Spring in Southport
With the news being all about the Coronavirus it was nice for the members of the Lancashire social Circle and their guests to get away for the Spring Gathering at our regular venue at the Prince of Wales in Southport for the weekend. Having arranged these twice yearly events for the last 10 years one would think it would get a little easier with everyone that passes, if this was only the case. The main problem is the ever changing staff at the hotel which seems to be the trend every time we meet, and building a working relationship has proved difficult to say the least. On this last visit we found another new manager in charge, the fifth I have dealt with in my short time, and all have their own way of dealing with how the hotel is managed. But all have one thing in common they are under instructions from head office to make money and in one or two cases this seems to go before customer service.
Friday night at the Spring Gathering is left open for all members and guests to do their own thing with many going out to several of restaurants in Southport before returning a little later to play catch up over a few drinks in the bar. This year the Circle tried something a bit different when it was decided to bring everyone together around 9 00pm for a quiz which if a success we thought we might incorporate into the Friday Forum that we hold in November. It was a complete success and I am sure in one form or another it will be part of the weekends. The Circle has over the last few years tried to add something different to the proceeding which in the words of the President Chris Knowles helps to keep the gatherings fresh. All the hard work that went into hosting the quiz was down to Ray Bullen and his assistant Malcolm Parry-Jones, the two of them put on a great event that went down very well especially the winning table who won their drinks money for the night.
Since last year the Circle has seen a number of changes first, at the backend of last season the pub we used for the race marking closed down, past president Bob Smith sprung into action and suggested the Alder Root Golf Club that was only a matter of yards away from the pub that we used. Following a discussion with the owner, we used it for the young bird marking when the Circle put on a free buffet lunch for all the members and guests that attended on the day. Following the success of this it was decided to follow the same format this year for all the Lancashire Social Circle race markings.
Ray Bullen and Malcolm Parry-Jones - Dr Geoff Richmond and George Hilson
Under the present management, the Circle has increased its funds to enable us to do this for all the race markings this season. But this has not always been the case, for when we look back in history the Circle has not always been in such a healthy position. In October 1974 the bank balance was extremely low having only £246 in the account following an injection of £300 into the account at the beginning of the year. It was explained by the then secretary the dinner at the Autumn Gathering would cost £380 with the menu cards costing a further £23, flowers £8 and gratuities to the hotel staff £12. He hoped this unsatisfactory state of affairs would be resolved at the AGM. The Circle is now run on a business like system by me alongside the Management Committee with our accounts in a far better position than back in 1974.
The Lancashire Social Circle has been built on several traditions over its long history and as the situation in the sport of pigeon racing has changed; some of these long standing traditions have been changed to ensure the circle has been able to progress with the times. Examples of this are in the early days it was the officials who invited the six or so guests along to our twice yearly functions. As time moved on the Committee members were allowed to invite one guest each, and still later still every member was allowed to invite a guest. This stood for many years until the then President Colin Brough put forward a motion allowing members to bring along as many guests as they wished. Which brings us to the position we find ourselves in at the moment with between 120 and 150 fanciers attending our gatherings.
With the landscape of our sport changing at a ever increasing rate, with dwindling numbers, and many organisations struggling to exist. The LSC has managed to hold its own retaining a membership of 40 and a waiting list of potential fanciers. Once again the Management Committee felt a change should be made by doing away with the 40 member ceiling and inviting fanciers from the waiting list to join. This is a bold move, but with the future of the sport being in the position it is, it seems silly to have potential members queuing up when the Circle could reap the benefits of them being members.
Secretary and President with Phil Allen (Right) - President Chris Knowles with New Members Peter Morri,s Mark Cliffe, William Jones, David Pritchard and Maurice Jackson - Chris Knowles with Alan Bamford
Another great move the Circle put into operation was the trophies we present annually which have been presented to our organisation over a very long period from past members and long standing guests. These have proved to be something of a liability being solid silver and once presented members are not always happy to take them home. One reason being, they need cleaning and two if you display them you are always worried what could happen to them. Over the last few years we have given members the option of leaving them with us once they have had their photo taken with them. We always collect them at the young bird marking and Bob and Brian Smith would take them to the engravers in Manchester and return them in time for the presentation in November. This seems great but for the security side, it was at this point we managed to get the hotel to provide a room where the trophies could be kept all the year round at no cost the Circle. This solved one problem but created another, getting the boxes containing the trophies from the hotel into a van transported to Manchester up three flights of stairs and back again for the presentation. But with every problem come a solution and the ever enterprising honorary members came to the rescue. Brian Smith came up with the idea of having a base for each trophy to stand on that could be taken to the engraver leaving the trophies safely locked up in the hotel. Phil Allen another of our honorary members came to the rescue and with his woodworking skills has produced the blocks that are in the final stages of completion and a big thank you goes out to Phil for all the work he has put into the project.
We as an organisation get some great publicity in both the fancy press magazines and following an article reporting on the last gathering in November when Richard Chambers stood in at short notice for Ian Evans the CEO of the RPRA. Richard did a fantastic job as one of our guest speakers reported on how he was getting schools involved in the Bill Alderson from Houghton-Le-Spring, Tyne and Wear, who wished to help and wanted to provide an ETS system to a school that was starting up. The Circle covered the cost of the postage and insurance and added 25 rings to make it a complete start up package for a school. Richard was contacted and the system was handed over at the BHW Show when Chris Sutton was contacted for a photo of the occasion. I was explaining this to a top fancier and he kindly offered a ETS system along with 40 rings to help a school start up. This was also presented at Blackpool and goes to show how these articles published in the fancy press about the LSC have a very wide coverage.
Gareth Watkins Addressing the Gathering - Lennie Anderson - Bob Smith, Chris Knowles and Stuart Gregory
OH WHAT A NIGHT
Saturday night had over 100 members and guests sitting down to one of the best meals the hotel had provided for some time with all of the four courses delivering on excellence and this is not me saying this but several of the fanciers attending the function. The sound system that the hotel put into place a couple of years ago made all the difference when President Chris Knowles opened the evening by welcoming everyone especially those attending for the first time. Sadly on this occasion we had several members who were unable to attend for various reasons these being John Marsden, Brian Newson, Ken Cliffe, Rod Adams, Stan Dangerfield, Tony Merrick, Brian Garnham, Gerry Clements, Gary Cockshott and Malcolm Hewitt. This was obvious to all present, affected our overall numbers. Before proceeding Chris asked each of the new members to stand as he introduced them to the gathering first William Jones from Southport, David Pritchard from Northwich, Mark Cliffe from Congleton, Peter Morris from Liverpool and Maurice Jackson from Leyland. Chris broke with tradition and introduced the two guest speakers for the evening as the member who was in line for the task had given back word at the last moment with family problems. The first of our speakers was someone many in the room might not have met but he was sure we would have read his articles in the BHW, something he has been doing for 47 years, Gareth Watkins. The most remarkable thing about Gareth is he has done loft visits and written articles about fanciers in all parts of the country but he doesn't drive. He relies on the good nature and friendship of his friend Ieuan Williams who had accompanied him on this occasion. The second of our guest speakers was Lennie Anderson a talented and funny comedian and after dinner speaker with a very quick mind with off the cuff one liners who has a talent for making people laugh.
At this point we took a short break before Gareth Watkins was asked to address the gathering. Gareth spoke of his time in the sport and some of his better performances and touched on his working life and how he had visited hundreds of winning lofts all over the country. He explained how from all the lofts he had visited and the fanciers he has met over the years all had one thing in common dedication to the task of achieving their goal of winning races albeit with different families of pigeons and methods of keeping them. Gareth finished by asking all the guests to stand and raise their glasses in a toast to what he described as the best pigeon function he had ever attended with the amount of small details that had been put into the whole evening.
Before introducing the final speaker the President gave a quick résumé of a number of items that have come into being since the last gathering in November. First the Ladies Weekend this year is to be held in the Lake District with full details of the event on each table. And secondly with the race programme not catering for a 500 mile race as is the case with most racing organisations these last two years the Circle intends to provide a extra race to be held on Friday 17th July from Sigogne with race marking at Roger Suttons on Tuesday 13th July between 1 00pm - 2 00pm. Bob Smith has very kindly offered to purchase a Gold Medal that will be presented to the winner which will be held for 12 months. Chris thanked Bob for this very kind gesture and also Stuart Gregory who was one of the members who was instrumental in pushing this forward. A very big thank you also went out to Phil Allen for the work he had put into producing the bases for the trophies that enabled us to leave all the trophies locked up safe and not having to take them to the engravers with all the security problems that entails. Chris finished by thanking Ray Bullen for his contribution to the quiz and asked those present for feedback from the event.
Barry Maidment,Stephen Beardmore and Malcolm Parry-Jones - Bill Lewis with his guest Mick Howard and New Member Peter Morris - George Hilson and Brian Smith
Stuart Mellor, Russell Toplis and Andy Florek - New Membesr William Jones and Maurice Jackson - New Members Mark Cliffe and Peter Morris
Ronnie Wignall, Vinnie Donnelly and Ray Bullen - Ray Pollitt and Jim Kenny
Lennie Anderson took the microphone and with all good comedians it wasn't long before he brought the whole room into laughter with his many silly stories that everyone could relate to. The response from the members came from Alan Bamford who made his way from the back of the room to pick up the microphone from Chris and made his response from the top table, making a joke of the fact there was no mic on his table. Alan thanked Gareth for his speech picking out several points he had made and hoped he would come to our next Gathering and Prize Presentation in November. There wasn't much to say about the second speaker only that he had brought the house down and given everyone a really good laugh something we all need in our lives. Alan then asked all members to raise a toast to all the guests who are the main stay of the Gatherings without whom, we the Lancashire Social Circle would not exist.
The evening was brought to a close by the Secretary who thanked all who had helped put the weekend together and all the speakers he explained there was a card on each table explaining the next Ladies Weekend that is to be held at the Hydro Hotel at Bowness-on-Windermere. The hotel has stunning views overlooking the lake perfectly situated for leisure tranquillity and relaxation with a swimming pool. The hotel is a present going through a complete makeover and will be ready for its first visitors this summer. Tony Merrick is the man behind the weekend but was not with us on the night so Stephen Beardmore stepped in to take the deposits and names of interested fanciers. Speaking with Tony a few days ago he is more than pleased with the response from the Gathering but will still have a few rooms available should anyone wish to take up the offer.
Tony's phone number is 01539 445995 but don't leave it to long.
Tel. 01254 772515.