Fuchsia Society, British
The first Annual of the Society was published in 1938 under the heading of THE FUCHSIA ANNUAL 1938. The official publication of THE FUCHSIA SOCIETY
However, it was during 1937 that the idea of a Fuchsia Society was born, when Clara Lady Boothby met several other Fuchsia enthusiasts, I therefore quote her opening Presidents Address to the Society published in the first Annual.
By LADY BOOTHBY
"In writing a few words for the first Fuchsia Society Annual, I want to say what a pleasure it gives me to be the first President.
For many years I had grown Fuchsias in a small way when living in Devon, always leaving my plants in the open. After going to live in the Mendip Hills I found it necessary to take my plants in for the Winter; then moving to South Wales I was again able to leave most varieties out all the Winter just covered with ashes, and they came up year after year. Now I am collecting rarer species and less hardy varieties and growing many of these under glass.
It was on meeting last year several enthusiasts that the idea of forming a Fuchsia Society arose and in spite of real hard work in getting the Society started, working with those so keen as our Secretary W.W.Whiteman, our London Representative Ralph Newman, and Mr H.A.Brown who has specialised in Fuchsias for many years and has now so generously placed his first hand knowledge at our disposal, it has been a really interesting and happy work.
We could find no record of a former Fuchsia Society, until one day I saw an announcement in a local paper of a meeting of such a society, I at once wrote to the Secretary who informed me that the society was a branch of the Women’s Conservative Association, F for Friendship, U for Usefulness, C for Cheerfulness, H for Helpfulness, S for Sympathy, I for Instruction, and A for Amusement! Which, indeed, could be taken as a very good motto for the Society.
We cannot all hope to see rampant species climbing to a height of 20 feet as in Brazil, or wander in the dark forests by the Chincha in Peru and gather long tubed scarlet clusters of Corymbiflora, nor would we wish to risk our lives to see F. Splendens growing on Totonicapan mountain 10,000 feet above sea level! We cannot all grow Fuchsias as in sheltered parts of South Devon and Cornwall without fear of our big bushes and standards being cut to the ground in wintertime, nor can we hope to have species and varieties in full flower by the middle of May as at Tresco Abbey in the Isles of Scilly, but we can all choose many beautiful and hardy varieties to grow in the open, and if we are lucky enough to possess a greenhouse, there are enchanting varieties to grow as standards, pyramids, and bushes, amongst 1000 already known.
I want to thank our vice-presidents for their help and gifts of rare new species, and the editors of numerous gardening papers for letting the Society be widely known, also our foundation members who have shown such keen interest in the formation of the Society, and not least, the Head Gardeners of many old country houses for their welcome when the owners so kindly allowed us to search for varieties long gone out of commerce and which we now hope to distribute to members of the Society. Our Annual Book, I hope, will be a tremendous help to all who want to grow these most fascinating flowers
Lady Boothby lived at Fonmon Castle in Glamorgan as her descendants still do. On enquiring by telephone to the Castle for assistance, in the form of a picture of our founder, for none have appeared in our publications to date, I was told a story that almost fitted in with the way I had understood it from Lady Boothby’s’ opening address, with one very special inclusion that I had not come across before. Duly I received this slightly different version of the same story in writing. I think that the Fonmon Castle version is highly probable and to be honest the way I would like it to have been, it is as follows:Lady Boothby and Queen Mary were great friends and when Her Majesty saw an advertisement in a local Welsh newspaper for a meeting of the F.U.C.H.S.I.A. she announced that it must be attended because of it’s floral connection. It was conveyed to Her Majesty that the letters actually stood for F for Friendship, U for Usefulness, C for Cheerfulness, H for Helpfulness, S for Sympathy, I for Instruction, and A for Amusement and that the society was a branch of the Women’s Conservative Association! As the Royal Family must have no political connections it was deemed an unsuitable meeting. However, Queen Mary said that there should indeed be a Fuchsia Society and that Lady Boothby should be the first President.
I think, that after this Royal prompting, Lady Boothby gathered the support of known Fuchsia lovers and started our society along with three other founder members, Ralph Newman, W.W.Whiteman, and the assistance of a nurseryman, who later became Reverend H.A. Brown, was co-opted for his valuable expertise and knowledge. During these early years it is a fact that many of Lady Boothby’s friends were called upon to support the society, several of the vice presidents were either titled, or had MBE, OBE, Major or Col attached to their name. We actually started the first year with twenty six vice presidents. One other point that will interest many modern day members is paragraph 3 of the first constitution which reads: "The objects of the society will be: To encourage, improve, and extend the cultivation of Fuchsias, to Regulate their Nomenclature, to Register Names and Description of New varieties and Species etc.". What an enormous task this would have been.
Unfortunately, shortly after the formation of the society, the second world war started, obviously this affected everybody’s normal life style and The Fuchsia Society was no exception. Firstly. Society AGMs were virtually impossible to organise, paper was very scarce on which to print the society magazine, literature etc. and also personnel to take up committee and officer positions were too busy either shooting bullets or dodging them. We were however fortunate to have W.W.Whiteman as Secretary & Treasurer, who with the help of Lady Boothby, Lady Rayleigh, Mrs Gascoigne, Mrs Smith and Messrs Newman, Cotton, Clarke, Fenwick, Hay, Unwin and Wood were able to carry the society through most of those traumatic years. It was during the first year that the society started the cuttings scheme, originally the idea was to try and locate old and missing varieties in gardens and collections throughout the country, and then re-distribute them to the membership. The scheme started in 1938 with the offer of three varieties i.e. Leverhulme, Lustre and Tower of London. It is of credit to the founders, that this scheme is still carried on at the present time, albeit with a slightly different format.
It must have been a tremendous set back to the society when W.W. Whiteman died suddenly on August 20th 1945. It was the Rev. E.A.Elliot who stepped in as our second secretary, serving until 1948. It is interesting to note that the balance sheet in 1945 read: Income £124-11-7. Expenditure £56-18-6. Cash in Bank £206-4-4. It was in the 1946 Fuchsia Annual that the title of "The BRITISH Fuchsia Society" appeared, I can find no reason for this change of name but it is rumoured that it was because of a request from The American Fuchsia Society which was formed in 1929. The BFS also saw the first "SHOW" during 1946. It was held at The RHS Halls London on the l3th-l4th August and at first looked as if it was going to be a complete disaster until at the last minute the three intending exhibitors decided to change to non-competitive, this resulted in an astonishing success with a grand forty feet display by Mr Hurran, a massive exhibit in huge tubs and pots, of really large plants by Mrs Gascoigne; six perfect standards sent by Mrs. C Whiteman etc. etc. 1947 saw a similar type of show with three displays in the non-competitive class and 18 competitive classes, one plant of note and described as a fine specimen An article covering four and a half pages from L.D.Hills was published in the 1947 Annual with reference to nothing but Labels. (Our present Ed. has threatened to re-publish it one day, if he doesn’t receive enough copy from the modern day members).
By 1952 the society had pulled itself together after the war years and was progressing with a new President in Sir Ralph Newman one of the founder members. and also a new secretary in B.W.Rawlins. The membership of 430 had doubled from 1939. The annual show had 19 classes with W.P.Wood winning 8 and S.J.Wilson, who was later to become President, winning 8, incidentally he is still a member to this day, he also wrote an excellent book in 1965 simply called "Fuchsias". I find it strange that the show only had one trophy at this time, especially when the society had eight titled gentry as President, Vice President and backed up with a few Reverends, Majors and Colonels, now making a total of twenty five Vice Presidents. For the hybridists it is worth noting that the B.F.S. had a Registration of Plant Names Sub-Committee in 1952.
Bernard Rawlins the secretary from 1952-61, also ran a fuchsia nursery on the Great West Road London, I well remember seeing a shade house made from disused fluorescent tubes on my one and only visit to his nursery. He relinquished his secretarial position in 1961 and W.G.Sharp took over. By this time our vice presidents list had dwindled to 11 but still listed 4 titled names. It should be noted that whereas the society up to this time had been mainly centred in the South of England, more news from the North appeared to be creeping into the publications, however, the entire committee with the exception of A.G.Brittan (Leicester), were based south of Bedford. The London Show now had 23 classes but there were only 8 individuals winning first prizes. The society held it’s first regional show in conjunction with Sale Horticultural Society at Sale near Manchester, a paragraph in the 1957 Annual by Erica Sharp the treasurer’s wife and from Essex, interests this author in particular, "My husband and I were deeply moved by the warmth and sincerity of the welcome extended to us and we felt that our small efforts to promote the popularity of the genus Fuchsia had been repaid a thousandfold. This very happy memory will stay with us for all time". Income for the year was £2194-18s-7d Expenditure £1112-6s-4d.
During 1959 a Northern Representative was introduced to the committee list, but unfortunately the name was spelt Leyton instead of Leytham in the 1961 Annual. Nevertheless this was a huge step for the society, it had taken almost 20 years to come out of the south. The year 1959 saw the first local Fuchsia society being formed, this was called "Maidenhead, Slough and District Fuchsia Growers Society". Rule 4 of their constitution is worth noting "Membership will be open only to those who actually grow at least twelve varieties of fuchsias. and they can satisfy a member of the committee that they are an enthusiast".
A few years later, 1963, a Midland representative was first introduced, this time the name was correctly spelt J. A. Kirkham. Bernard Rawlins had now become President and also Show organiser. Another first happening took place in 1963 when a B.F.S. Badge was on offer at 2s. 6d post free, the design was the same as the Society medallion that appeared on the front of the Annual, and reported to be "Forget-me-not". Curiously this was the second design of front page medallions and has survived from 1947 until the present day. The original medallion was used from 1938 to 1946 and had a different flower with the words "The Fuchsia Society" around the edge, although the 1946 logo also included the word "British" with the original flower, 1947 saw the present format appear.
The first colour slide competition by any British floral society was started by the BFS in 1964. There were two classes A & B and 4 prizes in each class. Amazingly there were 319 slides entered, one of the prizes, in the form of an Instamatic camera was donated by Kodak. In the Summer News Letter of the same year the joint editors, Messrs Gunnell & Burkey said that a "colour page in the annual publication might not be far off’ perhaps they hadn’t seen the first annual with six colour pages! Jim Travis on the subject of amateurism said. "everyone is not in the position to be able to stand the expense, so they do sell off a few surplus plants and cuttings to enable them to keep up their hobby. I cannot see anything wrong in this, and you can rest assured they will not make a fortune". Obviously this statement came from years of experience. During 1965 the society introduced a special prize of a case of Six Crested Spoons at each of the THREE BFS shows and also replica cups were issued to all cup winners. New Fuchsias for 1966 offered by Wills of Southampton were Pink Temptation, Henri Poincare 1905 and Pharoah all at 5/- each i.e. 25p.
After many years of the Annual being published in December, the 1966-67 Annual publication date was changed to March 1966 with no Annual being sent out in 1967 and the 1968 edition arrived in February of that year. This meant 23 months without an Annual however, under the Editorship of Stan Cash we had the thickest Annuals of all with pages numbering 132, 132, 136, 120, 108 and 100 possibly the committee made him reduce the pages because of postage costs. It was during these years that our Affiliated Fuchsia Societies really came to the fore, with only 5 in 1966 and 30 or more by 1971, the Fuchsia was the "in" flower and was certainly still on the up. The thirtieth anniversary in 1968 saw a reprint from the first Annual of an article by A.D.Cotton, which will be of great assistance for those interested in history, it gives references to the sources of published fuchsia information previous to 1938. During these 5 or 6 years it was evident that soilless composts were beginning to replace the old reliable John Innes Compost with, many correspondents reporting on their different mixes and results.
Jim Travis was awarded the first Whiteman Medal of Honour at the 1968 AGM "for his work for the general extension of knowledge about the Fuchsia". There had previously been a Whiteman Medal awarded at shows but this did not include the words, OF HONOUR and had been withdrawn as a show award. Some of us will also remember that it was this year that Jim had to move out of his nursery and allow a motorway to take it’s place. Sir Ralph Newman a founder member and our first editor passed away in July 1968 as did HAWilkinson who had been a member since the start of the BFS. At the 1969 AGM Margaret Slater became our President she had served on the committee since 1946 but her surname in those days was Brown in fact she was the sister of Rev. Bert Brown one of the founder members, she was to serve the society as a committee member right up to her death in 1992, a total of 46 years! An achievement that I am sure will never be repeated. A princely sum of £820. 4s 2d was the profit for the year and we had accounts worth £156 1.2s.6d. Clara, Lady Boothby aged 92 died during this year it is certain that she was the force behind the society at it’s commencement and kept the society afloat until the war was over and life returned to normality. Thomas Thorne a descendant of James Lye, author of "Fuchsias for all Purposes" and a regular contributor to our publications, also passed away.
1970 was a monumental year for the showman/person, perhaps the BFS made its first mistake. We, for all of us are the BFS, printed the first rulebook of judging standards, This took three pages, of slightly smaller than A6 size, to accommodate all the rules, up to this point rules were as the schedule. It appears to many members that we are STILL trying to get it right!! Because of the growth of the affiliated societies and their need for lecturers and judges the society published a list of names available and capable who would perform these tasks. At the AGM Mr Sharp pointed out that Postage charges were costing £70/80 for the bulletins and printing costs were £80.00 and this may result in a cut back of the number of bulletins we publish. Jim Travis a foremost authority, complained that "a hybrid wins the best species at the London Show" and also that a true species has not won this prize for many years. Jim, as we northern folk well remember is best described as a wise/shrewd/knowledgeable man, managed to answer the question of lack of variety at shows, simply by stating, "show people grow those easy to grow and will not touch those NICE ones we like to grow" followed by "no! show people grow to win and rightly choose those, which adapt themselves to show work"
During 1973 the B.F.S. started a National Quiz for Affiliated Societies. This caused the Editor (Stan Cash) to withdraw his support of the quiz because it did not include B.FS. members unless they also belonged to an Affiliated Society. Although much effort was put into the quiz by the committee it was doomed to problems and eventual failure. The whole country was now decimalised, pounds and p’s instead of the old pounds, shillings and pence The best feature in the annual (for me) was without doubt a translation by Don Barker (raiser of Sylvia Barker) of a Dutch Fuchsia Society article on the history of Carl Bonstedt the raiser of many triphylla cultivars, although my own research does not entirely agree with this version, it gave me food for thought. On the show scene the society had 4 regional shows London, Northern. Midland and South Western which had started in 1972 with 14 exhibitors and 112 plants. Although a member for many years before this show, it’s organiser was a person who would eventually serve the society for many years as the secretary and treasurer, Ron Ewart.
A change of editor came during 1974. A young lady, who was in her early 20’s took over, her name was Susan Travis. Certainly, with the backing of her father Jim and Susan’s degree in botany we had a most knowledgeable team in charge of the publications. Membership was up to 4,000, with around the same figure in cash at the bank. An advertisement offered 10 rooted cuttings for £1.20 postage paid. Triphylla hybrids are once again under discussion. Alf Thornley gives a partial family tree of Billy Green and concludes that it is a "Fulgens hybrid" and not a triphylla hybrid. Our knowledgeable editor replies that neither Billy Green nor Leverkusen show the F.fulgens type leaf nor the typical green tips to the sepals which would be typical of a fulgens hybrid. In all I think that this was a disappointing annual with the editor struggling, probably through the lack of articles, to fill the miserly 72 pages. A new problem was introduced to the society in the way of VAT.
The editorial of the 1975 annual states "included are some of the more interesting articles from previous years. and that it is interesting to read what some of the greats of the fuchsia world were saying twenty or thirty years ago". It is therefore strange that the editor should also apologise to the members whose articles were not included because the printers couldn’t cope with a bigger publication. At the AGM. the editor manages to stave off a take-over bid for her position by 50 votes to 40 votes. This democratic process was done by ballot amongst the members present and not by the present format of a postal ballot. One particular article brought a smile to my face, it contained a word that was well outside my vocabulary. It stated on the second line "I was struck by the large numbers of icinoclastic and complicated articles they contained". How on earth could a contributor using the word iconoclastic (spelt correctly) criticise others for being complicated? However, the article did give some good advice, even though it was analysing earlier articles sent in by two beginners. Affiliated Societies were now well established all over the UK, 24 of them had reports in the Annual thus bulking it up to a more acceptable size of 96 pages.
The Travis editorial team produced I think their best effort in 1976. Two articles, one by Susan and one by Jim, especially for beginners took nine pages! For me plate 22 brought back memories of the times I visited Jim asking him for a particular variety the reply would sometimes be "Nay lad, you don’t want that it’s no good, ‘ere try this". Invariably it would come out of the cold-frame depicted. It took me two or three years before I realised that he didn’t have the one I’d asked for. The editorial told of a regrettable but necessary committee decision to cut out the Spring Bulletin. Margaret Slater became the second recipient of The Whiteman Medal of Honour, her brother and founder member Bert Brown was made President, unfortunately he was in Papua New Guinea for the first two years of office. There were still only four BFS Shows but the many Affiliated Societies were all holding their own shows. A service provided by the society was the naming of Fuchsias which had lost their labels, I think even Margaret Slater and Jim Travis, who both offered their services for this task, would struggle nowadays with the hundreds of new varieties that are released each year, making it virtually impossible to keep up. Membership was up to 5,700 and 220 Affiliated Societies, in spite of this there was a deficit of £1064 on the year!
A very significant change came in 1976 Harry Leytham stood down from the Sec/treas positions after 8 years in office and Ron Ewart, who had been on the committee since 1973 took over. The Editor’s name also changed, but this was because of her marriage. Vice Presidents were now only two, Lady Gascoigne and Margaret Slater, Margaret who because her brother was still living in New Guinea acted as President. The Society was now in a most serious crisis, in the treasurer’s report at the AGM (Harry Leytham) said that he had heard reports that the society was about to fold and were seriously in the red. He went on to say that we could meet all our commitments except for the greetings cards. Here are the figures perhaps it is better for you to work it out yourselves:- We owed £3220.25 and had only £2151.10 in the bank to pay the debt with. Which means to get straight we must sell £1068.45 of our assets in order to pay the bills. What were the assets? £348.00 were fixed assets (typewriters, duplicator, show equipment). £202.07 we were owed by sundry debtors, the rest was mainly a stock of Greetings cards and perhaps a few books. Yes we were in a mess! Sell to survive. I think that no single person was to blame for the Society being in this position, inflation was a problem, it had been expected that the Society would make a loss during the year simply because, subscriptions hadn’t kept pace with VAT and inflation, therefore the committee saw a possible solution by trading with greetings cards. Unfortunately they had bought far too many to meet a small demand and ended up with the Society in deep trouble. What a time to take over as treasurer!!
With Ron Ewart in the hot seat during 1977 the Society started to claw it’s way back from the red. By the September balance sheet we had £3635.75 in the bank and only owed £117.96, the problem had been overcome and a profit had been made for the first time since 1973. Harry Leytham had forecast this turn around in his report the previous year. A 60% Subscription increase coupled with an increase of over 100% in sales and donations of £684.06 had done the trick! The crisis was probably the worst in the Society’s history, although the war years must have been difficult. A new Editor was now at the helm, Cliff Gadsby took over the Editors work and produced an Annual of 83 pages. A list of BFS. Society Approved Judges gave 14 names, some of which had taken the exam. It was this year that the judging exam started, up to this time judges were personalities that were known to be "knowledgeable" on the subject of Fuchsias, i.e. a nurseryman here, a hybridist or enthusiast there. A postal ballot for committee members resulted in a Mr George Bartlett taking sixth place, therefore he was elected to the committee for two years. Leo Boullemier wrote an interesting if not amusing article when he pointed out that Gordon Thorley a showman of the 60’s was not often seen on the showbench nowadays, a grower noted for his remarkable exhibits of pin-cushions and privet hedges, and indeed the PIONEER of this type of growth, whether you like it or not. Leo also goes on to say that he almost didn’t recognise Gordon recently because of his pencil type beard, could this have been too much Potash? (the beard). Edwin Goulding stated that there was "more bad judging in 1976 than at any time that I can remember". He then goes on to give "his ten commandments" to show secretaries. Leo Boullemier told us the usual history of the fuchsia and Father Plumier in an "Abridged History of the Fuchsia" which took four pages of the Annual. Altogether Leo filled eight pages of this Annual!
Sadly the 1978 Annual was the only one that Cliff Gadsby produced, his untimely death occurred in February 1978 just a few weeks before the Annual was published, he was awarded, posthumously, the Whiteman Medal of Honour for his services, his place on committee was taken by our present President, Joan Morris, and the new Editor was E.J.Goulding who through the efforts and donations by Mrs Bertha Gadsby produced four loose-leaf colour inserts of Fuchsia’s in the 1979 Annual. The AGM was held in Carlisle, the furthest north that the society has ever held such an event. Our finances were improving rapidly with assets of £5462.79 plus £4903.07 in the accumulated fund and only £128.57 owed. Harrogate Show started and a Northern rally was held at Myerscough College near Lancaster. One advertiser offered 11 new varieties, none of which are today’s best sellers. This Annual published a list hybrids that had received BFS awards since the schemes inception in 1959, although there are 33 listed I would say that there are only 2 with much demand today namely Mieke Meursing and Annabel, although Whiteknights Amethyst was on the list which was perhaps the first real colour change since 1842. Ken Sharp who had been an active committee member died on 30th December aged 80. All in all I would say that this was a below average Annual but was certainly diverse in its content.
With 96 pages the 1980 Annual had some very good articles, two by John Wright have always intrigued me. Article one entitled What is a Species? was probably one of the best articles I have read, which although a little heavy, as Species articles usually are, it did enlighten the subject for exhibitors. The second article, at the time, I thought was marvellous. A NEW species had been found, F. lampadaria. John had received seed from S. America, when germinated the resulting plants were unlike any previously described, although it showed similarities to F. magdalena. John had based his conclusion on information from Professor Munz’s 1943 book, "A Revision of the Genus Fuchsia". Professor Munz had listed F magdalena as a new species, unfortunately his description could not have been detailed enough, for it was recognised shortly after that F. lampadaria was in fact F. magdalena. In a case like this, when botanists make mistakes, it points out to me that, all of us are a long long way from being "experts". A trend with the Annuals of this era was to include details of Affiliated Societies, in truth this tended to bulk up the publication with 11 pages of details that were of little use to the majority of BFS. members. At this time we had increased the national shows to 7 with the first Scottish Show taking place by the invitation of the Central Scotland Fuchsia Society. Nine exhibitors brought 34 plants between them. October 5th 1980 the society lost Jim Travis WMH who during his lifetime became one of the most knowledgeable authorities on Fuchsia’s.
Ron and Jean Ewart took a party to Berg en Bos in Holland for the 15th anniversary of that society during 1981. It appears that a wonderful time was had by everyone and the Fuchsias were something that "defied description" with thousands of plants laid out in a garden setting and all non competitive. Another article confirmed that Fuchsia Folk are Friendly Folk. The Northern Show had 900 visitors, I wonder where they’ve all gone? Affiliated Society addresses took 10 pages of the annual and show results 16, another 9 pages were advertisements and 10 pages for the AGM. Taking 45 pages from a total of 104 pages, left us with 59, less 8 for standing articles such as committee addresses left only 51 pages for Fuchsia related articles. This was not the fault of any of our editors, I think it was just a way things developed over the years.
Lady Gascoigne who had been a Vice President since the formation of the Society, (44 years), passed away. Hatfield was the venue for a Fuchsia Rally and was attended by 2000 enthusiasts in spite of the atrocious weather. Two awards of The Whiteman Medal of Honour were made at the AGM. The recipients being Stan Cash and George Roe. The 1982 Annual had 104 pages but was once again filled up with addresses, advertisements, results etc. and was desperately short of contributions from members, in fact there were only 12 and 2 of these came from overseas. This was the fourth of editor Gouldings’ Annuals and I think he was unfortunate in not having much support from the members in the way of articles.
1983 saw the Society with a new President in Leo Boullemier and a new Editor in Jim Ludlow. It was time to try and reorganise our publications. Firstly show results were slightly abbreviated and a decision to print a directory would leave more space for articles in the Annual. More support for the Editor was evident with more subscribers including two articles from the previous Editor making sure that at least Jim Ludlow would get his support. One particularly interesting article from J. Wright reporting that rust was becoming an increasing problem and that Plantvax 75 was the only chemical cure although Thiram could help to protect. Edward Banks the 19th century hybridiser was the subject of another article, although brief it gave an insight into his lifetime. A proposal to change publication times was passed at the AGM. which resulted in a February Spring Bulletin, a July Summer Bulletin and an October/November Annual.
Membership in 1984 reached 6250 I think the highest total it has ever been. We also had a new editor with George Bartlett taking over from Jim Ludlow who had set in motion the way of having more Fuchsia related articles than the fill up with addresses etc system we had become bogged down with. This resulted in a much more to read publication with members rallying round with text to cover the reconstituted pages. Worms were the subject of Shaun Dixon’s article explaining how they make nutrients available to plants. Whiteknights Glister, wrote John Wright, should have variegated leaves and any being grown with green leaves should be destroyed. Reverend Dr Bert Brown, a founder member was awarded the Whiteman Medal of Honour. Financially the Society had a healthy sum of over £10,000 behind them but Treasurer Ron Ewart was disappointed and worried that we were spending to much on our publications. For the second year in succession we had spent more than we had taken in. Several steps had been taken to reduce costs, such as limiting the size of the publications and a withdrawal from all outside shows such as Chelsea and Southport these I would consider as backward steps but they had made a considerable saving however, it was still not enough to prevent a deficit. Ron Ewart and Jean Ewart notified the Society that they would not stand for re-election in 1986. But after it was decided to modernise the administration with the purchase of a computer Ron and Jean agreed to stay on for the foreseeable future.
After an increase in subscription in January 1985 the accounts were much healthier by the 1986 AGM with assets of almost £23,000 being shown in the balance sheet. In spite of this the treasurer was put through a grilling by members and made to explain why slightly different methods had been used in the presentation of the accounts. Once again a call was made to do away with the plant distribution scheme, this was a regular plea at AGMs over the years but thankfully it has always been repealed due to the fact that approximately 60% of the membership take part in it. Another Whiteman Medal of Honour was awarded, this time to Leo Boullemier. A report signed by Bertha Dogsbody thanking everyone who supplied plants at the Stoke National Garden Festival also reported that her biggest disappointment was the way that people just helped themselves to cuttings from the display plants. It was deemed necessary to again propose an increase in subscription rates to £5.00 at the 1987 AGM. simply to keep ahead of inflation, we did have assets of £28,000 by now but the motion was carried. One advertiser offered 10 new introductions for £14.00 inclusive of post & package, another for 10 top prize winning Exhibition Fuchsias £4.95 with free p&p.
With Reg. Witts as President for the Golden Jubilee year of 1988, many Special Events were organised around the country, by members forming themselves into regional or area committees. Festivals were held in Scotland, Wales, Felixstowe. St Albans, Scarborough and Buxton. The Annual contained colour pages for the first time since 1938 although, colour inserts had been included before as a loose leaf. Show results and AGM. report had been left out of this Annual, to make way for many good articles on history of the Society, the Fuchsia the Past etc. This I would say was the best Annual in the Society’s history just having the edge over the Stan Cash Annuals because of the colour plates and articles written because of the special year. A Jubilee plate was commissioned by the. Society. this turned out to be a little disappointing, being made of English Pewter and not very attractive to look at, 10 years later we still have a few for sale! A rather strange proposition to form an Editorial committee was defeated at the 1988 AGM. This was caused by the retiring Editor sending in his resignation too late for the committee to seek nominations for a successor. Therefore there were no nominations for Editor, lots of discussion took place but it was decided that nothing could be done at that meeting. It was at the following committee meeting that Eric John’s volunteered to fill the position for one year.
In the Editorial of the 1989 Annual, Eric Johns complained that there was not enough material to fill the 96 pages of the publication so therefore it still contained the show results as a filler up. This has been the cry of practically all of our Editors over the years. Members appear to be frightened to write of their experiences, findings or ideas and yet there were twelve articles written by just two authors. 1990 was a momentous year for the Society. The AGM minutes were switched to the Summer Bulletin. At the AGM Eric Johns was officially voted in as Editor, the London Show was moved out of the RHS Halls for the first time in 50 years. Then there was an absolute disaster, Ron Ewart who had been Sec/Treas. for 13 years and was due to stand down and probably become President, died at his hotel in Wales, the evening before the Welsh Show, August 17th 1990. Also during this year the Society lost Wilfred Sharp WMH an ex Sec/Treas and President, Bernard Rawlins another exSecretary, President and Show Organiser and Fred Gowers a gentleman of the showbench who was admired by all who were associated with him. It is of credit to the committee of the time and in particular Ray Williams who stepped in prematurely to fill the Secretarial position and Eric Johns (Editor) who stepped in so readily to help prepare the accounts, that the Society carried on so smoothly after such a huge blow.
It could be said that the 1990 balance sheet was the last one that Ron Ewart had some input into. It showed that the Society had almost £43,000 of assets, £23,669.13 in the accumulated fund, £6,000.00 income over expenses and almost £4,000 reserved for corporation tax. We were worth approximately £76,000.00 with possible liabilities of £8,000.00 approx. What a difference from the day when he took over, bankruptcy was a possibility staring us in the face. It is no wonder that Ron was awarded, (posthumously) the Whiteman Medal of Honour at the next AGM, it was probably the most deserved award of this honour in our history. At the AGM Jean Ewart was voted in as President, taking over from Reg Witts who had suffered a stroke during his term of office, Ray Williams as Secretaiy, Ken Dymond as Treasurer and Eric Johns as Editor, an almost complete change of officers. A Special Interests Group was formed of interested members, with the will to gain more knowledge about species, pre-1914 cultivars and hybridising.
After what could only be described as a traumatic year the obituaries continued, ex President Norman Hobbs, who’s wife had died during his term of office, also passed away and then Erica Sharp who had supported her husband Wilf so admirably through all his various appointments also passed away. The Society’s Annual returned once again to four colour pages at last, it appears that the quality of the slides had been holding up this progressive step forward. Although the Show Results were still published, articles from members were more evident. The show results were still with us but the Editor had a plan, keep the Spring Bulletin have a July publication date for the Annual and have a thicker Autumn Bulletin that would include the show results. This was duly passed and accepted as the format that would be adopted. 1992 again saw a change, we de-registered from VAT and applied for registration as a charity in England which would relieve us from our commitment to paying corporation tax. However another stalwart of the Society was lost when Margaret Slater WMH, Vice President and Ex-President succumbed to cancer after a brave fight, she had been a member for 47 years. Once again four colour pages were included in an Annual, that at last did not give show results, contained plenty of reading and subscribers, thus setting a standard for future Editors to try and keep up with.
The 1993 Annual was the last Eric Johns publication, once again it contained four pages of colour plates and an abundance of correspondence worth reading. The new Editor was to be Jim Muil who had been voted in at the March AGM. An amusing but perhaps critical article written by the previous Editor appertaining to the registration of Fuchsia names, pointed out that Leicester hybridiser Johnson registered 21, Forward of Gillingham registered an equal amount of 21 these were not rugby scores but the number of new seedlings each had registered with the AFS. Funds were still increasing and indeed were perhaps becoming a source of embarrassment in some quarters. During the year the treasurer resigned his position, after a disagreement with the secretary, and Eric Johns stepped in to look after the accounts, he once again found that subscriptions did not cover our expenses and therefore recommended an increase of £1.00 in rates at the 1993 AGM. By 1994 Jean Ewart had finished her three years in the Presidents seat and George Bartlett had taken over, Brian Dickinson had become treasurer, he announced a surplus of £10,646.00, this was mainly due to a saving of more than £7,000.00 on the printing costs of the Annual and two Bulletins. We were also accepted as a registered charity. Our publications were now set in a pattern that had evolved over the years and the new Editor obviously wanted to keep up this high quality. In his 1994 Annual Editorial he reported excellent support with some correspondence being held over for the next publication, a most desirable position for us to be in. A serious report issued by MAFF on a NEW and notifiable disease of Powdery Mildew took up one of the colour pages and two pages of text. It is now generally thought to be an old problem that is easily cleared away.
The 1995 Autumn Bulletin was produced with a colour front page another first for the Society but, far more significant was the obituary of Eric Johns, Eric had been Editor, Acting Treasurer twice, responsible for guidelines of Administrators, North East rep. Harrogate Show Organiser, Special Interest Group Co-ordinator and Committee member such a loss to a Society cannot be replaced by one person and much of his work is now carried on by small committees or split between one or two members. Also late in 1995 Leo Boullemier WMH and ex-President passed away after a long illness. In addition Reg Witts, whose Presidency had taken in the Golden Jubilee year of 1988 also died. At the 1996 AGM a bombshell was dropped, after six years and without prior notice our secretary announced that he would withdraw his nomination and would not stand for re-election. After some discussion Carol Gubler offered to stand in as acting secretary until a new secretary could be found. Probably the most significant happening for the Society during this year was the establishment of a full colour front to the Annual in the fifty-eighth year of issue. There had been long discussions before this was allowed, with almost equal arguments for staying with tradition (guardsman red) as there was for change.
We are now almost up to date, our new President is Joan Morris, Peter Darnley has taken over as Secretary, now that we are a charity, the committee is even more responsible for the Society's affairs than ever before and the Treasurer, Brian Dickinson has to prepare the balance sheets in a different way, but this does not take away the fact that we are a wealthy Society established for Sixty years with over 5,000 members. Let us all make sure that the Society from this strong foundation, gives even greater support to our favourite flower the FUCHSIA.
This article first appeared in the 60th BFS Anniversary Souvenir Brochure and is reproduced with kind permission of John V. Porter