The North Midlands
Chairman Geoff Brown writes: “In the best of amateur traditions, the inspiration for a 'local' guild came from the children of Geoff Coles. A keen Meccanoman in his youth, Geoff had bought a large set when his son was just 2 weeks old - just in case! This was brought out of hiding along with other old treasures, when his son, Julian, was 8. As Anne Coles herself writes, 'Meccano met with approval, Meccano magazines were devoured and the family
- including by now Francine - set off for their first Henley show in 1974'.
“Succeeding years saw the family involved with with Frank Beadle and the Pennine Meccano Guild at Huddersfield and what was to become the North Eastern Guild at Darlington. Inevitably by now the circle of acquaintances had widened considerably,
both in the Northeast and Northwest as well as the Midlands Guild, and thoughts had turned to forming a 'local' club, - particularly interesting to Francine as she needed to 'run a club' for a Girl Guide badge! The final motivation came from a local young friend of Julian's together with a number of 'seniors' who offered support and the irst informal meeting was held in Bleasby Village Hall in April 1977. This April get-together was highly successful and a future meeting was fixed for September. This seminal date became the first meeting of the North Midlands Meccano Group, as it was called.
“By 1st December, 1977 there were 20 adult members and 11 juniors but now we have about 360 members altogether, of whom 70 are overseas! But that family feeling about the Guild is still strongly felt and the debt it owes to those early enthusiasts - many of whom are still with us - is freely acknowledged. “Meetings these days take place in the village hall at Oxton (near Nottingham) and occupy the whole day. In fact, so keen are folk to get in that we have had to bring forward the opening time to 9.30 and they still turn up at 9! Nothing - not even fuel shortages, floods or snowdrifts stops a MECCANOMAN when he has set his heart on getting there. Nothing though beats the effort of one enthusiast from California who 'bummed' his way across Europe, found a bus going our way in Nottingham and walked the last 4 miles!
“Come dinnertime, the large car park overflows and cars are parked halfway to the ‘Green Dragon' pub, where members are wont to 'browse and sluice' - as P.G.Wodehouse delightfully puts it!
President Mike Cotterill, (5th from right) discovered Meccano as a child, but like so many he lost interest as he grew up. It was a shop window model display by local enthusiast Alan Scargill (1st on right) which led to a revival of his interest. Joining the Midlands Club Mike rapidly discovered just what models could be built and how a collection could be developed. He was a founder member of NMMG and in 1981 began the first Skegness Exhbition. Now, sadly suffering from poor health he is increasingly grateful for the support of his wife Marion, still a stalwart of Skegex.
“We also encourage our members' children to come and get involved: this is only appropriate in a Guild inspired by children's needs, though we all wish there could be more of them. There is a 'free for all' construction session for them on the stage under
the watchful eye of Jonathan Shapero. One thing I feel strongly about is the need to make people welcome when they first come! When I was Vice Chairman, I considered my prime function to be a 'meeter and greeter' - a good many newcomers would be coming back into a hobby having never built anything mote exciting than one of the models from a post war instruction book. The last thing you want is to discourage them or suddenly confront them with the seemingly unattainable in size or complexity. I would hope there is always room at our tables for the small and simple as well as the huge and complex.
“We don't tend to go in for model talks or even insist that modellers do their own reports. Modelling, speaking and writing skills are very seldom found together in equal measure - and I'd do anything rather than lose a member because (s)he doesn't feel adequate to a speaking 'engagement'. Indeed, when faced with a model report to do, I would much rather always talk to the modeller than expect him/her always to write something useful, relevant and memorable!
“We are exceptionally fortunate in that we can count among our regular attendees collectors like Jim Gamble and Tom McCallum, builders of the stature of John McDonald, Pat Briggs, Tony Homden, Philip Webb and so many others, and photographers of the skills of Robin Schoolar, Ken Ratcliff and Helmut Kohler. Our regular dealers, too, are responsible for an atmosphere of a large, exciting and hugely successful bazaar.”
Some of the founding members, still going strong!
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