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The Scottish Studies "Oor Club" is held each month at noon at the Duke of York pub in Toronto (steps from the St. George subway station). Guest speakers give presentations on a variety of topics of interest to members of the Scottish Studies Foundation and others interested in the things that Scots in Canada and overseas are getting up to. The presentations usually lasts about an hour (pronounced "oor" in Scots), hence the name. Everyone is invited to attend as the meetings are open to all.

The idea came from Scottish folk singer and artist Enoch Kent who now resides in the Toronto area. The original Oor Club was one where people met in two old tenement houses next door to one another in Duke Street in Glasgow back in the 1700s. The wall between the two tenements was knocked down with one house forming the speakers' room and the other the bar. Notable speakers were invited to speak on a topic on which they had expertise, with a set time limit of no more than one hour. Legend has it that Robert Burns paid a visit to the original club.

The cost to attend Oor Club is $5 which is donated to the Scottish Studies Foundation. Wide selections of pub lunches are available, typically costing between $5 and $15.


19th century Scottish ram's horn snuff mull with silverplated mounts

The next meeting of “Oor Club” will be Friday, February 6th 2015 at 12 noon at the “Duke of York” pub on Prince Arthur Avenue, steps from the St.George Subway when Ross Fox will give a talk entitled "What’s Scottish About Scottish Silver? Expressions of Scottish Identity in Silver."

This presentation explores forms and decoration in Scottish silver of the 17th through 19th centuries that are distinctively and unequivocally Scottish. These include quaichs, thistle cups, snuff mulls, Highland pistols, egg-shaped coffee urns, bullet-form teapots, brooches, and so on. Examples with a long Canadian history and early Scottish silversmiths in Canada (Robert Cruickshank and James Smillie) will also be touched upon.

For more information please contact Pearl Grieve-Nixon, 416-926-7233 or Mary Vigrow, 416-485-4853 (email: mvigrow@rogers.com).

Ross Fox is a decorative arts and material culture specialist who retired from the Royal Ontario Museum where for ten years he was the curator responsible for Early Canadian decorative arts. He was the curatorial interpreter and developer of the decorative arts exhibits in the Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada, which opened in October 2007. Currently he is a Research Associate at the ROM, and an Affiliated Faculty Member in the Department of Fine Art, University of Toronto, where he teaches a course in furniture history.

His career as a museum curator and professor, both in Canada and the United States, is multi-faceted. He started out in the Department of Ancient Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and subsequently worked with Early Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada, Historical Canadian and European Art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and, in Massachusetts, with European Art at the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, and as Director of the Arno Maris Gallery, Westfield State University. He has a Ph.D. in Art History & Archaeology from the University of Missouri.

Fox employs a material culture approach where artifacts serve as documents supplementing textual documents, often filling in gaps where the latter do not exist. It is based on the principle that every artifact encapsulates multi-layered meanings that can be extracted and deciphered, providing otherwise inaccessible information about the people who made and used them. It is a quasi-forensic methodology comparable to that employed by archaeologists. But textual sources are not overlooked, and he also spends a great deal of time probing archival sources.

Fox’s research is focused primarily on furniture and silver and transnational connections in the decorative arts, particularly as reflected in the immigrant experience. Of special interest is the transmission of design influences to Canada from England, Scotland, France and the United States, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, where the material heritage of Anglo-Quebec figures prominently. Two articles with Scottish themes currently under preparation are: “Alexander Johnston (ca. 1715-1780), a Scottish Jacobite Exile in London as Silversmith to British Aristocracy and Colonial American Gentry” and “James Smillie (Smellie) of Edinburgh and Quebec City, Jeweller & Lapidary to His Majesty George IV.” An ongoing book project is a study of the MacNider family, Ayrshire merchants in Lower Canada (Quebec).

The Duke of York is located at 39 Prince Arthur Avenue, just steps from the
St. George subway station (Bedford Road exit) in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Map showing the location of the "Duke of York"