MES Former Pupils' Guild
The Former Pupils’ Guild Badge and Tercentenary Brooches
Our identity is very important in our lives and is something talked about far more frequently in modern society. Not only do we have our individual identity but often people are known by their group identity. This was surely in the minds of the group of Former Pupils who formed the Guild in 1884.
The Guild badge was the idea of May Stevenson, a committee member, who at a meeting on 20th March 1923 “suggested that it might be possible to get a small silver badge with an appropriate design that could be used by Former Pupils”. The suggestion appealed to the committee and Miss Stevenson was asked to see what could be done about a suitable design. In May a bronze badge, not silver, was submitted in several designs and the committee made their choice.
By June an estimate had been produced by Charles Henshaw undertaking to provide one thousand badges at 1/9d each. The committee sought a commitment from 400 members before ordering the badges; later to ensure that costs were met, badges purchased after 11th March 1924 were sold at 2/6. These badges were sold at Guild events and also when pupils chose to join the Guild on their final day at school. Former Pupils marked not only their identity with each other but their identity to the School and the Merchant Company. The bronze badge is still owned and worn by some Former Pupils today.
The badge is an irregular octagon, has the date 1694, the year the school was founded, broken across the centre and E.L.C. for Edinburgh Ladies College at the top and F.P.G for Former Pupils’ Guild at the bottom. The border of the badge comprises the stock of broom, the emblem of the Merchant Company. [The choice of the stock of broom by The Merchant Company is not known but in the absence of documentary evidence this extract is taken from, The Floral Emblem of The Company of Merchants of Edinburgh: A Provisional Note on the “Stock of Broom, Maurice Berrill 1978; revised 2003, “that by its sturdiness and vigour, its increase in growth, and the generosity of its flowering, the broom is indeed a fitting symbol of the manifold and public-spirited activities of the Company”.] Then two figures, a woman and a man, are in the centre in period dress, it is believed that they symbolise Mary Erskine and a merchant for the Merchant Company. A large amount of research has taken place, including a wide search through archive material and approaches to members of the Guild. The symbolism is yet to be confirmed and other avenues are being followed up. If anyone has any information I would appreciate hearing from you.
Many people have asked if there is a list recording the dates of early membership as badges have a number on the back, sadly no list can be traced. However, it is believed that these early badges were returned when a membership lapsed or when a member died, and that some badges may have been worn by more than one member.
It was hoped in 1954 to reproduce the badge but due to costs and other priorities at the time this did not happen. Then in 1984, the Guild’s Centenary, was marked by the President, Joan Pape, and the Committee with the introduction of a smaller badge, considered more useful. The following change was made to the original badge: MES 1694 was replaced at the top of the badge and FPG 1884 was replaced at the foot, otherwise the badge remained the same. The badge was produced in silver plate by Alex Kirkwood and was sold to members until all supplies were exhausted during this last decade.
In 1994, the year of the School’s Tercentenary, the President Audrey Lawrence and the Committee commissioned a brooch depicting the stock of broom and chose from three designs produced by Clarksons the Jewellers, to be made in silver and gold. These are striking and many Former Pupils wear them, not only to Guild events, but as jewellery on other occasions. The brooches evoke great interest, as does the FP badge, particularly when worn at combined school events and there is an eagerness about their history.
The school itself has given us a form of identity and it is left to us how much is made of this, the badges and the brooch are ways in which this identity has been enhanced.
Christine Collingwood, Guild Archives