The First 70 Years of our Club
What follows is a reprint of John Morton’s history, which accompanied his “Wilf Harrison” lecture of 1974 entitled “The first Seventy Years” (edited by Rodney Deval).
FOREWORD. (To the 1974 edition).
It is a great pleasure to introduce this “History’ by John E.Morton, Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Within the compass of a few pages John Morton outlines the history of one of the earliest, if not the earliest, Postal Photographic Clubs.
Known for his great enthusiasm for photography, especially Flora and Fauna and Landscapes, the author has been zealous in research and there is no one better qualified to write this history.
As Secretary from 1947 to 1971 and as President since 1970 he has had an opportunity of knowing the Club in all its various sections ‑monochrome prints, colour prints, colour slides and Free‑lance work. Under his guidance the Club has grown and developed among Methodists in a way that, at times, has been almost embarrassing. John Morton, over the last twenty‑five years, has used every opportunity to collect and index details about the life of this unique Club. With changing conditions and ever increasing numbers, the original aims have been firmly held: To see and develop a love for the beautiful and to translate it into Photographic Pictorialism, and to further Christian fellowship among its members.
OXTON, Birkenhead , May 1974. Gordon Balhatchet.
‘THE FIRST SEVENTY YEARS’.
Compiled by John E.Morton ARPS, 1974.
Edited by Rodney Deval ARPS, 1993.
‘The heading to be found on the criticism sheets of the monochrome circle indicates that our Club was founded in the year 1904. The Founder was the Rev.H.Mudie Draper who, acting in conjunction with the Rev.W.Blackburn Fitzgerald, then the General Secretary of the Wesley Guild, began the circulation of the folios that were to continue to this day, seventy years later.
When in 1953 I began preparations for our fiftieth Anniversary, I got in touch with Mr.Draper, then living in retirement at Angmering‑on‑Sea, a little village on the Sussex coast in the Chichester Circuit. In a most friendly letter, now in our archives, he told me that when Mr.Fitzqerald visited the Douglas Circuit, in the Isle of Man , he (Mr.Draper) suggested the formation of a camera club with a print‑folio. Mr.Fitzqerald took to the idea at once, but suggested that the folio should include drawings as well as photographs. So the name given to the Club was ‘The Pen and Camera Club’. He went an to say that the ‘pen’ part was not as successful as the camera prints and very soon the word ‘pen’ began to mean the written word.
When in 1956, my work took me to live in Littlehampton I found that Mr.Draper was in the list of Supernumeraries for our Circuit and it was not long before I Sought him out. His daughter gave me great help in the preparation of this part of my record and from material she supplied I discovered that the year 1904 was his last in Douglas for, during that year Mr.Draper went to Bradford, Otley Road, Circuit and by 1905 was already editor of the “Bradford Methodist’. As a photographer he was a most gifted man, we have a photograph of his in the permanent collection of some pillars in Chichester Cathedral. The negative from which this print was made must have been exposed before 1902 for he left the Chichester Circuit to go to Douglas in 1901. He was in the Chichester Circuit for only two years, 1899‑1901. He was a bit of a dabbler in photographic chemistry and he discovered a developing formula using Pyro Soda which was taken over by ‘The Imperial Plate Company’.
During one of our conversations, Mudie Draper told me that his interest in photography dwindled somewhat and eventually he gave up the hobby except for the occasional snapshot, using a box camera. This is borne out by the fact that he ceased to be a member of the Club in 1907.
Of the co‑founder, the Rev.W.B.Fitzgerald, I know next to nothing. He died in 1931 and apart from the fact that he received the folio during his term as Guild Secretary, I find no mention of him ever entering a photograph, and the same is true of his successors! The folio has, until recently, always gone to Guild Headquarters. but as the influence of ‘The Guild’ magazine dwindled and finally died, the appearance of our folio there vanished also. After Mudie Draper the Secretary Was a Mr.W.Pye of Gainsborough who continued the working of the folio in much the same way as his predecessor.
We have a notebook which wasstarted in 1905 and was evidently a book whichwent round with each folio. In it there are little articles, many and varied comments, and an agonised moan asking where the folio had been and a great many signatures. The owner of one of the signatures, in particular, earned world‑wide fame as one of the greatest photographic chemists of all time. He was the great Kenneth Rees, twice winner of the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society. During the Society’s centenary celebrations in 1951 I had the privilege of meeting this great man and found him to be a most likeable and congenial character. He presented the Club with two lovely Dye Transfer Prints to add to our permanent collection so that we could see that the old member was still able to sake prints. However Kenneth Mees’ membership of our Club was limited to three or four years and so he became no more than a passing name.
Much more groundwork was done for the Club by Mr.Pve: taking over after the Club had been in existence for only three years. It was he who laid the real foundation stone of the Club’s insistence on the furtherance of Christian Fellowship amongst its members. Reading between the lines of his comments and the written words of other members one gets glimpses of a most sincere and likeable man. During this period the Club was known as ‘The Wesley Guild Pen and Camera Club’.
From 1910 when the first notebook ended there is a gap in our knowledge until 1913. Then a note in ‘The Guild* Magazine mentioned the fact that Mr.W.Pye was Secretary and acknowledged the appearance in that issue of several pictures by members of the Club. Mr.Pye’s contribution was a lovely woodland scene called ‘Bathed in Sunlight’. Another set of pictures of children provides us with the first link with those far off days. They were the work of W.A.Bramwell.
During the year 1910 there joined the Club another whose name was to become well known, not only in our Club, but to the photographic world as a whole. Our own Arthur Marshall who, during the closing years of the First World War, was the Secretary. Arthur told us, during a talk he gave, that before 1914 he had won the Beginners’ Plaque and the Mounting Plaque. He relinquished the Secretaryship in 1918 to James Halliday of Halifax . Again there is a gap in our knowledge which could be filled if a little research could be made into the back numbers of ‘The Guild’ magazine, in which many of our members contributed articles and pictures. Another reason for these gaps in our knowledge is, of course, typical of a Postal Club. As you know, the notebook, in order to save weight, space and postage, is always a light loose‑leafed type of book. During its two journeys around the Club it gets very hard wear and becomes tatty and is only fit to be discarded after its final journey. Even so, I do feel that the past Secretaries should have made, and passed on, some permanent record of the membership.
For example, where are the records of the monthly competitions that are such a feature of our Club life? None was passed to me when I became Secretary but as I relinquished the running of the folio to Rodney Deval I passed on to him the records of that Circle’s competitions. I do hope that all our Circle Secretaries will, in due course, pass on their records to their successors or to Ruth Mudford, our Records Secretary. We must, at the same time, remember that the early Secretaries were very such on their own and, in fact, they were a dictatorship! It was left entirely to them to run the Club for the benefit of the Members. It was not until a great many yearshad passed that, very gradually, a more democratic kind of government was instituted.
In 1923 we pick up the threads again with James Halliday still as the Secretary. There now begin to appear names that are very familiar to our older members. Besides W.A.Bramwell and Arthur Marshall there are T.W.Davies (Scottie), Eric Sowden and the Rev.J.Charlton Blackburn.
In 1930 there was another change of Secretary. Eric Sowden took over from James Halliday, although the latter still remained a member. It is at this time that we have our first recorded reunion. This was at Scarborough and was held in the Easter of that year. We are told that the weather was not all it might have been but, as Scottie was one of the company, the proceedings would have been anything but dull. The group photograph names the following as having been present: The Misses Sugden, Sorrell, Dinsley and Teasdale and Messrs. Joesbury, Davies, Halliday, Sowden, Marshall and Bramwell.
Scottie joined the Club, as we have said, in 1923 and in 1973 we celebrated his fiftieth year as a member and that is a great record. A Club that had a group of members like Scottie, Braswell, Marshall, Sowden, and Halliday was surely very rich indeed from a pictorial and fellowship standard.
In 1927 a certain Mr.Duckett joined the Club. When Wesley Garratt was Minister of our Penistone Church from 1922 to 1925 he and Mr.Duckett became more than acquainted. They were both very fond of cricket; Wesley indeed was at one time the Captain of the Team. The happy result was that Wesley married Miss Duckett and the father became infected with the photographic bug.
I had many conversations with Wesley about the early days of his membership and most interesting those talks were. There was another meeting of the members; when, exactly I do not know, but it was at Whitby and there Wesley set Arthur Marshall and the two became firm friends.
The decade from 1930 saw the entry to the Club of those we have known and loved: John Bissett, Bill Harvey, Harry Lovatt, Wilf Harrison, G.Beeves, George Gaisford, Archie Crawford, the Rev.R.Leonard Jennings, R.P.Rowell, and S.Smith. What a Club to join’ These have all been names to conjure with indeed, and when Harry Lovatt took over the Secretaryship in 1937 he took over a Fellowship that was growing in greatness all the time.
S.Smith was a truly great character, already retired from business when he joined the Club, he took to picture‑making like a duck to water. He had a remarkable aptitude, not only for picture‑making but what was more important still, for writing about one’s pictures. His comments were always well worth careful study and were never, in the slightest degree, offensive. At what was a wonderful old age (I believe he was in his eighties) he won a competition organised by ‘TheGuild’ magazine which was judged by Wilf Harrison and myself. Just after the war I went to Birmingham to visit my brother and during my stay made it my business to meet him, I found his most interesting to talk to and we spent a very interesting day together.
The Rev.Leonard Jennings was another very fine photographer and critic. When he retired from the active Ministry he went to live in Sandown and, while on holiday there, I renewed his acquaintance and persuaded his to rejoin the Club as a member of the Colour Circle . Unfortunately he did not enjoy the best of health and this caused his to retire from our circle. He died January 1974, after forty‑seven years in the Ministry.
R.P.Rowell, in whose memory we have a plaque that is competed for each year, was one whose pictures were always worth very close scrutiny. He was very keen on making his pictures tell a story and he had a rather witty way of making his comments. Perhaps the picture from his camera that I like the best is the one of the tiny tree in a windswept landscape.
It was always a matter of deep regret that I was never able to meet Archie Crawford, for he was always ready with a quip and joke. Laurie Featherstone knew him well and tells many a story about him. The one I love best is told by Arthur Marshall. He related how when he and James Halliday were to give a lecture to a certain Wesley Guild, Archie recruited a number of members from his Guild and they cycled over to encourage Arthur and James. They cycled seventeen miles there and seventeen miles back, as Archie weighed seventeen stones you will understand the enthusiasm of the man. When I became Secretary I tackled Archie about his laxity in putting prints in the folio. I told his that if only he would enter prints regularly he would be an advanced worker in a very short time. To this Archie replied that it was just because he did not want to become an advanced worker that he did not enter prints!
G. Gaisford was another member who became quite a name in the photographic world. At one time he was President of the Sheffield Club and the first member of that Club to be awarded the coveted ARPS.
It was in 1936 that the Rev. C. Gordon Balhatchet was introduced by S.Smith and became a memberof the Club. If we could elect a Padre for the Club he would bethe first nomination! but a great deal about Gordon later.
In the late 1930’s Annie Hebden and Eric Smith joined us and were closely followed by myself.Annie’s role in the Club was recently honoured by the bestowalof Life Membership, so will deserved. Those who went to Barton‑on‑Sea in October ’74 will rememberAnnie talking about her work as a Medical Photographer.
When Harry Lovatt beganhis period of Secretaryship (1937) he launched a campaign fornew members. First with a note in ‘The Guild’ magazine and then by notifying the changeof Secretary in the Journals and also in the ‘Amateur photographer’ My bossat the time urged me to obtain more knowledge of the Art and encouraged me to Join the Pen and Camera Club. I also joined the Kentish Town Working Men’s Institute because that was the nearest evening institute with a course in Photography. The relationship here will become evident later in the history.
When I joined the Club I was put in the Beginners’ section but, as in that year I was awarded my ARPS for Biological Photography, Harry Lovatt promoted me to the Intermediate Class on account of my ‘Technical Ability’. There I stayed for another nine years.
You may be interested to learn how the Club was run at this time. At the end of the year we sent to the Secretary our entries for the coming year’s competitions. From Beginners, prints were of any size mounted on Whole Plate mounts. From the Intermediate and Advanced, the prints were of any size on a 12′ x 10″ mount. The annual subscription was 2/6d. and there was a fine of one penny a day for every day we kept the folio over the allotted time. A new member joined the Beginners’ section and earned his advance by winning the year’s competition. Advancement from Intermediate to Advanced was terribly difficult for one had to win the competition for two years in succession.
Harry was most insistent on keeping strictly to this rule for in his opinion a worker must win his advancement by his work in the Club and not by what he had done before he joined us.
The marking system was thus: only the Advanced workers were allowed to vote on the Advanced Section’s Prints. This they did by the points out of ten system. All members voted on the Intermediates’ and Beginners’ Prints and this they did by a simple one, two and three method of marking. Only the winner of the whole year was counted. This gives some idea of the difficult task that faced the Intermediate worker. Eric and I had battles royal before we were advanced. First he would win, then I would win! When I was about to take over the Secretaryship from Harry, Eric was first that year and I was second so we were both promoted. This was so that I would not have to worry too such about competition and so that Eric could join me and give other members a chance to have a go.
During the years of the 39/45 war the Club continued in face of many difficulties such as shortage of materials and postal problems. The number of folios in the year was cut to one each two months and we reduced the size of all prints to a limit of Whole Plate. The great thing was we carried on and, due to the tremendous enthusiasm of Harry Lovatt, were able to keep the fellowship alive during those dark days. I myself had great difficulty for we were bombed out of our house twice. From 1942 to the end of the war we slept under a Harrison Shelter in our lounge. A night without an air‑raid warning was an event to be celebrated. You can guess how such time I was able to spend with the folio; but its appearance was a ray of light in the darkness. I well remember the thrill of opening the box and holding a meeting with the rest of the members of the Pen and Camera Club. Another innovation that I believe was started during the war and has continued since, was the ‘snowball” method of collecting the prints. Instead of sending our prints to Harry, there now began the three sets of prints. The set to be voted upon, the new prints and the returned prints. This was a much more convenient way of working and it has continued to be a success.
I cannot stress enough the value of the work that Harry put into the Club during those war years and in the years that followed. His example as a Photographer was magnificent and there was never an entry of his that was not stamped with his personality. The words ‘Lovatt Quality” were an honour that we all longed to see on the criticism sheet of our own efforts. I feel sure that every one of us who were in the Club during this period will echo my words and agree with me that the work of Harry Lovatt lifted the whole effort of every member.
Shortly after the war ended we resumed the old size of prints; that is, any size print on any size mount up to 12′ x 10′. Beginners kept to Whole Plate size mount and we also continued the 1,2,3, method of voting for the Beginners’ and Intermediates’ sections of prints.
During the 1946/7 competition year I received a letter from Harry asking if he could meet and discuss Club business with me. A Specialist had urged him to drop all responsible jobs as soon as possible, and he asked if I was prepared to take over the task of Secretary during the next year. I began my apprenticeship during 1946/7 as Harry gradually relinquished control, and 1947/8 saw me established as your Secretary.
The membership of the Club at this time was as follows:
ADVANCED SECTION. Arthur Marshall, Harry Lovatt, C.G.Gaisford, Wesley Garratt and Gordon Balhatchet.
INTERMEDIATE SECTION. Eric Smith, Annie Hebden, George Seymour, Chris Clark, Wilf Harrison, John Bissett, R.P.Rowell, D.Dodsworth, Archie Crawford, Harold Waite, Jack Alvey, Arthur Hamer, Cyril Medway, Gilbert Lawson, Bill Harvey, Charlton Blackburn and myself.
BEGINNERS SECTION. Harold Drewry, Arthur Riley, Harry Beecroft, Tom Collins, Dennis Skelton, J.E.Hodgson and Stanley Longbottom.
ADDED to these names were those of four non‑contributing members or, as we would call them today ‘Associates’. These were: T.W.Davies (Scottie), James Halliday, W.A.Bramwell and S.Smith.
When Harry Lovatt became Secretary the name of the Club was changed from ‘The Wesley Guild Pen and Camera Club’ to the simple title ‘Pen and Camera Club’ and under that heading we continued until some years after I became Secretary.
When the ‘The Guild’ magazine altered its name to ‘Youth’ I really did think that we should consider an addition to our name that would link us more effectively with the Methodist Church . So around 1950 I began to sound, first the opinion of all the Ministerial members of the Club, then Harry and the rest of the Advanced Workers. The first name that came out of the postal discussion was ‘The Methodist Pen and Camera Club’. This was ruled out because we thought it would bring us too closely into contact with the Methodist Conference, probably needing their permission to use the title and having to submit reports, minutes, accounts etc. Then one of us, I think it was Gordon, suggested that if we called ourselves the ‘Pen and Camera Club of Methodism” we should avoid all complexity with Conference and at the same time acknowledge the fact that the members owed allegiance to the Methodist Church . Therefore, by the time we held our first reunion in 1954 we were calling ourselves by our present title.
Very early in my span of office I began to arrange meetings with those of us who lived in or near London . The first attempt was not too successful for only Dennis Skelton, my son Brian and I turned up to meet Tom Collins and his son for a visit to the Docks. Not to be deterred we made a second attempt, Cyril Medway joined us and he arranged a tour which centred on Lincoln ‘s Inn Fields and was greatly enjoyed.
Wilf Harrison and I took to meeting after work for a cup of tea at the Lyon ‘s Cafe at Ludgate Circus. Sometimes Cyril Medway, Tom Collins, Roy Binyon and Rod Deval would join us. We also used the Boardroom at MYD for practical evenings led by Wilf when he demonstrated the intricacies of the Bromoil process. Later we transferred our outings to Epping Forest . As more of the Southern members learned of our doings we broadened our field and held really splendid Club outings at: Guildford , Portsmouth , Arundel, Chichester , Winchester , Lewes, the Hughenden Valley and Tunbridge Wells.
It was from the meetings in Epping Forest that the idea of an annual meeting of all members arose. As 1954, the year of our Fiftieth Anniversary, case near the wishes were crystallised into fact. I booked Willersley Castle for a meeting and begin preparations for the event.
We were still just one monochrome folio and our membership had risen to about forty. In the first folio of 1954 we conferred Life Membership upon Harry Lovatt, never was an honour more deserved.
So the year 1954 began a new era in the life of the Club. From now on, instead of relying on the memory of the older members we have documentary evidence about our doings. I began a series of ‘Specials’ that related the events of the annual reunions and in 1961 the ‘Specials’ were replaced by the ‘News Bulletins’ which have continued to this day .
The first gathering at Willersley was fantastic’ The joy of putting faces to those who, until now, had been just scribbled names on our folders was really out of this world. To meet Arthur Marshall, Scottie, Joe Needham, John Bissett, Gordon Balhatchet, Arthur Riley, Eric Smith, Harold Waite, Annie Hebden, John King and dear old Gilbert Lawson just to mention a few who were there. Gilbert and I soon became very dear friends, not only was he a great photographer but he was also, like Wesley Garratt, an artist in other mediums as well. He joined the Club in 1949 and his sample of prints that went with his application for membership convinced me that he was no beginner. He was one who would soon make his mark an the Club’s life. So in spite of the rule that said he ought to start in the Beginners’ section, I put him immediately into the Intermediate section. In his first full year Gilbert was second to George Seymour. In the following two years he walked away with the Intermediate competitions with the highest number of marks ever recorded! He was, so far as I remember, the only member to gain advancement so quickly and it took George another three years to qualify.
What a place is Willersley! The Staff were tremendous, nothing was too much trouble and everything went like clockwork. Gordon and Annie took our first Service in the Cromford Church on Sunday, May 2nd., and at this Service we sang the hymn that we have adopted as our own, ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ which we sing at all our reunions. Our one disappointment was that Harry Lovatt could not be with us, his illness had taken a turn for the worse and, in fact, before we could meet again he had passed away.
During the first 7 or 8 years of my Secretaryship I tried to get the work of the Club better known by Guilders. The first attempt was called the Guild Folio of Pictorial Photography. I believe every member contributed a print on 12″x10* mounts for the sake of uniformity and I concocted a commentary illustrating the various point of interest in each picture. This was to be read by whoever was displaying the prints. ‘The Guild’ magazine advertised the venture which was so successful that a second folio was organised. These two folios were later joined by a parcel of prints on 20″xl6″ mounts, all of exhibition standard, and from these the basis of our Permanent Collection was formed.
Our second reunion was at the Links, Eastbourne , and this was favoured by the most glorious weather. We had two lovely outings, one to Beachy head and the other to Wannock Gardens . At this reunion I met for the first time, Bill Harvey, Ali Corbett and George Seymour. I was able to tell George that he had earned his place in the Advanced section at last. At this reunion there was also a member of the Guild Staff with us in the person of Muriel Fordham who became such a help to me in the future developments of the Club with HQ. She also joined the Club and, for a time, contributed prints.
This year was marred by the passing of that wonderful old man, W.A.Bramwell, who was loved by all who knew his for his kindly, generous nature and his loyalty to the Club he loved so well. When, in the first flush of enthusiasm, in my appointment as Secretary I asked if he would loan us some prints for inclusion in the folios to show members, he sent me twenty‑four lovely pictures. These we entered for him monthly. When the Guild exhibition folder was organised he helped again with a print that is now in the permanent collection. He also presented the Club with a plaque which he had won in 1913 and which we now compete for annually. We still have a connection with W.A.B. for he introduced George Hall into the Club and through George, Frank Lawton.
In 1956 we returned to Willersley and made it a rule that in even years we would meet at Willersley and in odd years me would meet at North and South Guild Holiday Centres. I journeyed to this reunion with Bob Edwards and we had a most enjoyable drive through enchanting scenery. This year was a most important one for the Club. It saw the founding of our first Colour Circle : fifty‑two years after it all began we were ready to place another circle on the road and this, in Colour. Arthur Riley was our first Colour Secretary and he announced at the meeting that the first folio of slides mould soon be circulating. Membership at first was confined to those who were also members of the Monochrome Circle , we were still a ‘closed shop’ in that respect. After the news of the Colour Circle we turned our attention to another serious matter. The size and weight of the folio! How often this arises at our meetings and is mentioned in the folio. We decided to cut the size of mounts from the maximum of 12″xlO” to that of 10″x8″ and use only light-weight, flexible mounts. We also decided to find an alternative to the rather heavy box in which the prints were being posted.
The lecturer at the evening meeting was Gordon Balhatchet, the theme of his Talk being ‘The Role of a Critic in a Postal Portfolio’. This talk was an excellent resume of the points needed to help one to comment on other members’ work and it provoked, what I consider to have been, even after all these years, one of the most delightful and constructive discussions I have heard. That evening we also saw a combined display of colour transparencies by Rod Deval and Bob Edwards which promised well for the new circle. We finished the evening by watching a Cine Film by Scottie which he promised us would contain pictures of the 1954 reunion. He informed us that unfortunately our bit of “fillum” was at the end of the reel! As the showing progressed he got a little disturbed and said ‘I hope this isna the wrong fillum”. A few seconds later, in the midst of a pregnant silence, he concluded his part of our entertainment with ‘Sorry boys, it IS the wrong fillum”. So we never did see what we looked like in 1954. I think it was this year that we saw the first of the Riley Colour Talks called “A Trip down the Derwent”.
In 1957 we were at Abbot Hall for the first time and, at the AGN under the Chairmanship of Eric Smith, Arthur reported that the response from Club members to the Colour Circle had not been as good as we had anticipated. Therefore after a short discussion, it was resolved that we seek new members from outside the Club. I was instructed to ask Muriel Fordham to make this known through “The Guild’ magazine. In fact, we obtained four new members from the guests, one of whom was Scottie’s son the Rev. Ian Davies.
On the Saturday evening the Lecture was given by Arthur Marshall. This was the first time that Arthur had shown his slides to the Club and the packed audience was enthralled. There was not only the beauty of his pictures , all of which were in the now outdated 3.25″ square format, but there was also the wonderful way Arthur put his talk across. Here is an extract from my report of that night:
‘While Arthur talked my mind, although taking in the pictures and hearing his words, began to wander a little. How many people I wondered, really understood what they were seeing and hearing’ Indeed, if it came to that, how many even of our own members could realise the fact that they were watching and hearing history.’
Human beings are so apt to forget the greatness that is in their midst and perhaps only a very few of us knew that Arthur was one of the really great in Pictorial Photography. His name was one that was known in the days of Dudley Johnson, Alex Keighley, Bertram Cox, Horsley Hinton, J.Craig Annan, R.W.Robinson, and the other great name in slide production F.H.Sutcliffe. All those names are now of the past yet here was Arthur still virile, still able to cast a spell with his pictures’
At the 1960 reunion at Willersley, Tom Collins proposed that each year we should have a ‘Wilfred Harrison Memorial Lecture’ in memory of that delightful character. Tom and I had talked about this some months before the meeting and I was thrilled to know that Wilf’s name would be kept green among us. Wilf had been my very first confidant and friend when I became Secretary. He it was who passed the folio on to me and we met on numerous occasions and during the tragedy that struck his son he was often in our thoughts. Wilf was a great pictorialist and his pictures were always worth the closest scrutiny. To hear his lecture was a revelation! He often came to my photographic class and helped me put over the meaning of pictures. The way, by means of cut‑outs, he could form a landscape on the easel was great.
Arthur Marshall delivered the first of these Lectures at about the time of his fiftieth year of membership. To mark the event Gilbert Lawson had been commissioned to paint a picture of a lakeland scene. This, suitably framed, was presented to Arthur by Gordon, and Eric made a record of the event.
At the 1960 meeting I retired as Secretary of the folio in favour of Rod Deval. However, I was not allowed to do nothing for the meeting elected me as General Secretary, a job that was to become more important to the Club as time went by. We decided Rod and Arthur should take care of the folios and that I should be responsible for anything outside that term of reference and for the organisation of the annual reunion. Also for the acceptance into the Club of new members. The Annual Subscription of 5/‑ was raised, at this meeting, to 10/‑.
In 1960 we elected the first set of Officers:
President, Arthur Marshall.
Chairman, Harold Waite.
General Secretary, John Morton.
Sec.Mono.Circle, Rodney Deval.
Sec.Colour Circle, Arthur Riley.
Harold has continued from that day to this and has nobly upheld the traditions of that office, even though at times I am sure his patience must have been sorely tried. Always a wise councillor and friend, his fairness in conducting the meetings so that all points of view could he expressed must greatly have impressed us all. To me he has always been one to whom I could turn and be sure of getting, not always what I expected or wanted, a sound, reasoned appraisal of the problem and an understanding of the situations involved.
In 1962 the Club suffered a severe loss by the passing of Arthur Marshall who had been a tower of strength in many ways. His vast photographic experience and knowledge of procedure had made him an ideal President and his death left a large gap in our ranks. In 1926 he won the Championship of all England , an honour competed for annually and organised by the Criterion Photographic Ltd. There is also a picture displayed tonight called ‘Where the Sun came peeping in at Morn’ and in the permanent collection of the Royal Photographic Society there is another print from this negative made by the Autotype Company which measures 36″ x 24”!
In 1963 we decided to leave the Presidency of the Club vacant for a year. This would give us time to think about a nomination to fill this office. This year also, I think, saw the turning point in the Club’s life. For some time past I had been very worried about two things that concerned the Monochrome Folio, and in a way the Colour Circle also. These were: first, the increasing size of the Club’s membership and, consequently, the longer time it took to get the folios round the circles and, second, the perpetual demands by one member in particular for another and easier method of advancement from the Intermediate Section. I suggested we split the Monochrome Folio into two separate circles, each with its own Secretary and run as a figure eight with between eighteen and twenty members in each circle. The alternative would have to be two distinct groups, for we were rapidly reaching the point when we could not even allow new members on the waiting list’ We had a wonderful discussion about this idea and the whole set-up of the Club. Difficulties could be seen but could they be overcome? Were we right to open up the Club to more and more members and, in doing so, perhaps lose some of the precious fellowship? It was Gordon who put the whole thing in its right perspective, for he asked was this the right way to go about it? Did we not think that having such a wonderful fellowship was really the reason why we should go ahead? I was asked to finalise a scheme and put it to the next meeting at Willersley after the whole circle had had time to consider and vote on the proposal. The question of advancement from the Intermediate section was again dismissed. After the reunion Rod and I got our heads together and decided to do some research between us in an endeavour to solve the problem.
At the 1964 reunion 1 had to report that the Monochrome Circle had unanimously rejected the idea of a split in any way at all. It was obvious that no useful purpose could be gained by pursuing this course of action. Another method must he adopted. There must be a completely new Circle. The old Circle must be called ‘A’ and the new one ‘B’. Circle ‘A’ must close its ranks and allow no new members, allowing its membership to shrink, by natural means, to twenty. The new Circle was to take in the applicants already on the awaiting list’ (five in number) and at the next reunion at Whitby the new Circle was officially agreed upon and Roy Binyon appointed its first Secretary.
1964 was our Diamond Jubilee year and we celebrated it in right royal fashion. Our Hosts were the Rev.Joe and Mrs.Needham and for the first time we had as our quest and speaker E.W.Tattersall and his wife. He later became a founder member of Circle ‘B’. We had a Birthday Cake, portions of which were later sent to those members who were not fortunate enough to be with us. We listened to two talks. I spoke on the Friday evening about ‘The life and Times of Arthur Marshall” This was in fact a memorial to him. The second was delivered on the Saturday by Ted Tattersall when he told us of his thirty years as a Photographic Journalist in Fleet Street. This was the “Wilf HarrisonMemorial Lecture”and was copied and sent round to members. Also on the Saturday we planted two trees. We had decided, first of all, to plant one as a memorial to Arthur Marshall but when the opportunity came to plant two we proposed that the second should be the Diamond Jubilee Tree. Gilbert Lawson, who had been elected our new President, did the honours and the ceremony was conducted by Joe Needham.
After the rejection by the Monochrome Circle of the plan to divide the Circle we discussed a proposal by Rod Deval to adopt a new system of advancement through the three sections.
When we left Swanage in 1963 we were both agreed that something had to be done about this problem. I consulted other Clubs in the Southern area of the C.A. for whom I had been lecturing and judging for some time. No two Clubs had the same pattern: some depended on exhibition successes, others competitions and monthly league tables, all of which made it far too easy. I confessed to being completely baffled. Rod, however, was very different for he came up with a solution that was so outstandingly simple that one wanders, with hindsight, how no‑one had thought of it before! By awarding to the winners of the year’s competitions ten, seven and four points for first, second and third places and then allowing members to “bank”, as it were, their winnings the problem was solved. A member could still gain advancement the old way by winning in two consecutive years. Rod had wisely suggested twenty points as the target for advancement This has worked so successfully from that day to this that I do not think there has ever been any objection to it. Later the Colour Circles adopted the same scheme.
Unfortunately, after serving the Circle so well Rod had to withdraw from the Secretaryship in 1966 and John King took over the affairs of Circle “A”. The Colour Circle was also forced to make a change. Due to ill-health Arthur was unable to accept reappointment and I was asked to act as ‘caretaker’ until Rod could take over later in 1966. As five names were now on the waiting list for entry into the Colour section Bob Edwards was asked to start a new Circle to be called Colour “B”.
Tributes were paid to Cyril Medway and Alex Russell, both had been great Club men. Cyril had introduced Rodney to the Club and since the first year of my Secretaryship had been outstanding in putting forward ideas and was, in a way, responsible for the new system of advancement that we had just adopted. His pictures were always marked by a sincerity that was noticeable and his work has been greatly missed. Alex Russell was the ultimate in colour! He was head of the Design School of Jordanstone College‑and one of Scotland ‘s leading creators of Stained Glass windows. He was a great ‘Scouter” and one of his windows can be seen in the Baden Powell Memorial at Gilwell Park , Chingford.
Also in 1965 Arthur Riley organised the first of the Northern Autumn Reunions at Willersley. These weekends have been very popular among our members and the work of Arthur in promoting them each year is very much appreciated. Locations have included: Bridlington, Blackpool , Scarborough , Southport , Morecambe, Whitby .
In 1966 another step forward was taken by the appointment of John Bissett as Treasurer. I was finding the task of General Secretary becoming more and more arduous and I asked if I could be relieved by asking John to take this task of Treasurer for us. Although I have no proof, I think it was at Willersley that year we appointed Ruth Mudford as our Records Secretary.
In 1968 we adopted a suggestion by George Hall for the Monochrome Group to produce a record of Rural Methodism and that the pictures should be displayed the following year. Due to the publicity the Club had been given in the ‘Amateur Photographer’ and the ‘Methodist Recorder’ this year I had to report that all Circles were full and that there were waiting lists. Indeed, before the year was out, Colour “C” was started and ultimately Frank Lawton accepted the Secretaryship of this Circle.
1969 saw us at Abbot Hall and we duly held the “Rural Methodism Exhibition” and a fine display was made. One or two of the entries were later accepted by the ‘Recorder”. It was this year, at Abbot Hall, that Marion King became our Minute Secretary. I must pay tribute to her worth for it took a great load off my mind when I was able to sit through a meeting without having to take copious notes.
In 1969 we mourned the loss of one of our oldest and most valued members, the Rev.Wesley Garratt. Wesley and I had become firm pen friends even before I moved to Littlehampton. When he moved from Mablethorpe to Rustington to live with his daughter our friendship grew very much closer. Later he came to live alone in a flat quite close to us in Littlehampton and very many happy hours were spent in one another’s company. As a photographer he was unique in our Club for his lovely Bromoils, always pictures of beauty. From the start of his career he had decided that Bromoils were to be his art form and his work received universal acclaim and his mastery of this most difficult process can be seen in examples of his work.
In 1970 the Guild H.Q. asked me to organise a Photographic Week at Moorlands, Whitby , and under the banner of the “Pen & Camera Club” this was done most successfully. Arthur Riley performed wonders in the field of portraiture, Rod Deval, Stanley Flello, Randal Bell and others all helped to make this a most notable venture. We also had lovely walks and outings. Unfortunately the publicity which should have come through H.Q. was not as successful as one could have wished However, the members of the Club rallied round and made the event an unqualified success.
The year brought sadness by the passing of our President, Gilbert Lawson. Gilbert had suffered a long and painful illness and it was with a great sense of personal loss that I heard of his death, for we had been corresponding regularly. His passing leaves a gap in our ranks that will be hard to fill. I have many happy memories of Gilbert and his family, particularly at Abbot Hall.
That year (1970) at Willersley, Randal took over the Office of Secretary jointly with me for one year, after which he was in full control. I had felt, for some time, that it would be in the best interest of the Club if a younger man could take charge. My years of office had been joyful ones and they were made most rewarding by the fantastic spirit of Christian Fellowship that is the hall-mark of the Club. The decision of the Club to make me its new President crowned my years of Office. Randal has carried on the spirit of fellowship that our founder started and I as sure that he will keep that precious spirit alive.
Colin Pickles took over the running of mono “B” to enable Randal to accept the Office of Secretary. Between us Randal and I received all the folios so that we were both interested in the working of the Club and were able to keep a finger on the pulse, as it were. As the waiting list of new members for the Colour Circles had risen to seven, Randal asked me to accept the task of organising Colour “D”
Apart from the regular Circles there are in the Club two other Circles now in operation. One is the Freelance Circle under Edwin Burnett and this has been most successful. The other is the Colour Print Circle now in its first full year. This is a natural progression for as colour has become more and more to the forefront of Photography, a Circle for Colour Prints became inevitable.
Since 1971 the Club has been weakened by the passing of six of our members Dorothy Barker, Stanley Longbottom, Joe Needham, John Bissett, Jack Roberts and Bill Harvey. These were grievous blows and the tributes paid to them were proof of the love and esteem in which they were held.
I feel I should say a few words about the Ladies. I would like them to know how such we have appreciated their presence among us, they have made our reunions very such more a family gathering than mere business meetings. A few years ago we began to feel the draught financially and for a few years had been running at a loss. We achieved stability by raising the subscriptions and by many friends, and in particular the Ladies, becoming Associate Members. I want it to be known that this gesture has not gone unnoticed.
I want to close this History by testifying to the help and encouragement I received from those who were members when I joined the Club; to Wilf Harrison and John Bissett, for there arose between us a wonderful friendship; to Eric Smith for producing many of the slides used to illustrate this talk; to Randal for preparing material and producing prints from the Permanent Collection; to Arthur and Rodney for advice so freely given; to Gordon for vetting this history; to Frank for his help in research into the records and lastly to Harold for being such an understanding Chairman.
The preparation of this history has been a labour of love and is a small recompense for the thirty‑five years of happiness spent in the fellowship of the Club.
A great amount of water has flowed over the weir at Willersley since our Golden Jubilee in 1954. Gaps have been filled by new faces, we who are left are members of the finest and oldest postal Club in the world, we have been handed a heritage from those who have gone before us. I pray we shall live up to the standards that they set and so keep alive the spirit of Christian Fellowship in this wonderful Club.