26 April 2013 by Mel Russ News
Madam President, Vice Presidents, Fellow Members: Whilst I hope this won’t be my last AGM it will certainly be my last one after holding office for 14 years, and it will leave quite a hole in my life.
It has been suggested by the President that I might like to mark the occasion by saying a few words, which is, if I may say so, characteristic of her consideration and kindness. I wish I had kept a record of her votes of thanks and speeches on other occasions over those 14 years, for inspiration. However, Lady Willoughby de Eresby is also noted for her skill in ensuring that AGMs in particular are not encouraged to ramble, so I will be brief.
The Men of The Stones is at the crossroads. Membership is falling, we shall be doing few fully fledged visits and no tours this year, it is becoming increasingly hard to find people prepared to give the time and skills necessary to keep and organisation like ours afloat and to meet the high standards we traditionally set. This is happening despite the best efforts of a vigorous new Chairman and highly competent General Secretary.
Members of an organisation like ours tend to judge its success by what it offers to those who belong. Can we really say we are doing this to the best of our ability? “We need new young members”, I hear members say, but do we offer enough to attract them?
In many ways this is a catch-22 situation, but I decline to accept the notion that it is beyond the capabilities of a determined cadre of selfless and existing members to reap the harvest of a 64 year old society and give it wings for the future. The Men of The Stones has an individuality about it that makes it different from the rest. We are in some ways an amalgam of the other heritage related bodies, which should give us an advantage, so long as we stay true to our core subject.
There is no reason to suppose that the blend of corporate and lay members cannot pull together -0 surely this was at the very heart of the foundation stone of the Society in 1947? Worldwide, more learning and cultural experiences are available than ever, there is more knowledge, and more opportunities and trade connections. If Arch Ireson and Edmund Esdaile were around today, my guess is that they would be looking in these directions, thinking wide, keeping close with their membership, keeping ahead of events.
If I regret anything at this time it is that, at best, I can only hope to be on the fringe of such a movement. I believe strongly in the possibility of its success and wish the Society every good fortune under its new and able leadership.
To all who have supported and worked with the Men of The Stones during my last 14 years, my deep gratitude; to you Madam President and Vice Presidents, amongst whom I must give my special thanks to Sir David Davenport-Handley, OBE, the late Sir Bernard Feilden, CBE and David Powell, MBE, my appreciation of the wisdom, friendship and encouragement so generously given; and finally to you, The Membership, without whom the rest of us would be little worth, my recognition of all that you have been during those fourteen friendly and fun-filed years, coupled with every good wishes for the future.