The Scottish Primula & Auricula Society

1887 - 1892

The old Scottish Society

Before we began to process the necessary work to start The Scottish Auricula and Primula Society we searched online and at libraries, etc. to see if there had been such a society before.  Here, we must thank Val Woolley for pointing us in the right direction, and also for sending us our first evidence of such, held at the Dundee Library. This evidence was found in The Lamb Collection (documents, etc. relating to Dundee) which had been donated in 1901, by Edward Cox of Glendoick rhododendron fame. This was when we discovered a good few articles relating to Scottish growers and a previous Scottish Primula and Auricula Society. 

The beginning 1887

It all started Saturday 14th February 1887. There was a meeting of those interested in growing Auriculas at No 5 Andrew Square, Edinburgh to consider the possibility of starting a primula and auricula society with exhibitions in Edinburgh. Mr. Robert Cathcart, Pitcairly, Fife, occupied the chair. The chairman mentioned that he had received all sorts of promises for the exhibition if such a society was started. After some discussion it was agreed to start a society and call it The Scottish Primula and Auricula Society.                                                              (Edinburgh Evening News Feb 14th 1887)           

All present at this meeting were auricula growers. They spoke on behalf of many other interested parties and it is thought that they had contacts with the Horticultural Trades’ members.

1st Exhibition 1887 

The first Society show (Exhibition, as it was then called) was held in the Calton Convening Rooms, Edinburgh, on the 4th May 1887. It was well attended and interest was shown by the general public. It was opened by Professor Dickson. With exhibits from:-

Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. Mr. Calder, sculptor, Bellevue, Edinburgh. Mr. Cathcart, Pitcairlie. (President). Mr. Straton, Broughty Ferry. (Secretary)       Mr. Chas. Turner, Slough. Messrs. James Dickson & Sons, Edinburgh. Mr. John Forbes,Hawick.Mr. J. T. E. Hay,Newcastle. Mr. Wm, Kilgour, Blair Drummond. Mr. Thomson, Beechhill. Messrs. Wadington & Fotheringham, Trinity.                 Mr. Henderson, Clermiston.

(The Gardeners’ Chronicle May 7th 1887)


1st AGM 1887       no information has been found yet!


2nd & 3rd shows 

The following two Exhibitions, in 1888 and 1889, were also held in Edinburgh. The 2nd Exhibition was of particular note as it attracted two of the most distinguished growers in the UK: The Reverend F. D. Horner and Ben Simonite, both well-known at English Shows. Together, they tabled a number of their promising seedlings, which also showed aspiring competitors how it should be done!

2nd Exhibition 1888

The second show of the society was held in the Calton Convening Rooms, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, on the 9th May 1888. With exhibits from:- Mr. J. D. Kerr, Douglasfield, Dundee.     Rev. F. D. Horner (showed table of seedlings) Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. W. B. Royil, Esq. Faldoside, Melrose.     Messrs. Laird & Sons     Mr. Cathcart, Pitcarlie (President)     Mr. Straton, Annfield, Broughty Ferry (Secretary). Messrs. James Dickson & Sons, Edinburgh     W. H. White, Newcastle     James Black, East Calder      E. Adams, Swalwell     W. Marshall, Ayr. W. Kilgour, Doune     A. R. Henderson, Clermiston     A. Scott, Forgan     W. Bairnsfather, Leek     Mr. Ben Simonite (showed promising seedlings)

(Dundee Courier & Argus May 10th 1888 & The Gardeners’ Chronicle May 12th 1888) 

With each subsequent Exhibition the numbers of exhibitors rose, as did the number of interested visitors, many of whom carried with them notebook and pen! 

2nd AGM 1888

 The second annual general meeting of the society was held on the 6th December 1888 in the Bible Society Rooms, St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh, Mr. Dunn, Dalkeith, Palace Gardens, Edinburgh presiding. The secretary’s report stated that the last show was a success. Mr. Alexander Milne, Hanover Street, moved to adoption of the report. Mr. Sutherland, Murrayfield, seconded. The report was adopted. The treasurer’s report showed a balance in favour of the society of £10 1s 6d. This report was also adopted.

A short discussion was initiated by the secretary as to the desirability of having the show more confined to Scotland. It was pointed out by the secretary that the prize money taken by England was very much greater than was the case by Scotland. The meeting agreed to remit the matter to the council to consider the question fully, with a view to arranging that certain prizes should be confined to Scottish growers.

A vote of thanks was awarded to the secretary. The office-bearers were all re-elected. It was agreed to hold the next show in Edinburgh on the 9th May 1889.

(Edinburgh Evening News Dec 6th 1888)

3rd Exhibition 1889

The third show of the society was held in the Calton Convening Rooms, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, on the 8th May 1889. With exhibits from:- Mr. James Black, East Calder. W. Kilgour, Doune. Mr. Storrie, Lenzie. Mr. John Menzies, Duns. Mr. W. Henderson, Clermiston. Mr. A. R. Henderson, Bo’ness. Mr. Fortheringham, Gairney House, Trinity     Messrs. Laird & Sons, Edinburgh. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. Messrs. Dicksons & Co.. Mr. Jas. Gordon, Comely Park Nursery, Falkirk. Mr. Straton, Broughty Ferry, Dundee     Mr. Kerr, Douglasfield, Dundee     (The Gardeners’ Chronicle May 11th 1889)

 3rd AGM 1889 

The annual general meeting of the society was held on the 5th December 1889 in 5 St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh. Mr  A. Milne (James Dickson & Sons, Edinburgh) in the chair. Mr. Wm. Straton, Annfield, Broughty Ferry, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer, read the annual reports of the society for the year. Mr. Robert Lindsay, Curator Royal Botanic Garden, moved and Mr. Grieve, Pilrig Nursery, Edinburgh, seconded the adoption of the reports, which were unanimously regarded as satisfactory, and adopted. A letter was read from Mr. Cathcart, Pitcairlie, President of the society, suggesting that next year’s show might be held in Dundee. The proposal appeared to find general favour in the meeting, but before deciding finally, it was decided to take the opinion of members generally on the matter. The office-bearers were re-elected. Mr. Straton was accorded a vote of thanks for his services on behalf of the society.     (The Gardeners’ Chronicle Dec 14th 1889)

The 4th Exhibition (1890) was moved to the City Assembly Rooms in Dundee and was deemed a success! The 5th and 6th Exhibitions (1891 and 1892) were also held at this venue in Dundee and enjoyed increasing popularity.

4th Exhibition 1890

The fourth exhibition of the Scottish Primula and Auricula Society was held on 8th May 1890 in the City Assembly Rooms, Dundee, on the 9th May 1890. The formal opening of the exhibition took place at one o’clock, in the presence of a good attendance of ladies and gentlemen, amongst those being Lord Provost and Mrs. Hunter, Colonel Grant, Kinloch of Logie; ex-Provost Moncur, the Rev. J. M. Campbell and Mrs Campbell; the Rev. R. Spenser Ritchie, Mains; Mr. Alexander Hutton, Royal Bank; Mr. John J. Henderson, Downiemount; Mr. H. A. Pattu, solicitor; Mr. Thomas Buick, solicitor; Mr. G. B. Simpson, Broughty Ferry; Mr. D. P. Scott, Mr. David Warden, Cowiehill, Forfar, &c. Mr. Wm. Straton, the Hon. Secretary and Treasurer, introduced. Mr. Robert Cathcart, Pitcairlie, President of the society opened the show and congratulated the members of the society on the display. The three previous shows in connection with the society were held in Edinburgh, and he thought he might say that the show which they had today, which was principally an auricula show, was at least quite equal to any of its predecessors.

The Judges were Mr. John Morris, Dundee, and Mr. F. Pohlman, Halifax.  

With exhibits from:- Mr. Wm. Straton, Annfield, Broughty Ferry. (Hon. Secretary & Treasurer)     Mr. Moir, gardener to Miss Cox, Clement Park, Lochee. Mr. Machar, gardener to Mr. Robt. Mudie. Corona, Broughty Ferry. Messrs. Laird & Sinclair     Messrs. D. & W. Croll. Messrs. Storrie & Storrie, Lenzie. William Kilgour, Blair Drummond. Mr. J. D. Kerr. Douglasfield, Dundee. James Black, East Calder. John Menzies, Duns. Wm. Storrie, Lenzie      Andrew Scott, Forgan     Wm. Galloway, Gagie     Oliver Straton, Broughty Ferry. Mr. Cowan, Penicuik     Mr. John Morris, Mains     Wm. Thorburn, Penicuick.

(Dundee Courier & Argus May 9th 1890 & Annual General Meeting pamphlet 4th December 1890)






4th AGM1890

The annual general meeting of the society was held on the 4th December 1890 in 5 St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh. Mr. James Grieve, Pilrig Nurseries, presided. Mr. William Straton, Dundee, Secretary  & Treasurer, submitted the reports for the year. The show which was held in Dundee this year was a successful one. The total income of the society for the year amounted to £41 16s 9d and expenditure £32 9s 11d showing a credit balance of £14 6s 10d, as against a balance of £9 3s last year. Both reports were adopted.

(The Gardeners’ Chronicle Dec 13th 1890)

5th Exhibition 1891

The fifth exhibition of the Scottish Primula and Auricula Society was held in the City Assembly Rooms, Dundee on Friday 8th & Saturday 9th May 1891. The opening ceremony which took place at one o’clock, was performed by Lord Provost Mathewson. Mr. Straton, the secretary, said he had received a telegram from Mr. R. Cathcart of Pitcairlie, the President of the society, stating that through severe illness he was detained in the south, and was unable to be present that day. In his absence, he asked the Lord Provost Mathewson to open the exhibition.

In opening the fifth show of the Scottish Primula & Auricula society he said that it might not be amiss to allude to its origin. Five years ago a number of auricula growers resolved to supply the felt want in Scotland of an annual show of their favourite flowers. While England had several shows, Scotland had none. The proposal, started in Dundee, met with great success, and the new society was joined by most of the growers and lovers of the flower in Scotland. The first three shows were held in Edinburgh, and last year’s show in Dundee was so well patronized that it was agreed to have it again in the city. Mr. Edward Adams, of Newcastle, acted as judge. It would interest many to know that forty years ago auriculas were shown at the spring show then held. At that time there were six well known collections in town.

With exhibits from:-

Messrs. J. Morris, Dundee. Mr. J. D. Kerr, Douglasfield, Dundee. G. B. Simpson, Broughty Ferry. Mr. Wm. Straton, Annfield, Broughty Ferry (Hon. Secretary & Treasurer). William Kilgour, Blair Drummond. Messrs. Cocker & Sons, Aberdeen. Messrs. D. & W. Croll, nurserymen, Dundee. Messrs. Storrie & Storrie, Dundee. Mr. James Johnstone, Ashludie Gardens, Monifieth. Messrs. Barr & Sons. Mr. Thomas Ware. Mrs. Robertson, Invercarse. Mr. Moir, gardener to Miss Cox, Clement Park, Lochee. Messrs. Laird & Sinclair, nurserymen, Dundee. Mr. Andrew Laing, Pitcairlie. Wm., Galloway, Gagie. John Menzies, Duns. Andrew Scott, Forgan. Oliver Straton, Broughty Ferry. The exhibition was visited by large numbers during the day, and the fine quality of many of the plants was greatly admired.

(Dundee Courier & Argus May 9th 1891)








(The S.P.A.S. 6th Exhibition, 6th & 7th May 1892 Annual General Meeting pamphlet 12th December 1891)



5th AGM 1891 

The annual general meeting of the society was held on the 12th December 1891. Mr. William Straton, Dundee, Secretary & Treasurer, submitted the reports for the year. The show which was held in Dundee this year was a successful one. The committee tender the thanks of the society to the following firms for the excellent exhibits in this year’s show:- James Cocker & Sons, Aberdeen; D. & W. Croll, Dundee; Storrie & Storrie, Dundee; Laird & Sinclair, Dundee; Thos. Ware, Tottenham, London; P. Barr & Sons, King St, Covent Garden, London. The total income of the society for the year amounted to £24 13s 3d and expenditure £28 4s 8d, which showed a credit balance of £10 15s 5d, as against a balance of £14 6s 10d last year.

 List of subscribers for 1891 - Bell. Q., Glasgow. Black, James, East Calder. Carson, D. S., Kilmalcolm. Cathcart, Robert, Pitcairlie. Croll, D. & W., Dundee. Dunn, M., Dalkeith. Farquharson, Thos., West Ferry. Forbes, John, Hawick. Fraser, Rev. James, Colvard. .Galloway, Wm., Wellbank, by Dundee. Gaskoin, Mrs Herman, Clophill Burns, Bedfordshire. Girvin, J. Graham, Kilmacolm. Grieve, Jas., Edinburgh. Henderson, Wm., Balbirnie. Johnstone, James, Ashludie, Monifieth. Ker, J. D., Douglasfield, Dundee. Kilgour, Wm., Blair Drummond. Laing, Aw., Gardens Pitcairlie. Lawson, J. B., Carnoustie. Lightbody, Wm., Fairlie Park, Partick, Glasgow. Low. D., Claverhouse, Dundee. Mathewson, Lord Provost, Dundee. Melville, David, Hazleton Walls, Cupar, Fife. Menzies, John, Duns. Menzies, D., Gala House Gardens, Galashiels. Morris. J., Ivy Cottage, Dundee. Moxon, Chas., Edinburgh. MacDougal, Mrs. Col., Morningside, Edinburgh. MacMillan, Neil, Glasgow. Pohlman, Halifax. Simpson, G. B., Broughty Ferry. Scott, Andrew, Forgan. Shaw, Wm., Bamff Gardens, Alyth. Storrie, Wm., Lenzie. Stuart, Dr. Chas., Chirnside. Straton, Wm., Broughty Ferry. The Patroness Her Grace the Dowager Duchess of Athol, (per Mr. Fairgrieve). Tulloch, Harry, Dundee. Turner, H., Slough, London.

6th Exhibition 1892

The sixth exhibition of the Scottish Primula and Auricula Society was held in the City Assembly Rooms, Dundee on Friday 6th & Saturday 7th May 1892. The opening ceremony was performed Mr. W. O. Dalgleish, Errol Park, in the presence of a fair company of ladies and gentlemen, including Lord Provost Mathewson, Mr. R. Cathcart (President), Colonel Rankin, ex-Bailie John Robertson, Captain Yule, Mr.  D. P. Scott, Mr. William Straton (Secretary), Mr. Storrie, Mr W. P. Laird, Mr James Laird, Mr. R. B. Laird, Mr. Fairgrieve (as representing the Dowager Duchess of Athol, patroness of the society). Mr. R. Murdoch, Mr. H. Tulloch, Mr. Alex Johnston, Mr R. B. Ritchie etc. Mr. Ben Simonite, Sheffield (acting as judge) and Rev F. D. Horner of Lawfield, Burton-in-Lonsdale, two of the most distinguished growers in the kingdom, were also present. They brought with them ten seedlings (one of which was Chloë) which were previously unseen in Scotland.

 With exhibits from:- Mr. Ben Simonite, Sheffield. Rev F. D. Horner of Lawfield, Burton-in-Lonsdale. Mr. J. D. Kerr, Douglasfield, Dundee. Mr. Andrew Laing, Pitcairlie. William Kilgour, Blair Drummond. John Menzies, Duns. Wm. Straton, Broughty Ferry (Secretary & Treasurer). Oliver Straton, Broughty Ferry. General exhibits from gardens of:- Mr. Ryder, Manchester. Stiven, Rosemount. Messrs. Storrie & Storrie, Dundee. Mrs. Robertson, Invercarse. Mr. James Johnston, Ashludie Gardens, Monifieth. Messrs. D. & W. Croll, nurserymen, Dundee. Messrs. W. P. Laird & Sinclair, nurserymen, Dundee

(Dundee Courier & Argus May 7th 1892)

Although the auriculas (mainly the green edges, white edges and selfs; alpines beginning to show) took centre stage at these shows, many other spring flowering plants were put on display: many types of alpine and border Primulas, calceolarias, Narcissi and other bulbs, lilies, orchids, hydrangeas, rhododendron, ferns, palms, dracaenas, Boronia, pansies, pelargonium and geranium. All these would have made a colourful display throughout the venue, many being provided by the local nurseries of the day, as well as some from England!

Classes were also arranged for polyanthus (especially the gold laced varieties) and other Primula spp. as well as cut Narcissus, pansies and Rhododendrons.

Auriculas had been shown in Dundee from at least forty years earlier, at the early Spring Flower Show.

Even before this time there were a good many auricula growers in Scotland, in particular those of Paisley. Indeed, many towns and villages throughout the UK at that time had their own little ‘Florist Flower’ societies. They would hold their ‘Florists’ Feasts’ in a local public house. After the important work was done, namely whose was the best Florist Flower, they would then get down to the serious stuff of eating and drinking, while, at the same time, dissecting the result! ‘Florist’s Flowers’ included the likes of tulips, pinks and chrysanthemum, amongst others, as well as the auricula. 

Unfortunately we could find no mention of this Society after the Exhibition of 1892, although an Exhibition was mooted for 1893. However, we could find no articles to confirm that this took place.

We are continuing to find articles of Scottish groups and growers but would be very keen to learn if anyone else could provide more information about this society.



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