The Story behind the Robert Louis Stevenson Club
The Robert Louis Stevenson Club was formed in 1920 by those who knew Stevenson personally and wanted to see his memory and literary worth properly recognised.
The RLS Club’s main objective therefore remains – “to foster interest in Stevenson’s life and works”, and it is achieved through a variety of approaches from organising lectures, visits, public relations, writing and broadcasting, literary competitions, and formal and informal events.
One of the highlights of the year is our Annual Luncheon, inaugurated 90 years ago, and now held in the historic New Club on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. Some of the leading literary and public figures of their day – like Walter de la Mare, John Buchan, J. B. Priestley and Ludovic Kennedy – have addressed us over the years.
We are a lively club which has followed the far-travelled Stevenson’s trail all over the world from Samoa to California, and from France to the tiny islet of Erraid (featured in Kidnapped) off the Isle of Mull. Our membership is also world-wide and encompasses not only true Stevensonians but also enthusiastic newcomers to RLS. We take pride in our friendly, welcoming and helpful approach to those who show an interest in RLS.
From 1925 to 1964, the RLS Club maintained the first Edinburgh RLS Museum at his birthplace in 8 Howard Place. The Club’s collection of RLS memorabilia was transferred for safekeeping to the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum in the Lawnmarket, where a number of our Members act as volunteers to greet the many visitors and answer their Stevenson questions.
One of the RLS Club’s most significant initiatives, launched on the centenary of A Child’s Garden of Verses, was an international appeal to raise funds to create a suitable memorial to RLS in West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. It was designed by the Scottish artist-poet Ian Hamilton Finlay in the form of a coppice of birch trees round a simple stone column. Four years after the appeal, the memorial was inaugurated in 1989.
A ‘living memorial’ has also been established in the form of the RLS Memorial Trust to help children with respiratory diseases and many thousands of pounds have been donated to equip hospitals with specialist equipment. Fund-raising for the Trust has therefore been added to the Club’s objectives.
The RLS Club played a major role in 1994 to mark the centenary of RLS’s death when the writer was celebrated in a host of events in many countries. In 2000 the Club marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of RLS with events and the publication of a ‘Birthday Book’.
Currently the Robert Louis Stevenson Club organises events throughout the year and publishes the RLS Club Newsletter in April and October with an Update of events in July when our Annual General Meeting is held.
In recent years, we have marched the 50-mile Travels with a Donkey trail through the Cevennes; recreated the duel by bagpipes scene from Kidnapped on location; examined in detail the Appin Murder in Argyll; adventured in Bristol, home port of the Hispaniola, in Treasure Island; sailed around the Bass Rock where David Balfour was held captive in Catriona; visited the National Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh, followed RLS’s footsteps in California; and our Literary Lunch in the historic Hawes Inn is an established favourite at the beginning of each December.
The Club has members world-wide, with close links with the RLS Club of Monterey and the Silverado Museum in California, and is twinned with the Association sur le Chemin de RLS in the Cevennes in France.
We are always pleased to welcome new members, whether beginners or established enthusiasts, so that enjoyment of RLS’s writing will be maintained and enhanced.
To get involved, please download the Club’s membership form, complete and send it to our Membership Secretary at the following address:
19/13 Roseburn Maltings
To learn more about the RLS Club and find out about our busy events programme, you can also contact our Chairman and Correspondence Secretary:
20 Beveridge Rd
Tel. 01592 204645