Michael Shea, a former Foreign Office diplomat and press spokesman for the Queen, was a great friend of the IFF. He played an active role in Edinburgh city life, as a trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland, a director of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, chairman of the Royal Lyceum theatre and supporter of the campaign to establish a national photographic centre at the former Royal High School building. He was also instrumental in reviving the Edinburgh Oyster Club, a dining society originally founded by Adam Smith, the spirit of which IFF has sought to emulate in our own gatherings:
‘This club met weekly; the original members of if were Mr Smith, Dr Black and Dr Hutton, and round them was soon formed a knot of those who knew how to value the familiar and social converse of these illustrious men. As all three possessed great talents, enlarged views, and extensive information, without any of the stateliness and formality which men of letters think it sometimes necessary to affect; as they were all three easily amused; were equally prepared to speak and to listen; and as the sincerity of their friendship had never been darkened by the least shade of envy; it would be hard to find an example, where every thing favourable to good society was more perfectly united, and every thing adverse more entirely excluded. The conversation was always free, often scientific, but never didactic or disputatious; and as the club was much the resort of strangers who visited Edinburgh, from any object connected with art or with science, it derived from thence an extraordinary degree of variety and interest.’
Michael loved nothing better than the stimulus of good conversation and partnered IFF in hosting Enlightenment salons in his rooms at Ramsay Garden with a host of visiting speakers. The sessions have continued since Michael’s death in October 2009. And an annual lecture has also been established in his memory – very much in the same spirit. The first lecture took place in June 2011,in partnership with the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
The first lecture took place in June 2011, in partnership with the Royal Society of Edinburgh.