In its early years, the Order of St John operated throughout the United Kingdom, providing training in first aid and an ambulance service. However, the St Andrew’s Ambulance Association was already in existance from 1882 and conducted similar activities, both in Scotland and England.
In 1908, it was agreed that St Andrew’s would handle first aid training north of the border and St John south of it. By the 1940s, some of the Scottish members of St John felt there was still scope for the Order to carry out a number of public services in Scotland.
Then, in 1947, the Scottish Priory was formed, and since then it has achieved remarkable success in meeting a wide variety of needs. Each year, a festival is held in a different location in Scotland where Priory members who have shown exceptional commitment to the work of St John are invested as new, or promoted members of the Order in recognition of their great work.
The Chancery, or headquarters, of the Priory of Scotland is located at St John’s House, 21 St John Street, Edinburgh. This early eighteenth-century house lies off the Royal Mile a little below the site of St John’s Cross in the Canongate. It was originally built for the Wemyss family and was generously gifted to the Order in 1971 by the late James Watt KStJ.
The library of the Priory of Scotland is contained within the Chancery. It is a fascinating collection of books, documents, photographs and objects concerned with the Order from its origins to the present day. Together, these form a rich source of information for research or general interest. Visitors are welcome, but are required to make arrangements in advance with Alan Lees, St John Scotland’s Administrator, 0131 556 8711.
Each year, the Priory of Scotland produces an annual review of the past year’s activities, including our summarised accounts. The online versions can be downloaded from the ‘Downloads’ section of this website. Printed versions of the Yearbook, and previous Yearbooks are available from the Chancery, in Edinburgh.