|Report of the Annual General Meeting, May 16 2015|
PRESENT: Twenty-five members and guests were present; apologies for absence were received from 14 members.|
In brief opening remarks, the Secretary explained that the popularity of the Europhilex exhibition had denied us any possibility of our usual meeting room within the Business Design Centre, and gave grateful thanks to the Premier Inn nearby, which had offered members an unusual but welcoming alternative by rearranging the hotel’s restaurant for the afternoon. The Circle very much appreciated that hospitality – and the fact that an open bar was available. Seppo Laaksonen then kindly invited members to attend the international exhibition Finlandia in Tampere from May 24-28, 2017, to mark the 100th anniversary of the republic.
The Deputy Chairman opened the meeting proper by welcoming a staggering number of overseas guests (eleven were present, from eight countries), several of them attending for the first time, and lamenting the absence of the Chairman. The meeting wished him all the best for a speedy recovery.
The minutes of the 2014 AGM were approved by acclamation, and as there were no matters arising the meeting went on to approve unanimously the Committee’s proposed rewording of Paragraph 4 of the Circle Rules to take into account the two-tier subscription (for those taking the printed QC or reading it online) decided in 2014. The motion was proposed by Peter Grech, seconded by Edmund Hall. The Secretary stated that as no proposal for a change in subscriptions had been made, they would remain at £20 and £15.
For the record, the first paragraph of Rule 4 now states:
4. ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP SUBSCRIPTION shall be payable in advance on January 1 at a rate set at the previous year's Annual General Meeting. Members advising the Secretary by the end of February that they do not wish to receive the printed QC shall pay £5 less than the standard subscription. If annual payment is not made by the end of February Officers will advise the member in writing that membership will be terminated after 30 days. No further notice will be given of termination, but membership may thereafter be restored, at the Committee’s discretion, on payment of all outstanding subscriptions plus an administration fee of £5.
Chairman’s Report: In the absence of the Chairman, John Davis noted an eventful year, overshadowed by the sad death of our mentor and former President, Peter Smith, which was marked by a very well received “tribute issue” of the QC. He noted that we had enjoyed a couple of successful auctions during the year, and thanked Jon Aitchison for the introduction of á novelty in the mini-auction now accompanying virtually every meeting, which continues to provide commission funds for the Circle.
There were, however, two disquieting questions: first, a slight but significant fall in membership numbers despite last year’s introduction of cheaper subscriptions – how were we to face the challenge of attracting younger members? And second, the suggestion that the QC might be discontinued. He supported the Chairman’s view that this must not be allowed to happen, though all alternatives remained open.
He gave thanks to the Committee for their work behind the scenes on our behalf
Secretary’s Report: 1. Members. This report dealt mainly with membership numbers: since the last AGM no fewer than 17 had left us, either taken by the Grim Reaper or facing advancing years, or in some cases blaming the recession. Happily there was balance in four new members during the year, and three more at this meeting – welcome to Khalid Abu Bakr and Tarek Mokhtar from Egypt and Mats Edström from Sweden – but still the net balance was a loss of ten and the perennial problem of replacing those leaving with new “young blood”.
So the meeting very much welcomed the thoughts expressed by Hani Sharestan in an email suggesting that the Circle should open a Facebook page, which would have the immense advantage of being able to provide virtually immediate answers to queries from acolytes, as well as providing the colourful and swiftly changing display sought by today’s young people. The meeting took no offence at all at Mr Sharestan’s (tongue in cheek?) suggestion that perhaps the Circle’s methods might be seen as on the “archaic” side and unlikely to appeal to the “now” generation who perhaps lack some of their elders’ patience..
Sherif Samra provided wise words about the Cairo’s society’s unfortunate experiences with a Facebook page apparently “taken over” by outsiders who provided mis-information under the aegis of the Philatelic Society of Egypt, and the meeting decided that it would be sensible to hurry slowly: though there was some enthusiasm for the idea, we shall investigate and take more soundings about pros and cons before considering any definite move. The meeting did feel, however, that some action must be taken, and very much appreciated Mr Sharestan’s thoughtful proposal.
2. MacArthur Award. The Secretary noted that our award for the best and most important article in the previous year’s QC managed to attract only 22 votes – out of a membership of 180. This simply is not good enough. There will be more publicity for next year’s award, pointing up the importance of the QC to the Circle. Happily, however, more than third of the votes were cast in favour of a single article, and the Deputy Chairman was pleased to be able to hand over the “Seated Scribe” trophy to Edmund Hall for the fourth part of his “Sinai and Gaza” series of articles.
Presentation of Accounts: The Treasurer presented accounts showing an accumulated surplus of £17,727.95 (as against £16,270.21 in 2013), and a surplus for the year of £1,457.74 (against £668.16), but explained that without the auctions commissions we would be running at a small loss. It is expected that the saving on postal charges as a result of the subscription changes will make a slight difference in our favour in 2015; and all ideas towards money-saving will be welcomed. He gave generous thanks to the initiative by our New Zealand “chapter”, who have voluntarily decided to pay an extra £5 each on their subscription to help to defray postage costs. The offer was greeted with acclamation, and the accounts approved unanimously.
The Treasurer explained that the amount held in the current account (£13,249.70) appeared massive compared with 2013 (£8,575.98), but that this was the result of the consolidation of the auction and reserve account into a single account. See page iii for the details. On the proposal of John Davis, seconded by Edmund Hall, a vote of thanks and gratitude to our Auditor, Steven Bunce, was also passed by acclamation.
Auction report: The Secretary emphasised the importance of the two annual auctions, detailing that the 2014 main auction provided commission to the Circle of something of the order of £780, and the Live Auction in the spring a further £328 – useful amounts that help us to keep our head above water. But he noted a decline in the number of both sellers and bidders, and made a strong appeal for all members to support the Auctions. Illustrated lists of lots for Auction 54 in the autumn should reach him by August 15.
Librarian’s report: John Davis reported a very quiet year, with not a single book borrowed from the Library. This is an almost criminal waste of valuable resources, and he appealed to members to make more use of what is available. He also announced two additions to the library, self-published by our members: Laurence Kimpton’s Airmails Across the Middle East 1918-1930; and John’s own Egypt: from the Postal Concession until Suez, 1932 to 1956, Part I.
Election of Officers: Apart from the long-running vacancy for Publicity Officer, there were no changes to be made, but the Secretary appealed for help in the shape of a Meetings Officer. Anyone willing to take on the task of arranging meetings, dates and speakers, would be given a very welcoming reception.
Any Other Business Ronny Van Pellecom announced that a second, hardback, edition of his book on Ramleh had been published, with an additional 50 or so pages based mainly on new research discoveries.
There was much enthusiasm for a visit to the Cairo exhibition to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Egyptian postage stamp, which will take place around Post Day, January 2, next year; and much talk of the World Stamp Show at the Jacob Javits Convention Centre in New York between May 28 and June 4. It is hoped that a small committee might be set up to co-ordinate arrangements for visitors to the American event.
On a much more sombre note, Tony Schmidt showed dangerous examples of forged postmarks, made by computer, on Interpostals, so perfect that he was not able to tell the difference. The operator is able, he says, to lift a postmark from a cover or stamp and reproduce it on another cover, IP or stamp so perfectly as to be indistinguishable. The same man has also provided fake versions of Type VIII-a IPs for Alexandrie Marine (very rare) and Minet el Bassal (less so, but still dangerous). How is it possible to guard against these fakes?
Date of the next meeting: A date similar to this year’s will be selected among next year’s Meetings List.
After the AGM, a brief “ten sheets” meeting was held, with Peter Grech showing covers of French POs in the Levant, highlighted by an 1867 Constantinople cover originating from Odessa, Russia, forwarded by French ship to Messina, and a semi-official French PO in Aleppo, (1845-1870), using a linear postmark “POSTE FRANÇAISE D’ALEP” (right) and communicated via Alexandretta. John Davis showed material from the Forwarding Agents, including Briggs, Waghorn, and an autograph letter to Bath “forwarded by S.Shepheard / British Hotel / Cairo” of January 6, 1856. To complete a successful day, new member Mats Edström showed some of his revenues collection including a bisect of the 500m 1892 Salt Tax stamp on a fragment of a sale document. And though only one seller provided mini-auction material on the day, his items provided £3 in commission for the Circle. Every little helps!
The Circle needs YOU!
The Editor/Webmaster report is given extra prominence here because the shortage of articles is threatening our future. An urgent appeal came from Edmund Hall, prefaced by the alarming Agenda note: Is it time to abandon the QC? Of course not, came the response from members both present and by correspondence – but the Editor replied by pointing out that he cannot edit or publish blank pages. In recent years the same few names have appeared above virtually all the QC articles, and almost all of them had “early” membership numbers, he said, calling on all members, and especially the more recent, to put pen to paper.
Without an increase in the number of articles being submitted he might well be forced to change publication from quarterly to “whenever enough material is available”. His approach was good-humoured, but the essential message behind it is crucially important: the QC is at the centre of our activities. Without it, we might as well not exist.
So it is vitally important that every member, regardless of how “shy” or unwilling to step in the footsteps of our great predecessors they might be, provides SOMETHING for the magazine. As he pointed out, the QC is not Edmund’s magazine; it belongs to all the members. Publication is ALL our responsibility.