Reminicences #1 “It Started with a Prayer”

The first meeting of the London Lodge of GATCO was held on September 19th 1957 unsurprisingly at Heathrow and was recorded in the copperplate hand of D N Price. Two leather bound minute books herald a trail through the remainder of the fifties, sixties and seventies up to 1978 when the first modernisation plan changed Masters into Presidents and Lodges into Regions. L J Wilson was the last Master of the London Lodge and R Adderley the first President of the London Region. Copperplate was gradually restyled and minutes of every General Purposes Committee meeting were replaced by just recording Annual General Meetings. Only in the nineties did PC generated paperwork start to be the order of the day. The Regions held on until the second modernisation plan of 1998 swept them away as the Executive Board prepared to incorporate the Guild. The last Regional AGM was held at Fairoaks Airfield on October 7th 1998. Forty one years from inception.

These tomes recently came to light during a downsizing exercise amongst Guild financial documents that had been archived after audit. It had always been the intention to complete the records in handwritten form as the last few years had all been computer generated and did not fit well into the books. Who will ever see them? Who will ever care? Maybe this year, maybe next, it could be done and the books returned to the Guild archives for safe keeping.

If this is all that you see, hear or know about the regional days of GATCO the following reasons behind formation and reformation should be considered. Few readers may have more than feint memories of writing letters, public telephones, steam trains and conscription but this was the world of the nineteen fifties. Communication was relatively primitive and for a national organisation GATCO needed repeater stations. The Regions fulfilled these needs. Better memories than mine will recall when Wessex, Anglia, Northern and Scottish were formed (later still Central took over from Anglia) and who were the pathfinders in the early day, but they all sent representatives on to the executive council who then duly reported back and spread the word. The Regions mimicked the executive council in their constitutions and then went a step further in organising local meetings and social events. Employers, including the Ministry and its successors, were extremely generous with time and facilities and throughout the sixties the Regions developed in strength and purpose as the benefits of a non unionised staff association were recognised. Outside the world of the ‘National’ Air Traffic service the value of high profile staff moving at national and international levels was considered a price worth paying and the major ‘non state’ employers also blessed the London Region with great support. Not for nothing was the resemblance to Masonic institutions emulated.

Eventually the cold hard world of finance started to loosen the ties and without time from employers the volunteers started to decline at much the same time as communications improved in so many ways. The need to run a mini executive council in every region was no longer needed nor effective. There was too much repetition and little left to stimulate the membership. In London we had more than our fair share of national activity and the need for locally arranged seminars, visits and Christmas socials became redundant. Fewer and fewer participants and even fewer nominees for committees led to a call for change. In London we constructed a questionnaire on the proposals that we circulated with an edition of ‘London Info’, our own newsletter, and received nearly a hundred replies. This demonstrated the willingness of many to do a little but nobody had time or energy to take on the major roles, without whom the Region could not survive. After the changes there were calls of ‘shame’ but the additional support at national level was the beneficiary of losing the Regions. How it felt at non London centric locations must be for others who were present at the time to judge and report.

The GATCO website lists the Masters/Presidents of the Guild but London Region has its own Hall of Fame and Regional Officers are detailed below. Many went on to contribute to the Executive Board.

Master                         Deputy               Clerk                   Treasurer

1957 W Woodruffe    B A Turner           D N Price           G Chambers

1958       B A Turner   J MacDonald        D N Price            R Mundy

1959       J MacDonald  D N Price             J Mathews          R Mundy

1960       D N Price         J N Toseland      J Mathews           R Mundy

1961       J N Toseland    P D S Mealing    F Price                  R Mundy

1962       P D S Mealing  G L Chambers    W E Mirfield        R Mundy

1963       P D S Mealing    R Mundy            W E Mirfield        P Reavely

1964       R Mundy             W E Mirfield      H T M Craig         P Reavely

1965       W E Mirfield       H S C Rigby         W E Warner        P Reavely

1966       H S C Rigby         W E Groves          P Holden              P Reavely

1967       W E Groves         H Percival             R M Wise              P Reavely

1968       H Percival           P Martin                 R M Wise              P Reavely

1969       P J Martin            R M Wise                 W A Stretton     N Rawsthorne

1970/1    R M Wise             T Johnston               A P S Mills          N Rawsthorne

1972       T Johnston            W Stretton              APS Mills             N Rawsthorne

1972/3  W Stretton              J Pemberton            D G Schwab        G H White

1973/4  J B Pemberton        P Holden                   I M S Finlay        G H White

1974/5  P Holden                  E G H Green             I M S Finlay         G H White

1975/6  E G H Green            I M S Finlay               L J Wilson             G H White

1976/7  I M S Finlay              L J Wilson                E J Bragg                G H White

1977/8  L J Wilson                 J R Adderley             G Paget                   G H White

PRESIDENT                          Vice President                  Secretary                   Treasurer

1978/9  J R Adderley                                                            G Paget

1979/0  A P Wilde                   L A Austin                            R Draper                  E J Gregory

1980/1  L A Austin                 G Paget                                                                     E J Gregory

1981/2  G R Paget                    K Cross                                 Flt. Lt. S A Walsh      E J Gregory

1982/3  G R Paget                    S Hall                                     C Brain                       E J Gregory

1983/4  S Hall                           Flt. Lt. R Gifford                C Brain                    E J Gregory

1984/5  Flt. Lt. R Gifford         P Alderson                          C Brain                   E J Gregory

1985/6  G White                                                                      D J West               P Alderson

1986/7 M G Cooper                  R Simmonds                       D J West                    P Alderson

1987/8  M G Cooper                 R Simmonds                       J Wheeler                 C Grant

1988/9  R Simmonds                J Deane                                 J Wheeler                 C Grant

1989/0  R Simmonds                R Trott                                  S Simmonds             M Walker

1990/1  R Trott                                                                         S Simmonds            M Walker

1991/2  R Trott                           E O’Brien                             S Simmonds               M Walker

1992/3  R Trott                                                                           L Leveson                  M Walker

1993/4 R Trott                                                                             L Leveson                  M Walker

1994/5 R Trott                                                                             L Leveson                  M Walker

1995/6 R E Bradbury                      P Jones

1996/7  R E Bradbury                     P Jones                                                                     J Evans

1997/8  R E Bradbury                     P Jones                                                                      J Evans

 

In the last decade the Regional Committee was enhanced by Regional Councillors, an innovation that proved popular. No long term commitment, no massive report writing, picking and choosing small, interesting work packages supporting the professional and technical departments of the Executive Council and sometimes leading into IFATCA territory.

Regional Councillors included, D Coxon, J D Green, M Quinn, P Atlay, C Gill, G White, L Austin,

A Smoker, S Hall, J Dancer, P Templeman, M Wildin, K Young, S Settle, P Jones, S Simmonds,

R Bradbury, D Bell, T Clarke, A McCormick amongst others. Mention should be made of Kati Williamson, who was the last successful social events secretary for London Region and Lucy Leveson, who approached the Guild on technical matters concerning a publication and finished up as a hard working regional secretary for three years for her trouble. There were others too numerous to name that have escaped the Minutes book and the memory but who also played their part. In my time Robbie Shaw, who represented Gatwick and Mike Bloodworth were two such stalwarts.

Twenty years have slipped by since the Regions were disestablished. Some active members from the Region found their way through to the Executive Board and discovered more about Incorporation than they expected or needed. In the words of Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Nobody was certain whether the radical action would harm or heal, it just had to be done before the death throes of the Regions spread upwards into the main body of the Guild. If not all then the majority of the class of ’98 have now found the shadows, although there are some notable exceptions.

The first meeting convened with eleven attendees and started with a prayer and a declaration of a solemn oath,

‘We, The London Lodge, solemnly declare that we will be true and faithful to our Sovereign Lady the Queen and to Her heirs and successor Kings and Queens of this Realm, and we will be obedient to the Master and Wardens of the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers in all things lawful and honest and that we will obey the Ordinances – and be mindful at all times of the good name and fame of the Guild.’

The last meeting convened with eight attendees and ended with a vote of thanks to all those that had contributed over the years.

How times have changed and how they will continue to change. Let’s just finish with a wish that the Guild continues to reflect the ambitions of its members now as it did in those far off days of fifty seven and that we still all aim to protect its good name and fame.

R E Bradbury

October 2018

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