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The Growth of the B.E.C.

How does the growth of the club to-day compare with past years?  Should it be growing as fast as it once did?  Is it still healthy or has it run out of steam? This series of short articles examines these and other questions and comes up with some answers.


Our insurers, as most members know, are insisting that we close the list of club members on the 30th of April each year, and that any members who have not paid by that date have to re-apply for membership.  This may well result in a few people deciding not to bother any more.  How much this may matter in the end can be argued but in any case, it would be interesting to know how much this, or any other sudden change actually affects the total membership of the club and whether the membership is still in a healthy position even if it drops.

The B.E.C. have kept more of less complete records since the first of September 1943 – and thirty four years is a longer time than many of its younger members have been alive.  It would be hard luck if we could not learn something from these club records.  It so happens that we can.

These jottings, which may appear in the B.B. from time to time under this title, are not going to be an excuse for ramming a whole lot of mathematics down the throats of unwilling members.  It is enough to say that the way that the club records work out is enough to make any forecaster green with envy. The theory fits the practice so well as to be almost uncanny.  The reason for this is because the average values of everything stay beautifully constant over the years.  Thus, one can construct a model based on these averages and compare it with what actually happened.  To give an example of the way the averages remain steady, if anyone had thought, fit to work out the average rate of new members joining the club up to 1949, they would have come up with and answer of 26.4 new members per year.  If the same sum was done today – some 28 years and nearly between, this average has never risen above 28 or dropped as low as 25.  Thus we have a new bloke appearing once a fortnight or so ever since 1949.

Any given patch of new members who all joined in the same year will dwindle away as the years go on. Once again, the rate of decay is very consistent on average.  Half of them will be gone in three years on average, while only a quarter will be left after 8 years, and so on.

With these steady figures as a background, it is possible to work out how big the club ought to be at any given time.  For example, in 1959 it should have had 151 members.  In fact, it had 148.  All was well, then, in 1959.  However, two years earlier, in 1957, the total should have been 144 and was in fact only 117.  What went wrong in 1957?

Whatever it was (and hopefully we shall examine it later) the actual total varies quite a bit although the average stays steady.  This is due not only to the number of new members in any year varying, but also due to the differences in 'staying power'.  The new members of one year might tend to keep going while in the next year, they might leave much quicker.  The odd thing is that a batch tends to keep going the way it started. This is probably due to the fact that some groups of new members tend to stick together and form friendships, while others do not.

Bearing all this in mind, the next short article in this series will look at the initial expansion of the club, which lasted until 1951.