This year has seen one of the best Springs we’ve had in Edinburgh for many years – it arrived early, stayed largely clear and bright, and the blossom has stayed on the trees for longer than I can remember for many a long year. So it was that delegates to the DDRA AGM had a warm sunny day to view the castle from the Royal Overseas League through a haze of pink blossom. (They also got a traffic noise free environment since Princes St is completely dug up for tramline laying but it kinda spoilt the view).
Numbers were down this year – partly due to the economic climate no doubt, and probably partly due to the overseas contingent being much reduced in anticipation of next year’s Le Spit gathering in Paris. However we still managed a healthy enough number.
After the AGM itself we had a talk from Prof. David Bradley, entitled “The Open Sea, with some Charts”, on the history of maritime exploration which included ship design, maps, and navigation as well as some of the personalities involved. He took particular care to mention Richard Chancellor. This was clearly a broad subject which could be studied for a lifetime and time was limited, but Prof. Bradley did extremely well to get through an illuminating session conveying a wealth of information.
After a fine lunch we had what for me was the highlight of the day – “Weaponry and Arms of the 16th Century” by Hugh Robertson, a demonstration of 16th century weapons, swordsmanship and fighting techniques. However this was far from a dry demonstration – rather it was a humorous, engaging, and sometimes knockabout session which educated while being immensely enjoyable. Would that we had had a higher ceiling so that Hugh (dressed as a gentleman) and his assistant (dressed as a soldier) had more freedom to swing their weapons without hindrance. With examples of many different swords, pikes, and pieces of armour on show – which we were able to handle while peppering the two men with questions afterwards – it was an ideal way to get a feel for the sort of warfare which our characters would have been engaged in. My thanks to them both and I do hope we’ll be able to invite them back at some stage.
With fewer delegates we were able to use the round tables for the evening dinner rather than the long lines of tables, which made for a more spacious and convivial experience. No formal speeches this time but the evening was again enlivened by Anne Buchanan’s readings of poems by William Topaz McGonagall.
After considerable thought over many months I had decided to step down from both the chairmanship and the membership administrator role that Iâ€™ve held for some years now, and I did so at the AGM. There are various reasons for this but the primary one is sheer lack of time due to increasingly complex personal, family and business developments. In hindsight I should have relinquished the membership role when I took on the chairmanship and I feel that I have not had anything like enough time to devote to steering the associationâ€™s development. Since time is likely to be in even shorter supply this year I feel that it is right to hand on to someone else. It was an emotional decision and not one taken lightly, as I never like to leave a job unfinished. However as a notorious perfectionist I also can’t face doing a job less than well.
I have also long wanted to redevelop the Dunnett website which, apart from this blog, has had little attention in the last few years. I need to take a step back from organisation for a while but I hope that after a few months break while I concentrate on business Iâ€™ll be able to devote some time to bringing the site, which Iâ€™ve always regarded as Dorothyâ€™s as much as mine, back up to an appropriate level.
I had originally planned to step down completely but with two members retiring and only one joining I have been prevailed upon to remain on the committee for another year as a general member without specific remit other than to offer my experience and knowledge where required. Olive Millward will be taking over the membership administration as soon as we can successfully convert the database. At the short committee meeting following the AGM Simon Hedges was elected chairman and I leave matters in his capable hands. I would say that all the roles in the committee take considerable time and expertise that in most organisations would require professional input. That we have had a series of committee members of the last few years who have sacrificed large parts of their personal lives to the cause says a great deal about their integrity and commitment.