A FRIENDLY society set up by wealthy shipowners in Bo’ness, and still dispersing cash to local causes almost 400 years later, was honoured on Wednesday.
President Jerry Smith received the McLaren Trophy on behalf of the United General Sea Box Society of Borrowstounness at Bo’ness Library.
It is awarded annually by Bo’ness Community Council for outstanding service to the community and was handed over by Isobel, widow of John McLaren after whom it is named.
The late Bo’ness Journal reporter was the community council’s first secretary.
Set up in 1634 as a benevolent society to help the town’s citizens, money was paid into a double-locked box (now displayed at Kinneil Museum) after successful voyages from the town’s harbour.
Said Jerry: “They were very astute in what they did with the money. It was almost like the start of a welfare state.”
With money loaned to the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, he likened it to almost the first bank in Bo’ness.
Recent dispersals include defibrillators to the Richmond Practice and the swimming pool, a wheelchair for the town hall, and money to a counselling service.
While the economic climate is not making it easy to give awards, the society, which holds £250,000, and runs an annual schools’ art competition, is still marching towards its 400 anniversary.
Jerry said: “We are delighted to accept the trophy, really on behalf of the men, the sailors and mariners, who had the foresight to set up the friendly society to help the citizens who got into distress, or got ill, or their own annuitants who fell ill.
“We are only looking after the money and hopefully in the years to come, we will be able to continue the good works for the good causes.”