2006 – Balchin Family Gathering, Brooklands Museum, Weybridge

The 2006 Family Society Gathering was held at Brooklands Museum,in Weybridge, Surrey, during the weekend of 9th/10th September.


By Roy and Iris Balchin. Event Co-ordinators for the Balchin Family Society.

The first reactions I have heard on the 2006 Gathering were very good indeed. We were, of course, so lucky with the weather, it was perfect, and the venue was a pleasant surprise to all who made the trip to Weybridge. Alongside our Gathering of Balchins at this historical place was the Italian Motoring event of the year “The Italian Day”, so along came the Maseratis and Lamborginis to add colour to Brooklands and our own event.

Those who came on the Saturday were fortunate in that we had a guided tour of the Brooklands Collections of Planes and Cars, Motorcycles and Bicycles. Our excellent Volunteer Guide, one of many who give their time to keep this historical place going, was Reg.Durbridge. A really excellent chap who could, and did, tailor our walk at a pace we could all manage. Lasting all of two hours we covered all the major collections. This also included a truly wonderful aircraft once owned by the Sultan of Brunei: a VC10 with every luxury imaginable including double beds and a bathroom. Presented by the Sultan as a gift to Brooklands this aircraft and the newly refurbished Concorde are worthy of a visit on their own merits.

With all the ambience of the 1920s our Dinner was served in the marvellous Bluebird Room, dedicated to Sir Malcolm Campbell for his exploits in the record-breaking Bluebird boats and cars. The food and the staff were of the highest quality equally matched on Sunday when they coped admirably with last minute extras and delays. I would recommend Brooklands as a venue for any organisation.

Our more formal Sunday saw all the Society business covered as planned. The AGM saw sadness in the tribute to two well liked members who passed away this year. Firstly, Mrs Joan Beasley who was a dedicated contributor to all the Society’s work. Secondly, the sudden and unexpected passing of Michael Balchin of Canada. Many will remember that Michael came over to the Horsham Gathering last year and gave a presentation of the work his Canadian Association has achieved over the years in the ex-pats’ cause for pension rights. A delightful man whom, with his wife Huguette, was warmly welcomed by all at the 2005 Gathering. They will be sadly missed by us all.

A more pleasant task was for our Chairman Sir Robert to present, on behalf of all our Members, an Engraved Silver Frame to our President and Founder member Professor W.G.V.Balchin.

Sir Robert, in his words of appreciation to Professor William and in his congratulations on achieving his 90th year, related many details of his schoolboy years and the sheer hard work that gained William the scholarships to allow his progression to University. [“Amazingly correct” said William.]
All of which led him to a position at Swansea University as a Founding member of the newly emerging Geographical Department, the formation of which was adopted by many other Universities in later years. The rest is history. After 70+ years of dedicated hard work, the Professor has earned a rest from it all. Indeed, he has chosen to retire from one post, that of Editor for our Society Journal: the next edition will be his last. So should anyone wish to undertake this very important position and try to emulate the Professor’s high standards since Issue 1 in January 1995, then please step forward, our Committee will support and encourage any candidate.

Our day went all too quickly, time was allowed to study the near complete Records Collection brought from the Surrey History Centre. Some found time to tour the Concorde and others to the hangar of the Wellington Bomber R. for Robert, rescued from the icy waters of Loch Ness. There really was too much to see at one time. Iris and I are Friends of Brooklands and our Family membership allows entry any day we wish. Great value for a family, even more so when all the Mercedes work is done – a large park and facilities for picnics and recreation is planned, as well as a new test track for old and new Classic vehicles. Many have said they will return to this newfound time capsule of Surrey history. I do hope that our 2006 Gathering can be judged a success. If you could not get there this year then we look forward to seeing you all at the 2007 Gathering, the venue for which we shall decide upon in November. As they say “Watch this Space”. Roy. & Iris. of Rutland.

More information about the Brooklands Museum can be found on their website at www.brooklandsmuseum.com