The first anyone heard of the Medway group was an announcement in the fan club column
of the March 1952 issue of SCIENCE FANTASY NEWS
that Tony Thorne of Gillingham was
forming the Medway Science Fiction Fan Club and wanted all fans in the Kent area to get
in touch with him. Tony had already visited the White Horse at this point and was running
the Medway Science & Fantasy Centre bookshop at 78 Canterbury Street in Gillingham.|
Tony Thorne at his Gillingham shop. (photo by 'ah')
The club took several months to come together as indicated in this account of
the first meeting at their 21 Granville Road home by Jeanne Thorne, Tony's wife:
The evening of Thursday 28th August, saw Tony and I rapidly clearing
away the remnants of a hastily consumed meal and anxiously viewing the
seating accommodation in our living room. We were awaiting the first
influx of members of the Medway Science and Fantasy Club!
The (undated) first issue of club organ THE MEDWAY JOURNAL (from which the above account
was taken) appeared sometime between August and December 1952. There were a total of four
issues in all, the (also undated) last issue appearing shortly before the MEDCON, which
must have taken more out of the group than expected since it was the final issue. There
were two MEDWAY JOURNAL LITERARY SUPPLEMENTs in 1954, a mini version of the journal for
the SUPERMANCON combozine, and that was it for the club's publishing efforts.
There was quite a stir of excitement at the first ring of the doorbell.
In came Ron Tripp, who has turned out to be the one who always seems
to keep the ball rolling.
Three more rings followed in quick succession; this time it was Len Smith,
who is now our treasurer (the slowest runner), followed by Brian Lewis our
astronomical expert, and Stuart Conley our strong silent listener.
His contributions to the club have turned out to be models of spaceships etc.
of all types and sizes, to say nothing of rocket darts and flying saucers!
We wondered whether we would have to seat the overflow in our other room,
however at approximately 8.30p.m.we came to the reluctant conclusion that
no more members could be expected that evening. Thus the meeting commenced
with Tony as secretary and myself as Refreshment Provider.
This first meeting was strictly business, and we
soon agreed on the most important items of our policy.
A membership fee of 2/6 per annum, plus a weekly
contribution of threepence! A minimum age of eighteen
was also decided upon unanimously in view of the
technicalities of the subjects for discussion and also due
to the limited space available. However, a junior section of the club
was proposed and more may be heard about this
at a later date. Various subjects were suggested for future discussion
and you'll hear about those in future issues of the journal.
cover by Tony Thorne.
cover by Brian Lewis.
In THE MEDWAY JOURNAL #4, Tony Thorne mentions the group had "long write-ups in local
papers on many occasions" (finding these would be an interesting little research
project for someone in the area). A rather grander piece of press coverage occurred on
the evening of 28th July 1953, as club member Win Thorn records in that same issue:
Apart from the usual shower, we were honoured by two visitors who had come to lend their
support, Eric Bentcliffe and John Gutteridge - Eric from Manchester and John from Lancing.
We were delighted to see tem again and spent a happy half-hour exchanging news and views.
The big event was to be a visit from a reporter and photographer from 'Illustrated'....
At 8.17, in walked Maurice Goldsmith, much to my delight. The club as a whole had admired
Maurice Goldsmith's paper at the London Convention while I had raved. I was also impressed
by his voice and personality. He made a terrific impression on me. A photographer followed,
with Ted Carnell of 'New Worlds' fame.
Everyone seemed to be having a jolly good time and it was not until Maurice Goldsmith started
making notes that it dawned upon us that he was *doing* the reporting. Occasionally the
photographer, Erich Auerbach interrupted to group us together...."
The photo used in ILLUSTRATED (clipping supplied by Jim Linwood)
The following photo of the group was clearly not taken on this occasion, given different people,
different clothing etc, but was also taken mid-1953:
Stewart Conley, Alan Ridgway, unknown,
Tom Batho, Winnie Thorn, Len Smith, Jim Guy, unknown, Bob
Sitting: Brian Lewis, Tony Thorne, Jeanne Thorne. (photo Eric Bentcliffe album)
My thanks to Tony
Thorne for identifications. Unknowns are almost certainly
group members listed in the programme book - Rob.
When they put on MEDCON, the Medway group were experiencing the most active period of their existence. They
would continue to meet until 1960, but MEDCON was their high-water mark.
J. J. Curle
The Programme Book
Saturday 7th November 1953, am
The following composite report has been assembled from those by Vince
Clarke (writing as 'The Inquisitor' in VARGO STATTEN SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE,
vol 1 no 1., Jan 1954), Brian Varley (writing as 'Brian qui Boit' in SPACE TIMES,
vol 2 no 10., dated Oct 1953), and from BANG! A ONE-SHOT MEDCON REPORT BY A LUNATIC
FRINGE. This last is billed as "composed on the stencil during the Medconvention and
edited by Vince Clarke, Chuch Harris, Dave Newman and Pete Taylor. Corntributions by
all and sundry, Esquire." The colophon at the end suggests most of the written
'corntributions' were actually by Clarke and Newman.
There was a surging rush of atmospherics from the
loudspeakers, a frantic stutter A background Morse, a voice
booming and fading across the interstellar ether.
"The next record will be played for an android on Sirius Two...."
No, it wasn't a nightmare after a lobster and science-fiction
supper, but the Medcon, the Medway Science-Fiction
Convention in November. Tony Thorne, leading enthusiast of
the Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham fans, is a
communications engineer, and consequently his club has
more than the usual number of gadget-mad electronics
My first job must be to congratulate Jim Guy, Tony Thorne, Brian Lewis
and all their helpers for putting on a Grade A show. It was clear
to all present that preparing this ingenious display must have
been almost a full time occupation for the past few months. To get
down to a few of the basic details we must admit that in common
with most conventions the morning session was delayed, not I might
hasten to add because of the Medways' lack of co-ordination, but due
solely to the small number present.
"There's nothing much happened so far."
"Ahh...it's just like the Loncon."
This is a report straight from the centre of the MEDCON, the first Con. associated
in any manner with water, or, as we scientifiction fans know it as, H30 (sic).
The time is 12 noon, the intercom system has just broken down, and Tony Thorne is
making an announcement concerning lunch. The morning so far has been a disconnected
series (?) of odd events; as everyone except Mancon types know, it's no use organising
anything in the first morning of a Con.... everyone is too busy getting drunk.
We have nothing but praise for the drinking arrangements here - the bar was open
at ten o'clock, and was properly christened by those present at that early hour. At
the time of opening there appeared to be enough assorted booze to intoxicate a regiment
but at the time of going to press (12.00), the inroads of the Fen are already making
Crunch time is just about tickin' up... Aargh! people are squirting orange juice
in our shell-pink lugs. Desist fiendish fan!