SQUARE sausages, haggis, humour and an appetite for a good knees up – Sheffield’s Scottish contingency know how to have a good time.
And it is not surprising they are so good at it – they have been doing it for 190 years.
This week, the Sheffield Caledonian Society celebrated its 190th anniversary – as well as St Andrew’s Day today – with a haggis-packed, kilt-clad ball at the Hilton Hotel, Victoria Quays, Sheffield.
Among the guests were the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun John Campbell, and society president Iain McMaster, from Dronfield, originally from Perthshire.
“I came to Sheffield 34 years ago and with the Caledonian Society I think we all gravitated towards each other because we were from the same area,” says Iain.
The society was formed in 1822 after the Sheffield section of the West Riding Caledonian Society grew big enough to form its own club.
The inaugural year was marked by a generous gift to Jean Armour, the widower of Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns.
Ian says: “They presented her with some candlesticks and a damper to put the candles out with.They were both made by Sheffield silversmiths, were delivered to her personally and have remained in the Burns family ever since.”
Even back then, the society was popular.
“A lot of Scottish people came down for jobs, whether in the mining or engineering industry. Quite a lot of doctors moved to this area as well,” says Iain.
The peak of the society’s membership was in the immediate post war period, when there were more than 1,000 members, but numbers have dwindled since. There were 440 members when Iain was president previously, back in 1986.
Now there are about 140 members – many of whom are aged over 55. The Caledonian Society may be based on all things Scottish, but it is inclusive, and keen to bring in younger members.
“We recently had a table tennis event and there were people there from the age of three to 77,” he says. “We are very much inclusive and want to see young folk coming along.”
Member Julie Bevan puts the society’s longevity and popularity down to the camaraderie.
She says: “I joined when I moved down to Sheffield. It was my son’s teacher who told me about the society.
“I’ve made a fair number of friends through it and it brings a sense of community. It’s like anybody else from any other minority group I suppose.”
And there are many quirky Scottish phenomena that Julie – from Norton – shares with her Caledonian Society friends, like square sausages and Scotch pie.
“It’s nice to meet up with people who know about all these different things,” she says. “I suppose there are always idiosyncrasies about where you are from and until you move away you don’t notice them, you take them for granted.”
For Iain, he believes that Scots share the same sense of humour.
“I guess it’s like any region – whether it’s Tyneside or Liverpool – there’s a shared culture but there is a ‘Scottish’’ humour,” he says.
But Iain is happy in Sheffield, after moving down for work.
“I’ve probably done more things that are traditionally Scottish while I’ve been down here than I ever have up there,” he says.
And, clad in a kilt with a social diary full of Caledonian Society activities, he is not kidding.