Two weeks before Christmas 1785, a number of leading Edinburgh business men met in the New Church Aisle of St Giles and, from this meeting, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Manufacture was born.
The first Secretary of the Chamber was Mr William Creech, bookseller, publisher and author. He was the publisher of the Edinburgh edition of Robert Burns’ poems and a friend of the poet.
Within two months of the formation of the Chamber of Commerce, these far-sighted businessmen decided to give the organisation a firmer foundation by applying for a Royal Charter on 15 February 1786. On 10 July 1786 this was duly granted by King George III.
One of the first matters to which Edinburgh Chamber gave attention was the need for improving the Lighthouse on May Island and a committee was formed to look into the matter and visit the island during 1786. A lighthouse man was duly appointed at a salary of £7 per annum. However, the drinks bill for the occasion is listed in the Chamber accounts as over £12.
Some two years later, there is an item in the Chamber’s accounts for an amount paid to the captain of the ship which returned them from May Island for inconvenience caused by the unruly behaviour of the gentlemen!
As early as 1790, the Chamber considered postal matters. It seems that even then some things could not be relied upon and the speed of the mail was then, as now, a matter of great concern. As a result, the Edinburgh Chamber suggested that the mail should carry the day and month of posting. It is believed that this was the first time that mail was date stamped.
The Edinburgh Chamber was also responsible for recommending the firing of a gun from the castle at One O’clock as an audible time signal of the time kept on Calton Hill Observatory. In 1861, a deputation from the Chamber met with Sir John Douglas, the Adjutant-General, and Colonel McLeon, the Commander of the Artillery in Northern Britain, to arrange for the firing of the time signal.