Chapter 5

The Developing Years, 1953-56

IN LOOKING BACK over the years it becomes possible to see trends and events in a perspective not readily apparent at the time they are taking place. There is a danger in measuring a Table against the yardstick of its own social fellowship and activities; there is an equal danger in measuring it solely against that of its service to the community. The full strength of a Table lies not in either one or the other, but in both. Without fellowship service suffers; without service fellowship is incomplete.

For five post-war years fellowship had been developing and strengthening and the average age of the Table had fallen. The younger members were beginning to shoulder responsibility and, as was right, were to become the increasingly active members of the succeeding years. The first of these succeeding years brought a large measure of fulfilment to their apprenticeship, for it marked the Silver Jubilee of the movement and it was the year of the coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

Already, earlier in the year, the Community Service Committee had recommended that the per capita annual ‘voluntary’ charitable donation of 10/- should be raised to 15/- ‘with the proviso that the Council be authorised to use 5/- per capita of this amount for the National A.G.M. Travel Pool* if such scheme be adopted.’ The Table, however, resolved that in lieu of adopting the Committee’s recommendations the amount of £1.5 (annual subscription) in line 1 of rule 9 be deleted and £2 be substituted’. The [26] result was that in the 1953-4 accounts the ‘Charity Levy’ was replaced by a transfer from Table funds.

*This was a scheme whereby the expenses of two members from each Table attending the National A.G.M. would be paid from a national pool to be fed by a per capita annual levy from each Table.

The Silver Jubilee, 1953
This year was marked by the discovery that the Table’s Charter had not been seen for about 15 years, and nobody knew where it was*. On the other hand, three years previously, Swinney had produced the Area Golf Cup, which apparently no one had then missed.

*It was never found, and a new one was issued by R.T.B.I. The original, however, had been issued during the year in which the Founder had been National President, and it was felt that the replacement should also bear Louis Marchesi’s signature, which it does.

Considerable discussion took place in the Community Service Committee, then under Frank Judson, to determine a suitable means of commemorating the movement’s Jubilee. The outcome was a recommendation that £50 worth of camping equipment be presented to the Scarborough and District Boy Scouts’ Association.

By now the leisurely pace of the first five post-war years had gone for good. Already Roundabout, a fortnightly bulletin of Table news, was being issued. Extension was still in the air. With E. V. Appleton as Area Extension Officer and D. I. Steel from the Table, contacts were made with a view to the formation of a Table in Whitby. Eventually, after a great deal of work, a successful dinner meeting was held there on 21st April 1954, and at the inaugural meeting on 29th July 16 founder members were elected from the 27 who had attended various preliminary meetings.

The Whitby Charter Night at which the Scarborough Table was to present Whitby with a Chairman’s jewel, took place seven months later on a wild February evening, and was attended by Sir Alec Spearman, M.P., Arthur Slater and Maurice Plows, respectively Chairman and Vice President of the Scarborough Table, together with several carloads of supporters. The journey is graphically described by the Vice-President, who was a little older than anyone else, as follows:

‘We assembled at the Pavilion. The streets were thick with snow and it was freezing like hell*. Arthur Slater came in and said, “My word, there has been a smash!” A car had [27] skidded into a bus. Tom Pindar came in with a story of another smash. He had got a load of freestone plus several pairs of wellingtons in the back of his car and also a pick and shovel. I had rung up Philip Pedley in the morning (Saturday) and asked if they were going. He said yes, had I got cold feet? I replied yes in both senses, so he said I need not go if I didn’t want to, so I went.

*Hardly an appropriate simile.

‘We followed a hearse with a coffin in it from Falsgrave to Cloughton. The road was shocking and it was blowing a gale. We didn’t know if the roads were wet or black ice, so we tried it. It was the latter.

‘When we got past the Flask we stopped for a bus, and for half an hour the four of us tried to get the car back on the road facing the right way. We eventually got to Whitby.

‘We arranged to come home in convoy, ten to fifteen cars. Sir Alec Spearman led the way and Ted Appleton brought up the rear, so that everyone got home safely in due course.’

New Zealand Ladies
At this time a New Zealand Ladies’ Cricket Team was to visit this country and fixtures were arranged in Scarborough early in June 1954. The Yorkshire Women’s Cricket Association had approached the Table to see if hospitality could be found for the 17 members of the New Zealand team.
The Council agreed to undertake the task. Table members and their wives not only provided the basic hospitality in their own homes, but the Table ensured that the visiting team had an enjoyable social time and saw something of the surrounding countryside.

Membership Policy
The strength of the Table was increasing, and early in 1954 earnest discussions were taking place on the whole question of membership, its size and quality. The Table was, in fact, having one of its periods of self-examination.

The outcome was two Council resolutions, the first decla ring that the ideal strength of the Table was 40 to 45. and therefore no effort should be made to increase membership for its own sake. The Membership Committee was instructed to concentrate on quality and to bear in mind that, after allowing for retirement due to age and possible transfers [28] and resignations, it would be necessary to elect no more than four or five new members a year to keep the Table up to strength.

There has from time to time been much argument, both in and out of the Table, for and against membership of an organisation by invitation, the social equivalent of a closed shop. Inevitably accusations of snobbery, exclusiveness and favouritism are not infrequently made against such an organisation by those who would like to join, perhaps for purely social reasons, but are incapable of assessing their own qualifications for all that membership demands.

Nevertheless the Council’s second resolution was one common not only to many Tables but to other organisations. The odd feature about it is its late appearance in the history of the Scarborough Table, twenty years after its inception. It usually appears much earlier.

When a member of the Table wishes to propose a new member he shall complete a proposal form without notifying his nominee. This proposal form, if duly seconded, will be considered by the Membership Committee and, if the nomination is looked on favourably, the nominee may then, and only then, be approached and asked if he would like his name to be considered.

Five years later, at a time when the Table strength was 40 with four prospective members and another six nominations in the pipeline, the procedure was further extended and codified:

Procedure for Introduction of
New Members as from April 1959

1 The sponsor, who should have been in membership for at least two years, should first advise the Membership Chairman that he has a prospective member in mind.
2 If the current programme of the Committee permits and the man is basically suitable the sponsor may bring the prospect to two lunches and a social function. He should then be introduced to the Table Chairman, Membership Committee and as many members of the Membership Committee and Council as possible. The Committee will then decide whether or not the prospect is acceptable.
3 An Information Meeting will be called. This will be attended by the Table Chairman, Committee Chairmen and Table Secretary. This will be informal and will take the following pattern:
The Membership Chairman welcomes the prospective member and introduces the Table Secretary who will [29] outline the history, aims and objects, strength of the R.T.B.I. and affiliated organisations and the method of government of the movement.
Each Committee Chairman then sets out the functions of his Committee and the prospective member has an opportunity of asking questions,
4 The Membership Committee then pass their recommendation to Council. Following its approval and 14 days notice to the Table, the new member is inducted. (It is obviously better to bring in a group of members at a time to avoid having a vast number of extra meetings).
5 The ceremony of induction should be rather more impressive than it has been and it is agreed that the sponsor should ‘stand by’ on this occasion.

There has always been what is loosely termed a freemasonry amongst members of Round Table wherever they may be. This impressive procedure almost suggests that the ancient Craft has exerted its influence in other directions.

A further result of the 1954 increase in membership was another change of luncheon venue. For the preceding six years Rowntrees had housed the Table. Now arrangements were made at Boyes Restaurant, and there the Table met for the next eight years until the restaurant was discontinued.
Thereafter from 1962 meetings have been held at the Victoria Hotel, birthplace of the late Charles Laughton.

The Novice
So far we have looked at the question of membership from a purely Table point of view. New members often had opinions of their own, which they usually had sufficient tact at the time to keep to themselves. Two once-new members have been persuaded to put their thoughts down on paper. In each case it is interesting to see how those thoughts reflect matters that have already been discussed in these pages.

Michael Plows came into the Table in the early 50’s, at the beginning of the Table’s renaissance. At the time he had the distinction of being the first son of an earlier member of the Table, the first of the second generation. He was to be followed in the 60’s by Geoffrey Winn, Jeremy Woodcock and Clive Pickles.

‘I had given very little thought to Table, or coming into Table,’ he writes, and there seemed to be very little activity [30] at that time. I had heard of long walks across the moors, and swimming competitions, but absolutely nothing as far as Community Service was concerned. I understood the Table was a luncheon club with speakers, mainly members of the Table who occasionally had to talk about subjects that they knew nothing about. I had no close personal contact with any member, although I knew most by sight.

‘Asked to join Table one Thursday, I accepted, and the following Tuesday was a member. It was rather a horrifying occasion. I was asked to sit at the top table, the room being packed with what to me were very much more senior citizens. I found that the members were extremely friendly, and although most were over ten years my senior, I was soon brought into Table life.

I found that the system for speakers had been recently changed and that some most interesting men were invited along to speak. Community Service, which had been mainly a collecting-box passed round at meals, had become a levy, and attempts were being made to raise funds in various ways. No publicity was allowed on any charitable work.

‘On the social side things were changing quite a lot. The Table Cabaret was about to be born, and dances were more like parties, with various games and interruptions!* Table Council were very serious men. I found this when I came on to Council in my second year in Table. Meetings were on unlicensed premises, usually started at 5.30 and went on until late in the evening. One in particular, when we wrote the Table Rules, went on until 11 p.m. without refreshment.

*Of a previous function he says: I had been to the Annual Dinner in (I think) 1947, which was a very stuffy function, the evening being dinner, half an hour’s dancing, then supper, the supper menu being almost larger than that for dinner. I think this must have been due to the fact that we were rather obsessed with eating after the restrictions of the war.’

‘However, I think that this period was probably the most important in the Scarborough Table. Roundabout was born. Council meetings moved to Arthur Slater’s house, committee meetings to some hostelry. Community service grew much more ambitious, and the Table really sprang to life. Looking back now, I think the way Scarborough Table developed during that period was quite remarkable. A collection of men, enjoying themselves, quietly giving pleasure to a few, [31] became a Table enjoying itself quietly and giving pleasure to a lot.’

The Table was 13 years older when Jeremy Woodcock followed in the steps of his father William (who had been Table Chairman in 1949), 13 years in which the Table had been host to two more National Conferences, had gone into Community Service in a big way, and had formulated the 1959 membership procedure:
What he expected:
1 A collection of young professional men who met regularly to promote fellowship between themselves.
2 That out of the meetings a considerable amount of fellowship and entertainment would be forthcoming and that the entertainment would take the form of several rather expensive dances, with satirical cabarets, and
3 That Round Table was like a secret society in that one did not join in the normal way but was invited by those already In the Table.
What he found:
1 Membership was not confined to the professions, but Tablers from the professions tended to keep themselves separate.
2 However, there was a strong feeling of fellowship between all Tablers, irrespective of age, and an immediate bond of friendship.
3 The amount of entertainment was not as much as he had expected, but this obviously depended on the Entertainments Chairman of the year.
4 He had not expected there to be as much Community Service as there had been in the last few years. Again, this depended on the Community Service Chairman, and some people seem to have high sights, especially with regard to fund raising.
5 ‘Membership is by invitation, and you get the odd situation wherein non-Tablers are examined as to their suitability for membership without it being established whether or not they want to become Tablers’.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (our sons are just like their dads). Many of these thoughts are nostalgic echoes to many of the old brigade, long superannuated from the Table, who still remember their own thoughts and feelings as novices. [32]

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