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", including this one from Oct '53:

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.

.... advertisment from SPACE TIMES #13 (July 1953, ed, Eric Bentcliffe)