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). Guests are invited to 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.

Ross Fox

Join us at the "Oor Club" on Friday, February 2, when Ross Fox will give a talk entitled Looking at Early Silver: How Artifacts Enhance Our Understanding of What It Is To Be Canadian.

Artifacts, in this instance silverwork, can serve as an invaluable tool for the extraction of special insights into history. Using a material culture approach this presentation explores stories that are uniquely Canadian, though the pieces themselves are of varied origin — whether French, English, Scottish, American or Canadian. Appropriately a Scottish connection is highlighted as in pieces by several Canadian silversmiths who were native Scots: Robert Cruickshank, James Smillie (Smellie) and Robert Hendery. This presentation concludes with a silver casket honouring Sir John A. Macdonald, the pre-eminent Father of Confederation.

Ross Fox is a decorative arts and material culture specialist who retired from the Royal Ontario Museum in 2011 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 Art History, 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. Ongoing book project include The Beaver as Canadian Symbol and a study of the MacNider family, Ayrshire merchants in Lower Canada (Quebec).

The cost to attend Oor Club is by way of a $5 donation to the Scottish Studies Foundation. Wide selections of pub lunches are available, typically costing between $5 and $15. The gathering begins at about 11.30 am and usually ends by about 2 pm. Everyone is welcome and pleased be assured that you do not have to be Scottish to attend!

For more information you can telephone Pearl Grieve-Nixon at 416-926-7233. or you can email the Foundation at

The Duke of York, 39 Prince Arthur Avenue,
near the St. George subway station
(Bedford Road exit)
in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Map showing the location of the "Duke of York"