Provost William Merson
William James Merson (1879-1953) was the long-serving Provost of Buckie at the time of the Second World War. He led the civic response to the conflict and perhaps more than anyone set the tone of welcoming hospitality towards the Norwegian and Danish communities. This ranged for finding accommodation for the Norwegian to civic events but, perhaps most importantly, creating an open and welcoming culture for allies.
He was born on 20 January 1879 to George Merson, a draper and fishcurer, and his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) Marshall. The Marshalls were a very well-known Buckie family having a ropemaking business.
He was elected to Buckie Town Council in 1914 and served in that capacity for the next thirty years. In 1927, he was elected as the Provost and held that role for the next eighteen years, encompassing all of the war years. He was also Vice-Convenor of Banffshire County Council between 1932 and 1945.
Provost Merson had a remarkable record of public service playing a significant role in the public life of Buckie and Banffshire. During his public life, Provost Merson oversaw many important developments in the town including work on Cluny Harbour, improvement to the town's roads infrastructure, the building of the outdoor swimming pool at Strathlene and, indeed, the purchase of Strathlene House itself.
Provost Merson was also involved in bringing electricity to the town and obtained permission for Buckie to start making its own electricity with machines installed in unused boat sheds at Baron Street at a cost of £23,000, and production started.
During the war he formed the Welfare Society, an independent organisation to provide funds for helping various local groups. This Society took over and ran Buckie Thistle Football Club and Victoria Park with the Provost as Chairman, a post he still held up to his death. During his term of office he saw 372 council houses built and plans laid for 200 more in Buckie.
For his services to the Norwegian community in the town he was awarded the Order of St Olav (Knight First Class). Shortly after this award, he hosted the visit of King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav to the town and entertained the party to luncheon and a civic reception at Strathlene on 10th July 1943.
Mr Merson had spared nothing for the good of the community and the council felt that there was no one more fitted to carry the honour of being the first Burgess of Buckie than William James Merson.
Provost Reid on appointing William Merson as first Burgess of the Burgh of Buckie, 2 July 1952.
Front row, from left to right: Gustav Puntervold (Consul in Buckie), Provost William Merson, HM King Haakon, HRH Crown Prince Olav, Chief Constable George Strath, Adjutante O. Nordlie (ADC to HM the King), Captain RM Ellman, Major TDW Whitfield, Per Sandik (Consul at Aberdeen). Back row, left to right: Frank Mohn, the King's Dectective, Driver Hossack, Driver West, Driver McIntyre, Sverre Brosvik, (Consul Secretary), Corporal AC Panter and Sergeant LJP Bush.
Provost Merson retired from civic life in 1945 and died on 25 October 1953. Nearly half a century later, his daughter, Marshallina Fogg, returned many momentos of her father to the town.