First meeting of the Association in 2019 took place on Friday 18th January. The guest speaker was Rd. John Ferguson-Smith, who holds the ancient title of ‘Hospitaller’ of St. John Scotland.
John outlined its origins from the 11th Century Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem whose administrators formed a religious order. They later took on military duties becoming known as the Knights Hospitallers. The Order now known as the Order of Malta still exists.
The Order acquired property throughout Western Europe, the first in Scotland being at Torphicen during the reign of David I (1124-1153). The Order, being Roman Catholic, ceased to function following the reformation, but was revived in the early 19th Century as a separate organisation named ‘The Order of St. John’. In 1877 the Order founded the St. John Ambulance Association, as a uniformed body of trained volunteers who would able to provide first aid training for the public. In 1882 as a further provision of help for those in distress, the Order opened an eye hospital in Jerusalem.
In 1888 Queen Victoria made the Order a Royal Order of Chivalry with the Monarch as its Sovereign Head.
In 1947, this chivalric order re-emerged as St John Scotland, a Scottish charity dedicated to saving and enhancing life. Headquartered in Edinburgh the charity runs many projects including supporting Scottish Mountain Rescue teams, Mountain safety Instructors, Patient Transport Schemes and public defibrillator programs. Currently the St John Scotland aims to train 500,000 people in by-stander CPR skills. Unlike its sister organisation in England, St. John Scotland does not offer ambulance or first aid services.
John gave a fascinating look at an organisation of whom little was known but which is carrying out important charity work throughout Scotland.