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!

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.

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.


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
Dunlop. 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.

Known attendees:

Stewart Conley
Alan Ridgway
Tom Batho
Winnie Thorn
Len Smith
Jim Guy
Bob Dunlop
Pete Wright
Pat Simpson
Brian Lewis
Tony Thorne
Jeanne Thorne
A.J. Thorne
Ron Tripp
Eric Bentcliffe
Ron Buckmaster
Daphne Buckmaster
Jim Rattigan
Dorothy Rattigan
Brian Varley
Shirley Marriott
Tony Klein
Colin Parsons
Geoff Wingrove
Norman Wansborough
Ted Tubb
Walter Gillings
Alistair Paterson
Peter Hamilton
Bert Campbell
J. J. Curle
Chuck Harris
Vince Clarke
Joy Goodwin
Dave Newman
Pete Taylor
Stuart Mackenzie

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.

VINCE CLARKE:

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 experts.

BRIAN VARLEY:

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.

BANG!:

"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 themselves felt.

Crunch time is just about tickin' up... Aargh! people are squirting orange juice in our shell-pink lugs. Desist fiendish fan!

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