|Report of the 75th Anniversary luncheon (May 7) and London 2010 Exhibition
There was an excellent turnout for the double celebration of the Circle's own 75th Anniversary at our usual meeting-place at the Victory Services Club, Marble Arch, and the ten-yearly London Exhibition held this year in the Design Centre, Islington, North London.
The gamble of holding our luncheon in the gap-day between the special Philatex Extra dealers' bourse and the opening of the big exhibition certainly seemed to have paid off when well over 30 members and guests from all over the world first met in the bar and then sat down to eat in the pleasant surroundings of the Victory Club's Grill Room. We were especially honoured by the presence of Professor Peter Smith, for long our guiding light, who had travelled across The Pond on the Cunard liner Queen Mary II.
Along one wall was a series of ten "silent displays" (single frame of 16 sheets) submitted by volunteers to give some idea of the range of our interests. The exhibits were closely pored over, and the Circle is grateful indeed to the following for having had the courage to put their material on open display:
Mostafa El-Dars (ESC 556) - Farouk and his Yachts
Peter Grech (ESC 266) - 1910 Heliopolis Air Meeting
Paul Green (ESC 128) - Egypt Zeppelin mail
Peter Goodwin (ESC 297) - EEF Stamps & Postal History 1917-1921
Edmund Hall (ESC 241) - Egyptian Army
Stanley Horesh (ESC 118) - The Gallipoli Campaign
Laurence Kimpton (ESC 591) - Early Air Mails
John Sears (ESC 188) - Alexandria
Brian Sedgley (ESC 268) - Overseas and Consular Offices
Vahe Varjabedian (ESC 390) - Star and Crescent markings
We were especially pleased to be able to help to celebrate the Golden Wedding of Judy and Ted Fraser-Smith, from Derbyshire, who for some unaccountable reason had chosen our luncheon day as their 50th wedding anniversary: a special table decoration (apparently the carved water melon survived the long journey home on the bus!) and a suitable card for the occasion were handed over with our sincere best wishes.
Our President, John Sears, proposed the toast to "Members and Guests", coupling the toast with a few well-chosen words of praise for the hard work of the present Committee in maintaining standards in the face of an apparent gradual decline if not in membership numbers then certainly in member participation, and added a few wry observations about the future and the potential turnout for our centenary. And indeed for the next ten-yearly London exhibition.
There were two responses to the toast - first, from Peter Smith, who astonished the meeting with the force of his words despite the apparent frailty of his frame now he has passed his 90th birthday and who shared a series of thoughtful and humorous reminiscences of the leaders of the past, including Dr William Byam, our founder, Charles Minnett and John Firebrace. He wished us well for the future, and suggested that we were in safe hands. Then the President of the Philatelic Society of Egypt, Dr Sherif Samra, offered his own words of support on behalf of our Egyptian colleagues, saying that visits between the countries were always much appreciated by both sides as cementing relations and offering new insights; and gave notice that the PSE is to hold another Egyptian exhibition in Cairo in the first week of November, to which all were most cordially invited.
The meeting then heard of the recent publication of two new books by our members - Egypt, The Rural Postal Service, by Mike Murphy and Ibrahim Shoukry; and Ramleh Alexandrie, by Ronny Van Pellecom, Peter Grech and Alain Stragier. Several copies of both changed hands immediately.
This is the place to record greetings from those who for one reason or another were unable to attend the luncheon. We would have been very happy indeed to see them attend, and are only sorry that we were unable to share the day with the following: Leon Balian, Margaret Chadwick, Tony Chisholm, Dennis Clarke, John Davis, Bob Perkins, Max Ryan, David Sedgwick, Ibrahim Shoukry, Greg Todd, Lucien Toutounji. For all of them, here's hoping for London 2020!
But back to London 2010 for a moment … we were lucky enough to share a table with the Sudan Study Group in a prime position overlooking the main dealers' floor, and were astonished at the number of visitors from the world over who passed us by during the eight days of the exhibition. We met old friends, made new ones, sold books, QCs, ties, other odd bits including a copy of Peter Smith's tome, we gave away stamps to junior visitors, we gained half a dozen new members, we met a good many Circle members for the first time - including Angela Child, Andy Gould, Paul Grigg, Marianne Khouzam, Steve Speak - we acted as a centre of information and cloakroom for members and others, we had a thoroughly good time in meeting, greeting and chatting. Our visitors even included one John Gilbert, son of our former stalwart member - a real name from the past - who unaccountably collects GB!
Seeking volunteers to man the table for eight hours a day for eight days was not an easy task. It could not have been achieved without the infinitely gracious and undemanding tour of duty by Peter Goodwin, who came all the way from New Zealand and volunteered to fill the morning gaps for the Sudan Study Group. In the event he was there for virtually every minute of every day. Hats off to him - his good-humoured service was well beyond the normal call of duty, and was very much appreciated. Equally, thanks are due to all the other volunteers who put in their stints: Peter Andrews, John Clarke, John Davis, Peter Grech, Paul Green, Edmund Hall, Stanley Horesh, Brian Sedgley, Ronny Van Pellecom - thank you all. And special thanks also to Greg Todd, who lent us a space under his counter to store our books and bits and bobs overnight.
Placing of the exhibits (in two different sessions; is this really the way to hold an exhibition?) was made in an area of the Design Centre I had never before seen in action, and though the main room was well lit and airy, it certainly seems that some of our members' exhibits might have suffered by being hidden away in an ill-lit and crowded annexe.
Very many congratulations indeed to Greg Todd and Lucien Toutounji for their Gold medals for Egypt. Which is not to say that those who came away with lesser awards do not deserve recognition - anyone who has the temerity to put his material on display in such a hothouse atmosphere of fierce competition merits full praise just for putting his head above the parapet! The full list of Circle members' awards is:
Lucien Toutounji (ESC 264): Egypt Airmail 1910-1936; 93 Points, Gold
Greg Todd (ESC 585): Egypt: 1866 The First Issue; 90 Points, Gold
Jonathan Becker (ESC 647): The Conquest and British Military Administration of Palestine and (Greater) Syria: 1914-1920; 87 Points, Large Vermeil
Mahmoud Ramadan (ESC 358): Egypt: Celebrating the Kingdom 1922; 85 Points, Large Vermeil
Ibrahim Shoukry (ESC 423): Rural Service of Egypt 1889-1939; 85 Points, Large Vermeil
Karim Darwaza (ESC 504): Ottoman Post - Syria; 83 Points, Vermeil
Hisham Bassyouny (ESC 391): British Forces in Egypt Issues 1932-1939; 82 Points, Vermeil
Panayotis Cangelaris (ESC 635): The Kingdom of Egypt (1922-1953); 82 Points, Vermeil
Special congratulations should go to Richard Wheatley (ESC 168), who won a Gold (92 points) with his Netherlands East Indies, King Willem III Postal Cards & Envelopes; and to a young member of the PSE, Rafaat Hannalla Milad, who took Vermeil (82 points) for his Egyptian Stationery.
Excitement over for ten years.