Martin Hannan: I can only speculate about secret society

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Forgive me if I speculate a little about the Speculative Society, the “secret” group which meets at Edinburgh University to discuss – well, whatever they discuss and debate.

The Spec, as it’s known, has been in the news because amazingly, after 250 years of existence, somebody found out that it is an all-male club that meets on university premises. Tsk, tsk, we can’t have that in these politically correct days. Not that anybody from the Spec confirmed the facts of it being all-male with a closed membership. It doesn’t do confirming, does the Spec, as it is apparently a law unto itself.

Law is the operative word, because it appears to be the case that a lot of lawyers populate the Spec. I don’t actually know if that is true or not, but I’m told it is a fact that judges, advocates and solicitors form an important part of the membership.

If you search the internet you will find an alleged list of members, none of whom, it is claimed, has ever formally denied being a member. You will also get the usual conspiracy theories that they are all masons involved in skulduggery and cover-ups – one wonders how the chaps ever get any business done, so involved are they in purported clandestine activities.

A lot of utter nonsense has been written about The Spec, including the claim that it is the oldest debating society in the world – it is not, as that honour probably belongs to the Society of Cogers in London (founded 1755) though the “Phil”, the university philosophical society of Trinity College, Dublin, was founded in 1683 and can lay claim to being the oldest such club. We are also told that the Spec is a booze-ridden den of misogyny, but again, that’s pure speculation. The fact is, we know very little about the Spec except its origins in 1764 as a glorified talking shop and writers’ group, which played a minor role in the Scottish Enlightenment as it allowed students and alumni of Edinburgh University to hone their oratorical and literary skills. Sir Walter Scott was a member, and indeed he campaigned to allow politics to be debated by the Spec.

I don’t know if old Wattie won, but I suspect he didn’t as politics is apparently still beneath contempt for a lot of Spec members. Robert Louis Stevenson, left, was also a member, as was Sir Nicholas Fairbairn. We can say that definitely about Nicky, because he’s dead and can’t sue – not that proclaiming membership of the Spec should be considered defamatory, just in case some legal eagles think I’m suggesting it.

My speculation about the Spec is that it is an all-male club which enjoys good food and banter, and if they are conspirators and masons, they’re not very good at it because all it took to get their relationship with the university reviewed was a moan from the students union.

Like all secret and closed societies, however, they should not be meeting in buildings subsidised by public money. I admit I am intrigued and would like to know more about the Spec, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for an invitation.

NHS silence is cold comfort

Having written about cold viruses last week, I was amazed at the response from people I know, and from complete strangers.

It is maybe an indication of our fear of the state these days, but a lot of people were convinced that we are not being told the correct information about these nasty variations of the common cold which are taking weeks and weeks to go away.

Perhaps the NHS is keeping quiet in the hope that we will not notice the sheer determination of these latest viruses, but it looks that way.

Is something going on? Are there new strains of virus out there that will lay us low for weeks on end, as I have been?

I think we should be told.

City will miss its derbies as Hearts go down fighting

They may be going down, but not without a fight. Hearts’ case is hopeless and relegation is a certainty but at least the axe did not fall at Hibs’ hands at the weekend.

The city will miss their derbies next season, and with Rangers around, the Jambos may not get back up straight away. But let’s hope they’re not down too long.

BioQuarter a boost for city

Recently I moved away from the house in Upper Craigour where I had lived for 20-odd years. It was a wrench, because as a regular attender at the Royal Infirmary, I will miss being able to hop out the door and be in the hospital in less than five minutes.

I won’t miss a lot else, but I will miss the sense of dynamism that surrounds the Royal Infirmary and the adjacent Edinburgh BioQuarter. I have watched it grow and am happy to predict that this area will prove to be a real driver for the economy for years.