This "history" first appeared as a series of articles in the Liverpool Branch newsletter in 1997 & 1998 which were written by our current Branch Secretary Royston Hughes to celebrate 50 years of the Liverpool Branch.
A history of the Liverpool Branch of the BCSS
by Royston Hughes
The decision to form the Yorkshire Cactus Society was taken, after much discussion, when four men, almost complete strangers to each other, met at the residence of Mr. H. M. Roan on the 23rd August 1945. There were 14 members present at the first meeting on the 3rd October 1945 when the four founder members A. Baynes, H. M. Roan, V. W. Kane and F. Ives outlined the aims and objects of the Society and explained the rules of membership. Members present increased to 33 in November and 39 in December. The fourth meeting on the 2nd January 1946 was the first A.G.M. of the Society. The first Journal was produced for March 1946 and in it is found acknowledgment of eight people who had provided invaluable help in the formation of the Society. One of these was Mr. F. M. Court F.R.H.S. of Litherland, Lancashire. He was a nurseryman specialising in cacti and succulents and as such was also able to take a full page advertisement in the Journal for a number of years from the beginning.
By the time the June Journal was printed the original members had become the Bradford & District Branch of the society, one of six branches formed though some were not fully inaugurated. The more distant of these covered the areas of Birmingham, London and Northern Ireland. The wide distribution of the new membership was recognised when the September Journal was published as that of the National Cactus & Succulent Society. The membership was well over 300 and approaching 400.
Prior to this on the 24th August 1946 an excursion to the cactus collection at Alexandra Park, Manchester took place and was attended by 150 members and their friends. Many had travelled great distances, in particular Mr. J. Robertson from Larkhall in Scotland. Unfortunately Birmingham didn't make it due to their coach catching fire 37 miles from Manchester. At this meeting it was decided to form a Lancashire branch. It would appear that there was a Liverpool cactus club at that time but any Liverpool NCSS members would be included in the Lancashire branch based at Manchester.
The Lancashire Branch was inaugurated on the 14th December 1946 and at the first meeting on the 15th February 1947 12 members attended despite the severe weather (1947 was one of the harshest winters on record). Mr. Stevens-Jones of Liverpool, kindly acted as chairman in the absence, owing to illness, of Mr. Bayliss. In the December 1946 Journal there was a note, on the monograph of the Mesembrianthema by Dr. G.C. Nel, by W.S.J. Liverpool. At the third meeting on the 19th April 1947, "Mr. Stevens-Jones of Liverpool gave a well received talk entitled Desirable Plants". His name appears again as a member of a 4 man Brains Trust answering other member's questions on the 13th September 1947. Again at the 10th January 1948 meeting "Mr. Stevens-Jones gave an informal talk including practical advice, extracts from a letter received from Mr. Hall in South Africa, and an exhibition of various rare succulents".
This talk was given a little over a month before the inaugural meeting of the Liverpool, Southport and District Branch on the 31st February 1948. At this time the Lancashire Branch became the Manchester Branch. The new Liverpool Branch included a number of members from Chester who eventually formed a Chester Branch in September 1949. The Liverpool, Southport & District Branch was the fifteenth additional branch to be inaugurated some two years after the formation of the Society. It can be seen however that from its start both the above-mentioned gentlemen were involved with, and members of, the National Cactus and Succulent Society. They were both also involved with the existing Liverpool Cactus and Succulent Club. At the end of 1948 Frank Court was its chairman and Bill Stevens-Jones was its honorary secretary and treasurer.
The Liverpool Branch of the BCSS
In the National Cactus and Succulent Journal for June 1948 is found the first mention of the Liverpool, Southport & District Branch under Branch activities. The Inaugural Meeting in Liverpool was held on the 31st February 1948 (evidently a misprint - see later).
Mr.H.M.Roan addressed the meeting on the aims and objects of the Society and answered many questions regarding the Society. The following officials were elected: - Chairman Mr. H.A.Harrison, Treasurer Mrs. V.C.Walker, Committee Dr. A.Cambell, and Mr. R.T.Elsden.
The first meeting was held on Friday 5th March 1948 at 7.30pm in the Common Hall, Hackins Hey, Liverpool. It was in fact a joint meeting of the Liverpool, Southport and District Branch of the National Cactus and Succulent Society with the Liverpool Cactus and Succulent Club. There were 17 branch members and 6 club members present and Mr. Harrison took the chair. The meeting opened with a report by the chairman on the Inaugural Meeting of the Liverpool, Southport and District Branch, which Mr. Roan had chaired. After some discussion it was agreed that joint meetings of Branch and Club should continue until December 1948, but finances would be kept separate. These meetings would be on the first Friday each month at the Common Hall, Hackins Hey between 7.30pm and 9.30pm. The first hour would be for any formal business while the remainder would be informal and the committee could arrange any additional meetings of the Branch if it so desired.
An election of officers for the Branch then took place as follows: - Chairman Mr. H.A.Harrison Hon. Secretary Mr. D.A.S.Barnes Hon. Treasurer Mrs. V.C.Walker Committee Dr. A.Cambell Mr. R.T.Elsden Mr. F.M.Court Mr. H.L.Hewitson
The formal part ended with a proposed agenda for the next meeting. Committee meetings were held at members' homes, on Saturday afternoons between the general meetings, just twice. After that it was decided to hold them at 7.00pm before the general meetings. So this became the pattern of the meetings in the early years.
Following the branch AGM of the 3rd December 1948, the meeting on the 6th January 1949 was the first meeting of the Branch independent of the Club. In August 1949 it was decided to hold a meeting on the 24th September, Saturday, at 3.00pm in Chester for those Chester residents who couldn't get to the Liverpool meetings. It was at this meeting that it was decided to set up a separate Chester Branch. It would appear that in these early years strong links between Chester Branch and Liverpool and Southport Branch were continued.
The pattern of meetings between 7.20pm and 9.30pm on the first Friday in the month at the Common Hall, Hackins Hey continued through 1949 till November and December when it became the first Thursday. However in 1950 it had to be transferred to the last Thursday, as this was the only available night that the Common Hall hadn't been booked. In 1952 it became the fourth Thursday of the month which then became established up to the present time. The venue of the Common Hall continued up to the end of 1966. As the site of the Common Hall had been acquired for redevelopment and was due for demolition (something that didn't happen for many years) a new venue in a central location was sought. The Conference room, Arden House, Arden Street, off Byrom Street/Scotland Road was found. Meetings were held here through 1967 and 1968 up to July. Arden House was a Salvation Army Hostel used mainly by long distance lorry drivers. Being not very central and in poorly lit streets a new venue was found at the Central Hall, Renshaw Street for the August 1968 meeting. Unfortunately the fifth instead of the fourth Thursday was mistakenly booked so an offer by Mr.E.Kirby to have it at his home and café at 174 Walton Breck Road was gratefully accepted. Members with transport ferrying everyone there.
Central Hall at first was a very good venue with an upper room and a good caretaker. Later each meeting was in a different room and a different caretaker wanted the premises vacated dead on 10.00pm so much so that members were locked in on a few occasions. Also the Liverpool Youth Orchestra who practiced in another part of the building seemed to be continually heard during meetings. It was at the end of 1976 that Central Hall ceased to be the venue. Since the beginning to 1977 the Branch has been meeting in the YMCA, Mount Pleasant in committee room 1, with the August Table Shows using the Minor Hall, which is better than the Main Hall originally used.
As one would expect, those who had knowledge and experience of growing cacti and had used their enthusiasm to found the Liverpool Branch became its officials and committee. There was no planned programme in the early days as the monthly meetings got under way. A topic and speaker being selected and agreed for each meeting at the previous meeting. This task usually fell upon the officials or committee members who were classed as the experts by the other less knowledgeable members. Subjects that came up in those early years more than once and sometimes almost annually were cactus composts, winter care, windowsill collections, greenhouse collections, pests and diseases & seed raising. As well as these were the genera or plant groupings like Opuntias, Lithops, Crassulas and Mammillarias. Often things would be much more general with an informal discussion or question and answer session. Tips for the coming month was also a popular item.
An attempt at producing a planned programme was initiated at the AGM on the 24th January 1952 when a list of 17 items was drawn up of subjects that members wished to hear about at future meetings. A year later at the AGM in January 1953 we find the first real attempt at a programme being planned with subjects arranged for most of the monthly meetings. It didn't happen the next year in 1954 but in 1955 and 1956 there was a planned programme. In 1957 the year's programme seems to have become established so that it could be typed onto a single sheet of paper and duplicated copies were run off so that each member could have a copy. This same system then continued until 1965. By 1968 the system had changed to printed programme cards that were distributed to members and friends and also to any prospective members that we might meet at shows or display exhibits. This has continued in this manner right up until the present.
When the planned programme was started the speakers were still mainly those branch members called the experts. However in April 1956, Mr. Tom Blackburn, a nurseryman from Woodplumpton near Preston who specialized in cacti and succulents, came to speak to the Branch. The next outside speaker was Mr. Ron Ginns, well known nationally in the NCSS from Northhamptonshire, who spoke in February 1960. In October of the same year Mr.T.Blackburn also gave another talk. In 1961, 62 & 63 a Captain A.B.Wiggins from Preston & Fylde Branch gave talks. Also in 1962, 63 & 64 a Mr. Alan Penswick of Nog Tow nurseries, Woodplumpton talked to the Branch. Additionally in 1963 there was a talk by Mr.N.A.Jones from Heswall Branch and in 1964 a Mr.R.G.Jenkins spoke.
By 1965 the outside speakers slumped to one when Mr. Brian Fearn of Sheffield was the only one. In 1966 it jumped to 4 non-branch speakers only to slump to 2 in 1967. However on the 20th September Liverpool Branch was host to a special extra meeting held in the lecture theatre of the Museum, William Brown Street. This was to hear Mr. Buining the internationally known Dutch cactophile give a talk about the Melocacti and Discocacti of Brazil, which was illustrated, with slides of his travels there. In 1968 there were 5 outside speakers who were headed by Mr. Frank Horwood, a nationally known figure in the NCSS. This would appear to be the time when it became normal to have a programme with a majority of outside speakers. The hobby seemed to have reached a point where members were seeking to extend their knowledge by seeing and hearing the most knowledgeable and experienced growers available who could pass on their experience and specialized skills.
In 1969 there were again 5 speakers, 3 of whom were nationally known in the society. The meetings for these 3 were held in the lecture theatre of the museum in William Brown Street. The formation of a new Southport Branch caused the Liverpool and Southport branch to change its name to Merseyside Branch and obviously from then on the membership figures would be affected. In 1970 and 71 there were only 4 and 3 outside speakers respectively and they came from a much more localised area, (a number of cancellations and alterations were effected from the original 1971 programme's 6). The usual number of speakers since then to the present has been 5, 6 or 7.
The branch has always maintained a pool of expertise among its ranks of members who have been able to give talks or demonstrations on those meetings when an outside speaker or other event was not arranged. One of these, other events, that was popular, has become established as two annual events, the shows. The first table show was held on the 5th May 1949. There were only two classes as follows:- 1 bowl garden maximum 12 inches across. A cactus or succulent any size. Judging was done by taking a vote of members present. Of the three bowl gardens exhibited that of Mr Callow won by a good margin. In the other class, there were 17 entries and a much closer contest resulted in a win by Mr Walker with an Astrophytum Ornatum. Each of the winners received a prize of 5/- from the funds.
The next table show was held on the 26th June 1952. Again there were two classes this time, one for cacti and one for succulents. These were judged by the chairman Mr W Stevens-Jones with plant prizes being donated by members. The after the contest the judge spoke briefly on the merits of the various exhibits. In 1953 table shows were held both on June and September. To add some interest to the Septmeber show it was limited to plants that had been grown from seed by members. The earlier show was again Judged by Mr W Stevens-Jones while the later one was judged by Mr Frank Court, a member who ran a cactus nursery in Litherland.
For the 27th May 1954 meeting a table show with 6 classes was scheduled as follows:-
a) Specimen cactus plant
b) Specimen succulent plant (other than cacti)
c) Specimen cacti grown by member from seed
d) Specimen succulent grown by member from seed (other than cacti)
e) Specimen cacti grown other than in greenhouse
f) Specimen succulent grown other than in a greenhouse (other than cacti)
Prize money for each class shall be 10/- divided as follows 1st=5/- 2nd=3/- 3rd=2/-
The same schedule was retained for the September meetings table show but plant prizes were donated by members. From this it would appear that a standard had been set for what were to become popular and regular events in the yearly programme. Their popularity can be seen from the fact that they continued for many years with only slight changes. Such changes became possible as a greater range of plants were available and classes could be designated to a particular genus or plant family.
Judging was generally by the chairman Mr W Stevens-Jones in the early years but included Mr Walker, Mr Barker and Mr Vaughan and latterly Mr J Bolton an amateur nurseryman and Mr G Williams a professional gardener. In 1957 a 4½ inch diameter pot limit was tried out and in 1958 classes 5 & 6 were combined so that there were only 5 classes in total. Other than these changes as stated, this formula remained the same until 1967 when the May show expanded to 7 classes. In the September of that year and also the following May the show went down to 6 classes. However in September 1968 it expanded to 10 classes.
Mr Geoff Williams judged both shows in 1966 and also in 1967. He was also instrumental in setting up a shows sub-committee of which he became chairman, the forerunner of the post of shows secretary. This brought about the use of judges from outside the branch. In 1968 in May Mr Gamble of Preston was the judge and in September Mrs Evans. Also due to Geoff Williams professional expertise and his contacts within Liverpool Corporation Parks Department the committee was persuaded to hold a two-day show. This to be held in the Harthill greenhouses, Calderstones Park.
This first show despite all the worries at the time was to be successful and become an annual event. The schedule for this first show was divided into 6 sections and 25 classes.
Section 1 Classes 1 to 6 for Merseyside branch members only, includes a 12" square display and 4 classes with pot size limits
Section 2 Classes 7 to 12 for members of the N.C.S.S.
Section 3 Classes 13 to 19 for anybody
Section 4 Classes 20 & 21 for novices
Section 5 Classes 22 & 23 for exhibitors without a greenhouse, frame or conservatory
Section 6 Classes 24 & 25 for juniors (under 16)
Entry fees were 6d per entry except for the open classes being 1/- per entry and juniors 3d per entry. Prize money was set at:-
Additionally there were 3 awards, a rose bowl, a cup and a bronze medal plus two N.C.S.S. diplomas and a Practical Gardener Award of Honour and a Certificate of Merit. The judging was done by Mr Alan Hart.
The show in May 1970 was more or less the same as that in May 1969 but having Mr. Colin Williams to judge. By 1971 however the schedule had been rationalised into 4 sections based on the experience acquired from the previous two shows.
Section 1 classes 1 to 22 for Merseyside Branch members.
Section 2 classes 23 to 32 open section.
Section 3 classes 33 & 34 for novices.
Section 4 classes 35 & 36 for juniors.
Section 1 had no entry fees or monetary prizes
Section 2 entry fees 5p (1/-) per entry, prizes 1st=35p 2nd=25p 3rd=5p in each class
Section 3 entry fees 3p per entry prizes 1st=15p 2nd=10p 3rd=5p
Section 4 no entry fee prizes 1st=15p 2nd=10p 3rd=5p
Entry fees for novice classes were dropped in 1977 and for the open classes in 1980. The number of trophies and awards increased somewhat between 1973 and 1976.
The show has continued as an annual event and a highlight of the year's programme. It was held at the Harthill Greenhouses, Calderstones Park until 1984. At that time in an act of civic vandalism the greenhouses were pulled down as being unsafe, instead of being renovated as had been proposed. Croxteth Hall, then part of Merseyside county council became the new venue for the show in 1985. It was held in one of the greenhouses within the walled garden behind the hall. The greenhouse did not allow for the best presentation of the plants on show and in 1986 the show was staged within the old dining room in Croxteth Hall itself. Apart from a little difficulty in not having enough daylight it was an excellent place to stage the show and has remained our venue to the present.
In 1986 the branch was persuaded to exhibit at a farms & gardens weekend at Croxteth 3 weeks after our annual show. It went well but a similar event in 1987 was a washout due to rain. For 1988 the branch was persuaded to stage the show over the Spring Bank Holiday to close on the Monday evening, making it a 3 day show. The greater attendance and more interest on the Monday has led to the branch retaining this format for the annual show to the present. The unfortunate lower attendances of recent years has been due to competition from commercial shows on the same date.
Between 1969 and 1974 there were 22 or 23 exhibitors except in 1973 when there were 29. It then declined to 19 or 20 for 4 years. It then dropped to 15 in 1979 and this seems to have been the average since then. However the decline in the number of exhibits seems less dramatic. In the early years there was an average of 250 exhibits while since then the average has been 225 exhibits.
With the start of the 2 day annual show the September table show lapsed for 3 years. However on the 24th August 1972 it was re-established with the schedule expanded to 16 classes. The popularity of the August table show, as it had become, can be seen in that it has retained this same format with only minor changes. Classes are designed to persuade new and inexperienced members to exhibit their plants however small their collections by having pot size limits.
Another event that involves members showing their plants is the plant of the month competition. At the meeting of the 25th June 1953 it was decided to start this competition at the next meeting. Members were asked to bring along mimicry plants to the July meeting, Mammillarias in August and seedlings in September. Later it was decided to have Euphorbias in October and Opuntias in November. Points would be awarded as follows 1st=10 2nd=9 3rd=8 4th=7 and 5th=6. Any number of plants could be entered but only one could count for points. The chairman, Mr. W Stevens Jones, offered a prize of £1-1-0 to the member gaining the most points by the end of January 1954. At the November meeting it was decided to have Rebutia, Notocactus or Gymnocalycium for the final competition of the series in January. Over the years although members are usually interested to see the plants on display in the competition, their support with entries is erratic and generally lower than hoped for.
The need to publicise the society and the new Liverpool branch was realised in the early days. To this end the 1948 September meeting was cancelled so that members could stage an exhibit at the Liverpool Corporation Horticultural Show held in St Georges Hall on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th September. Although a new experience for members this display was reasonably successful and brought 11 new visitors to the next meeting. At the Chester Flower Show Mr Elsden was able to stage an exhibit with some 40 plants that aroused a great deal of interest.
In 1949 there was another exhibit at the Liverpool Flower Show. Also any members who could were asked to assist Mr Duggan with an exhibit at the Roby Flower Show. In 1950 an 8ft x 5ft competitive exhibit was staged on the 10/12 August which won prize money of £8-0-0. The next record of the branch staging exhibits was at the English Electric Co Flower Shows in the August of 1954, 55 and 56. Nothing more is mentioned until 1966 when publicity of the society from National to local level became important.
This led to a publicity stand being manned at the 3 day Liverpool show in 1966 & 67. In 1970 a none competitive display was staged that was awarded a bronze medal at this show. This continued each year until 1978 with the award of a bronze or silver medal. Similarly a none competitive display was staged at the Woolton Show in 1966. This has also annually until it was cancelled in 1996. In 1970 & 71 bronze medals were awarded, after that it was a silver or silver gilt until 1980 when it became a gold medal awarded each year. In 1968 an exhibit was again staged at the English Electric Co Flower Show and this continued until the final one in 1973. Also in 1968 an exhibit was staged at the Formby Show and a silver medal was awarded. The next entry at this show came in 1976 and continued until 1993 after which it ceased to be a major show. From 1979 it became a joint venture between Liverpool Branch and Southport branch. An Award of a silver then a sliver gilt medal came first then from 1980 always a gold medal.
The branch has also exhibited at various other shows from time to time with varying results. Of these only the St Michaels and Lark Lane Show has become a regular event since 1981. The first British, International Garden Festival was staged in Liverpool in 1984. Involvement in such a large event for the society was done through zone 5 with all branches represented. Two exhibits were staged the first from the 12th to 22nd July and the second from the 27th September to the 2nd October. The first of these exhibits had a selection of cacti and succulents set out against a desert scene background painted by schoolchildren. The later display comprised two specialized groups of plants plus various artifacts from countries were cacti and succulents come from. One group was of Lophophora from Mexico & the USA and the other group was of Haworthias from South Africa, both groups set pout to inform cactophiles and the public. It must be added here that one Liverpool branch member, Les Ralfs staged a small personal exhibit showing off some of his fine plants. Inspired by his success with this exhibit Les then made plans to stage a 42ft long stand later in the Garden Festival. This was to require all his family and some friends to transport all his prize plants safely to the festival site, then back home again afterwards.
When zone 5 held zonal shows they were hosted by each branch in turn. In 1977 Liverpool branch hosted the zonal show and it was held in the greenhouses in the walled garden at Croxteh Hall. Also the branch was involved in exhibits staged by zone 5 when the Royal Lancs Show was held on Aintree Racecourse in 1986 and 1978.
Notable Branch Officials and Members of the Early Days
A society such as ours relies on the enthusiasm and dedication to the hobby of its members to sustain it. From among its membership it has to find those with the energy, time and skills to run it. Liverpool Branch has done well in this regard over the years. It would seem there was no record of membership kept during 1948 when the branch and the club held joint meetings.
Mr. H. A. Harrison it would seem was a leading force in setting up the branch and became the first chairman at the inaugural meeting in February 1948. He lived at Rock Ferry and continued as chairman until April 1950 when he had to resign due to pressure of business preventing him attending meetings. He had attended the national AGM representing the branch. It seems that the pressure eased in 1951 when he attended most meetings.
Mr. D. A. S. Barnes became the first branch secretary at the first meeting on the 5th March 1948. He lived at Halewood and at the branch AGM in December 1948 he had to resign due to pressure of business preventing him getting to meetings. He was to remain on the committee but only got to the March 1949 meeting after that.
Mr. & Mrs. Walker of Great Crosby were to be part of the branch for many years. Mrs. V.C. Walker became the first branch treasurer at the inaugural meeting in February 1948. She remained in this post until the end of 1951 during which time she rarely missed a meeting. During the following year this post appears to have been unfilled.
Mr. J. Hugh Walker agreed to be exchange secretary during 1948 to organise the exchange of plants between members with surplus or duplicate plants and members with lists of plants that they wanted. This post was discontinued and he became a committee member for 1949. However when the secretary Mr. H. L. Hewitson, a Southport member, after only one meeting, found he could not continue in that post due to other commitments, Hugh Walker took on the job until the end of the year. He then became vice-chairman for 1950, 51 and 52. The treasurer's job that his wife had resigned from a year earlier was still unfilled so he took on that role for 1953. He continued as treasurer until 1958 in addition being vice-chairman for 1956. He took on this role of vice-chairman in 1959 once again and continued in the post to the end of 1965 when he became chairman for 1966.
Mr. J. W. Barker was a regular attendee of meetings from April 1949. He took on the job of secretary for 1950 after Hugh Walker had temporarily done the job the previous year. He continued on as secretary till the end of 1957. Then he became vice-chairman for 1958. He took on the role of chairman in 1959 and remained chairman until the end of 1963.
Mr. W. Stevens-Jones, it seems, was involved with the NCSS from its earliest days. A short note from him appeared in the December 1946 Journal. Also he took the chair at the first meeting of the Lancashire Branch at Manchester on the 15th February 1947. He followed that with a talk at the April meeting of that branch. Then again he was a member of a "Brains Trust" at their September meeting in that year.
At the formation of the Liverpool, Southport and District branch of the NCSS, Bill Stevens-Jones as well as being involved with the Lancashire (Manchester) branch owed allegiance to the Liverpool Cactus & Succulent Club. He was therefore a club member during the joint club & branch meetings of 1948. He became the hon. Secretary and treasurer for the club for 1949 when separate club and branch meetings were held.
He became a regular attendee of meetings of the branch from March 1950 becoming chairman at the next meeting when Mr. H. A. Harrison had to resign due to pressure of work. He continued as chairman until the end of 1957 when he served as a committee member for 1958. After a 5-year gap he again became chairman for 1964 and 65.
Ray Allcock remembers that he was an engineer by profession who was a great collector and extremely knowledgeable about our hobby of cacti and succulent growing. However he had a similar enthusiasm for sea-shells and was a keen singing member of the Birkenhead Operatic Society. He was the life and soul of any branch meeting. He also maintained an extensive correspondence with authorities in various parts of the world, such as Howard Gates in the USA, Hans Herre in South Africa, and others. Later this included Harry Hall, who had been the curator of the Darrah Collection of Cacti and Succulents at Manchester before he went to South Africa. Harry Hall discovered a new conophytum and sent some of it to Bill Stevens-Jones back in Liverpool. Ray Allcock in turn also received a piece of this conophytum from Bill Stevens-Jones. Later this species was named by Louisa M. Bolus as Conophytum stevens-jonesianum. It would appear that this is the only name in the nomenclature to commemorate a Merseyside collector.
Mr. F. M. Court FRHS was a cactus nurseryman and was one of eight people thanked for their help in setting up the original Yorkshire Cactus and Succulent Society (before it became the NCSS) in the first journal. His business, the Moorland Cactus Nurseries, Stanley Park, Litherland, est. 1921, features a full page advertisement from the first journal through the early years. In 1947 you could get from him a collection of cacti & succulents or bowl garden plants for 12/6d per doz. post paid or a collection in 2" pots for 20/- per doz. carriage paid or mixed cacti seed at 2/9d or 5/3d per packet post paid. Frank Court was elected to the committee at the first branch meeting on the 5th March 1948. However he became chairman of the club for 1949 when the branch and club held separate meetings.
Ray Allcock thinks that Frank Court had been a prime mover in the setting up of the Liverpool Cactus and Succulent Club. The club probably became redundant with the formation of the branch and came to an end around the time Bill Stevens-Jones became active in the branch. Frank Court had other interests and the last Ray heard of him was that he had moved into tropical fish a few years later.
Mr. R. T. Elsden from Chester became a committee member at the inaugural meeting and continued as such through 1949. With the formation of the Chester branch after the 24th September meeting he became a founder member of that branch.
Dr. A. Campbell was the other committee member at the inaugural meeting. He deputised for the secretary at the 1948 AGM but after that only attended the February and March meeting in 1949.
Mr. H. L. Hewitson became a committee member at the first meeting. He was from Southport and took the job of secretary for 1949 only to resign after one meeting due to other commitments.
Mr. C. A. Langley, a visitor at the February and March 1949 meetings, became a regular at meetings after that and became a committee member for 1951, 52 and 53 then again in 1958.
Mr. J. H. Wookey was first mentioned as one of the two auditors at the 1948 AGM. He too was a regular at meetings and became a committee member for 1950 through to the end of 1953.
Mystery of the date of the inaugural meeting
Mr. John Cox of Bradford branch has been able to confirm that the strange date of the 31st February 1948 for the inaugural meeting of the Liverpool, Southport and District Branch appears in the original journals, not just in the reprints. 1948 was a leap year so February did in fact have 29 days. My first thoughts were that a type-setter may have misread 31 for either 21,11 or 1. However as these dates fall on a Saturday, Wednesday and Sunday respectively it would seem unlikely. None of these are in line with the chosen meeting night of the first Friday of the month. What does line up though is the 13th February, the second Friday of that month, just 3 weeks before the first meeting on the 5th March 1948. Unless John Cox finds in one of Mr. Roan's notebooks a record of his visit to Liverpool we cannot confirm the truth of the matter. A simple transposing of 13 to 31 would seem most likely but it is still possible it was a Saturday meeting on the 21st February.
The one person from the earliest of the Branch so far not mentioned is Ray Allcock. He joined the society as a schoolboy with a membership number of 803. As the membership in the December 1946 Journal was over 400 and in the December 1947 Journal was almost 1000 he joined between these dates. His nearest branch became Preston and district when it was formed on the 2nd September 1948. This was the month before Ray came to Liverpool to study at the University.
He attended the February and April meetings in 1949 at Liverpool as a visitor from Preston Branch. At the latter of these meetings he gave a talk on the Mesembryanthemaceae . In 1950 his studies only allowed him to attend the October and November meetings. Once again at the latter meeting he gave a talk on Succulents indigenous to the British Isles illustrated with specimens from his collection. In 1951 he was able to attend more meetings in January, February, June and November, and by this latter meeting he had transferred his allegiance from Preston to Liverpool Branch.
In 1952 his studies allowed him to become a regular attendee at the meetings and in May he gave another talk on the Mesem's. He became the vice-chairman for 1953, 54 and 55 and was called on to chair the meeting 3 times in his first year. He also gave another talk on Mesembryanthemums in June 1954. He left Liverpool before the end of 1955 to start a 2-year research post in Ottawa, Canada. He had to forgo the second year to return to Liverpool where a job awaited him. However before his return in October 1956 he got married in the September. Settling back in Liverpool with a wife and a new job obviously restricted the pursuit of his hobby during 1957.
For 1958 he became chairman and for most of the meetings he attended he was accompanied by his wife Inika. She also was to have the same enthusiasm for the hobby as Ray. In 1959 Ray went on the committee but work and family kept him away from all but the January meeting. For 1960 and 61 Ray and Inika managed to get to half the meetings, then after that rarely missed a meeting. We find that their eldest children Carolyn and George signing the book in September 1964 and May 1965.
Ray went on the committee for 1965 and 66 then became vice-chairman for 1967 through to 1970. The shows sub-committee setup in June 1966 was chaired by Ray with Geoff Williams as secretary through 1967 and Ken Marley through 1968. With the annual show established in 1969 Ray took on the new role of show secretary superseding the shows sub-committee. This is a role he has continued to do right up to the present day. In addition at the 1981 AGM the branch made him president. Also over the years Ray has been the main contact and representative of the branch in matters regarding Zone 5. Having been on the speakers' list for many years, Ray has become well known at many other branches across the north of England.
Mr. Ken C. Vaughan from Maghull and a gardener by profession attended a meeting on the 7th April 1949. Ray Allcock remembers he was very keen to help a group of youngsters set up a Junior Branch in Maghull in 1950. This branch was formed and they held a competitive show in 1953. Ken Vaughan attended 5 meetings in 1955 as a Liverpool branch member. He got to only two meetings in 1956 but to 6 meetings in 1957. He took on the role of secretary for one year in 1958. Then in 1960 he became a committee member through to the end of 1967 then once again in 1970. He left Merseyside to become Head-gardener (Curator of the garden) at Westbury Court in Gloucestershire (not to be confused with Westonbirt Arboretum just 20 miles away).
Mr. Aubrey S. Lax started attending meetings from March 1955. He took over the treasurer's job from Hugh Walker for 1959 and continued in this role until the end of 1967. He attended meetings up to June 1968 but there is no record of him after this date.
Mrs. H.M. Crown came from the area near Calderstones Park and first attended the September 1955 meeting. She was a school headmistress and she took on the job of secretary for 1959 after Ken Vaughan's year in the post. She continued to do this job until the end of 1964. In 1966 she became a committee member alongside Ray Allcock and Ken Vaughan. A committee meeting on the 29th October 1968 asked her to become branch president to which she agreed, and she continued in this role until her death in April 1975.
Mrs. S. Furniss was a loyal member of the branch from October 1957. In 1965 she took over the job of secretary from Mrs. Crown for a year. She then served as a committee member for 1967, 68 and 69.
We have read above how Mrs. H (Inika) Allcock started to come to meetings with her husband Ray Allcock in 1958. Then after 1961 they were able to attend regularly. In 1966 Inika was able to take on the job of secretary from Mrs. Furniss and also that of vice chairman for that year. She was as keen as Ray about the hobby and they worked very much as a team for the branch. She continued as secretary to the end of 1973 then went on to the committee for 1974. After that she had to fight against illness until her premature death in July 1976.
Mr. Geoff Williams was a gardener by profession with Liverpool Corporation Parks and Gardens Dept. He became a branch member in 1962. In 1966 he became a member of the shows sub-committee set up in June along with Ray and Inika Allcock and Ken Vaughan. His enthusiasm and his contacts through his job proved invaluable to the branch in setting up publicity stands at local shows. The annual branch show and exhibits at the Liverpool and the Woolton shows came about through his efforts in this direction. He took on the role of secretary of this shows sub-committee for 1967. Unfortunately at times he suffered from bouts of ill health, and for the following year he passed on the job of secretary to a new member of the sub-committee, Mr. Ken Marley. He took over the role of chairman at the February 1969 meeting after the resignation of Mr. James E. Bolton at the January meeting. He continued as chairman through 1970 and 71. He went on the committee for 1974 and 75 but sadly died in April of that year.
Mr. James E. Bolton (Jim) came as a visitor to meetings in 1959 than again in 1961 when he was a member by May. He became a committee member for 1965 then took on the job of chairman for 1967, 68 and 69. Some N.C.S.S. members from Southport had formed a Southport branch and the Liverpool & Southport branch was asked if they wished to drop the Southport from the title. This was agreed and subsequently the name was changed to Merseyside branch. Jim and some others from the Southport area objected to the name change and he resigned as chairman at the January 1969 meeting. Much later things changed and most people will remember him from the work he did for the Southport branch over many years.Picture of June 1953 meeting