The Buchanan Society is the oldest Scottish Clan Society in the world and is purely a charitable body. Its formation in Glasgow, Scotland on 5th March 1725 followed the publication by William Buchanan of Auchmar of his essay “The History of the Ancient Surname Buchanan” and Auchmar himself joined in 1726. The essay deals specifically with four “approved” Septs of the Clan: Buchanan, McAuslan, McWattie and Risk, and both the Royal Charter of the Society and its Constitution restrict membership to those Septs only.
The Founders were a small number of successful businessmen who were concerned that some clan members coming to the city of Glasgow at the beginning of the eighteenth century, during the early days of the industrial revolution, were suffering great hardship.
The Objects of the Founders, which still hold good, were to provide support for the poor of the Clan, who may be, but do not need to be, members of the Society, and to assist their young in schooling, apprenticeship and, for those “of promising genius”, at University or otherwise. Pensions, educational and hardship grants are still awarded.
Records of the Society’s activities and members are maintained and it is possible to trace some families from current members right back to the origin of the Society in 1725. These records provide a store of information about the forbears of many Buchanans now scattered throughout the world. On joining, each member receives a handbook giving much information about the Society and a full list of members joining in each year between 1725 and 2004. The total membership since foundation now exceeds 2000.
The affairs of the Society are entrusted to a Preses (an old Scots word meaning Chairman), who is elected annually, and eight Directors, who each hold office for four years (2 retiring in rotation each year). In addition, a Secretary and a Treasurer manage the day-to-day activities of the Society. The Directors keep in touch with and visit beneficiaries. The Annual General Meeting is normally held in early summer and members and guests meet for an annual dinner at which members from all parts of the world have a chance to meet and also to hear an interesting guest speaker.
With astute management of the Membership Fees and Legacies received the funds of the Society have increased steadily. In 1728 they amounted to £75 and in 1750 the amount distributed to beneficiaries was £1.13. By 1825 distributions rose to £502 and in 1997 distributions had risen to £32,385.
Additional information about the activities of the Society can be gleaned from the original Minute Books, which are held in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow along with other publications relating to the clan and society. The 18th century carved wooden Treasurer’s Box is now on display in the Peoples’ Palace Museum in Glasgow.
The Society owns a number of historic portraits and photographs of eminent Buchanans. An extensive library of books relating to the Clan and Society is held by the University of Strathclyde in the Andersonian Library in Glasgow.