Report of the Annual General Meeting,
Bishop’s Stortford, July 10 2021

PRESENT: John Davis (President/Librarian), Jon Aitchison (Chairman/Programme Secretary),
Neil Hitchens (Vice-Chairman/Webmaster), Mike Murphy (Secretary/Editor), Sami Sadek (Treasurer/Auctioneer).
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE; John Sears, Tony Cakebread, Trent Ruebush, Ibrahim Shoukry, Hani Sharestan, Vahe Varjabedian, Andy Gould, Brian Sedgley, Ted Fraser-Smith, Richard Wheatley, Paul Green.

The meeting opened with an informal bourse of members’ unwanted material. This proved a great success and it is hoped that members will bring along material for similar exchanges to future meetings.

The 2020 AGM Minutes were approved. Matters arising: it was noted that the Circle’s grant of 650 euros to help with publication of Ronny Van Pellecom’s Alexandria Postal History remained outstanding because there had been no opportunity to meet. Sami Sadek was appointed Auctioneer in succession to Mike Murphy.

Election of Officers: This item was moved up the agenda because John Sears’ much-regretted standing down as President had made it necessary for the Committee to fill some roles provisionally. By acclamation, the new roles - John Davis (President), Jon Aitchison (Chairman), Neil Hitchens (Vice-Chairman) – were ratified.

Chairman: The outgoing Chairman welcomed those present, reported briefly on a remarkably quiet year in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, noting that no meetings had been held since the last AGM in February 2020. He expressed himself flattered to be elected President, a position of honour that he accepted with delight.

Auction: Sami Sadek reported on the recently closed Auction 62, noting that sales of more than £6,000 and participation of more than 45 members in purchasing 60 per cent of the lots available meant commission due to the Circle of more than £900. He thanked John Sears for donating his Library in aid of Circle funds, and reported that virtually all of the books sold, providing a donation of more than £800. It was also noted that the new regulations – PayPal payments attracting a 5% levy to cover costs and all postage to be paid by the buyers – were accepted by the buyers and caused few headaches. Auction 63 will be held at Stampex in October.

Secretary: Mike Murphy reported that in the 17 months since the last AGM we had lost a total of 17 members through demise, resignation or lapsing, and gained ten new members with another restored to membership. This net loss of six meant that we stand at present at 160 members, and the gradual decline continues, as with so many other philatelic organisations similar to ours.

In referring to the MacArthur Award, the Secretary was delighted to announce that the award for 2020 had gone to Peter Grech (ESC 266), for his immensely detailed article on “Ismailia – Timsah” in QC 274. He was disappointed, however, on two points – we had run out of scribe statuettes for the winner’s trophy so no physical award can yet be made – and the number of entries this year was frustratingly small. We shall make strenuous efforts to give the competition – intended to encourage members to write for the QC – more attention.

Treasurer: Sami Sadek presented reports for both 2019 and 2010 because at the time of the last AGM the 2019 detail had not been available. He acknowledged difficulties in the wake of the resignation of our Auditor, Stephen Bunce (ESC 272), who had filled that role since 1993, and was grateful indeed to Andy Gould (ESC 393) for offering to take on the task and produce two years of reports in quick succession. Because Andy is not technically an Auditor, a quick change was made to our Circle Rules, which now refer instead (Section 8.d) to annual election of an “independent accounts examiner”.

On the proposal of Mike Murphy, seconded by Sami Sadek, Stephen Bunce was appointed an Honorary Life Member of the Circle. The decision was unanimous, together with the meeting’s wishes that he may go on to enjoy a long and fruitful collecting career without the troubles of looking after our accounts.

The two years of reports are skewed by the effect of the sales at Auction of Peter Andrews’ material and the fact that monies raised were necessarily held over from one year to another to reach completion. They show however that after the Andrews payments were complete we had an accumulated surplus of £23,315.45 at December 21 2020, including £13,000 in the bank and £8,000 in the PayPal account. The Circle New Issues collection and Library were revalued at £500 and £2,000 respectively, as decided at the 2019 AGM.

Meetings: The Programme Secretary regretted a complete washout of all planned meetings after the AGM during the year and set out a fascinating programme for 2022; we hope members will be sufficiently reassured by virus precautions to attend the remaining meetings for 2021, the room and live Auction 63 at Stampex on October 2, and our meeting on “Conflict, war and invasions” with the annual competition (up to 16 sheets on any subject) at the Services Club on November 13.

Editor:The Editor thanked regular contributors for their patience and continuing supply of material, while suggesting that all articles would be gratefully received, but his main theme was postal rates post-Brexit, which had ballooned out of all recognition, to just short of £2,000 for QC postage. The good news however was that 25 members choose to pay a reduced subscription and read the QC online (net saving £218.80). Beyond that, we are immensely grateful for the offer by Michael Ryan (ESC 722), our member in Wyoming, to act as distributor for North American members – receiving magazines by courier and posting them on at local rates, tried experimentally and successfully in June – which will save us a net £648.80 in a full year; and a similar operation run by Dr Sherif Samra (ESC 311) in Cairo (though off to a bad start when the courier could not find his office) will save a further £413.60. We are enormously grateful to Mr Ryan and Dr Sherif, two heroes.

In an attempt to further save costs, it was suggested that the QC might be produced in A5 format (210 x 148mm) against the present A4 (297 x 210mm), taking it into the first step of postal rates. There was much discussion of how much material could be shown on a small page, and more investigation will be carried out.

Website:The Webmaster reported that digitising old copies of the QC and L’OP had been successful, and cost-free, and proved his point by presenting those attending with beautifully restored copies of QC No 1 (February 1938) as seen online, a far cry from the bedraggled and rust-marked copies handed to him for preservation. A whole panoply of improvements in clarity and ease of use is planned for the site, together with a planned roll-out of more articles and illustrations of members’ medal-winning collections. The Webmaster volunteered to investigate and eventually lead the way in introducing “virtual” online meetings via Zoom and the like.

Library: The Librarian lamented that no books had been borrowed in the year under review, and that a world of useful information was being wasted. The meeting decided that the Library List on the website should be renewed and updated, and that members should be encouraged to borrow books for up to three months with detailed instructions in the QC and on the site, and free postage for those in the UK. Books will be handled face to face where possible, but we will work out special conditions for overseas members.

2022 AGM: It was decided to hold the next AGM at our London 2022 meeting (replacing Stampex), at the Design Centre in Islington, from noon to 2pm on Saturday February 26.

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