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Archives and Special Collections: Student clubs and societies

Guide to resources in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Strathclyde

 

This guide was written by Ryan O'Connor, Masters student in Historical Studies at the University of Strathclyde. It explores a selection of the student clubs and societies at the Royal Technical College (the predecessor of the University of Strathclyde) between 1908 and 1930 as revealed in the student magazine of the period, originally called the ‘Technical College Magazine’ and later renamed ‘The Mask’ (collection reference: OJD/1).

There was a gap in the publication of the magazine between 1914 and 1923, perhaps due to the First World War, but despite this there is a wealth of information to be found within the magazine, giving an insight into the early student societies of the university, their members, and development.

The issues of the magazine consistently include a dedicated section on clubs and societies which outlines each club’s key members and its area of interest. Information such as subscription fees and competition results can also be found.

In reading this source guide it will become clear how diverse the student societies were at the university. The university catered not only for the scientific mind, but students also established a wide range of other clubs such as the Camera and Sketching Club, the Dramatic Club, and the Bakery Students Association.

Andersonian Chemical Society

One of the oldest societies at the University, the Andersonian Chemical Society, was founded in 1886. Its primary function was to advance knowledge within chemical science. The society was open to all students who possessed an interest in the sciences, although it specifically targeted students who studied chemistry, technical chemistry and metallurgy (October 1908, Vol.1, No.1). The initial annual subscription fee was two shillings and six pence. By the end of 1908, the society was flourishing with over 110 members.

In December 1909 'Law X' of the society was changed so that those who had left the university and had paid four annual subscription fees could become life members, with a final payment of five shillings. 1 Guinea was the payment for those who had not paid four annual subscription fees (January 1910, Vol.2, No.4). This is the only mention (up to 1930) of a society offering lifetime membership after specified payments.

The activities of the society covered a wide range of subject areas. In the earlier years the society covered topics such as ionic theory and the identification and estimation of combustible gases (November 1910, Vol.3, No.2). One early subject examined was radiation, with specific mention of Marie Curie (February 1910, Vol.2, No.5). It is interesting that the society was discussing the work of Curie in the field of radiation a year prior to her Nobel Prize award.

After the War the society stayed strong although membership was seen to decrease slightly due to a lack of chemistry students at the university. During the post war period, the subject matter of the society changed slightly, with the society looking specifically at scientific research and study in different countries. For example, there was a paper given on gold metallurgy in South Africa by a Mr. W. Cullen, one of the founders of the society (April 1923, Vol.8, No.1). Other papers included the development of chemistry in Australia (December 1924, Vol.9, No.3). Standard talks and papers were still given though, with other post war topics including Bohr theory and atomic structure (November 1926, Vol.11, No.2). One subject covered by the society post-war was a paper on German chemical factories and their production, which was given by a Mr. D.J. Allan (April 1923, Vol.8, No.1). After 1913, Germany had become dominant in chemical production, especially within pharmaceuticals. It held a market share of 85% in synthetic dyes and also held a monopoly in the production of organic chemicals. Additionally, Germany out-produced Britain by 300,000 tons in sulphuric acid and Britain was reliant on German organic chemicals prior to the war (Murmann, Johann Peter. Chemical industries after 1850. Oxford Encyclopaedia of Economic History, 2002, 5). The study of the German chemical industry was key as Britain now had to find its own way in chemical production and the Andersonian Chemical Society had the foresight to see that British chemical production had to improve, and quickly.

The Andersonian Chemical Society was popular. It is believed it is the longest running student chemical society in Great Britain.

Archives and Special Collections hold a small collection of papers of the Andersonian Chemical Society (reference: OK/5).

Images: Andersonian Chemical Society lecture ticket, 1895, OK/5/4/3; Illustration 'The Chemist'- The Glasgow Technical College Magazine, volume 1 no. 1 October 1908, p34

Civil Engineering Society

The Civil Engineering Society is first mentioned in the student magazines in December 1908 with a report that membership numbers had already surpassed 220 people in only a single year of operation (December 1908, Vol.1, No.3). It is safe to assume the Civil Engineering Society was founded sometime around October 1907 and rapidly became very popular. In 1925 the subscription fee for this society was two shillings and six pence. The society appears to have been one of the most popular at the university with membership figures having surpassed 300 people by December 1909 (December 1909, Vol.2, No.3). With all the information that is available on this society, it appears as though it was one of the strongest societies, both financially and in terms of attendance figures (November 1910, Vol.3, No.2).

As one can imagine, the Civil Engineering Society was primarily focused on public building projects and structural designs. Early discussions included the collapse of the Tay Bridge which resulted in the deaths of at least 60 people (December 1909, Vol.2, No.3). The society was also interested in raw materials that could be used to build structures, with sandstone, limestone and granite all studied in detail. Many of the subjects covered by the society before the War seem to focus on structural reliability, with specific mention of bridges. In addition to discussion of the Tay Bridge, a paper was also read on the composition of bridges and another on the necessity of rust prevention (December 1910, Vol.3, No.3).

Much the same as the Andersonian Chemical Society, the Civil Engineering Society began to focus more of its attention in the post-war years on subjects outwith the UK. More attention was paid specifically to the British Empire, although other areas of the world were also examined. For example, the Society began to study railways and railway locations within East Africa (November 1924, Vol.9, No.2). General engineering observations were also made regarding British West Africa. There was a talk by a Mr R.M. Lawrence on engineering in South America (December 1924, Vol.9, No.3), and Cuban railway engineering was also studied (January 1926, Vol.10, No.4).

Post-war, the Civil Engineering Society also organised fieldtrips. The society took a trip to Shieldhall docks, now better known as the King George V dock. This trip was most likely planned to fit in with the Society’s study on the launching of ships. Another trip was to Oswald Bridge as this was heralded as, “one of the most important engineering works” (November 1925, Vol.10, No.2). Another point of interest was a discussion on Glasgow’s traffic problem (January 1927, Vol.11, No.4), which in 1927 may sound slightly out of place. However, by the 1930s thousands of people were dying every year, with many more injured, due to traffic collisions and so the society may have been ahead of its time with respect to road safety measures and the redesigning of roads.

Archives and Special Collections hold a small collection of papers of the Civil Engineering Society (reference: OK/20).
Image: Illustration, 'The Civil Engineer', The Glasgow Technical College Magazine, volume 1 no, 3 December 1908, p62 

Sporting Clubs

The Athletic Club

Initially, all sports clubs were organised and run by the Athletic Club which was founded in 1909 after the Students Representative Council and the Evening Students Representative Committee voted to amalgamate, creating one body to administer all the students’ sports clubs (March 1909, Vol.1, No.6). It was after the creation of this new body that diverse sports clubs such as football, hockey and rugby were set up. A selection of these sporting clubs are described below.

Football

There is not much mention of the university football team prior to the First World War, however post-war the football team appears to have been the sports club which flourished the most. The great form of the football side was first reported in 1923. Holding a solid position within the amateur league and placing in the semi-finals of the cup, the team appears to have been very successful. During this time, they also defeated the current cup holders, Greenock High School. Only a few months earlier the team had won the Handsome league (April 1923, Vol.8, No.1). The greatest run of form appears to have been in late 1923 when the club went four games unbeaten while playing tough opposition including Mount Vernon and Cambuslang (January 1924, Vol.8, No.5). Although many of the other sports clubs began to decline during the late 20s the football club appears to have stayed strong. By 1926 the club was playing consistently every week with multiple age categories competing. By 1927, the main first team was considered to have the best defence in the league with only two goals conceded in 5 games played (November 1927, Vol.12, No.2). This form only continued and by the beginning of 1928 the team was pushing for promotion from the amateur league and had scored 28 goals in only 6 matches played (March 1928, Vol.12, No.6). Later that year the team would eventually gain promotion from the league.

Hockey

The Hockey Club does not have as much presence within the student magazine as the football club, and appears to have taken a while before it became viable. Upon the formation of the Athletic Club, they could not set up enough fixtures to warrant forming a team (November 1909, Vol.2, No.2). Although the Hockey Club had a slow start, it too began to take form by the mid 1920s with a much improved fixture list and greater quality of players. One out of the ordinary game was played against Greenock. During this game it was reported that a Greenock player suffered a gruesome injury which led to the player having an eye removed (December 1924, Vol.9, No.3).1926 is reported as the best year for the hockey club with a packed fixture list. In addition, many of the fixtures ended with a win for the university showing, just as the football club had done, the player and club progression over a period of a few years. The first ladies hockey team would also be formed in 1928 after the success of the men’s side (October 1928, Vol.13, No.1).

Rugby

Most information about the rugby team is reported in the post-war issues of the student magazine and one interesting fact is that on at least two occasions (in 1923 and 1925) they played a team from Harland and Wolff, the shipbuilding company responsible for the construction of RMS Titanic (December 1924, Vol.9, No.3) (November 1925, Vol.10, No.2). Many may assume that the sports clubs would only play other universities and colleges, but here we see the university playing a side put forward by a ship building company. Like many other clubs, the rugby club began to struggle towards the end of the 1920s with 0 matches won in the space of an entire year. This was partly due to players beginning to play outwith the university and so the quality of remaining players dropped significantly. Unfortunately, the last significant mention of the club was the winless streak the club endured throughout 1926.

Archives and Special Collections hold a small collection of papers of the Athletic Club, later named the Sports Union (reference: OK/34).
Images: Illustration, The Royal Technical College Magazine, volume 2 no. 2 November 1909, p82; Photograph of the RTC Hockey Team 1923-24, The Journal of the Royal Technical College, volume 8 no. 7 March 1924

Smaller Societies

Dialectic Society

Although no foundation date is given for this society, it is first mentioned in the magazine in October 1908. Open to all students, its purpose was to debate literary, philosophical and political subjects, with members usually separated into two opposing groups to argue over the important issues of the time. The original subscription for the society was one shilling which, compared to other societies around at the time, was a fairly modest fee (October 1908, Vol.1, No.1). In addition, the Dialectic Society appears to have been one of the earliest societies which explicitly aimed to unify students not only for academic reasons, but also to increase social activity between students (November 1909, Vol.2, No.2).

The first recorded report given in front of Dialectic Society members appears to have been in October 1908. It discussed the flourishing of the society and had high attendance figures (November 1908, Vol.1, No.2). However, by November 1908, there was already concern for the future of the society with poor turnout at meetings and debates which may explain why no information could be found post 1912 (December 1908, Vol.1, No.3). Some particular points of interest about the society were the subjects broached during their discussions. Although used primarily for social and political debates, the society was also used as a forum to debate areas of improvement within the university itself, with students debating the pros and cons of evening classes, for example that students would become too tired only attending evening classes (January 1910, Vol.2, No.4). Although a society and not a student body or committee, it is interesting that this particular platform was being used to broach university-specific issues. Many other interesting topics were up for debate such as whether the execution of Mary Queen of Scots was justifiable. One debate of particular interest was concerning women’s suffrage in the UK (March 1911, Vol.3, No.6).  The motion that women should be given the vote was defeated by 13 whole votes with only two women actually attending the debate.

The society is notable in that it was an early society in which students could make their voices heard not only on general social issues, but also on academic and university topics. The Dialectic Society does seem to disappear after 1912, although in 1924 a Hecklers Debating Society was formed which bears a striking resemblance to the Dialectic Society (March 1924, Vol.8, No.8).

Bakery Students Association

Founded in 1907 with a subscription fee of two shillings and six pence for over 18s and a fee of one shilling for under 18s, the Bakery Students’ Association’s primary aim was to promote social activity between students of the Scottish School of Bakery (established at the Royal Technical College in 1906) whilst also serving as a platform for students to exchange ideas on particular subjects of interest (October 1909, Vol.2, No.1). It also took numerous trips around Scotland to places of interest such as confectionery manufacturers.

Similarly to the Dialectic Society, the Bakery Students Association does not feature heavily within the student magazine and its existence cannot be traced any further than 1910.

Many of the discussions and areas covered by the society would likely be of interest to modern bakers as one can trace the development of attitudes towards baking and baking techniques. The first stand-out mention of the society sees them taking a trip to Craigmillar Creamery in Midlothian, claimed to be the largest margarine factory in Scotland. Here the society observed the processes behind cream separation and margarine manufacturing (October 1909, Vol.2, No.1). The association also organised very specific lectures for example one in December 1909 concerning the presentation style of confectionery. Here the society criticised the lack of artistic flavour present within confectionery wrappings (January 1909, Vol.2, No.4).

Archives and Special Collections hold a leaflet relating to the Bakery Students Association (reference: OK/28).

Camera and Sketching Club

Even in comparison to other smaller societies, the Camera and Sketching Club is far less prevalent within the early student magazines. Founded later, in 1911, the purpose of the society was to promote the discussion of photography, filming techniques and sketching. The society was open to all at the University while members of the Architectural Craftsmen’s Society were also granted entrance into the Camera and Sketching Club upon payment of an entrance fee of two shillings and six pence (November 1913, Vol.6, No.2). The annual subscription fee for the club began as two shillings exactly (November 1912, Vol.5, No.2).

The Camera and Sketching Club gave talks on the advantages of joining the club, with boons listed including: having a set dark room, use of optical lanterns and the opportunity for summer trips (November 1913, Vol.6, No.2). It also gave talks on topics such as photograph enlargement methods and the processes of removing any irregularities contained within a photograph (December 1912, Vol.5, No.3). Another area of interest for the club was the composition of photographs. Practical demonstrations were also given, one of which was on print toning, and changing pictures from their original black and white (January 1913, Vol.5, No.4).

Images: Illustration 'The Baker', The Royal Technical College Magazine, volume 1 no. 5 February 1909 p121; Illustration, 'A lesson in photography', The Mask, volume 11 no. 4 January 1927

Primary sources

Further information on the clubs and societies may be found in these related collections:

A-Z of clubs and societies (to 1930)

Society First Mentioned
Andersonian Chemical Society Oct 1908
(vol.1, no.1)
Architectural Craftsmen Society Oct 1908
(vol.1, no.1)
Athletic Club Mar 1909
(vol.1, no.6)
Bakery Students Association Oct 1909
(vol.2, no.1)
Botanical Society Nov 1913
(vol.6, no.2)
Boxing Club Dec 1926
(vol.11, no.3)
Camera and Sketching Club Nov 1912
(vol.5, no.2)
Civil Engineering Society Oct 1908
(vol.1, no.1)
College Cricket Club Nov 1912
(vol.5, no.2)
Cycling Club Nov 1909
(vol.2, no.2)
Dialectic Society Oct 1908
(vol.1, no.1)
Dramatic Club Dec 1925
(vol.10, no.3)
Football Club Nov 1909
(vol.2, no.2)
Foreign Students Society Oct 1928
(vol.13, no.1)
Hecklers Debating Society Mar 1924
(vol.8, no.7)
Hockey Club Nov 1909
(vol.2, no.2)
Ladies Hockey Club Nov 1927
(vol.12, no.2)
Metallurgical Club Apr 1923
(vol.8, no.1)
Microscopical Society of Glasgow Nov 1909
(vol.2, no.2)
Misogynist Club Mar 1926
(vol.10, no.6)
Motor Club Feb 1914
(vol.6, no.5)
November Abolition Society Oct 1927
(vol.12, no.1)
Pharmacy Club Jan 1926
(vol.10, no.4)
Rambling Club Mar 1910
(vol.2, no.6)
Rifle Club Nov 1909
(vol.2, no.2)
Rowing Club Nov 1909
(vol.2, no.2)
Scientific Society Oct 1908
(vol.1, no.1)
Swimming Club Nov 1926
(vol.11, no.2)
Textile Society Oct 1912
(vol.5, no.1)

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Acknowledgement

Study guide created by Ryan O'Connor, Masters student in Historical Studies at the University of Strathclyde, 2020-2021.

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