The Editor has asked me to record by recollections of the ten years during which I have enjoyed the honour of being President of the Dulwich Society. I think that I am right to boast that I am the first President to whom such a request could have been made upon giving up the Presidency, for I am the first not to have died in office. But the same reason as causes me to give up, disqualifies me from complying with his request: my great difficulty in remembering anything with accuracy!
Nevertheless, I do speak of “giving up” the Presidency because it is only with great regret that I forgo the honour that my yearly non-competitive re-election has done me, without being required to do anything for the privilege. It is true that towards the end of my first year of office, the Committee did seek my advice. They have not found reason to do so since! I can only think that they have not found another question so simple to answer as whether it would be better to celebrate the Society’s 40th anniversary with a party or a statue to Edward Alleyn. The question was put to me when there would have been less than a year to organise the statue, so we enjoyed the party.
The statue was postponed till what seemed a suitable date, the four hundredth anniversary of Alleyn’s purchase of the Dulwich estate. It was then a privilege of my office, rather than a burden or duty, that I was allowed to chair the committee which raised the money which enabled the project to be successfully completed. As always the work of organising the competition, choosing the design and commissioning the statue fell on the stalwarts who have run the Society so successfully throughout my period of office, thus enabling me to preside over annual general meetings for year after year, with pride and admiration for the work of the Society in whose glory I have been able to bask.
How then can I best recall the achievements of those years? Frankly, I am too terrified to do so. There has been so much, and if I attempted the task I should only give offence by what I had forgotten. That is why I have headed this contribution “reflections” rather than “recollections”. But that does not mean that I am left without memories. Foremost I will cherish the friendship and the confidence placed in me by three hard working Chairmen who have served the Society during my time in office: Bill Higman, Adrian Hill and Ian McInnes, and of the Society’s marvellously devoted Secretary, Patrick Spencer, who has served throughout the same period. I have been privileged also to know the Chairmen of the Committees who carry on the work of the Society which I have been able to follow in the Executive Committee’s minutes of which I am a privileged recipient since I was first elected a Vice-President. But it is, of course, to this Journal that one looks for the fullest and most lively record of the Society and indeed of Dulwich, and, it is, I have to admit, only because of my admiration for the work of my good friend Brian Green that I have felt obliged to make an inadequate attempt to do what he has asked of me. Readers of this Journal will, I think, hardly care what I remember; they can make their own selections from its pages.