Scotsman owner was '˜Master' at Edinburgh Merchant Company

EMPLOYEES at the Merchant Company of Edinburgh have scoured the archives to reveal a forgotten connection between The Scotsman newspaper and the Capital's oldest business institution.
John Findlay's grave at Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. Picture: Stephen C Dickson/Wikimedia CommonsJohn Findlay's grave at Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. Picture: Stephen C Dickson/Wikimedia Commons
John Findlay's grave at Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. Picture: Stephen C Dickson/Wikimedia Commons

Between 1913 and 1914, Sir John Ritchie Findlay, owner of The Scotsman, held the position of Master of the Court at the Merchant Company of Edinburgh, a society founded by Royal Charter in 1681 to protect trading rights of the merchants of the City of Edinburgh.

Rolls have been found which record Mr Findlay’s signature, occupation and place of residence. The historic documents were unveiled by current Master of the Court, Pat Denzler.

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Held in the archives is a menu from a members’ dinner attended by John Findlay on the night before the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of World War One.

Records also show that, during an AGM address in November 1914, Mr Findlay explained to members that the company had managed to survive the Jacobite rebellions and the Napoleonic Wars. He went on to express his hope that they could withstand the latest conflict.

Financial matters, legacies, gifts and grants are just some of the other points covered by Mr Findlay in the archives.

Pat Denzler is the second female - and first non-royal female - to take on the master role for the organisation, whose honorary members over the years include Winston Churchill, Andrew Carnegie and the Queen.

Describing the records, she said: “The roll books are a fascinating history of business in Edinburgh. Dating back to the beginning in 1681, every new member signs the book, stating their name, business and address. Finding a link to The Scotsman wasn’t a surprise in many ways, but it is always a pleasure to see the connections with today.

“Our organisation currently has over 500 members from nearly 50 different industries and so reflects the diversity of business endeavour in the city and that has always been the case. Now, as in the past, the Merchant Company has been an organisation of business people intent on seeing the city thrive. That is achieved through supporting enterprise and through managing and administering a number of charitable trusts to help young people in education and to provide for our frail and elderly.

“Our values and those of the Scotsman have a lot in common, so it’s good to see that connection indelibly printed in the rolls.”

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Edinburgh-born businessman John Findlay left his post as Master of the Court at the end of 1914. His great uncle was a founder of The Scotsman, and he became owner of the newspaper in 1898, following the death of his father. He died at the age of 64 in 1930.

The Merchant Company of Edinburgh continues to flourish to this day, supporting hundreds of businessmen and women. The organisation’s responsibilities and activities include ownership and governing of George Watson’s College, The Mary Erskine School and Stewart’s Melville College; as well as support and care for the elderly and infirm and the funding of a £5.8 million care home development based in Liberton.

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