Cardiff Philatelic Society Centenary Dinner
Saturday 13 November 1999.
Response to Mr James Grimwood-Taylor's toast to "The Society"
by John Peters FRPSL
Mr Chairman, Mr Grimwood-Taylor, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Society, may I thank Mr Grimwood-Taylor for
the very kind and witty remarks he has made in his toast to our organisation.
One hundred years ago the business community of Cardiff was excited. Most people thought that the war with South Africa which had
started a month previously would be over quickly, but others pointed to the first Boer War, in which British Forces had been severely mauled.
How would the war affect the coal trade, the life-blood of Cardiff.?
One Cardiffian had something on his mind other than coal. He had asked the South Wales Echo to publish a paragraph asking
stamp collectors in and around the town to a meeting in the Town Hall, to consider the desirability of forming – and I quote - “a
Philatelic Society for Cardiff and the district similar to societies already established in most other large towns.” The invitation to
the meeting was published on Monday the tenth of July, 1899, and the inaugural meeting of the Cardiff Philatelic Society was held,
again in the Town Hall, on the sixth of November 1899 a hundred years ago last Saturday, with Walter Scott as President. I hasten
to point out that he was neither an historical novelist nor poet: he may have read Ivanhoe and the Talisman and even The Lay of the Last Minstrel, but he certainly did not write them: in fact Sir Walter Scott had died eight years before the Penny Black was issued.
“Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal dated the thirtieth of November 1899 recorded that membership was – and again I quote –
restricted to residents of the county borough of Cardiff or within ten miles thereof.” This restriction was evidently lifted later as
the Society’s name changed to the South Wales and Monmouthshire Philatelic Society. Throughout this century, except during
the two world wars, philatelic meetings have been held in Cardiff. Many other philatelic societies have been formed in South Wales,
and no doubt this was why in 1922 the words “and Monmouthshire” were dropped from the title. The last reference to Walter Scott occurs in
1932 when he was Vice-President - so perhaps he had something to do with the first changes of title.
In 1961 we became the ‘Cardiff and South Wales Philatelic Society’, and this year we came full circle and became once again
the Cardiff Philatelic Society.
When I joined the Society after War service Philip Wilde was President, and meetings were held in the Engineers Institute here in Park Place.
At the first meeting I attended Major Cohen displayed Egypt, and in my novice's mind I thought I could never build a collection like that to show
to the Society. But I started to collect the Union of South Africa and a couple of years later I competed for the P.A. Wilde bowl with six sheets showing the inter-provincials: and when my Mother asked me how I'd got on I thrust the bowl into her hands and crowed I WON!!.
At the fiftieth anniversary of the Society we put on an exhibition in the Angel Hotel, in one of the upper rooms. It was held over two days and
overnight I had the job of protecting it from intruders - I even had my meals brought there! I recall the pleasure of being able to look over the
castle walls at the visitors climbing the castle mound! I don't think the peacocks were introduced to the castle until later.
From South Africa I went back in time to collect Boer War postal history, and sold the collection when I reckoned I was being priced out
of it. Looking for a completely new field (for me) I learned that a new handbook on Guatemala was in the press, and when it was published
I was hooked. So at intervals since then I have showed the Society bits of my Guatemala collection and also Alwar, which I think of as
my second string. I tackle that when I've had a temporary surfeit of Guatemala - not often I may say!
Looking back - What have we achieved in the last hundred years? There have been a couple of books or booklets on the postmarks of
Cardiff. Ray Simpson, our Chairman from 1994 to 1996, is writing a book on the postal history of Cardiff. and I'm sure you all know that
the book on early perforating work, of which Ray is the co-author, will be published by the Royal next year. We have had many very fine
displays by our own members and by invited guests over the years - one of my earliest recollections of the Society was a wonderful show of
Chalon Heads by Robbie Lowe. Arthur Andrews had fine collections of Great Britain and Tasmania, Mr Sanderson's Gambia was great
and in wonderful condition: he mounted his cameos with miniature Picture frames on his album leaves (the first I'd seen presented that way),
and his Finland was something to be seen. Phil Wilde senior, our President from 1948 to 1971, was very proud of his Hong Kong Treaty
Ports collection, and even more of his reconstructed plate of Penny Blacks, Plate Four. Perhaps I should mention here Ray Simpson's
display of South Wales Post Routes, which helped to put Cardiff on the Philatelic map when the British Philatelic Congress was held
here in 1991. And I must mention that the standard of our annual competitions is uniformly pretty high.
One may cavil on all this to wonder whether those of us collecting in the traditional way are tackling things too conventionally. Stanley Barrow,
my predecessor, commented to me once that he and I were the mavericks of the Society because we collected in unusual fields - he
collected China and First World War Europe. In the days when the Scott catalogue was presumably in one volume, the chairman of one
United State philatelic society persuaded many of its members to take a catalogue, open it blindfold, and wherever it was open, to collect
the stamps of that country. One American made an award winning collection of Cochin as a result. The consequent diversity of displays in
that society must have been a very effective antidote to the treading of well-worn philatelic paths. (To mix my metaphors!) Nowadays
of course there are all the thematic subjects - an infinite number - to try. Congratulations to Shirley Baker and Dianne Canard to mention
only two, who are taking this route.
Talking of unconventional fields of collecting, John Sussex (not a member of this Society, of course) collected Portugal and Portuguese
East Africa, and he will I'm sure reap rich rewards when his East African collection is auctioned by Mr Grimwood-Taylor's firm next week.
And why not try something I've been dabbling with recently. Try collecting mail going into your area of specialisation, especially if that
area has a small population: Gibraltar, Atlantic or West Indian islands....The mind boggles!
Mr Grimwood-Taylor, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk for a while about philately in Cardiff. I am tempted to invite you all to join
me in a toast to the Society's next hundred years: But perhaps I'd better not!
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