A short history of the society

This history has been compiled by Ann Vickers from old Newsletters and minutes. It appeared in the 30th Anniversary Newsletter in September 2009.

Our fuchsia Society came into being on 27th September 1979, the baby of Paul and Margaret Saunders. Paul's father Peter was also involved in the early days. The Society was conceived when Paul went to Don Stillwell's nursery in Hounslow and met Joan Morris there while she was helping Don. Don and Joan gave lots of advice on setting up. Margaret and Paul wrote to newspapers, booked the hall and here we are 30 years later.

The first November meeting had Leo Boullemier as the speaker. Leo was very well known in fuchsia circles and wrote for the Garden News. His talk left the audience wanting more. To that end he came again in January to continue his talk.

The first Xmas draw raised £191.00 Some of the prizes given were a cassette radio, turkey, hamper, several bottles of spirits and champagne, with various other Xmas items. No wonder £191.00 was raised. Don't forget in 1979 that was a lot of money. During this social evening Margaret and Paul did a comical version of the popular TV programme Mr & Mrs which raised many a laugh. Perhaps we shall be lucky enough for them to do it again 30 years on!

Within 2 months the membership was over 50. Joan Morris was the 2nd President from late 1980 and Editor. Even then she had problems getting anyone to send in contributions for the newsletter, only the Chairman and Secretary contributing. In the early days of the society the newsletter was produced every two months so it must have been a nightmare trying to find enough to go in it.

At the AGM in 1980 Pat Clark, now Pat Sayers, took over as Treasurer. Subcriptions went up to £1.50 single and £2.00 double. Remember this is 1980 - 29 years ago so by paying only £6.00 for a year now you are all getting good value.

Margaret Saunders took over as Show Secretary ready for the 1981 Show - and gosh what a brilliant Show that was. Bearing in mind that until recently we held competitive Shows the hall plus the back room were full of entries. Visitors poured in with cars parked both sides and right along the road, and not by pub customers! It was the heyday of the Fuchsia.

Pat Clark wrote in the March 1981 newsletter that funds stood at almost £597.00 Not bad for a year and a half since formation. A trade stand was started, plant auctions, coach trips and quiz evenings kept members interested. Quizzes were held between Beds & Herts and Cambridge Fuchsia Societies annually for many years. Very successful plant auctions were also held, plus various coach trips until the last few years - mainly due to coach hire fees getting so high. An example - in 1985 a trip to Felixstowe cost £2.50 for the coach. Now we would have to pay about £10.00 to cover the cost.

Joan Morris travelled from Birmingham to our meetings most months.

Charlie Napthen with wife Louie also attended. Louie was blind but was always full of questions - and answers. She could name fuchsias by their perfume. Cambridge Louie was named by Charlie after her.

John Grimes, together with Stan Bartlett's brother Les, joined the committee in 1981. John started the Competition Cultivar cuttings in February 1987. I joined the Society with my Dad after the 1981 Show. Joan Morris, reporting about the financial position in the newsletter, wrote about Pat Clark as 'the treasurer keeping a hawk-like eye on the proceedings' Everyone was given a mug with the Beds & Herts motif on the front. I still have mine.

Pat Clark & Pete Sayers got married in the summer of 1982.

In the early days a meeting was held in July just two days before the Show, but then no meeting in August. The AGM was held in September not October as now. We even charged 20p to visit the Show, now it is free we just get your money in other ways! Members gave up plants to be auctioned at the end of the Show. At the 1982 AGM Stan Bartlett joined the committee. Both John and Stan stayed on the committee in various positions until late in 1997. On some of our trips Les Bartlett and Pat Sayers - both professional coach drivers - drove for us. They were both very good safe drivers.

Paul Saunders stayed on the committee for 4 years as both Secretary and Chairman, then as Vice President with Margaret. The 1984 Xmas social started by being locked out - no change there then. Until 1985 the Show was only held on the Saturday but from 1986 it became a two day Show. Annual Shows got more popular year by year. One year there were 11 baskets - a record. Pete Sayers made our basket stands plus pot holders.

On the August Bank Holiday weekend in 1986 we staged a Display at Stevenage Garden Centre. Over 500 people visited us over the weekend.The Show got too big for Henlow so it was decided to move to the Stevenage Garden Centre in 1987. By 1988 membership had gone up to 200.

At the August Bank holiday in 1988 Beds & Herts held a display in aid of charity and to celebrate the BFS 50th Anniversary. Peter Harkness kindly donated a large area to hold the display. Over 1600 visitors came over the weekend with over £725.00 being raised. This was shared between the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research.Eddie Walker, together with the Society held a Fuchsia Display at Shillington High Road Methodist Church over the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1990 which raised over £541.00. Sadly the Annual Xmas Social held in December, firstly at The Bird in Hand, and then in the Parish Hall ceased in 1990. A fun evening for many years which had obviously had its day.

At our January 1992 meeting we had as speakers Ted Stiff and Brenda Goulding - names to be reckoned with. They did a sketch of Over The Garden Wall, a brilliant comedy act. Right from the early days the Society has held displays in Churches, where the plants look lovely. This tradition still carries on today. Shows were held at Henlow from 1979 to 1986. Stevenage Garden Centre from 1987 to 1989 and from 1990 to 1998 at Roger Harvey Garden Centre which then changed hands to Van Hage where we held our Show for the next two years. In 2001 we moved back to Henlow Parish Hall where the accommodation was right for the size of the Society. Van Hage is now a housing estate. By 1997 the Fuchsia seemed to have had its day.

Afer many years as Secretary and Show Secretary Jenny Grimes stood down at the 1997AGM. Jenny really kept the Society on its feet. She worked hard especially at the Shows, and still helps by presenting the prizes and helping to clear up afterwards. Rae Bliss volunteered to take over as Show Secretary. In recent years two General Secretaries come to mind, Phil Mitchell who was also Chairman, and also Val Bennett. Phil grew some very good "sticks"for which he was teased unmercifully! Ann Griffiths took over as Secretary and has been a tower of strength keeping us all in touch with everything that is going on.

Some of our committee members have moved far away, Pat & Pete to Scotland and Lynda and Jon to Eire. It is lovely to think that they have travelled such long distances to come to our Anniversary Lunch. Jack Slater, with his wife Mary, also moved to Cheshire. In 1998 while Geoff and Sylvia Hunt were visiting a very wet fuchsia display at Borde Hill Sylvia slipped and broke her ankle. The ankle never healed properly and to our shock Sylvia died the next April. Sylvia was greatly missed as she did so much within the Society.

Over the years we have had lots of trips to fuchsia nurseries and gardens but only once to one laying on a barbeque at Rookery Farm, Wyboston.

By 2005 shows began to be a struggle, wondering if we would have enough plants. One year we didn't so it was decided to put in display plants to fill the hall. What a difference. Members turned up with plants they would never put in a Show. The next year we decided to call the Show a Festival. And it's worked. The fuchsia displays look great with the new table arrangements. We could do with more visitors but that will only happen if the pub next door closes so visitors can actually park!

We have had some devilish plant sellers over the years, Phil, Jon and Cecil would rob their own mother to sell them a plant. Many thanks to you all, you know who you are, who have helped sell the plants over the years. Jon's wife Lynda De'Noronha was brilliant at recruiting new members.

In thirty years we have had many Officers. I will try and list them all, but forgive me if I miss one or two.

  • Presidents - Tony King, Joan Morris, Charlie Napthen, Pat Sayers, Ken Stevens, Roger Harvey, Geoff Hunt, Jenny Grimes

  • Vice-Presidents - Charlie Napthen, Paul & Margaret Saunders, Ken Stevens, Pat Sayers

  • Chairman/Woman - Tony King, Michael Morecroft, Paul Saunders, Pat Sayers, Ted Pay, Jack Slater, Eric Spragg, Eddie Walker, John Grimes, Stan Bartlett, Geoff Hunt, Phil Mitchell, Cecil Rhodes

  • Vice-Chair - Jean Parfitt, Eric Spragg, Eddie Walker, John Grimes, Stan Bartlett, Dave Bennett, Geoff Hunt, Ann Vickers, Jon deNoronha, Cecil Rhodes, Rae Bliss

  • Secretary - Paul Saunders, Barry Dinmore, Les Bartlett, Frank Munford, Jenny Grimes, Phil Mitchell, Val Bennett, Ann Griffith

  • Show Secretary - Ann St. Clair, Margaret Saunders, Jenny Grimes, Rae Bliss

  • Treasurer - Pauline Child, Pat Clark/Sayers, Irene Waters, Alan Willatts, Sylvia Hunt, Ann Vickers

  • Editor - Joan Morris, Pat Sayers, Jenny Grimes, Peter Starr, Jon deNoronha, Lynda Lee, Rae Bliss

  • Membership - Lynda deNoronha, Ann Vickers

Over the years we have had many very good speakers, too many to name, but again age has caught up with some of them and they are not able to speak any more for various reasons. Because of this the programmes have included speakers on other topics, mainly with nature in mind. It has worked well, one meeting we even had owls which we could let sit on our hands.

In the beginning members did a term of 2 or 3 years on committee, then there was usually someone else happy to take their place. These days we have to stay as committee members because we cannot get anyone else to take over from us, and we don't want to see the Society fold.

Well, that's the first 30 years gone. Who is going to help us to the next milestone, I suppose it is 40?

Ann Vickers