Journal Archive - The 1950s

The Committee have wanted to make our Journals available to all members, past and present and climbers in general. Although copies of all our Journals are archived in the Alpine Club library in London they are not readily available for review. It was thought that the easiest way to access the Journals was to digitise them.

The work to digitise all the Journals was started following a legacy from Alasdair Andrews, who died in 2011. The Committee decided to start from the current year and work backwards so to include the majority of the time that Alasdair was a member. The Journals from 2013 going back to 1975 were copied as PDF files and were put on the website.

Late in 2019 the Committee agreed to continue with the work and complete the digitising of the Journals from the founding year, 1909, to 1974. This work was completed in February 2020. The PDF files are being loaded onto the website in batches.

By the 1950's the Association was becoming much less a social and dining club for climbers and much more an active climbing club. There was an annual Easter meet in the U.K. and a meet most years in the Alps. The Easter meets were gradually transformed from walking meets to climbing meets of a good standard. George Starkey had much to do with this.

By the beginning of 1950 membership reached 758. A sign of a change in the times was that, even at the Annual Dinner, dinner jackets became optional.

The devaluation of the pound and currency restrictions meant that the summer meets were not held in Switzerland in 1950, 51 and 52. The number of members started to decline from 1950.

The Alpine meet was in Vent in the Oetztal, Austria in 1950, but the Annual Swiss Dinner was cancelled. In 1951 the meet was held at Gaschurn, in the Silvretta Group and in 1952 Neustift in the Stubaital. They were both successful meets, although only took part only a tiny proportion of the membership was involved (21 and 17 members respectively). The expense of a meet meant that many wished to climb independently (the trend was still to employ guides).

Back in London the committee proposed a new category of membership, retired members, comprising those who wished to continue as members of the Association even though they had ceased to be members of the Swiss Alpine Club.

There was no Alpine meet in 1953, as George Starkey was not available to ‘lead’ the meet.

The Year Book which dealt with the events of 1953 also included this paragraph:
All British climbers must have been thrilled with tremendous pride when they read in the papers on the morning of Coronation Day that the British Expedition had reached the summit of Mount Everest. After thirty years of endeavour the victory has been won, and we must not forget the members of all the earlier expeditions, and among them Mallory and Irvine who gave their lives; nor should we forget Eric Shipton who discovered the new route, and without whose pioneering success might not have been achieved. The timing of the great news could not have been better — it was magnificent. We are proud to offer our heartfelt congratulations to our member, Sir John Hunt, and his gallant team on their splendid achievement.

There can be no doubt of the excitement and the pride which members of the ABMSAC will have felt over the climbing of Everest, especially in view of those Association members who played a distinguished part in the expeditions in the years up to and including 1953.

The seventh Alpine Meet returned to Switzerland, at Saas Fee, in 1954, but again poorly attended. There was a lot of climbing, including the Fletschhorn, the Jagihorn, the Portschengrat, the Mittaghorn, and the Allalinhorn. A guided party climbed to the Mischabel Hut and thence to the Nadelhorn. Though it was a good meet there were no further Alpine meets until the Jubilee meet in 1959.

At home the Association continued to have successful social meets in London and the Easter Meet remained popular. In London a representative of the Swiss Embassy was invited to sit on the Association's committee and the advice provided proved very helpful. Also the Swiss National Tourist Office took over a substantial part of the administration of the Association, a gesture greatly appreciated. Reports of members trips to the mountains started to become a feature of the Journals.

In 1957 the Journal was reduced in size because of the huge increase in printing costs. In 1946 the Journal costs were £56 and in 1956 they were £171 – a tripling of costs. The Library List and the Rules of the Association were not included and only sent to new members.

Events for the Jubilee continued throughout 1959, culminating in the August meet at Saas Fee. It was an excellent season for climbing; sixteen different ascents were made by one or more ropes, including the Weissmies, the Nadelhorn, the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn by the Furggen Ridge. The jubilee was commemorated with a formal dinner on August 8th. The President of the Central Committee, Dr. Calonder, and other officers of the Swiss Alpine Club were present and the President of the Association, George Starkey, was presented with a pewter platter commemorating the jubilee of the ABMSAC. Twenty five British members and friends shared in the dinner. In keeping with what had become a traditional concern, the Association in its turn made a gift of 2,600 Swiss francs towards the furnishing of one of the dormitories of the Britannia Hut.

To finish the review of the 50s here is a quote from the Review of the first 50 years from the 1959 Journal -
Of those members who joined the Association in 1909, sixteen still survive. Of the original Committee, Gerald Steel and C. Scott-Lindsay are still with us. In fact Gerald Steel, who was one of the original Hon. Secretaries, was President of the Association from 1949 to 1951 and still attends our meetings regularly as Hon. Vice-President.
We are sure that an Association which is so virile as this after the ravages of two world wars cannot fail to survive, and that in 2009 the Hon. Editor will be able to give an equally good account of its activities.

Indeed the Hon. Editor did!

Journals from 1950 to 1959: 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959

This series of Journals gives an interesting insight into a bygone age. I hope that you enjoy dipping into them.

Mike Goodyer, Hon. Editor, updated 3 June 2020

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