The PSNS Story – The Personalities

Among well-known members were landowners such as The Duke of Atholl and Lord Mansfield,  and businessmen such as Mr AK Bell and Sir Francis Norie Miller.  The Honorary Members included scientists such as the geologist , Prof James Geikie, and Dr James Croll who developed theories on climate change.  John Everet Millais, the Victorian pre-Raphaelite artist and his wife Euphemia (Effie Gray of Bowerswell) were members and their son, John Guille Millais was elected a corresponding member in 1917. JG Millais was an accomplished wildlife artist who published several beautifully illustrated books. Corresponding Members included the mathematician and zoologist Professor D’Arcy Thompson and Professor Patrick Geddes, the pioneering town planner who had been a Society member since his teenage years. 

Charles McIntosh 1839-1922 and Beatrix PotterThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Picture-23.png

Known as the “Perthshire naturalist”, Charles McIntosh was born in Inver near Dunkeld. His father was a handloom weaver and well-known fiddle player.

Charles started his working life at Inver Sawmill where, at the age of eighteen, he lost the fingers and thumb of his left hand in an accident. He then became a rural postman with a sixteen mile daily round which he walked six days a week for the next 32 years. During these long walks he developed a great knowledge of the natural world.

In 1872 he met Dr Buchanan White who proposed him as an Associate Member of the PSNS. Dr White suggested topics that Charles might study and asked him to collect specimens for the Society. Through this contact Charles flourished and became an expert on mosses and fungi. Charles discovered 13 species of fungi new to Britain and 4 which were new to science.

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Beatrix Potter’s family spent many summers in Dunkeld and in 1892, aged 26; Beatrix asked to meet Charles McIntosh to discuss fungi. They became friends and exchanged specimens and drawings when Beatrix returned to London. Beatrix’s ambitions to formally study fungi gradually evaporated as she realised that the scientific world was dominated by men. She refocused her interests on producing illustrated books for children. It is just possible that Charles McIntosh had become the unsuspecting model for Mr McGregor in the Peter Rabbit story.

Miss Rhoda Fothergill BEM 1929 -2019

Perhaps the longest serving PSNS member – ever – Rhoda Fothergill became Secretary of the Society in 1968 and remained so for 47 years. Rhoda studied in Edinburgh, St Andrews and Dundee, but lived most of her life in Perth.  She taught in Caledonian Road School, and before that in Kinnoull School. Her interests covered all the activities of the Society but she was a tireless researcher into the archaeology and history of Perth and its people.  In her schoolteaching days she often recruited her pupils into her studies.  A project on The Vennels of Perth led to an art project to decorate one of the vennels with information on the crafts and trades of the burgh.  Many of her booklets, for example on the Charterhouse, began as class projects.  She was a prolific writer of papers and booklets.  Some found their way into the Society’s Journal, and some are now being re-published on the PSNS web site.  She was a tireless supporter of the Society’s School Essay competitions. 

One of many of Rhoda Fothergill’s publication on the local history of Perth

She was a popular lecturer on Old Perth, on the Greyfriars Burial Ground, and on some of the notable characters of the 19th-century burgh.  Her lectures were often given under the auspices of Perth College.  She also led guided walks, around Greyfriars and various parts of Perth, often connected with the Civic Trust.  

Her contribution was recognised not only locally but also nationally.  For several years she served on the Ancient Monuments Board, and in 2014 she received the British Empire Medal for her contribution to the history and preservation of Perth and Perthshire. 

PSNS People 150 Years