|Report of the Meeting, September 19, 2015
ATTENDANCE: Sixteen members attended. There were apologies for absence from ten members.
The Chairman opened the meeting by regretting the inability of the Stampex organisers to arrange bookings for meetings rooms, thanked the Premier Inn next door for its usual warm hospitality in emergency, and welcomed members and especially the three overseas visitors.
But those present were shattered by an announcement from Edmund Hall, our long-serving Editor and Webmaster, that he has been found to be seriously ill with pancreatic cancer and that the long-term prognosis is far from good. In an astonishingly upbeat ten minutes typical of his normal style, he explained the situation fully and made clear that plans for the future of both the website and the magazine had to be made with a matter of some urgency.
Members expressed their wholehearted support and wished him well for the longer term, with Jon Aitchison, himself a former cancer sufferer, reporting that the positive attitude Edmund displayed often proved just as effective as the medics in prolonging life. Stunned by Edmund’s announcement, members found it difficult to concentrate.
Looking to a future that we all hope is far away, however, some practical steps were also taken. Neil Hitchens, who has some practical website experience, is now learning the ins and outs of how our site runs, and is already willing to take some responsibility as Edmund’s deputy. And Mike Murphy, a journalist once upon a time, volunteered to take over the editorship, having acted as assistant to Edmund for the last 10 years. That change, however, will be in addition to the Secretary duties: he appealed to any member living within easy reach of London who might care to take responsibility for arranging our five meetings each year.
Exhibition in Egypt: Dr Sherif Samra, President of the Philatelic Society of Egypt, addressed members on the exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the First Issue, which will be held in Cairo from December 31 to January 6, and urged as many members as possible to attend, and/or to exhibit. Either the Secretary or Dr Samra (email@example.com) will be happy to answer questions.
Jon Aitchison (01279 870488; firstname.lastname@example.org), who is handling exhibits on our behalf, told the meeting that the deadline for entries has been extended to October 15. He can supply full details, but the essence is that application forms (available from Jon or on this website) must be returned to Jon with a copy of the exhibit’s introduction sheet by that date. Please make every effort to exhibit; we are eager to support our Egyptian colleagues in their endeavours.
As far as visiting is concerned, we have now received firm offers from the PSE travel agents of $799 (double room) and $709 (single room) for bed and breakfast for the eight nights’ stay from December 30 to January 7 in the four-star Pyramisa Hotel close to the exhibition centre. The best price we can find for a flight online is £340 with Alitalia, with a two-hour transfer in Rome each way. Non-stop flights with EgyptAir are about £550, and with BA about £530. Since the Circle is willing to book hotel rooms on members’ behalf but is not in a position to make group bookings, we hope members who make their own flight arrangements will inform the Secretary of details so that he can ensure that our Egyptian colleagues meet them at Cairo airport. The Secretary is happy to answer queries (email@example.com).
Ten sheets: John Sears was able to show half a dozen covers emanating from Barker & Co, the Alexandria company of our late member Michael Barker. Though sent from Egypt to Hull, each of them is franked at a 4 1/2d rate and provided with a three-line handstamp in red: OFFICIAL SHIP’S DOCUMENTS / FOR TRANSMISSION THROUGH / NAVAL CHANNELS and an oval datestamp, also red, reading Naval Control Service / Alexandria of 23 MAR 44 (with “Uncensored” added in manuscript). The stamps are cancelled Post Office / Maritime Mail in London, and there is a Registration label for MM (Maritime Mail?) 993.
The covers led to a great deal of discussion about what documents might have been contained, whether bills of lading and the like requiring urgency of treatment, or perhaps personal documents of staff aboard a particular vessel. No one had any clear idea, and the Circle would be very pleased indeed to hear from anyone with definite knowledge of how these covers came about.
Mike Murphy showed a couple of recent Egyptian issues – the first a lavishly illustrated First Day A4 folder in two versions – English and Arabic - marking the opening of the newly built parallel Suez Canal, with the se-tenant strip of three stamps and the miniature sheet cancelled 6/8/2015.
The second was Egypt’s most recent withdrawn stamp and its FDC – the issue of July 25 marking the gift of the Nile and intended to carry an illustration of Hapi, God of the river and symbol of fruitfulness. Instead the central vignette carries an image of Osiris from the Book of the Dead judgement of Hunefer (Dynasty XIX) from the British Museum .. not at all relevant. It seems that efforts were made to retrieve the stamps after the error was noted, and 500 of the 1500 first-day covers and 15,000 of the 75,000 stamps were recovered for disposal. There will be no substitute stamp issue, and it will be intriguing to see whether the erroneous stamp is listed in the catalogues.