a few years.
The Braemar Wright Society was formally constituted in 1816, six months to the day after the battle of Waterloo, and in 1817 was formally registered with the Clerk of the Peace as a Friendly Society - now the oldest surviving Friendly Society in the country.
In 1826 the name of the Society was changed to The Braemar Highland Society. This was at the suggestion of the then Deputy Master (Vice President), Charles Cumming, Earl Fife's factor on Mar estate.
Fife was at that time President of the Society, and it seems likely that the idea of change originated with him.
At this time, wrights (both wheel wrights and square wrights or joiners) were very active in Braemar, and they had given their name to the annual procession culminating in what is now the Braemar Gathering. It was known as the Vrichts' or Wrights' Walk.
In 1832 the Braemar Highland Society decided to give £5 for prizes at the Gathering, and from that time on, the Highland Society organised the Braemar Gathering, which became its major undertaking.
From the time of her first appearance at the Gathering in 1848, Queen Victoria took a close interest both in the Society and the Gathering, and in 1866 ordered that the title "Royal" should be added to the name of the Society.
In 1971, the Lord Lyon King of Arms granted Letters Patent to the Society, which thereby became armigerous, or bearing its own Coat of Arms. The Braemar Royal Highland Society has now no function other than as a Friendly Society.
The Gathering, which predates the disastrous 1745 Uprising, was forbidden by law for over 30 years after Culloden, but by the year 1800 it was again up and running. Since 1848 it has been regularly attended by the reigning Monarch and members of the Royal Family.
The foot races at the Gathering are the world’s oldest, having been organised on a regular basis by the same body since 1832.
Braemar Royal Highland Charity
This company was set up in 2006 to replace the Braemar Gathering Charitable Trust, and has ownership of all of the parent Society’s heritable property.
The objects of the Charity are, briefly, to provide or organise recreational facilities for members of the public and since 2011 to organise and run the Gathering; to foster and promote community development in the local area, and to promote the education of the public about the history, traditions, sport, language, culture and heritage of Scotland.
The Charity, funded entirely by accumulated past profits from the Braemar Gathering, maintains the 12 acre Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park as a public amenity, and in co-operation with a parents’ committee it runs the local Highland Dancing Class: with financial assistance from local businesses it organises pipe bands which play in the village in summer: it gives financial support to the independent Braemar Charitable Trust, and finally, it annually distributes money to eligible charities and others.
In order to provide a Highland Interpretive centre with an additional display of trophies, especially those won by Bill Anderson during his uniquely distinguished career as a heavy athlete; to provide up to date office and meeting facilities for the Highland Society as well as a local Registrar’s office, and to provide a venue for the Highland Dancing Class and summer dancing displays, as well as corporate hospitality on Gathering day, the Charity is currently raising funds for a new building to be situated at the entrance to the Park.
In order to help further the objects of the Charity, Gift Aid donations are invited from well-wishers. Further information may be obtained from the Secretary
W Meston M. V. O.
THE GATHERING SECRETARY
Braemar Royal Highland Charity
Aberdeenshire, AB35 5UH
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