Alexander Philip

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Alexander Philip
Alexander Philip FRSE.jpg
Alexander Philip, FRSE
Born (1858-05-22)22 May 1858
Died 21 January 1932(1932-01-21) (aged 73)
Nationality British
Occupation Solicitor
Years active 1884–1932
Known for Calendar reform

Alexander Philip FRSE (22 May 1858 – 21 January 1932) was a Scottish solicitor and campaigner for calendar reform. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh in 1913[1][2]

The son of Reverend Alexander Philip,[1] minister of Cruden,[1] one of four brothers all of whom were ministers who went out at the Disruption. Rev. Alexander Philip latterly held charge of the Free Church at Dunfermline and Portobello. [3]

Alexander Philip was educated at George Watsons College in Edinburgh and the University where he graduated with MA and LLB. He began his legal training at Webster & Will in Edinburgh, where the junior partner was a son of Charles Will, Provost of Brechin. Following the death of Charles Will, Alexander Philip became and assistant at C&J Will, entering into a partnership with the Provost's other son, James Will in 1887. The firm became known as Will and Philip, then Ferguson Will and Philip; and survives as of 2016 as Ferguson and Will.[4]

During his time in Brechin, he became an important pillar of the community, active in both social and public life.[5] He was clerk to the Brechin district committee; and Menmuir parish council. He was a Justice of the Peace and honorary Sheriff Substitute for the county and in 1899 was appointed to joint secretary of the committee to fund-raise for Brechin Cathedral's restoration. John Honeymann and Keppie drew up plans for the cathedral's restoration[6] and, after the restoration completed in 1902, drew up plans for Alexander Philip's house, The Mary Acre.[7]

Calendar Reform[edit]

Alexander Philip was perhaps best known for his proposals on Calendar Reform, which were first aired in 1906[3] as the "Proposals for a Simplified Calendar". His suggestions were incorporated into the Calendar Reform Bill, presented by Robert Pearce in 1912.

The main change that Alexander Philip advocated for was the transfer of a day from August to February[3] to provide each quarter with 91 days, 13 weeks and 3 months, so that each quarter would be identical and thus there would be a fixed day each year for New Year. He also argued for the fixing of the date of Easter[8] and spoke at conferences at the Royal Society in Edinburgh, London and Geneva.[3]

Proposed Reforms[edit]

In The Calendar: It's History, Structure and Improvement[9] Alexander Philip outlined his principal objections to the Gregorian calendar, namely that most civil events involve a reference to both the Calendar date and the day of the week. He divided these dates into two classes:

  1. Legal terms, such as dates of sitting and rising for law courts, schools and universities. Additionally such statutory dates as dates for regular meetings and statutory returns such as tax returns as well as quarterly term days for maturities of bills etc. Also included were civil fete days that fall on a fixed day of the month or year.
  2. Movable feasts of the Church, such as Easter. Also included in this category were meetings fixed to particular week days, such as magistrate meetings, local markets and fairs. He noted that where a market or festival falls on the first Wednesday in July one town, and on the first Thursday in another, sometimes these will be adjacent and at other times 6 days apart.

Alexander Philip sought to resolve 3 identified deficiencies:

  1. Unequal-length quarters, by an equal division of 364 days (i.e. 91 days per quarter) and 1–2 days left over.
  2. Minimising variation in the length of months by having a standard month-length of 30 days and 1 month of 31 each quarter.
  3. Convenient Apportionment of weeks, months and quarters with each quarter to consist of exactly, 3 months, 13 weeks or 91 days.

His principal objections to the Invariable Calendar was the, in his opinion, "unnecessary amount of change" for the sake of symmetrical appearance with the rhythmical order of 31, 30, 30 or 30, 30, 31.[9] His belief was that the transfer of one day from August to February would largely resolve these issues.The 31 May would become the year day, with Saturday 30 May, followed by Year Day 31 May; and then Sunday 1 June. In leap years February would have 30 days, and the additional day would similarly be known as Leap Day and not any particular day of the week. His choice of these dates for exclusion was with the aim of starting each quarter on a Sunday and ending on a Saturday. In this regard, he aligned his quarters not with the Calendar year, but with the Ecclesiastical calendar starting with December.

A further consequence of these changes would be that the variation in the date of Easter would fall from 35 days to 22 until at least 2199. However, he argued for the fixing of the date of Easter as Sunday 12 April as approximating the probably date of the resurrection. Equally 50 days thereafter, the date for Pentecost would fall exactly on the 31 May, the date commonly used to commemorate it.

Alexander Philip sought to introduce these changes on 29 February 1920.

Selected bibliography[edit]

Calendar Reform[edit]



  1. ^ a b c R.A.S. (1933). "Alexander Philip, M.A., LL.B. (Edin.)". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 52: 474. doi:10.1017/S0370164600019799. ISSN 0370-1646. 
  2. ^ "Former Fellows of the Royal Society Edinburgh 1783–2002" (PDF).  (1.6 MB)
  3. ^ a b c d "Brechin Advertiser". 26 January 1932. p. 5. 
  4. ^ "Ferguson and Will". 
  5. ^ "Mackintosh Architecture Biography". 
  6. ^ "Restoration of Brechin Cathedral". 
  7. ^ "Dictionary of Scottish Architects: Biography for Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh". 
  8. ^ Philip, Alexander (1914). The Reform of the Calendar. Kegan Paul, Trench, Truebner & Co Ltd. ISBN 978-5518534445. 
  9. ^ a b Philip, Alexander (1921). The Calendar: It's History, Structure and Improvement. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1107640214.  "Link" (PDF).  (1.4 MB)