When we started Sutherland Black 15 years ago, I had no clue that we had a direct link to a long line of Edinburgh Accountants. In a bizarre twist of fate, I discovered that my great great great grandfather was involved in one of the first professional accounting bodies in Edinburgh that later contributed to the founding of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS). I decided to do a quick bit of research to see what I could find out about the history of Edinburgh Accountants and where my ancestor fit into the puzzle!
The Roots of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
ICAS claims to be the oldest professional body of accountants globally, formed with a Royal Charter in 1854. In another twist of fate, I live about 200 metres away from their headquarters in Haymarket Edinburgh. ICAS have some history on their website here. In this article, they describe how three preceding organisations merged to become ICAS. Glasgow had the Institute of Accountants and Actuaries in Glasgow (IAAG), Aberdeen had the Society of Accountants in Aberdeen (SAA), and Edinburgh had the Society of Accountants in Edinburgh (SAE) of which more below.
The Society of Accountants in Edinburgh
Public accountants in Edinburgh and Glasgow were well established by the mid 19th century. The Society of Accountants in Edinburgh was formed in 1853 by several of these, many of whom had attended the Royal High School of Edinburgh. They persuaded Queen Victoria and the Lord Advocate of Scotland to give them a Royal Charter which gave them the right to practice and self-regulate as a professional body. It was seen as a significant acknowledgment of Scotland’s uniqueness within the Act of Union of 1707.
John Hunter of Edinburgh
John Hunter, my great great great grandfather (I think!), was born in 1801 Dunino, Fife. His Father and Grandfather had both been professors at St Andrew’s University. He studied at the Royal High School in Edinburgh and then at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied arts and law. After University, he was an apprentice to a “Writer of the Signet,” the precursor to Solicitors in Scotland. John Hunter was admitted to the Signet (qualified as a solicitor), practiced in Great King Street, and later became the Auditor of the Court of Session.
According to the book “Seekers of Truth: The Scottish Founders of Modern Public Accountancy” by Gary Previts, John Hunter played no part in the setting up the Society of Accountants in Edinburgh but became a member in 1854. Latterly he was a Director of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Bank amongst other organisations and was awarded a doctorate by the University of Edinburgh. He died in 1869 at Craigcrook Castle in Edinburgh. I was born 100 years later!
Accountants in Edinburgh and Glasgow
It’s fascinating that Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Scotland, in general, can genuinely claim to be the cradle of modern accountancy if not civilisation! Although to come clean, I am actually a Tax Adviser in the Chartered Institute of Taxation and not an Accountant at all. However, we do have plenty of Accountants at Sutherland Black and are full members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS).
So, please get in touch here if you need Accountancy or Tax advice.