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Anonymous history in your area
AA Got Started in Scotland
Day At A Time Into The 1950s -- the Loners make contact...
Anonymous came to Scotland about the same time that it arrived
in England, though reports on the earliest meetings sometimes
conflict. The man who played the biggest part in getting
meetings established was Philip D, [Sir Philip D.] whom
New York registered as a loner in Campbeltown in 1948.
February that year, New York wrote to the London members
about him, describing 'an alcoholic who stopped drinking
some four years ago on spiritual principles, but on his
own and before he heard of AA.' Philip, a titled Scottish
gentleman farmer, had gone to a World Christian Association
conference in the USA, where a group of businessmen were
trying to bring God into industry by setting up breakfast
clubs for prayer. Philip thought that maybe doing good work
like that would help him stay off drink. 'At the very first
session he met an old time Philadelphia AA, George R, who
gave him AA right off the spiritual main line.' wrote Bill
W in AA Comes of Age. The head of one of Scotland's most
ancient clans sobered up on the spot. 'In March, Philip
visited London and contacted general secretary, Lottie.
month later, she was referring enquiries to him, and Philip
began what was to be a series of 12-step visits to hospitals
and prisons criss-crossing Scotland. 'My difficulties are
several,' he wrote to her that same month. 'I am actively
engaged in farming and what with lambing and seeding I have
been up to the eyes.
next problem is that I live in the most out of the way spot
imaginable ... a very small size fishing town and the fishermen
are a comparatively sober lot so not much scope locally.
It is obvious to get AA going in Scotland I shall have to
collect one or two in either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Possibly
out of the letters you say you have which please send on,
I may be able to make a start.'
paid Forbes C to go round Scotland telling interested parties
about AA. It wasn't easy. 'You know as well as I do that
the Scottish alcoholics are pretty tough cases,' wrote Lottie
in September 1948.
to this letter, Forbes 'was asked by Marty M. (the visiting
alcoholism expert from the USA who was also an AA member)
and Philip to go off ... to see if a real group could not
be started. Forbes succeeded and there is one group in Perth
and another one will be in Edinburgh and Glasgow.' The first
Edinburgh meeting was held in Mackie's Restaurant, Princes
had made contact with Jack McK of Glasgow, who had been
a patient at Gilgal Hospital in Perth. And in the spring
of 1949, other patients in the same hospital became interested.
In February that year a meeting was held in the Waverley
Hotel, Perth. Five people attended.
in Glasgow, Philip and Jack McK had contacted Jimmy R, a
patient of Crichton Royal, Dumfries, and an alcoholic named
Charlie B. In March 1949, there was a public meeting held
in the St Enoch's Hotel, Glasgow with 54 people present.
Fourteen expressed some interest but only four showed up
at the second meeting - Philip, Jimmy R, Jack McK and John
R. Philip paid the expenses for the first three or four
sessions and they decided to hold regular meetings every
was not encouraging. But a visit from Gordon M, an American,
persuaded them to register as a group with the New York
office. Thus in May 1949 both Edinburgh First and Glasgow
Central became part of the official record.
November 1949 a letter from Jimmy F reported that the Edinburgh
group was flourishing. There was 'a stable nucleus' by the
end of the year and a Dr Clark in charge of a ward in Edinburgh
Hospital was referring patients to the Fellowship.
Glasgow members were also active in contacting doctors.
Consultant Psychiatrist A. Balfour Sclare recalled: 'To
the best of my recollection Alcoholics Anonymous first made
its impact upon psychiatrists ... in the Glasgow area when
a member of this Fellowship gave an address on its modus
operandi at the Lansdowne Clinic in 1949.'
continued to do his best from his Scottish farm. One of
the prospects he interested was a John MD, an inmate of
Greenock Prison. He sent Forbes to talk to the governor
and later wrote himself in August 1949: 'If you feel it
would be any use either I or one of the Glasgow members
would be only too willing to come to Greenock and have a
few talks with him about the movement ... I am perfectly
willing to have a try with him provided he, himself, will
honestly make up his mind to chuck alcohol for good, otherwise
it is just a waste of time talking to him.'