2007 – Balchin Family Gathering – Mayford Village Hall, Woking, Surrey

The 2007 Family Society Gathering was held at Mayford Village Hall, Woking, Surrey, during the weekend of 8th/9th September.

Balchin Gathering 2007: A successful day at Mayford Village Hall

Gathering Day dawned bright and clear, and all over the Balchin heartlands of Surrey family members were loading boxes and equipment into their cars. Even in foreign parts – Sussex – cars were being loaded. Well, both Ann and I were going to be talking about Balchin activities in far-flung places, so perhaps it was fitting that we both came from outside Balchin territory.

How many times when writing these Balchin Gathering reports have said that it was a beautiful day? We always seem to be so lucky with the weather. It may not have been the best of summers generally, but we met on a most glorious late summer day. The location, Mayford Village Hall, set in leafy Surrey was perfect, not just for the facilities its offered, but also for enjoying the drive to and from the hall and for its surroundings, looking out onto bowling greens where, clad in their whites, groups from nearby bowls clubs competed for a championship trophy.

Particular thanks must go to Chris and John Balchin who had been to the Surrey History Centre and collected the vast Balchin archive. If, as they loaded and unloaded box upon box, they had wondered whether it was worth it, I am sure that the sight of people poring over the contents showed that it definitely had been. Thank you both so much. Chris and John Balchin have also given us another mystery to solve. They are father and son-in-law, two branches of the Balchin family united in marriage. The mystery part is establishing how far back we have to go to find their common ancestor. Who knows it could even be as far back as our general common ancestor in 14th Century East Wordham – at the moment we don’t know, it will certainly be fun and a challenge finding out.

Sir Robert starts the programme. Sadly Bob’s first duty of the day was to tell shocked members of the death of Professor William. William had been one of a small group who had set up the Society, and hid been with us every year since that first Gathering in 1994. His absence left a left a huge hole in the day, but he will always have a place in our hearts.

‘What You Have Found’ got off to a swinging start. It is always amazing how much news information surfaces during the year. This year we had an additional contribution from the other side of the world,  Anita in Melbourne had sent a turn of the 20th Century photograph of Balchin family group, and a letter written in the 1930’s by a descendant of James Balchin telling of his pioneering days in mid-19th Century Australia. The first triggered reminiscences from Bob and Leslie – always a wonderful double act. The second resulted in fascinating additional information from Ted, who has done a great deal  research into the families of James and his father Joseph Moss Balchin. Ted had also solved another puzzle, tracking down a mystery Balchin submariner. That story deserves far more space than I have here, both for what Ted has found out about the submariner, and how, starting with just photographs showing early submarines, he managed to trace him. Marvellous stuff.

The search for Uncle Wally. After a break for more coffee Nigel updated us on research that he and a friend had undertaken to find her Uncle Wally, who had served in the WWI conflict.

Michael’s Life & Times. Then Diana took us back to the Balchins but on in time to just before WW2. Using letters written by her parents, she brought to life their meeting and involvement in the League of Nations Youth Group as Europe moved towards war. Diana also explained how she was using letters and papers left by her father Michael to create a book illustrating his life. The book, which Diana put on display, contained a fund of fascinating information and is such a good idea. Listening to people talk as they looked through it, I know it set many people thinking about creating a similar record.

The Archives-Looking Back. After the AGM, lunch and an opportunity to pursue research among the archives or catch up with family news, we reassembled. Sometimes our Gatherings have looked far back over the centuries into the Balchin past, but this year it was Balchins in the 20th and 21st Century.

The Car, Looking Up – Rooftop Parking! Nigel regaled us with the story from his wayward student days when he and a group of friends made headlines by hoisting a car onto the roof of the Cambridge Senate building.

Evacuees. Diana, drawing again on the marvellous collection of letters left by her parents told how her father had dealt with the organizing large scale evacuation of children for the LCC and her mother with coping with evacuees when they arrived. Eric also recalled his wartime days as an evacuee from Battersea to Windsor.

Ann’s Expeditions. Ann brought us right up to date with her description of her recent seed collecting expedition to Southern Africa. I think that I can safely say everyone was lost in admiration both for the work that she is doing and the wonderful understated way in which she described her adventures, including climbing one of the highest mountains in Southern Africa.

Members’ Contributions. With the many and various marvellous contributions made by members I must admit we did overrun rather and last-minute amendments had to be made to the ‘published programme’ as they say. But that was all part of the success of the day, people were joining in, adding their perspectives on different topics and enjoying each others company. Everything seem to come together perfectly to create what many people said was ‘the best ever’ Balchin get together.

Pictures and Puzzles. Right up to the end there were surprises and treats, including the marvellous cakes served with tea. As the day drew to a close, Bob revealed something that he had kept under wraps – a wonderful copy of a stunning 18th Century portrait of Frances Balchin, daughter of Admiral Sir John Balchin.

The Final Rally.  Sir Bob wound up the proceedings and wished us all a safe journey home. The day finished as it had begun, without needing to be asked, everyone mucked in and helped pack up and put away the chairs. Then with hugs and cries of ‘wasn’t it a good day’ and ‘see you again soon’, we all dispersed back through leafy Surrey to our homes.

The Gathering was a terrific success. I certainly had a wonderful time and, from all the comments I heard on the day and have received since, I know other people did too. Yes, those of us who were there on the day helped, I am not decrying that, but the real and massive thanks should go to those people who were not there but still put so much into planning and organizing the day for the rest of us to enjoy.

As the talks were so well constructed with such interesting subjects it was felt that this issue should contain as much as possible summaries or notes of the day. The Editorial Team thanks all Speakers for contributing the covering articles for the benefit of those members unable to attend on this occasion.
Also a thanks to you from us who work behind the scenes throughout the year for your appreciation of our efforts. I am pleased to report that normal service will resume for 2008 in that the whole team will be at Bramley.

Jenny Dixon