The national convention might have moved from Whitsun to Easter, but Liverpool fandom saw that as no reason to let a good holiday go to waste so, seven weeks after Easter, they held a weekend-long Whitsun party. This is also where the ceremony that inspired St. Fantony took place.

The following report by Archie Mercer was first published in SIDEREAL #4 (June 1956, ed. Eric Jones for the Cheltenham group).

Photos are from the albums of (jr) John Roles and (ns) Norman Shorrock.


Before this Whitsun, I had never been to Liverpool or the environs thereof. Nor had I, by a fairly reasonable corollary, ever attended a meeting of the notorious Liverpool Science Fiction Society. Furthermore, I had never seen or heard Satchmo in person, eaten at a Chinese restaurant, tasted a Bloody Mary, worn carpet slippers on the beach, or entered an espresso bar.

Now I have been to Liverpool, not to mention most of the above-mentioned environs and while there, I not only attended what I was given to understand constituted a regular formal meeting of of the Liverpool Science Fiction Society, I both saw and heard Satchmo in person, I ate at three separate Chinese restaurants, drank a Bloody Mary, and wore my carpet-slippers on the beach at Freshfields.

But I still have never entered an espresso bar. The blasted joint was shut.

Don & Rene MacKay (ns)

Rene MacKay, the Society's beautiful secretary, had told me she'd meet me in person at the station, and warned me to come heavily disguised. This I accomplished by the simple expedient of arriving without my beanie - and half an hour late into the bargain. She was there waiting right enough, very cunningly disguised indeed - as her husband Don. Don himself (disguised, of course, as Rene) overtook us as we made our way to a prearranged Chinese restaurant (my first) it being about the hour of the mid-day meal at the time, and I was soon in the throes of a genuine English-style mixed grill. In the middle of this, Rene (still disguised as Don) disappeared mysteriously, reappearing a few minutes later with Terry Jeeves - who was, by a typical master-stroke, disguised as Terry Jeeves. Though he didn't fool us for a minute. Soon after that we adjourned to the House of MacKay to await developments.

These comprised an afternoon of assorted fannish nattering, helped out at intervals by a wonderful tape Terry had brought with him from Ellis Mills. This seemed to consist mainly of a sort of catalogue of about umpteen photos taken by Ellis on his recent British tour, with brief commentary on each (mostly to the effect that it was over-exposed). By the time the tape had finished, it had us all in near-hysterics. I think they ought to get SIDER to print the full unexpurgated text (with an index, of course). Eventually, two more fen rolled in - I think they were Bill and Stan, though I wouldn't swear to it what with everybody being so cunningly disguised and things - and soon afterwards we all adjourned to the Lord Nelson (NOT a Chinese establishment, I understand) for a fannish banquet.

By the time the banquet was half-eaten, the entire complement of that night's Merseyside fanac had rolled in, to the number of twenty. Let's enumerate. There were three MacKays (including sister Lily), two Shorrocks (Norman and Ina) and two Joneses (Eric and Margaret). Then there were Ron Bennett, Eric Bentcliffe, Gerry Clarke, Pat Doolan, Bill Harrison, Terry Jeeves, Frank Milnes, Dave Newman, Stan Nuttall, John Roles, and finally two mysterious females who went under the names of Joan and Sheila. (Not THE Sheila.) That only makes nineteen - I can't for the life of me remember who the twentieth was. Perhaps your Editor will be able to help.

Clockwise from head of table: Stan Nuttall, John Roles, Don MacKay, Ina Shorrock, Archie Mercer,
Norman Shorrock, Bill Harrison (jr)

One of the features of the banquet was a sword, a "prop" for coming events, with which Dave Newman kept trying to cut his meat, spear bread two tables away, and generally flourish around the place in as fannish a manner as possible. So I'll take the resultant opportunity to cut to the House of Shorrock a few hours later, where momentous Events were in the course of preparation.

Don MacKay, Stan Nuttall (jr)

To wit, the ceremonial installation of the two Erics in the honourable office of Ex-Chairmen of the Liverpool Science Fiction Society. This was a most noble occasion, presided over by Chairman Nuttall (crowned) with John Roles officiating as High Priest, and all the trimmings (such as priestesses, etc.). The whole proceedings are now on tape, which worthily captured the grand trufannish splendour of the occasion, missing only some somewhat questionable biological stage-directions in the script such as "Chairman turns to Priestess" and "The Chairman then turns to Eric Jones". Unhappily, it is my lot to record that the Chairman did nothing of the kind -- he remained both Chairman and Stan Nuttall throughout. The two initiates were in turn anointed with correcting fluid, bedecked with head-bands bearing the Null-A symbol, and finally received the ceremonial accolade, after which they were handed ceremonial scrolls - the work of Don MacKay, signed by Stan and sealed with a Fyffes Bananas label - and then the signal was given for them to take up their new duties, and the festivities recommenced in real earnest.

Eric Jones, Eric Bentcliffe (jr)


Running time: 6.23 mins File size 5.84MB. Tape digitised by John Harvey.
(Note: For first few minutes dialogue is drowned out by music.)

Thereafter things became a little mixed up. There was a film show, including both the Society's own home-made reels and a lovely little amateur sequence from somewhere else. There were drinks. There was an issue of THEY'RE OFF committed to stencil. There were more drinks. There were gramophone records of Satch and Goodman - which of course were strictly inaudible anyway, because of yet more drinks.

Terry Jeeves, Dave Newman, Margaret Jones, Audrey Eversfield, Bill Harrison, Ina Shorrock. (ns)

There were tape-recorders, tootle-recorders, potato crisps, Eric Jones's famous BEM costume, drinks, more drinks, and yet more drinken, (That was for the German wine.)

Eric Jones - note null-A symbol (ns)

The famous BEM (jc)

Eventually the party (plus drinks, but leaving behind most of the other extras) adjourned by tradition To The Woods where a fire was built and potatoes were roasted. When all the wood was gone, we staggered back to the House of Shorrock, where we sort of settled in for the night.

Fire in the woods: Bill Harrison, Eric Bentcliffe, Norman Shorrock, Terry Jeeves, Audrey Eversfield, Dave Newman,
Ina Shorrock. (ns)

The beds upstairs were overflowing, everybody else either adjourned to the kitchen to play Brag or lay down on the living-room floor (which was now virtually paved with mattresses) and went to sleep. I chose the latter, and having removed several pairs of inconvenient shoes I lay down among the resultant feet and tried to soothe my aching head.

Ina Shorrock, Pat Doolan, John Roles, Archie Mercer, Frank Milnes. (ns)


I woke up after an hour, better - though not much. Then I found a gap between couch and mattress where I could lie full length, and did so. I woke up two or three hours later feeling better still - though still not much. Then I managed to secure a berth on one of the mattresses, and dropped off yet again. This time, I was woken up to hear a tape-recording of my own snores. Followed a late breakfast, after which the scene of activity was shifted to another Chinese restaurant for a sort of afternoon midday meal.

There were twelve of us there - I wouldn't swear to who, though I remember that I shared a table with Frank, Pat, and Stan. And insisted on eating British-type comestibles rather than Chinese-type. John Roles, at one of the other tables, had what looked like a sort of mock-birdsnest soup - but then, he specialises in being well-oriented. Most of the others had rice and curried trimmings. The meal is mainly notable, though, for the overhead activity. We were all seated just below a long skylight and there was a man on top of it washing it down. Little streams of dirty water kept swirling down the slope, and we were all anxiously speculating where the leak would show first. Pat afterwards DID find something highly questionable-looking on an empty plate - but that may have just been Chinese food.

On the programme that evening (it now being, of course, Whit Sunday) was an early-bed for some, Satchmo at the Stadium for the others. I was lucky enough to find myself among these, owing to the intervention of jaundice between John Owen and his ticket. On leaving the Chinese restaurant, we immediately ran into Ken Potter and Irene Gore going in, they having come down from Lancaster to attend the first house. Our tickets were for the second, so we didn't see them again. On arriving home on Tuesday, I found a letter from Pete Rigby of Southport saying he also was booked to hear Louis that evening. On the other hand, Ted Tubb stayed away specially to avoid him.

Anyway, meal over, there was nothing left but to kill time till 8.30. So four of us - Dave Newman, the Shorrocks and myself - went into a news theatre to see a cartoon show. I promptly fell asleep during a Magoo film. On mature reflection, I think that's the most utterly fannish thing I've ever done. Show over, we stooged around looking for the phantom espresso till pub opening time, then indulged ourselves till Satchmo opening time. Then we went in, joined the rest of the party, and heard Satch.

In case. Ted Tubb or Eric Jones reads this, I won't attempt to give a commentary on the evening's performance, barring the fact that I don't regret going for an instant. Ron Bennett was there - I don't know where he'd got to before - and Dave Gardner, who hadn't been at the party, also several jazz-fans who weren't members of the Society - it just so happened that the two movements, as usual, overlapped. In our group, I mean - there were several thousand other people there as well, naturally. There was a good deal of fannish pass-along backchat between the more fannish end of the row - Dave Newman, the Shorrocks, Ron and myself. Unfortunately, I've got a lousy memory for such things. The only thing I remember was where Ron whispered to me that he'd put in a request for "Drop Dead" but they wouldn't play it - shortly after which, in the middle of a comedy routine, the trombone player went flat on his back. The show over, I went off with Ron to my third Chinese restaurant, where I had fish and chips. Then I went to bed at the Central Hotel, while Ron went back to Harrogate for a holiday. And another fannish day was over.

Archie with kukri (ns)


I was first down to breakfast - the Joneses, Eric Bentcliffe and Terry also being on the premises - but not by much. For today - Whit Monday - was beach-party day. The Shorrocks collected us at the hotel and we rendesvoused in the Central (I think) Station buffet. There were only fifteen of us today, Ron, Joan and Sheila having gone their various ways and Frank and Pat being too busy building a house or something. All assembled, we entrained for Freshfields and the beach. It was a lovely day, just the right amount of sun and everything, and we set up a fannish camp in an isolated spot among the sand-dunes and proceeded to generally enjoy ourselves. Most of us reached the water at one time or another, some of us even went in (I needed it, too).

We had a champagne picnic (with sandwiches), otherwise just lounging about, throwing things at each other, etc., and generally being juvenile, until the day began to cool off. Then we packed what was left, and made our way back to the station. Eric Bentcliffe, the Joneses, and myself scrounged a passing taxi and got there first. There was a train in, but we sat down on the platform to wait for the others . By the time they'd all arrived (some time later) the train was still there, so we got in. More time elapsed, then eventually everybody was ordered out again. We spent a few minutes huddled on the platform, then we were all told to get on again.

ULTIMATELY we got back to Liverpool. Now it was that the weekly Meeting was held. We were pulled into a rough circle in the middle of the station, Rene mumbled something about Minutes, which was carried unanimously, somebody said something about Any Other Business, and we broke up to proceed on said Business where'er it might take us.

The day had been a fitting climax to a most excellent weekend.

After all this, nothing was left but the coda. This consisted of some more fine fannish films at the House of Shorrock, and a bed on the premises - upstairs, this time.


In the morning, I was vouchsafed a glimpse of three more of the Shorrock family junior branch this time, who had just returned to the old homestead. They didn't seem at all impressed - I don't blame them, either. I doubt if I'd have been particularly impressed with myself now at their age. Today was Tuesday - normally a working day, but as malleable ironworks are affected by strikes at motor-works, we'd been granted an extra day to help things out. Norman Shorrock left me in the underground on the way once again to Liverpool Central. I boarded the train to Lincoln, it started - and I fell asleep. Some time later I woke up to find my head resting on the shoulder of the girl sitting next to me. I hope she likes snores.