The Buckley Society Logo

The 4th issue of Artyfacts (Silver Anniversary), the Buckley and Mold Art Society magazine"


Buckley and Mold Art Society



John Douglas Edwards

Twenty- five years dims the memory somewhat, especially when you don't think to make notes at the time. For me it isn't quite twenty-five years, although I joined the Society in its early days. Putting various clues together I have to conclude that I joined just after April in 1971 that is just after the first exhibition at Hawkesbury Hall. It was a picture of a locomotive in the exhibition which alerted me to the society's existence, and the painting was probably by my namesake 'John (Kenneth) Edwards' who was the society's second chairman. When I joined Doug Thompson was the chairman, the third in one and a bit years of the history of the society. It seems like it was just a few months from then that Doug announced his imminent departure overseas and proposed that I be elected to the post.


To my great surprise everyone was in agreement, certainly not because of my artistic prowess but perhaps they could see that I had some organising experience. Never having been one to refuse a challenge I accepted, and now twenty-three years or so later I find myself still chairman, an honour I greatly appreciate.


Our meetings were held at that time in a rather small room with tall windows in the Hawkesbury Centre (Jonathan Catherall's House). The room didn't lend itself to working and as a consequence not a great deal was done. There was plenty of discussion and study of work done elsewhere. Visiting artists demonstrated their skills and gave their advice, and our meetings were held on the second and fourth Friday's each month.


We talked often about how to encourage the members to work during our evening meetings and we also identified a problem with our meeting timings. Because of the times there were five Fridays in each month it was easy to lose count and miss meetings.


I certainly don't remember all the members when I joined but certain of the more outspoken members and characters come readily to mind. People like George Aston Parry and later his wife Rosie who used to look after the tea and coffee, Marjorie Williams, Nan Aldcroft, Darrell Catherall our secretary, Doug Thompson the chairman, Joe and Raymond Chesters, the Redfern sisters, Freda, Winifred and Dorothy are all remembered without effort. Joe Chesters is of course the only founder member who is currently a member of the society, although I can claim the honour of having the longest continuous membership of the society. Many others I recall, but whether they were members then or joined later I cannot recollect.


One regular member of course was Vernon Hughes (then Warden of Hawkesbury) at the time art master of The Elfed School. He came regularly to the meetings but never stayed very long for he was always on his way somewhere else. However he was very influential in the affairs of the society, as I will recall a little later.


Before then we went through the crisis of the coal strike and the power workers strike, and at that time I recall that both Barbara Rowley and Barbara Harrison were members of the society. During the depths of that 'Winter of Discontent' membership at our meetings declined with power cuts and all. One evening only Barbara Harrison and I turned up. We met by candlelight in a much smaller rook than usual wearing our overcoats to keep warm. Barbara asked 'what are we going to do about the society'? Before we left that evening we agreed that as long as there were two of us interested in the society we would meet. That was the lowest point we reached, from there on we went upward to greater things.


It was shortly after then that Vernon Hughes came along in his role as coordinator of The Quality of Life programme in Clwyd and to announce that some money would be spent in rearranging Hawkesbury to provide proper working spaces and purchases of equipment for use during the day which we could use at our evening meetings for the few months the programme continued. At the closure of the programme Vernon announced that there were plans for the development of Hawkesbury, which would involve closure for a significant period. He offered the society access to the Elfed School art rooms free of charge in order that we could continue our activities uninterrupted. Also he announced that some of the equipment bought by The Quality of Life scheme would become our property. Namely a number of radial easels, a cupboard, a silk-screens printer and some paints, brushes and other art materials. Gratefully accepting Vernon's offer we moved into the Elfed School where we have stayed ever since.


The main changes which have occurred since then have been a limitation of our meetings to just the Friday evening rather than the availability on any evening we choose, probably due to the school reduction of their night school activities which limited the availability of the caretaker. Also, at the same time, the introduction and almost annual escalation of room hire fees, and more recently we have changed to a Thursday evening to avoid the doubling of our room rent. We also have limited the meetings to term time and introduced an extended summer break, all to limit costs. In the early low cost days, one of our first actions on moving was to abandon our second and fourth Friday meetings in favour of weekly meetings. Our trepidation at this proposal that it would reduce our attendance was rapidly dispelled. In fact our attendance at meetings increased rather than diminished, probably due to the development of a more social 'club' atmosphere. The habit of working meetings became well established with many diverse activities in progress each evening… A series of 'life evenings' were also introduced on Thursday evenings which have continued from time to time at both the Elfed School and elsewhere.


Meeting evenings have introduced many visiting artists and demonstrations, plus activities presented by members. However care has been taken to ensure plenty of opportunity for the continuation of member's own activities. Visits have been arranged to local galleries, in Liverpool, Birkenhead, Port Sunlight and to the Whitworth and Civic Galleries in Manchester plus The Royal Academy of Art and National Galleries in London. A more recent visit, which we will no doubt repeat, was to the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art in Conway.


Those are the activities of the society over the past quarter of a century. What of the people? I have already talked of the early days, but throughout the years there has been a constant procession of people throughout the membership. Some very transient, but others for a considerable period. All have made some contribution in their own way. Very notable contributors have been people like Thomas Dempster Jones, Paris Salon gold medallist and President of the society who as a dealer in artists materials gave the club, in the pre-Quality of Life days discounts on purchases plus a presentation to the society of a silver trophy for competitive exhibitions. There was also the late 'Robbie' Robinson, treasurer and fundraiser extraordinary, Barbara Rowley, treasurer and secretary, Barbara Harrison, secretary until her unfortunate accident. How glad we are to see her in our midst again. Derek Williams, treasurer for a short period. The late Dick Parr, a very careful treasurer. Ken Howard taken from us so suddenly and unexpectedly, again treasurer for a considerable period. Pam Townsend our present treasurer who took over from myself after I filled the gap for a while. Iolanthe Read, a very competent and conscientious secretary and of course Joe Chesters, Publicity and ideas man.


Many others helped through their committee contributions, Oscar Lloyd, Mavis Venables, Bert Danks, Mike Porter, Doreen Cross, Marjorie Layfield, Alf Hughes and recently David Williams. Others who for sure I will remember after I have finished writing. Other members never to be forgotten include Eric Edwards, Lilly Palmer, Marian Sumner, Ruby Jeffery and Erica Cowx with her lovely watercolours and wicked sense of humour. Geoff Pope, Bert Jones, Norman and Dorothy Atkins, Joan Layfield, Ralf Peters, Jean Halliday, Betty Cook, Alfreda McKenna, Phill Edwards and of course our current and enthusiastic members. Others whose faces I can call to mind but whose names escape me - a penalty of advancing years - will forgive me for not including them. It has been the society's policy since its inception to maintain a relaxed attitude and to encourage, by whatever means possible, anyone who shows any interest in artistic activities. A policy that has produced a really 'friendly' society, and has developed considerable latent talent over the years and produced many notable works of art. For me my association with the society has always been enjoyable and rewarding and I have counted it a privilege to be able to make my contribution to its continuation.

Author: Edwards, John


Year = 1995

Document = Journal

Event = Leisure

Gender = Mixed

People = Group

Extra = 1990s

Extra = Visual Arts

Copyright © 2015 The Buckley Society