Edinburgh is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth’s southern shore. Recognised as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is the seat of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the supreme courts of Scotland. The city’s Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the Monarchy in Scotland. The city has long been a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, literature, the sciences and engineering. It is the second largest financial centre in the United Kingdom and the city’s historical and cultural attractions have made it the United Kingdom’s second most popular tourist destination, attracting over one million overseas visitors each year.
It was in 1932 that the Society first broke with the tradition of travelling exclusively overseas (apart from the inaugural 1924 meeting in Leeds) by going to Edinburgh. It is not known why the original intention in 1932 to visit Rome and possibly Paris did not come to fruition – though cost or a lack of host arrangements may have played a part on this and later occasions – nor apparently was any precedent intended to be established by holding a meeting within the UK. However it was observed afterwards that “The visit to Edinburgh will be memorable because there we saw, in a clinic at home, a demonstration of surgery which equalled, if it did not surpass, anything seen abroad. This was the more remarkable in that we did not see the work of one chief and his assistants but something of the whole surgical staff. ” The meeting was hosted by J J M Shaw, a pioneer plastic surgeon (who sadly died in 1940 of shigella dysentery during the Second World War). Operations and demonstrations were supplemented with a visit to the Museum of the College of Surgeons where the Society met “Mr Gregg among his beloved skulls, many of whose owners he seemed to have known intimately.” On 7 May 1937 an Extraordinary Meeting was held at the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh during the annual meeting of the Association of Surgeons, apparently to discuss future membership of the TSC, the Travelling Surgical Club, as it then was.
The Travelling Surgical Society (as the organisation will be referred to henceforth, although this name was only adopted in 1988) did not convene again in “Auld Reekie” until 1969 when they were guests of Archie Macpherson, who also arranged the further meeting in 1978 at which John and Pat Cook entertained members to drinks and a buffet supper at their home, to meet Archie and his sister. He was also present at the latest visit, in 1995, attended by 58 people when our host was Alasdair MacGregor. With four meetings, Edinburgh has thus been the most frequent UK venue apart from London. Having also been the one to usher in the era of home visits, it is no surprise to learn from the minutes of the AGM in 1937 that “the Hon Secretary was instructed to ….. invite two guests to attend the tour each year, irrespective of the number of members attending, and that each year one of the guests should be from Edinburgh and one from some other provincial city.”
The images above show a view of the city from Calton Hill, The Castle in the distance and the Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground (Left) and the Castle with Princes Street gardens in the foreground (Right)