George Murdoch, founder of the Society, was born in Paisley Scotland in 1850. His father William, was a shoe maker and part time poet who moved the family to St. John New Brunswick in 1854. George trained as a harness maker in Chicago where he was burned out in the fire of 1871 and returned to St. John. Hearing that life was better in the west, George went to Winnipeg by rail and then bought a wagon, mule and ox and put them on the train for Calgary. The rail head was Maple Creek and the overland journey brought George and a Mr. MacKay to Calgary on 14 May 1883. By 16 May, George had erected a 12’ x 12’ shack and set out the first shingle in town advertising his saddlery business. George was very civic minded and set about creating the social environment that is so familiar to all Calgarians. In September, he organized the Bow Valley Lodge of the Masons and 20 December the initial meeting of the Literary Society of Calgary. The first meeting of the Civic Committee was held 7 January 1884 at the Methodist Church and an election date was set. George convened the initial meeting of the Odd Fellows on 5 April ’84 and was elected a director of the Calgary District Agricultural Society on 22 August, formed to promote the agricultural potential of the area.
The initial meeting of the Calgary St. Andrew’s Society was held 19 November and the organizational meeting was held 21 November with George Murdoch as President, Archibald McNeil was First Vice President, J.G. McCallum Second Vice President, Thomas S. Burns was the Secretary and credited with being the driving spirit behind the formation, Joseph Bannerman the Treasurer, J. Douglas White the Sergeant at Arms, and, George Munro and McLeod the Pipers. The membership fee was fixed at $2.00 and there were about thirty members. A committee was formed to draft the by-laws and the first dinner set for the Rossin House on Saturday 29 November 1884. It was decided to send greetings to the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg on the evening of the dinner. The first dinner of the Society, for men only, took place at the Rossin House, Archibald McNeil proprietor, and after the dinner, a great number of toasts were made, songs were sung and the crowd was entertained by piper, George Munro. The event broke up at about 11 o’clock. George accepted the nomination for Mayor of Calgary on 26 November and the election was held on 3 December with George receiving 202 votes with Redpath, the other contender, 76. The evening concluded by a torchlight parade with George being carried on his supporters’ shoulders.
George would go on to form many of Calgary’s institutions including: Odd Fellows Lodge; Turf Club; Calgary Hook, Ladder & Bucket Corps, and; Calgary Board of Trade. He served on Town and City Council in 1889, and 1895. George Murdoch died in 1910.
Initially, the sole purpose of the Society was to plan for the St. Andrew’s Night until quarterly meetings were suggested in 1891. Care of distressed Scots was added in 1892 when the Society took on a more benevolent aspect. The Society was incorporated as a non-profit society in Alberta on November 23, 1923 and was officially amalgamated with the Caledonian Club of Calgary in 1952 with whom there had been a long standing association. Today, the Society continues its active role in the community with more than a century of service and celebration.