Chapter 11


The Secretary was authorised to inaugurate the
circulation of a weekly bulletin of Table news,
provided the cost of distribution is kept to a minimum.

– Cautious Council minute of 5th January 1953

THE FIRST CYCLOSTYLED weekly bulletin was written and published five days later by the then Secretary, Ron Horsman. So came into being what was to become yet another Table activity that has continued without a break for sixteen years, and shows no signs of old age. Within two months of its inception it wisely became a fortnightly bulletin, and so it has remained through the years. It took another eighteen months for it to receive its present name, and a further six months to achieve the dignity of a printed heading.

Every aspect of the Table’s work and play has been reflected in its columns. Programmes of events, particulars of new members and their wives, reports on local, Area and National activities, ‘profiles’ of Table members and occasional illustrations – all these things make a new sheet that, unlike much Table literature, is actually read.

Personalities have been described and discussed with varying degrees of accuracy, defamation and lubricity, but long practice had enabled members to disentangle fact from fiction, and no editor has yet found himself defending an action for libel.

The hard-working editors have so far been:
1953 Ron Horsman
1954 Philip Pedley
1955 Ron Huggins
1957 Basil Young
1959 Michael Plows [66]
1960 Mick Thorpe
1961 Steve Lee
1961 Tony Price
1962 Harold Wilson
1963 Bill Shield, Tom Pindar, Tony Price and Paul Collins
1964 Peter Cooper
1965 Tony Price (assisted by Geoff Dennis)
1966 Harold Wilson (Sub-editor, Geoff Hill; Distributor, Jeremy Woodcock)
1967 Clive Pickles
1968 Maurice Finnigan

The 200th edition was remarkable for several reasons. Published in December 1962 it embodied a commemorative front page, four foolscap pages of bulletin and miscellanea, a retrospective account of the history of the journal, five pages (duplicated on yellow paper and therefore described as a colour supplement) of ‘Ten Years of Table Highlights’ and a page of 10 portraits looking somewhat like the Police Gazette but entitled ‘Council Gallery’.

This particular edition was the 10th issue of a new editor who admitted that for various reasons he preferred to remain anonymous, ‘but had made every effort to bring Roundabout in tune with the world’s leading literature (e.g. Lady Chat., Lolita, and others) by introducing Sex with a capital S’.
No doubt this editorial policy was responsible for the following highly libellous story fathered upon a past Chairman of the Table:
The other evening in a Soho bar a rather shy friend of ours spotted a really remarkably stacked young lady drinking alone a few stools away. He moved over and sat next to her, but was embarrassed about striking up a conversation with a total stranger; so instead, when she ordered her next drink he ordered another for himself and paid for them both. She nodded her thanks, but still he could find no way to begin a conversation. This continued for nearly an hour and the consumption of four more rounds.
Finally, emboldened by the liquor and aware that the girl seemed to be getting a bit restless and might soon drift away and out of his life, he blurted out, ‘Do you ever go to bed with men?’
‘I never have before’, she said, smiling, ‘but I believe you’ve talked me into it, you clever, silver-tongued devil, you!’ [67]

It is hardly surprising that the printed heading of Roundabout bears the words, ‘Confidential – for Use of Members only’. Many tides have flowed in and out of the harbour since the day when, a quarter of a century earlier, Max Miller was pulled off the stage at the 1936 London Conference.

Roundabout is a miscellany, a fascinating picture of the Table, its personalities, its thoughts and its actions. It is subjective, not objective, and reminds us once again that all history is made by people. Earlier in these pages, for example, the chopping of wood has been mentioned, briefly and historically as one of a number of Community Service activities that do not figure in a material balance sheet. In Roundabout we see it being chopped, and who is chopping it. Whilst we may wonder, from Roundabout‘s style of journalism, how it ever got chopped at all, we are nevertheless on the site.

No. 117, 27th November 1958. One of the new ideas of the Community Service Committee for Christmas is to deliver logs and firewood to needy persons. A large amount of this has been given by Frank Judson from the buildings being demolished in St. Thomas Street. All strong men please report with axes, hatchets, meat knives and any other form of cutting implements to Alec Cusworth at County Garages on Sunday morning the 30th November at 10 a.m.
No. 118, 12th December 1958. By 10.30 ten bods were on stage and the panto began. ‘Which lot do we chop?’ Axes were flying in all directions; staircases, doors, window-frames were all reduced to splinters. In the meantime Stew (Leslie) wheeled out a dirty big mechanics’ bench and the mechanisation appeared, but before we could operate a bit of rewiring was needed at County Garage; then the thing revolved in the wrong direction, so they rewired again and at last ‘We’re off!’
Tom Bishop and Stuart Leslie were now ripping through timber and stacking large lumps ready for the choppers. By time they were cutting them the right side the saw was tired and needed a rest. Bill Ellis was sorting out all the easy ones for himself and throwing large and knotty pieces to Joe Pickup and Ken Lobb. Tony Squire and Mike Plows were using a whacking big cross cut to reduce 9 in. x 3 in. joists to handy sized logs. Then they discovered we weren’t supposed sawing them up anyway. Of course, after Alex Cusworth had shown us where everything was kept, he disappeared to bring us coffee – without flippin’ sugar. Then he had a customer, actually interested in buying a car, and all Tablers helped the sale with remarks about the roadworthiness of this vehicle.
By this time there was quite a pile of chopped wood. Colin Sedgwick was wielding a cruel looking chopper, Tony Squire [68] was showing his skill at bayonet throwing, and Bill Ellis was collecting woodworms in a matchbox.
Bagging operations began at this stage and results of the morning’s efforts could be seen. Browell was the chief stacker, and he would insist on stacking them high – 3, 4 and 5 high and all that room on the floor! (Cor blimey, Charlie Drake has nothing on this boy). Of course, when the lot collapsed he started all over again.
At 12.45 the team retired to the ‘Sun’ for a well-earned glass of wallop, well satisfied with their efforts, but alas the pile of sacks could have been higher. However, there is still one Sunday to go.

Twelve months later St. Thomas Street was still being knocked down, and the activities of the woodchoppers were again chronicled:
No. 139, 3rd December 1959. There was another good turn out on Sunday, when eleven members gathered together at County Garages as a preliminary to going across to the Sun Inn later. Over 45 sacks have been filled on the two mornings – about the limit that we can cope with for delivery.
Last Sunday disaster overtook the choppers; the rum never arrived and the coffee had to be drunk neat. Peter Dean was maestro at the electric saw, whilst John Scott swung his lethal weapon and David Dennis demonstrated how to chop a stake. Frank Browell was in trouble again; he should have known better than to keep near Stuart Leslie. Mike Plows, as usual, got in the way, Alec Cusworth was in stitches, Tom Bishop was voted chief cook and Steve Lee must take credit in filling the biggest bag. He must have been studying the man with experience of chopping – Ken Lobb. Bill Barthram arrived in time for refreshments.

Occasionally hot news makes a fleeting appearance. The following item is particularly interesting:
No. 105, 2nd April 1958. The Table Secretary received from the National Hon. Secretary on Tuesday a circular letter concerning a character who had been making a practice of calling on Round Tables and obtaining cash and clothing after trotting out a suitable sob-story. We are pleased to report that the gentleman, after visiting Basil Young’s office on Tuesday morning, was arrested by the local C.I.D.

Self-criticism is not absent. At a time when the Table was having rather more than its usual domestic differences of opinion, a contributor, after dealing with the officers and Council, writes:
No. 131, 18th June 1959. The remainder of the Table is divided into three halves (evenly). One half is permanently [69] agin everything, one half is permanently for everything, the other half, which really should not exist, is both for and agin at the same time, which is a very difficult feat, but executed by this half with skill and dexterity. Surely, then, this Table should prosper. As a cross-section of humanity it is surely the crossest.

At the time this history was being written, if there had been a complete, bound and preferably indexed collection of Roundabout in existence, the task of covering the last 15 years would have been lightened. Copies of Roundabout have come to light in the most unexpected of places, some individually, some in chronological order, and some resembling piles of paper awaiting their chips.

It is hoped that sufficient back numbers have now been found to collate a complete run. There are already more than 300 of them. As the years go on, so must Roundabout, for it must not be allowed to die.

Then, in another twenty or thirty years, when the Table decides it is about time to bring out the second volume of its history, the task of the future historian will be immeasurably eased. By then the present historian will be taking a more detached view from a vantage point not yet determined.

The editor of the 316th edition of Roundabout, in a reflective editorial, discusses some of the vicissitudes of editorship.’One is often asked,’ he says, ‘what it is like to be in the editor’s seat of power.’ His answer, I think, may well be quoted here:
As I was sitting in my chair,
I knew the bottom wasn’t there,
Nor legs nor back, but I just sat,
Ignoring little things like that.

Looking Back, by an Elder Statesman
In Roundabout 330 ex-Chairman and now President Ron Huggins (entirely without collusion with the Editor: see page 38) writes:

‘When I was in Table, and indeed subsequently when I heard of Table activities, it did seem to me that some members were becoming very intense about its activities and functions and I do think it is, therefore, most important to remember that Round Table is a spare time social [70] occupation. It is not a full-time job, nor is it a religion; it is something which it is hoped you will enjoy in your leisure hours.

‘There have been to my knowledge occasions in the past when certain members of Table have insisted that everyone should put into a particular activity, either social or community service, their whole energies, both physical and mental, to the exclusion of their family life, and indeed in some cases to the detriment of their work. This is, quite obviously, wrong. Enjoy yourselves, but do not let the quite proper ambition to make your Table the best in the country override your life.

‘I speak with some authority on this point since I am quite sure the reason for the extraordinary general meeting which distinguished my year of office was caused simply by this over-intensity of certain people who seemed to be of the opinion that Round Table, its decisions and its policies, were of paramount importance and that no other consideration should be allowed to interfere with their ambitions for Table and their decisions to implement those ambitions.

‘Please, therefore, enjoy yourselves and if you can do some good along the way for your fellow men, then jolly good, but remember that long after you have finished your connection with Round Table you will still have a very useful life to live which will not be helped if all your energies, all your interests and all your thoughts have been given exclusively to Round Table.’ [71]

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