Croydon Camera Club History 1890-1918
Keen Photographers The Club is Founded Struggling momentum Consolidation, 1896
Kodak, 1901 Founder Resigns! Surging Ahead, 1903 The Great War
Review From Today
We now come to a painful episode in the history of the Club, and reference must be made to the circumstances under which Hector Maclean eventually retired from the Presidentship and left the Club. The convulsion, for it was nothing less, shook the Club in 1902-3.
We have seen how Maclean had been one of the prime movers in the formation of the Club, how he had worked hard to make it a success (and the work was really hard in the early days,) how he had helped to keep the young Club going by finding money to pay the rent on more than one occasion. There is a reference to a meeting when the Club was some three or four years old at which members decided on a whip round in order to get sufficient cash to pay off the Club’s indebtedness to the President, and members generally had freely supported this.
We must here refer to the A.G.M. held in 1902 since it serves to show what was thought of Maclean at that time.
The report says that the feature of the evening was the presentation of a handsome salver and cigarette case to the President, the Salver being inscribed with the words:- "given as a mark of appreciation and esteem of the interest taken by him in the Club as its President since its formation in 1890." The meeting sang with considerable force and expression "For he's a jolly good fellow" and the meeting terminated.
This was in 1902. No word, as we see, to mar the harmony, not the slightest indication of a cloud on the horizon, not the faintest suspicion in the minds of members who sang so lustily that a storm was approaching. And yet little more than a year afterwards the first mutterings of the coming storm were heard, the crisis had become acute and Hector Maclean had given up his long term of office and had resigned from the club.
We get the first hint that all was not well in March 1903 when a question is raised in Council with reference to a recent speech by the President at the Club Exhibition and the consequent remarks it had evoked in the Press and among members generally. Maclean attempted to justify himself on the plea that he had spoken in his private capacity and not as President, but the bad effect remained and in August a meeting was called to consider what steps, if any, should be taken with regard to an article appearing in the current issue of the "British Journal of Photography."
The Minutes recording this and other meetings on the subject are very discreet, and perhaps rightly so - A stranger reading them for the first time would get the impression of a mild flutter and a few pointed remarks with the ultimate resignation of the Chairman, at a second reading he might begin to suspect something of the real rumpus that we know in fact these colourless Minutes record.
Well, it is now all ancient history and we of a later day can afford to look upon the episode with calmer feelings than those which stirred the men who took part, and took sides, in the controversy.
It would appear that what roused the ire of members was an article in the "B.J." of 14 August 1903. How it got there is a mystery since in those days the B.J. had become known the world over as a serious technical journal. The article can only be described as a feeble attempt at wit and was calculated to give a cheap and entirely wrong impression of the Club which was referred to under the thin disguise of the "Corydon Club."
Nothing of a definite nature seems to have happened until the following February so far as one gathers from the meagre reports in the Minute books. But we need not be deceived by this, we know that during this time a good deal of unrest was felt and that a sort of Cabal was formed with the avowed object of getting rid of the President.
We find that at a meeting on 3rd Feb 1904 a suggestion was made to write a short and abbreviated account of what had taken place but Maclean, very unwisely as we may think, rejected this and asked for a full entry to be made.
The following week the Council decided to spare his feelings, willy nilly, by agreeing that there was no need for a full report and that "personalities as much as possible should be eliminated.”
We get a good idea of the super heated atmosphere developing in the Club from the pages of the B.J. and a report in that Journal of 12th Feb. 1904 sheds much light on the episode; Let us look at the issue of 12th Feb. 1904. It reads as follows:-Hector Maclean re-elected, 1904
For some little time it has been generally felt that disturbances were in the air, and something in the nature of a spirit of division was arising among the members. The first open indication of this was shown at the annual meeting when as already recorded, a contested election for the presidency took place, Mr. Hector Maclean F.R.P.S. being re-elected. The meeting was adjourned to further consider other matters which could not be dealt with at-the time and on its resumption, to say the least, very plain speaking was indulged in, the principal target being the President himself.
A resolution was carried to the effect that no member should in future hold the office of President for more than two consecutive years.
A lecture on the previous Wednesday is then referred to and the report goes on:-
Prior to the lecture Mr. Maclean arose and read a statement in which he made a brisk counter-attack on his opponents, and announced his intention of resigning forthwith; he also laid down certain alternative and stringent conditions which would have to be carried into effect before he would entertain any suggestion of resuming his Presidential duties.
Maclean then left the meeting, his place being taken by Mir. E. A. Salt who alluded to the great services rendered to the Club by Maclean extending over a period of 12 years, he regretted the resignation and particularly the circumstances which had led up to it but thought the conditions laid down were most ill advised. He had therefore no option but to dissociate himself entirely from them and finally urged all members to forget past differences and to pull together for the good of the Club. Other speakers followed and the line taken up by all clearly indicated this would be so and that an entente cordiale in future would reign. It also became plainly evident that the next President whoever he may be will have no lack of willing and energetic helpers.
S. H. Wratten was the son of F. C. L. Wratten, founder of Wratten and Wainwright, who had a factory In Canterbury Road, Croydon. S. H. Wratten was at that time manager of the business. In 1906 I joined him, and the business was converted into a limited liability company. In 1912 it was sold to the Eastman Kodak Company. The manufacturing was removed to the Harrow Works of Kodak Limited, where Wratten continued until his retirement many years later in charge of various technical aspects of photography.
Maclean resigned on 3rd Feb. and the Club was now without a President. Notices were at once sent out calling a special general meeting for the election of a new President and after the lapse of a few weeks during which Salt acted as Regent Mr. S. H. Wratten was elected to unanimous satisfaction, we are told, and the Rules had been altered to provide that no future President of the Club should hold office for longer than two years.
Let us conclude this brief sketch of the Club's worst crisis by quoting a letter Maclean addressed to the local Press and to the "B.J." It runs thus:-
May I be permitted to make known in your valued Journal that the methods and attitude of a section have induced me to resign the Presidency of the Croydon Camera Club? I should also like to thank a host of friends who during the past 14-years by their loyal cordial and energetic co-operation have encouraged me to do my best for the Club. To them is due the remarkable prosperity to which the Club has attained; they have so to speak, toiled at the oars, set the sails, and worked the ship through many a storm, while I have done little more than steer her free of rocks and quick sands.
It was just about five years later that he died rather suddenly. He had been a well known figure in the Photographic world and had a wide circle of acquaintances whom he used to bring to Croydon, and those of today who keep the old Club going may remember him as one of the promoters of the Club and one who on the testimony of his contemporaries did great service for the Institution he had helped to start, and we may keep his memory green!
Once the storm had blown over the Club settled down to steady work, increased its activities and its membership and was fortunate in finding a succession of Presidents whose fame is fittingly summarised in the words of Raskin in the National Gallery with reference to the Old Masters viz: that "They are entitled to a veneration and respect to which no modern can pretend! (These words have since been painted out at the instance of a late Director of the National Gallery!) But we may remember with admiration the names of Wratten, W. H. Smith, Isaac, Sellors, Dodsworth, Hicks and Harpur who carried on the best traditions of the Club and helped to foster its world wide reputation.
Almost the first business under the Chairmanship of S. H. Wratten was the question of premises, and negotiations were begun with a view to finding larger and better rooms.New premises again, 1904
In June 1904 Club rooms opposite S. Croydon Station at the corner of George Street were inspected and found suitable, the old tenancy was determined and by October following, the Club moved into its new quarters.
Much work in connection with the removal was necessary and it is pleasant to read of the unstinted help by members and especially by the Hon. Sec. H.M. Bennett in the removal and fitting up of the new home.