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Chapter 4: Social Functions

The “FP Dinner” and the “FP Ball” were for well over fifty years known as two of the prime social functions in Aberdeen. On 4th May 1894 the first Club Dinner (although called a “Supper”) took place in the Bon-Accord Hotel “when there was a large attendance of members”. It made a loss of 15s.6d. There were other Dinners over the next dozen years, but since 1907 an Annual Dinner has been held regularly in Aberdeen except in time of war and the current Coronavirus pandemic. The President has almost always been Chairman of the occasion, it being regarded as his main official appearance during his year of office.

The Dinner has usually been held in a hotel, but there have been rare exceptions. On 23rd October 1923 the Dinner was held in the School Hall to celebrate the Sixtieth Anniversary of the opening of the School buildings on the Skene Street site. The occasion also marked the publication of the “Roll of Pupils, 1795-1919”. A remarkable feature of that evening was the calling of the roll of “old boys” by the Rector, Mr. Douglas G. Miller. The old boys in question were seventeen of the pre-1863 pupils who had been invited as guests. As his name was called, each of them rose and answered “Adsum” amid applause from the assembled company.

Another special occasion was the Jubilee Dinner, necessarily held more than three years late on account of World War Two. The principal speaker was the author Eric Linklater (1913-16). The Diamond Jubilee Dinner was held on 23rd October 1953, and in the Chair was the thirty-fifth President of the Club, Dr. W. Douglas Simpson (1901-13), the son of the founder and first President, Mr. Morland Simpson. The Toast to “The School and the Club” was proposed by Lord Provost John Graham.

Ten years later, the Dinner was again held in the School Hall, this time to mark the Centenary of the opening of the School buildings and also to take the last opportunity to hold such a function there before the Hall was converted into a Library and projection rooms as part of the extensions to the School complex then nearing completion. In view of the significance of the occasion, the Club had again elected Dr. Douglas Simpson as President for 1963-64, ten years after his first term of office, and the first occasion when a former President has been invited to serve another term. Dr. Simpson occupied the Chair. For the first time in the history of the Dinner, there were no private guests, such was the demand from members for places. The principal Toast, to “The School and the Club”, was proposed by former Rector Sir James J. Robertson, and such was the tenor of it that the Executive resolved that it should be published in full in the Magazine of December 1963. Ten of the eleven surviving past Presidents were present, and in addition to Sir James, another former Rector, Sir John Mackay Thomson, who briefly followed Morland Simpson from 1920 to 1921, was in the company. As the Magazine report described the event, “It was indeed a ‘gran’ nicht’, an unforgettable occasion, with a representative company covering the years of entry to School from 1889 to 1961. Great pleasure was had by many in seeing School friends whom they hadn’t seen for twenty or thirty years and a benignity, contentment and good humour presided over the whole evening in a manner seldom before seen at an F.P. Dinner.”

The Dinners in 1965 and 1967 were held in the “new” School Hall, and that of 1971 was held in the Beach Ballroom, but on all other occasions the venue has been an Aberdeen hotel until 2007 when, the usual hotel having been sold, a return was made to the School Hall.

The first Club Dance was held in the School Hall in 1895, the second in the following year in the former Palace Hotel, and the third (which surely must have set the pattern for the Balls of future years) was in the grand setting of the “Halls of the Town and County Buildings” in January 1897. Again, reference to the Magazine tells us that the Halls were resplendent with “crimson carpets, dark-green pines, shady nooks, ‘an arbour, veiled discreetly from the vulgar eye’, and with the band embowered in graceful palms and tree-ferns”. The venue from then on was the Music Hall; prior to 1914 the Ballroom and adjoining rooms were used, with numbers necessarily restricted, but from 1923 the whole buildings were hired and the Main Hall was adapted for dancing. Traditionally held at the end of December, it was that grand setting which established the “F.P. Ball” as the leading social event of the Aberdeen Christmas season. Following 1945 the venue changed once or twice, but for forty years the Beach Ballroom was the scene of a thoroughly enjoyable occasion. Declining support and changing trends marked the demise of the Ball in the early ‘90s.

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