Abernethy, Aberargie and Dron News

Last date for submissions

31st October 2022

Date of publication

1st December 2022


On the 20th August a commemoration service was held at the graveside of Professor Robert William Seton-Watson in Abernethy graveyard, 140 years after he was born, and 100 years after the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles at which he played an important  role.

Professor Robert William Seton-Watson was a great friend of Slovaks (and other oppressed minorities such as Romanians, Ruthenians, Serbs and Croats) who became, in his time, the most acknowledged English-speaking expert on this region.  He was known as Scotus Viator, or Travelling Scotsman. In 1928 he was awarded a commemorative medal and diploma by the Comenius University in Bratislava. The Slovak people revealed his bust at the city hall in Ružomberok in 1937, expressing their respect and gratitude for his support.  

He was instrumental in the recognition, by the British establishment, of the idea of a new Republic of Czechoslovakia during the First World War.  He was honorary secretary of the Serbian Relief Fund from 1914 (Serbia supported Britain and France during the war), and opened his family home, Ayton House, to Serbian refugees. During their time here these Serbs put on concerts at the Williamson Hall.

Seton-Watson was an analytical expert at the Foreign Office during both World Wars, and continued to advise the leaders of Czechoslovakia right up until his retirement. He was not slow however to criticise bad practice, even to those whose cause he championed. Not afraid to speak truth to the great powers of the day, including his own UK government, he was clearly a very principled and strong-willed individual.

The commemoration service was conducted by the Reverend Stan Kennon from the Kirk of St.Bride and the whole event was hosted by His Excellency Ľubomír Rehák, Ambassador of Slovakia, who laid a wreath at the grave.  Also laying wreaths were Anton Barbu, Consul General of Romania to Scotland, Dennis Melloy, Provost of Perth and Kinross and on behalf of the Scottish Government, Graeme Dey MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans.

Also in attendance were Ursula Sims-Williams, Professor Robert William Seton-Watson’s granddaughter, James Swan, Chairman of Abernethy Community Council, Elena Mallickova, Counsellor, Public & Cultural Diplomacy from the Slovakian Embassy, Lesley Robinson and Angus Macintyre from The Museum of Abernethy, Petr Janecka and his family who are a Slovakian family living in Abernethy, and Petrana Zemanova from Slovakian Television who filmed the event.

After the wreath-laying ceremony the party moved to the Museum of Abernethy where His Excellency Ľubomír Rehák finished his welcome and very informative speech (which had been interrupted by rain) and speeches were made by most of the rest of the company praising the work and dedication of Professor Robert William Seton-Watson.

The Museum of Abernethy has 2 displays about Professor Robert William Seton-Watson.  He is on the Wall of Fame (a wall with a large number of famous people who have visited Abernethy, including Winston Churchill and Magnus Magnuson). The Museum also has a display with the Slovakian postage stamp on which he is commemorated, the bust mentioned above and a transcript of the impressive speech he made at the dedication of Abernethy’s War Memorial in 1921.

A light afternoon tea was enjoyed by the company in the Museum, whose Board were delighted to be able to host the reception. The ceremony was recorded by Slovakian Television and there was an item on the Evening News in Slovakia about it afterwards.

Angus Macintyre