The Norman Nicholson Society
Minutes of the A.G.M. held at Millom Cricket Club on 14th April 2018
Minutes of the A.G.M. held at Millom Cricket Club on 14th April 2018
Attendees: Barbara Andrews, Stella Barnes, David Boyd, Janice Brockbank, Brian Charnley, Doreen Cornthwaite, Sue Dawson, Antoinette Fawcett, Judith Gale, Martyn Halsall, Phil Houghton, Judith Ilett, Charlie Lambert, Dorothy Lambert, Glenn Lang, Jean Mossop, Marshall Mossop, Dot Richardson, Lyla Taylor, Ann Thomson, John Troll, Margaret Troll, Susan Troll, Thomas Troll, and Brian Whalley.
- Chair’s welcome: Charlie Lambert reported on the great interest that the proposal to purchase 14 St George’s Terrace had generated. A recent Liverpool University launch of a new poetry collection at the Albert Dock that Charlie had attended recently had only drawn an audience of twenty-seven people, whereas The Norman Nicholson Society regularly attracts double that number to its events, a measure of the esteem in which Norman’s writing, and particularly his poetry, is still held. Our honorary president, Lord Bragg, and our member Kevin Whateley both support the Society’s work, and the recent success of our first-stage HLF bid shows how viable the Society’s aims are. Our recent successful bid for HLF funding and the consequent feasibility study of 49 St George’s Terrace had also shown that we are on the right track. Last year’s Autumn event at Blencathra Field Studies Centre, featuring talks by our loyal member Professor Brian Whalley and by Ian Brodie, late of the LDNP, was very successful. The dissolution of the Cumbrian Literary Group had resulted, thanks to our member Anna Rose Joanne Weeks, in a substantial donation to the Nicholson Society’s funds. The Society’s Christmas Lunch, held again at the Netherwood Hotel in Grange-over-Sands, had given members a chance to catch up with old friends in a relaxed and festive atmosphere. At the Rev. Clive Shaw’s request, the Society has produced a leaflet for St George’s Church containing information for visitors on how to find Norman and Yvonne’s graves. Committee members of the Society recently hosted, for the second year in succession, two field trips to Norman’s Millom birthplace, the Millom Ironworks and Hodbarrow Mines sites, and the Discovery Centre by Nottingham University Geography undergraduates; these had been very well received and we look forward to developing these university links in future years. Finally, Charlie said a sad farewell to three stalwart supporters of the Society who had passed away in the last year: Peggy Troll, Janice Savage, and Alan Thomson will be greatly missed. £186.00, part of the collection taken at Peggy Troll’s funeral, had been donated to the Society’s funds at Peggy’s request the request of Peggy’s family.
- Apologies were received from Janet Allen, Ross and Josie Baxter, Neil Curry, Chris and Kathryn Donaldson, Nicky Godfrey-Evans, Peter Grayson, Norma Hughes, Edna Marper, Kathleen Jones, Richard Mansfield, Brian Metters, Jeremy Morton, Maurice Payn, Hilary Rock, Anna Rose, Miggy and David Scott, Clive Shaw, Susan Talbot, Thomas Tuohy, Joanne Weeks, and Mark Wilson.
- The minutes of the 2017 AGM were agreed to be correct. John Troll proposed that they be accepted and Sue Troll seconded the motion.
- Matters arising. The Norman Nicholson Society has joined the Heritage Trust Network.
- Election of committee. Dr Chris Donaldson was elected unanimously as Universities and Higher Education Officer. Brian Whalley proposed the motion and Dot Richardson seconded it.
- Secretary’s report Glenn Lang reviewed the activities of the Society (see below).
- Treasurer’s report Brian Charnley reported that the transfer of the Society’s accounts from the National Westminster Bank to the Cumberland Building Society had been successfully completed. He presented the audited accounts for the year (see below).
- Membership Secretary’s report. Antoinette Fawcett gave a report and analysis of the Society’s membership figures (see below).
- Comet Editor’s report Antoinette Fawcett gave a report (see below). N.B. The proposal that issues of Comet from more than three years ago should be made available on the Society’s website in fully searchable pdf format, redacted where necessary, to enable the sharing of academic and general interest with the wider community, was passed unanimously.
- Schools and Community Officer’s report Sue Dawson gave a report (see below).
- University Liaison Officer’s report Chris Donaldson was unable to attend the AGM so he submitted his report in absentia (see below). It was read to the meeting by Glenn Lang, the Secretary.
- Project 14 update Charlie Lambert reported that the HLF Resilient Heritage Scheme had granted £9,900.00 to the Society to carry out a feasibility study. Mike Darwell of John Coward Architects is a Heritage and Conservation specialist architect and he also brought in Ian and Michael Crick-Smith, experts in historic decoration and design, and Marion Barter, a specialist in heritage properties who has produced a history of the house. A measured survey was made and four options for renewing and improving the property were presented to the House Project’s working group, which comprises Charlie Lambert, Sue Dawson and Janice Brockbank. The option they have chosen for renewing and improving the house entails demolishing the existing rear extension and building a new two-storey extension to house a new kitchen on the ground floor and self-contained accommodation on the upper floor, suitable for visitors to stay overnight. The intention is to use the house to show what it was like in the early 1950s, when it was Norman’s father’s gentlemen’s outfitters shop as well as the family home. Norman’s attic bedroom will be kept and the back attic room will house a small video theatre. Charlie feels we now have a clear run to purchase, restore and convert the property. The group are working with Antonia Canal, the new HLF officer, and intend to put in an application for a further grant by the end of May. Sue Dawson’s recent purchase has saved the house from unsympathetic renovation and has ensured that if it is sold again it will be sold to us. Charlie is currently exploring further possible sources of funding, should the HLF not be able to give us the full amount. It was noted that The Wordsworth Trust has recently obtained a very large sum to expand the Jerwood Centre in Grasmere.
- Any other business We congratulated our Vice-President Neil Curry on his new poetry collection, Talking to Virginia Woolf, On Keeping Company With Mrs Woolf which is being published today. A return visit to Cockley Moor for a writing workshop led by Kathleen Jones is being offered on 15th September, by kind permission of our member Hilary Rock who is the owner of the property. Further details of both these events will be sent to all members shortly. Also, Peggy Troll’s extensive research into the history of the Nicholson and Cornthwaite families has been donated to the Society by John and Sue Troll, for which we are most grateful.
NNSoc Secretary’s Report AGM 2018
In addition to carrying out their designated roles and organising the AGM and other major annual events such as our Summer and Autumn study days, members of your committee (and some members) have also been busily engaged in outreach and fundraising events over the years, some of which are as follows:
• Talks about aspects of Norman’s life and work have been given to local and industrial history, U3A and literary groups in Cumbria and Lancashire by past and present committee members and by many other members of the Society over the years since the Society was founded, including David Cooper, Neil Curry, Phil Houghton, Irvine Hunt, lan Beattie, Brian Whalley, Ian Davidson, Kathleen Jones, Antoinette Fawcett and myself.
• Academic talks about Norman’s work have been delivered, and academic articles have been written and published, by Antoinette, Chris Donaldson and Grevel Lindop.
• Undergraduate students from Nottingham University have been on Easter field trips to Millom (for the second year running), hosted and guided by committee members Sue Dawson, Dot Richardson, Brian Charnley, Antoinette and myself.
• The Society has been represented for the past two years, and will be represented again this year, at the Alliance of Literary Societies’ Annual Study Weekends by Antoinette and myself, and all members are entitled and encouraged to attend these events if they wish, although I must stress that all attendees (including Antoinette and myself) have to fund their own attendance at these events.
• The Norman Nicholson Room at the Millom Discovery Centre was set up by Peggy Troll, Dot Richardson and Sue Dawson and it continues to be monitored by Dot and Sue.
• The Millom Christmas Tree Festival has regularly featured a tree devised and decorated by Peggy, Dot and Sue.
• Antoinette has regularly corresponded with, and encouraged, several postgraduate students to help them with their academic research on aspects of Norman’s work.
• The copyright libraries of Great Britain and Ireland receive and keep copies of all editions of the Society’s journal, Comet, which means that they are available to many thousands of readers.
• Antoinette’s frequent e-bulletins have kept members up-to-date with events ‘between Comets’ and Charlie has ensured that the Society’s website and Twitter-feed have helped to keep Norman’s work before a world-wide readership. Search online for Norman Nicholson and it is amazing what turns up!
I have not mentioned in this brief overview The Nicholson House Project, or the editorship and distribution of Comet, as Charlie and Antoinette have reported/will report on those, but it is worth noting that many members of the committee are also heavily involved in these. I would like to thank all members of the Committee and the Society who have contributed so much to making it the undoubted success it has become, and to thank Charlie for his untiring leadership and support.
NORMAN NICHOLSON SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY’S REPORT 2017-2018
Membership numbers for the Membership Year 2017-18 were as follows: 132 MEMBERS. Of which: 6 are Honorary Members. That means we have 126 paying members.
The total of 132 members is eight (8) fewer than the total of 140 I reported last year, which included members who had forgotten to pay membership for 2016-17 or/and 2015/16. If those numbers are deducted from the total I gave last year, our paid-up plus honorary membership for the Membership Year 2016-17 stood at 114. We have therefore increased our actual paying membership for the Membership Year of 2017-18.
We gained 12 new members between April 2017 and March 2018.
We have had 1 resignation and sadly, a number of deaths in the course of this past year, some of which I have been informed about, and some of which I can only guess at.
I have this year kept a ‘defaulters’ list. There are 19 people on this list, some of whom last paid a subscription in 2014, for the membership year 2014-15. These people received personal letters or emails from me in 2016, when I took over as Membership Secretary and some of them were again reminded in 2017, during the last Membership Year. They have not received recent copies of Comet and I have now removed their names and further details from our current membership list. It may be that they have moved elsewhere, or there may be other reasons why they have chosen not to renew membership, but it may also be that circumstances mean that they can no longer be members.
Our demographic is, broadly speaking, getting older, however we have two Youth Members (i.e. members who are 25 or under) and several young academics who continue to support the Society. That is a very encouraging sign indeed.
Of our current membership, 6 live abroad (in Iceland, New Zealand, Germany and the US).
Membership fees are coming in well for the new membership year (2017-18), although not everyone has yet renewed.
Receipts for membership payments are sent electronically, as are membership renewal forms and other communications, to all our members except those without e-mail addresses. Please do remember to download and print, where necessary, attachments to e-mails and bulletins from the Membership Secretary, and to regularly check our website: www.normannicholson.org. If you would prefer to receive renewal forms by post, please inform the Membership Secretary.
Antoinette Fawcett April 13th 2018
REPORT ON ‘COMET’ 2017-18
Norman Nicholson Society AGM April 14th 2018, Millom Cricket Club
The Membership Year 2017-18 was the eleventh year of the Norman Nicholson Society’s existence and marked the 30th anniversary of Nicholson’s death, on May 30th, 1987. That anniversary was reflected in the content of the Summer/Autumn issue of Comet which had a strong focus on the Commemorative Celebration held in June 2017 to mark the occasion, and on the memories of people closely connected to Norman and his family in the last year of his life. The issue included a report by Brian Charnley on the commemoration, a very interesting transcription of the Revd Canon David Scott’s Funeral Address, and the text of a letter from the Revd Canon Richard Bevan to Norman’s cousin Doreen Cornthwaite, received after the Memorial Service held in September 1987 for Norman at Carlisle Cathedral. Other highlights of that issue, in addition to many useful reports, included: a fascinating personal memory of a visit to Norman by Irvine Hunt and his friend Dave Goulder, a folk musician; a memory of Norman’s work with a drama group in Carlisle in the mid-1940s, by Doreen Cornthwaite’s friend Irene Fisher; an article on Norman’s ballad play, No Star on the Way Back; and an article on the complex links between Cumbria and Warwickshire by Society member Brian Mitchell.
The second issue of the membership year marked the 70th anniversary of Nicholson’s second poetry collection, Rock Face, published by Faber and Faber in 1948. This anniversary produced a number of really exciting responses to that work. Caroline Watson wrote about Helen Sutherland’s copy of Rock Face, which she discovered in Lancaster University Library, while Kathleen Jones wrote about the poem ‘Silecroft Shore’, which was published in Rock Face. This issue was jam-packed with several other gems, including poems by Martyn Halsall and Harry Whalley, a story by John Gilder, an article by Jill Logan on the discovery of a photo of the young Anthony Thwaite with Norman in 1963, which demonstrated the existence of an important literary friendship between two poets, and an exciting account by Max Long, a postgraduate student at Cambridge University, about his research into a blue notebook entitled ‘Topographical Notes’, preserved in the Norman Nicholson Archive at the John Rylands Library. I also had the painful duty in this issue of writing several notices of the deaths of people connected to the Society, and especially of writing a tribute to our dear friend Peggy Troll. This tribute was written from the heart, as those of you who read it will have realized, and was a very personal account of what I know of Peggy and her involvement with the Society. I have received a number of responses to this tribute, including one from our member Kathleen Morris who said: ‘the first thing I turned to in Comet was your appreciation of Peggy, and I think it captured her beautifully.’ Comments on the high quality of Comet were also made after the Phillipson lecture I gave to the Dalton Local History Society on April 4th. I had taken spare copies of past issues to that event, and had given them out, in the hope that it would attract good publicity for our own society.
Last year I reported on the measures we would take to reduce the cost of printing and sending out Comet and event materials to our members. As discussed then, I have cut down the number of pages of Comet from 32 to 28. This measure, combined with choosing a slightly lighter paper for its printing, has meant that most of our Comet mail-outs now weigh 100 grams or under, and have been posted at £0.79 rather than £1.26 per copy. That is a saving of £0.47 per copy, i.e. £47.00 per 100 copies sent out. Additionally there have been real savings with the actual printing, reducing the costs even more.
Related to Comet is the Word of Month column on our website. This has been a feature since 2014, and although it hasn’t been possible for me to keep up the initial impetus, we have published articles on 19 different words in 4 years. I have edited the column, and written some of the articles, while Charlie has kindly waved his magic internet wand and published them on the website. 9 articles were written by me; 5 by Brian Whalley; and 5 by Kathleen Morris, with some more by Kathleen in the offing. The articles are an interesting resource, not only for those with a passion for Norman’s work, but also for those interested in dialect and vernacular language, and with words associated with place and locality, for people interested in Cumbrian history and customs, and for geologists and topographers. In recent months the editing of this column has proved to be too much extra work for me, but I wanted to see its continuance, so I made a plea for someone to take over the job. I’m really pleased to announce that Ann Thomson will take over this work, starting this month.
Another task related to Comet is the regular electronic mail-out of e-bulletins to our membership – at least to those of you who have e-mail addresses. I produce a copy of these almost monthly, and would encourage you to send in relevant snippets of up-to-date news and information. Member News, particularly of a literary nature, is especially welcome. I’m hoping to improve the presentation and layout of these bulletins this membership year, perhaps by switching over to something called MailChimp, which would create a more professional-looking product, and one that may also be easier to read. For that, though, I would need specific training.
When I look back at the 28 issues of Comet I have edited between 2006 and 2018, I see not only a reflection of our involvement with Nicholson’s work, but also a very interesting and exciting history of the development of the Society itself. What is most striking to me at this distance of time, however, is what a fantastic archive of materials we have built up about Nicholson’s life and work, and what a wonderful range of writers we have attracted to write in Comet. The range of writing is immense and really does mirror the multiple ways in which one can engage with and be inspired by our own poet and writer.
Comet is sent out to all the copyright libraries of Great Britain and also to the copyright library of Trinity College, Dublin; to the secretary of the Alliance of Literary Societies and to several local Millom schools. The copyright library mailings are a legal obligation; the ALS copy is a courtesy copy, as thanks for the benefits of our ALS membership; and the local school copies continue a tradition started by Peggy Troll. I’m sure you will feel that reaching out to schools is vital to our work.
I will close this report with the words of one of our North American members, who wrote to me recently to say the following: ‘It is always nice to read The Comet, and I thank you and the staff for all the efforts you place into furthering/growing the Norman Nicholson Society’. (Greg Massey)
Antoinette Fawcett April 13th 2018
NNS AGM SCHOOLS & COMMUNITY LIAISON OFFICER’S
The last 12 months has seen the development of former contacts and the establishment of new ones which bodes well for the future.
Events organised during the year have included: No Poetry in Railways based at the Discovery Centre, the Christmas Lunch at the Netherwood Hotel Grange and participating in the annual Christmas Tree Festival at St George’s Church and today’s meeting at MCC. I was also responsible for liaising with the choir master, Pippa Mayfield, after she dedicated her song ‘A place for you’ in memory of Peggy. This song was performed at the Light Up a Life Service and we also notified Pam Rhodes, who Peggy met during filming for SofP, and she broadcast a section in her memory during her radio programme with the explanation of the background to the song.
I continue to support HPS in their NN projects and on their last visit to the NN room at the MDC the children were fascinated with NN’s typewriter and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of tapping the keys and writing their own name on it!
Last week we welcomed two groups of geography students from the University of Nottingham who came on a field trip to ‘Explore the Literary and Economic Geography of Millom’. The feedback from the students after their visit was really positive. We deliver a range of activities during their time in Millom including site visits to the Ironworks and Hodbarrow and reading and discussion groups during the afternoon when they explore Millom though the poetry of NN. We have built on the success of last year’s visit and would hope to welcome them back again next year. Their new lecturer Kieran was extremely enthusiastic about the field trip and as we have gained valuable experience in working with groups at this level we would hope to continue to support this type of interest in NN. Thanks to AF, GL and BC for their help and support during this important visit.
An interesting new development for the NNS has been the recent contact with the MDC who have appointed a schools officer, Sarah Cameron. She asked to meet me with a view to helping her to create NN based activities for visiting school children. Their HLF is also going to allow them to offer free rail transport to schools from Barrow or Whitehaven for them to travel to the MDC and to experience activities with a NN theme. More importantly there will be opportunities in the future to work with the the Schools Officer to encourage local school staff to use the MDC with the benefit of providing opportunities to learn more about NN during any future visits.
University Liaison Representative’s Report
It was my pleasure to be asked to join the Society’s Committee as University Liaison Representative this year. I am still settling into the role, but over the past few months I have begun to explore ways of broadening the study of Nicholson’s life and works through educational programming.
An initial step in this direction is the creation of student-led projects that take advantage of opportunities and areas of expertise at my institution: Lancaster University.
To this end, in consultation with other members of the committee, I have been in conversation with colleagues in the University’s School of Computing and Communications about devising a final-year undergraduate student project that will help to augment the online resources available through the Society’s webpage. Ideally, with members’ approval, these resources will include a digitally searchable archive of back issues of Comet.
Over the past year, moreover, I have been involved in developments that aim to capitalise on the University’s research strengths in the study of landscape, culture, and the environment. These are all, of course, themes woven throughout Nicholson’s life’s work. Consequently, I expect that these ongoing developments will provide a context for programming and activities (ideally, including further student projects) focussed on dimensions of Nicholson’s writings and his legacy.
Furthermore, this past autumn, Caroline Watson drew my attention to the fact that the Library contains a number of items that formerly belonged to Helen Sutherland. These items happened to include an autographed copy of Rock Face, which Caroline has helped to secure for the Society’s collections. (I trust other members of the Society will join me in thanking Caroline for her generosity.) At present it is not clear how many of Sutherland’s item are in the Library, but I hope to be able to consult with Library staff about arranging a project to identify and preserve these items in the very near future.
In addition, over the coming year I expect to meet with colleagues at the University of Cumbria to discuss opportunities for future University-led events that will be of interest to the Society.
Christopher Donaldson 7 March 2018