The 1999 Gathering was held in the Prince’s Hall, Aldershot on Sunday 3rd October. Aldershot is 8 miles west of Guildford, just over the Surrey-Hampshire county border. The town has long been the major base of the British Army, and it was natural that the theme of the Gathering was ‘Balchins in the Service of the Nation’.
The Prince’s Hall is a purpose-built conference centre with its own catering facilities, and it provided excellent accommodation for the Gathering. The day was bright and sunny, and members began to arrive early. Once again the exhibits were memorable, as in addition to the Family Tree a special display of medals and military items had been arranged.
After registration and coffee, the first presentation was from Mrs Pat Green and Dr Nigel Balchin, who gave an excellent contribution on the military achievements of the Balchins. The Annual General Meeting followed, and all were welcomed by Sir Robert Balchin, who paid tribute to the small group who worked so hard to keep the Society going. Pat Green’s research had now moved the line back to 1382, and documentary evidence now exists for from fifteen to sixteen generations of Balchins, which was an extraordinary record for a family society.
Our Treasurer, Colin Balchin, then presented his report for the year. A reasonable financial situation enabled him to recommend that subscription rates remain unchanged at £ 10 for the UK, and £ 13 for overseas members. The 1999 Gathering would result in a small surplus, partly due to the successful sale of the ‘Balchin Tea Towels’ at the Gathering. Sir Robert congratulated our Treasurer on his initiative in arranging for the production of the tea towels. The first batch of 100 were sold out at the Gathering, but it is hoped to arrange for further supplies for the 2000 Gathering.
Professor William Balchin then welcomed members to Aldershot, his home town. He remarked how 60 years ago he little thought that he would one day, in his role as President and Editor of the Balchin Family Society, welcome fellow Balchins to the town. He thanked all who had sent in material for the Newsletter, and reminded members of the continual need for news items and articles. Sir Robert then thanked Professor Balchin and Dr Nigel Balchin for their excellent work in producing the Newsletter.
Pat Green then followed with her research report. She explained the exciting discovery of references to Balchins in the Loseley Manuscripts which took the Balchin line back to 1382. Other valuable additions to the family information were the Mann Diary dating from 1745, and the donation to the Society by Val Clarke, god-daughter of the broadcaster Doreen Pownall, of all her godmother’s family papers. Pat thanked Ken Allen for his aid in getting the records onto a database. The Chairman said what an enormous debt the Society owes Pat for her research.
Mrs Jenny Dixon, our retiring Secretary, informed the meeting that arrangements were in hand for the Gathering in the year 2000. Portsmouth was the chosen venue, and we would be gathering on Sunday 8th October. The Family’s contact with the Royal Navy would receive special attention. A number of members expressed interest in extending the Gathering to two days in order to visit the many naval attractions in Portsmouth, and this suggestion is now being taken up by the Committee.
Elections for the Committee for 1999 – 2000 were then made with the Chairman thanking Mrs Jenny Dixon and Paul Taylor, who were both retiring from their posts (although Jenny will continue as a Committee member).
We were then joined by Councillor and Mrs Linda Clifford, the Mayor and Mayoress of the Borough of Rushmoor, of which the former Borough of Aldershot now forms a part. Councillor David Clifford revealed an interest in Genealogy, and contributed a lively and amusing after-lunch speech: he was clearly impressed by the enthusiasm and work of the Balchin Family Society.
The first of the two afternoon activities was a visit to the Military Museum and the Aldershot Museum in Queens Avenue. Members then returned to the Prince’s Hall for a talk by Professor Alice Coleman on ‘Graphology and Genealogy’. Professor Coleman is a retired Professor of Geography from King’s College, London, who has become a national authority on Graphology on her retirement. She explained how graphology can assist genealogy, demonstrating with the aid of an example of Admiral Sir John Balchin’s handwriting.Members were able to write a few lines to check whether the principles explained applied to themselves. During the tea interval, and until the close of the Gathering, Professor Coleman was able to provide a quick visual analysis of members’ handwriting, together with some ancestral script that was available. The Gathering closed at 6 p.m. after an excellent and memorable day.