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A Century of Tradition

James Irvine Melville


With the election of “Jimmy” Melville to the Presidency at the 1939 AGM, the hegemony of the East of Scotland as the prime source of Presidential material for the Society was again upheld. Our sixteenth President was born in Aberdeen in 1905 and on finishing his schooling at the famous Grammar School there, he served an apprenticeship with the North of Scotland Bank before joining the Royal Bank of Canada. After arrival in Rio de Janeiro in 1927, he was posted to Sao Paulo. The War years were spent in Santos in charge of the Bank's branch in that city and later he returned to São Paulo as Manager, which post he held until his retiral in 1966. Jimmy's departure from the Bank was keenly felt at the time by many members of the Colony, especially widows, for whom his door had always been open without any formality. He was never too busy to see the not so well-off who appreciated with gratitude the valuable advice he gave them in the management of their not always abundant assets.

He shares with “Juta" Smith the distinction of being a three-time President of the Society to which he gave long years of active and enthusiastic service. Just consider - Treasurer in 1933, Committee member in 1936, Secretary for two periods in 1937 and 1938, President in 1939,1940 and again in 1949, and ex-oficio on the Committee again in 194l and 1950.

A wonderful record made even better by the fact that he served on the organising committees for the Banquets in 1945, 1946 and 1947 before the Society got going again after the War.

Much was accomplished during these years. In 1939 under his Presidency, the scope of the School Essay Competition, up till then limited to the works of Sir Walter Scott, was widened to include “any subject having a direct connection with Scottish life, tradition, activity etc” as is stated In the minutes of the day. He had to take the step, not altogether popular in some quarters, to stop the Society's social activities when he was in charge in 1940. In 1949 some much needed changes were made in the Society’s internal regulations and, so that readers will not think Committee meetings when Jimmy was in the chair were dull affairs, it was minuted that the loss incurred on that year's Banquet "had come about because the Committee when estimating costs, had taken rather an optimistic view of the whisky consumption”!

Going further back over the years to when Jimmy was Treasurer in 1933 for another lighter recollection, there is an entertaining minute relating to the organisation of the Hallowe’en party. First, it is recorded that the President "Jock" Belfrage and his Committee on being admonished by “Juta” Smith who reminded them "that the children of today are the men of tomorrow”, decided they had better hold a Hallowe’en Party and among other supplies it was agreed a case of apples would be required for docking. The minute, verbatim, goes on to read "Mr Melville the Treasurer-, undertook to buy the apples in the market and deliver them at the Church Hall on the 29th on his way to Divine Service. This statement was not taken seriously by the Committee”!

Jimmy today lives quietly with his wife between São Paulo and their Itú "sitio" enjoying the company of his son and daughter and their families and is always pleased to see and have a bittie blether with any of the Paulista Scots who like to drop in on him.

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