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1966 Annual General Meeting

A long account of the recent A.G.M. follows.  We make no apology for taking up so much B.B. space with it, as some discussion which may affect the club considerably took place and we feel that, as a democratic club, we should give those members who were unable to be present, some opportunity to read the proceedings in as full a form as practicable.

The 1966 Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club opened at 2.50pm on Saturday, October 1st, 1966 with 37 members present.  The number rose to 41 shortly afterwards.

It was proposed by Alfie and seconded by John Ransom that Oliver Lloyd be elected as Chairman. This was carried by nom. con.

The Chairman then asked for proposals for tellers for the ballot.  Frank Darbon, Frank Jones and Colin Henry George Rees were elected. Ballot papers and members’ resolutions were then collected.

The Hon. Secretary then reads the minutes of the 1965 Annual General Meeting.  The minutes were adopted unanimously.  The Hon. Secretary then gave his report.  He reminded members that this would be the last time he would be giving this report.  He could not now devote the necessary time and energy to the secretaryship and, in any case, felt that after fifteen years, the club could do with a new secretary. He hoped that the club would support his successor in the same way that it had always supported him.

There had been 29 new members, and the membership stood at 180 – a decrease of 3.  These figures were approximate as there were several outstanding subscriptions which he assured the meeting that the treasurer was confident of collecting.  There would be 125 at the dinner and he understood that a resolution on entertainment was to be brought up later.  The Council if Southern Cave Clubs had continued to operate and he felt sure that this system would enable individual clubs to operate without interference. It was proposed by Alan Thomas that the report be adopted without discussion.  This was seconded by Ron King.  The Chairman amplified the Hon. Secretary’s statement on the Regional Councils, and described the organisation as a body without a head.  This type of organisation was best able to provide a framework within which two clubs could help each other without being dictated to. The organisation will meet once a year.

The Hon. Treasurer then gave his report.  He was afraid that the financial statement did not give the full picture, but hoped that he would have more time to devote to this task next year.  The increase of subscriptions was due to the popularity of Life membership.  The sixpence so grudgingly given contributed usefully to the clubs finances.  Car badges and ties must be re-ordered next year. The Belfry and Belfry Bulletin continue to consume money but he was pleased to see also that there had been good spending on tackle.  He suggested that the new committee should re-invest the Ian Dear Memorial Fund in five and a half percent bonds.

During the discussion which followed, Alfie asked why no Belfry receipts were shown on the financial statement.  The Hon. Treasurer replied that they had been received too late for inclusion.  Dave Irwin asked whether these receipts were up on last year’s or not.  The Hut Warden replied that they were slightly up on last years.  Bob White asked why the Hut Warden only appeared to pay the Treasurer once a year.  The Hon. Treasurer replied that he received money more often than this, but only got a financial breakdown of Belfry receipts and expenditure annually.  He hoped to introduce a better system next year.  The money already received had in fact been subtracted from the Belfry expenditure.  In reply to a further question, he said that the closing date for his accounts was the 31st August.  The Chairman asked whether the capital sum represented by the development bond was shown in the accounts.  The Hon. Treasurer said that he felt they should be kept separately, as they were not part of normal club funds.  He reminded members that the statement was not a balance sheet, nor was it an income and expenditure account.  Bob White asked whether fire insurance was included.  The Hon. Treasurer said that it had not been included in this statement, as it had been paid too late, but was in fact, £4/4/-.

Dave Irwin proposed that the report be adopted.  This was seconded by Gordon Tilly and carried nom. com.

The Caving secretary then gave his report.  The past year had been one of great interest, and a wide and varied list of activities had resulted.  Alan Coase’s part in the major new discoveries in Dan-yr-Ogof was the most interesting from the new discovery point of view, but the Raucher Expedition in Austria had resulted In members acquiring experience of long trips (over 80 hours) in cold conditions, and the highlight of this trip was ‘Mo’ Marriotts’ bottoming of a 320 foot shaft.  The B.E.C. shaft (like the B.E.C. at times? – Ed) was found to be too tight.  Alan Thomas had also been to Greece and had led a party earlier in the year to Morocco.  Caving had also been done in Switzerland, Ireland, Yorkshire and South Wales – in addition to well attended local meets.

The interest in diving has been revived, and Phil Kingston has reached Wookey 15.  On general caving, Cuthbert’s remains the most popular cave; but visits to the smaller local caves had also proved popular.  In Cuthbert’s, two mock rescues had been held, which resulted in the removal of a helpless ‘victim;’ from Beehive Chamber to the Belfry in 7 hours.  A special gear had been designed for hauling a victim up the Entrance Rift.  There had also been two real rescues.

On the scientific site, Roger Stenner has been engaged in water analysis, and N.L. Thomas in biological studies in the Maypole area, which is temporarily close to cavers to enable the studies to be continue.  He had also been doing similar work in Gough’s.  Five teams are now working on the resurveying of the cave.

Digging was represented by work in Maesbury and Emborough.  The Caving Secretary hoped that these digging activities would continue as it is only by digging that we shall be able to make new major discoveries. He concluded by wishing his successor all possible help.

The Chairman opened the discussion by saying how glad he was to see that the time and trouble taken by the club members on practice rescues had resulted in the very smooth operation of real rescues from the cave.  While on this subject, he announced that the M.R.O. would be holding an open meeting on Sunday, 13th November.

Alan Thomas then proposed a vote of thanks to the Caving Secretary.  This was seconded by Alfie and carried with applause.

The Climbing Secretary then gave his report.  Six out of the eight planned trips had taken place as well as several privately run trips. Local climbing had also occurred in the Avon Gorge and Frome Valley.  The latter work had resulted in the first Climbing Report be published.  He thought that privately run trips were a good idea for a small climbing section.  Gordon Tilly moved that the report be adopted.  This was seconded by John Ransom and carried nom. com.

The TACKLEMASTER then gave his report.  Due to problems encountered during the year, no new tackle had been made.  The club had also lost two ropes and one ladder (since found – Ed) and hence 640’ of ladder and 850’ of rope.  Bob White asked whether the tackle was covered by insurance?  Norman replied that it was not, except for tackle taken abroad.  The Chairman asked whether it was worth insuring tackle and it was agreed to ask the 1966-67 Committee to look into this.

It was moved by Dave Irwin and seconded by D. Statham that the report be adopted.  This was carried nom. com.

The Chairman then announced the results of the election.  65 valid ballot papers produced the following result.  Bob Bagshaw (63); Norman Petty (61); Roy Bennett (60); Alfie Collins (58); Eddie Welch (52); Gordon Tilly (46); Roger Stenner (51); Dave Searle (21); and Garth Dell (20).  The first nine were therefore declared elected.

The Hut Warden then gave his report.  It had not been too good a year.  The Bed-night total was 1,527 as compared with 1,431 last year, but was still some way down on figures exceeding 1,800 which had been reported in the past.  It had been suggested that the drop had been due to the discouragement of visiting clubs by reducing the number of bunks available to visitors.  This was perhaps partly true and was due to member’s requirements needing priority at the time.  It has since been found possible to increase the number of bunks for visitors.  The Hut Warden said that another aspect had been that many members of the W.S.G. are Belfry Regulars anyway, and that other visitors often preferred to camp.  However, visits from Exeter, Cambridge and the Northern Pennine have taken place and with the opening of the Bridge, perhaps we may expect more visitors from Wales next year.

The Hut Warden reported that the state of the Belfry had improved slightly, but the cleaning of saucepans was still a sore point.  (In view of the expected invasion from Wales, perhaps we should say that we prefer a sospan wen to a sospen ddu! – Ed.)  The Hut Warden appealed for more saucepans.

Alan Thomas said that if members wished to raise any complaints about the Belfry, it might be a good idea to do so now or for ever hold their peace.  The Hut Warden immediately moved the adoption of his report but was ruled out of order by the Chairman.  Dave Irwin asked whether the old car could be removed.  It was resolved by A. Collins and seconded by G. Dell that strong representations be made to the owner and that lack of subsequent action to be treated as a serious offence.  An amendment proposed by Bob White and seconded by Roy Bennett suggested that this matter be left to the Committee.  The amendment was carried 19 – 12 and thus became a substantive resolution which was then carried nom. con.  John Ransom then proposed that the report be adopted.  This was seconded by Alan Thomas and carried without dissent.

The Hut Engineer then gave his report.  Routine work had been carried out on the Belfry as and when needed.  The Women’s Room roof had been repaired.  The Men’s end of the toilets had been completed but had not proved as popular as the Ladies, which is used by both sexes. Constant observation of the septic tank had shown that it was working satisfactorily.  Planning permission for the shower had been obtained.  It was proposed by Frank Jones and seconded by Bill Smart that the report be adopted.  This was carried nom. com.  The Chairman then announced a 15 minute break for tea.

After the tea break, a request was received for a recount of the last two places in the ballot.  This was carried out with no change in the previous figures.

The Long Term Planning Report followed.  Alfie explained that the article in the last B.B. had been designed to show the club what might be involved in the construction and financing of a permanent Belfry.

There had been some 20 replies to the questionnaire and that nearly all replies were in favour of a new building, and prepared to help in some way.  He suggested that the next stage should be the setting up of a larger committee to draw up plans.  The Chairman asked who was on the present committee.  Alfie replied himself, Alan Thomas and Gordon Tilly.  The Chairman said that he saw no objection to Alfie’s suggestion that an enlarged committee investigate all aspects including the obtaining of a grant from the Department of Education and Science and that they could prepare a complete scheme including getting all the necessary grants ands permissions without actually committing the club to any course of action. This could then be put to the club, who would decide.

Alan Thomas said that he had seen the Planning Officer and anticipated no trouble.  We could, for instance, put up a rendered or pebble dashed concrete block structure.  He hoped that in any case, the club would not build an ugly building.  As far as the grant was concerned however, he was against it and proposed a resolution that “Under no circumstances will the B.E.C. ask for any grant.”

The Chairman said, before accepting this amendment, he must note that there seemed to be a matter of principle here which was of great importance, and a discussion should therefore take place first.  He assured the meeting that the acceptance of a grant did not involve any ‘strings’ whatever.

Alan Thomas replied that the B.E.C. always stood on its own feet.   It liked to be free to do things its own way.  Suppose, he said, that a government inspector arrived at the Belfry on the morning after the Barbecue when everyone was sitting around nursing their heads.  We would be told to get out and go caving!  He pointed out that B.E.C. was an exploration club and this included, if necessary or desirable, the exploration of the effects of alcohol on the human body. He personally enjoyed a good hangover now and then (cries of “masochist!”) and he did not see why we should allow our way of life – which happened to include a lot of good caving and underground scientific work amongst other things – to be dictated by government officials.

Ron King replied that another principle of the B.E.C. was surely to obtain something for nothing if possible and that we should therefore accept a grant.

Dave Irwin said that he was on Alan’s side.  There were no state grounds for rescues.  If we – as cavers – got into difficulties underground, we knew that only fellow cavers would get us out again.  No government body such as the police or fire brigade was actually involved in rescuing us. It should be the same with the provision of accommodation.

Alan Thomas agreed and said that the B.E.C. accepted people of all races, colours and creeds providing only that they were interested in B.E.C. activities and got on with present members.  We take people, he said, as we find them.  We do not want to be told to do this.

The Chairman pointed out that the club was already open to the public.  We could still refuse individual members and it seemed a little like splitting hairs to refuse free money when it made no difference at all to the club.  As far as rescues were concerned, there was no means of getting money from the government but if there were, the M.R.O. might well consider it.  We could, in fact, go later against the terms of a grant after we had received one and there was nothing the government could do about it. There was an inspector, it was true, but she was in fact a charming lady.  He felt that the club should not set its face against a grant without considerable thought.

Bob Bagshaw said that there was obviously a lot of deeply held feelings both for and against a grant. He wondered if the meeting should make a snap decision and pointed out that there were many things involved which had not yet been considered.  It should be said that the grant was our money since we all paid taxes.  On the other hand, he was against any form of government interference and would need to be completely convinced that no such interference was possible.  We might in any case, be able to raise the money.

Alan suggested that the matter should be referred to a committee as proposed by Alfie and that this committee should be of six people not more than three of whom should be members of the general committee.  This resolution was seconded by Brian Howe and carried nom. com.  Various names were then suggested.  Brain Howe; Bill Smart; Pat ifold; Garth Dell; Gordon Tilly; Ron King; and Bob Bagshaw.  Joan Bennett said that she thought the three committee members should be ex officio and suggested the Treasurer, Hut Warden and Belfry Engineer.  A vote was taken on this proposal and it was defeated by a large majority in favour of electing named people.

Alfie pointed out that the actual job (whether club position or outside employment) was of little importance as a qualification.  What was wanted was six people who would do the work.  These people would obviously consult all the experts they could find – as well as the views of ordinary members.  Sybil asked if her views would be allowed a hearing and Alfie said that, although he could not speak for the new Planning Committee, he was sure they would listen with attention to all the ideas and views presented to them.  An election was then held, and the committee (in order of votes cast in favour) was Alfie; Alan Thomas; Garth; Pat Ifold; Bill Smart and Ron King.  It was proposed that this committee be instructed to prepare a full scheme for submitting to the club, either by publication of by E.G.M. before next A.G.M.

The B.B. Editor then gave his report.  The year had been an average one for the B.B.  On the other hand, an electric operated duplicator together with stocks of paper, stencils and ink to the value of £50 had been obtained at no cost to the club.  He felt that the B.B. was being kept going by too few contributors, and appealed to all to let the Postal Department know of any changes of address.  The adoption of the reports was moved by Frank Darbon and seconded by Ron king and carried nom. com.

The Caving Publications report was then read by Gordon Tilly.  He explained that he was doing the actual production of the reports, while Bryan Ellis was in charge of the Editorial and Sales side.  He said that Reports 11 and 12 had been issued and that the Cuthbert’s Reports would be issued during the coming year.  Part ‘O’ was on sale now.  Kangy added that 32 copies of the Climbing Report had been sold. The report, after a discussion on finance had taken place, was adopted after its adoption had been proposed by Garth Dell and seconded by Nigel Hallett.

The Hon. Librarian gave her report.  The library had been moved to the Waggon and Horses, but had not been used much since. The report was adopted, G. Tilley and R. Bennett proposing and seconding the adoption.

The first member’s resolution was now put to the meeting.  Proposed by Ron Bater and seconded by Brian Howe, it resolved that organised entertainment should be provided at the B.E.C. dinners.  An amendment was proposed by Roy Bennett and seconded by D. Statham that this entertainment should be of a non-professional nature.  In support of the resolution, Brian Howe said that a Group could be obtained and that the cost would be small.  It would add about 1/6 to the price of a ticket.  It was not proposed to encourage Hunters Songs by this means.  Sybil said that she would prefer to consider entertainment in a wider context and would not like to be confined to musical entertainment (that’s what is says in the notes -Ed).  Voting on the amendment was 14 for and 14 against.  The Chairman exercised his casting vote against the amendment.  The resolution was now voted on and defeated 15 – 12.

The second resolution “That the Library be moved to the Belfry” was proposed by Dave Irwin and seconded by A. Meadon and was carried without discussion by a large majority.

The third resolution “That the increase of Belfry dues imposed by the last committee be ratified and the rules accordingly altered” was also carried without discussion or dissent.

The Editor unfortunately had to leave the meeting at this stage and is unable to describe the remaining resolutions, none of which were carried.  At one stage, he understands that the meeting was found to be inquorate, and the Chairman finally called the meeting to an end.

Note:  This description does not constitute the ‘official’ description of the meeting.

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B.E.C. Caving Reports, and other caving publications including as number of surveys can be bought from B.M. ELLIS, KNOCKAUNS, COMBWICH, BRIDGWATER, SOMERSET. A list of B.E.C. reports will be found on page 63.  Send to Bryan for full details of publications for sale.