On Friday, 11th December, 1942, a group of local ladies and gentlemen met in the Station Hotel, Perth, under the Chairmanship of Lord Mansfield.
This was a meeting of a group known as the Perthshire Fighting French, an Association whose aim was to promote greater friendship between us and our French Allies. The meeting was held to listen to a very significant talk from Captain Tilgé on "Resistance to the occupation in France".
Links with the French Resistance
In its early days, this association was greatly helped by Monsieur Joe Chiari, a native of Corsica and an ardent Gaullist, who was at the time teaching in Perthshire. Shortly afterwards he received a Free French Government appointment, and consequently resigned his position as Secretary and Treasurer of our Association.
The group was fortunate to find a secretary in Miss Elspeth Stirling and a Treasurer in Mr John Edward, the father of Sir David Edward, who is still a member today.
Providing practical help
For several years, the Association continued to work in the interests of France, arranging lectures, flag days, piano recitals, film shows, raising funds and playing a large role in the arrangements for twinning Perth with the French town of St Lô.
Early work on twinning Perth with St Lô
At a meeting in November 1945, a delegation of four from the Association was appointed to visit St Lô, along with representatives from Perth City, at the invitation of the French Ministry of Health. The delegates were General Victor Fortune, Colonel Harris Hunter, Mr Robert Adam, Town Clerk, and Miss Stirling.
On their return from this visit, their spokesman, Colonel Hunter, reported on the courage, sufferings and Indomitable spirit of the people of St Lô, a town which had been devastated by the advancing armies of the Second Front.
Forty-one cases of goods from Perth were sent to France, and many young Perth people began corresponding with their counterparts in St Lô. A Perth city depot was full of goods and a fund of over £300 was collected. Despite all this early work the twinning didn't survive and Perth is now twinned with Cognac.
The Association becomes a part of the Franco-Scottish Society
For some time the question had been discussed of affiliation with the long-established Franco-Scottish Society (1895), and at a meeting in June 1947, it was decided to request affiliation. The request was welcomed and granted, and the Perth Franco-Scottish Association came into existence - the first local centre outside the University towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and St Andrews.
The First Office Bearers
Office-bearers were duly elected: Chairman: Lord Mansfield, Vice-Chairman: Miss Smythe of Methven, Secretary: Miss Elspeth Stirling and Treasurer: Mr John Edward. Subscriptions were agreed at Ten Shillings (50p), Juniors Two Shillings and Sixpence (12.5p). The centre owes much to the interest and enthusiasm of those first office-bearers.
Keeping the friendship alive
Our 40th Anniversary in 2007
The Perth Branch has been always a friendly and close-knit association. Today, the Branch, thanks to a succession of enthusiastic office-bearers, continues in the same friendly spirit.
On behalf of the previous and present office-bearers and in the name of the Society, I would like to thank everyone for their continued support and hard work in promoting the aims of the Society.
Author: Ginette Gervais-MacWilliam, Former-President and Honoured Member