George Blake

BRITISH RING (I.B.M.) ANNUAL DINNER

Cumberland Hotel, London, Sunday, January 30th.

In contrast with another annual function I sometimes attend, one thing you can always rely on when the Brtish Ring foregather is that you will never be bored. Instead of getting a handful of comparatively new members each with a large party of guests, one finds that the concentration is of the most prominent of well known semiprofessionals from all over England, laced, as well they should be, with a sprinkling of guests.

Thus it was that I found myself amongst a crowd of people I have known for long and grown to love, they are my world, and I humbly hope I am part of theirs. My wife Helen was with me, together with my brother-in-law and sister. Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Cattle, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Berry, and BUI and Mrs. Stratford. Stanley rejoined the business again this last Summer, he was formerly with us up to 1950. Bill Stratford is well known to many as our accountant, and a stalwart of the Vampire Club.

On all sides were smiling friendly faces, and President Geoffrey Robinson & Marjorie were in the honoured position, to personally greet and welcome each guest. It is impossible to name even a quarter of those we chatted to—the reception was so crowded that one's recollection became blurred, but of those who travelled halfway across England to attend this function, we recall Eddie and Mollie Dexter, Tom and Mrs. Harris with Eileen, Helen Strachen, Goodliffe (the Magician), Arthur Culpin and Elizabeth, Archie and Mrs. Tear, Tommy and Phyllis Rowe, and of course Bill and Poppy Stickland. Neville Craythorne too, made an appearance from his apparent retirement. Actually he was in our studio a short time aso and mentioned that he had dropped his magic for a spell in order to concentrate on real business! Eric Williams and Ma were on the next table to us

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at dinner, and oh, we nearly forgot the couple without whom hardly any gathering is complete, Billy and June McComb.

The dinner was excellent, and perfectly served, and after the Loyal Toast had been drunk between the courses, the time came for the first speech on the programme, the Toast of the British R<ng, proposed by Edward Graves, President of the Circus Fans Association of Great Britain. Mr. and Mrs. Borra were seated at the top table, being the guests of honour, in company wtih rnr. and Mrs. Cyril B. Mills, of Circus Fame. Borra had only finished his contract as star of the Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia, the day before, President Geoffrey Robinson responded to this toast, and both he and the proposer paid tribute to the close alliance of the Circus Ring with Magicians. Incidentally, Bill Stickland, who then proposed the toast to the Ladies and Guests, is now the International Vice-President of the I.B.M. His speech was responded to by Cyril Mills, who related a very unusual and humorous adventure he had when investigating a claim to the performance of the Indian Rope Trick, which had to be worked in the open air in accordance with the terms of his father's public challenge !

After an enjoyable period of dancing to an excellent band, we were interrupted with the announcement of the cabaret, and immediately there walked in a Village Yokel, with overall, cap, and straw in mouth. Yes, it was none other than England's premier character comedy magician— Eric (Nitwit) Williams. The inevitable heavy brogue (or dialect should I say) took some minutes to get used to, but in the course of his humorous perambulations he produced yells of laughter such as are seldom heard when one works before brother magicians. Terrific applause greeted his hnaie, an original version of the Mr. and Mrs. Green Trick.

Clifford Stanton, who is, like myself, a habitué of Sunbury-on-Thames. is also Bui Stick-land's brother-in-law and is famous as a B.B.C. and Concert impressionist. Those he showed us on that memorable evening were so remarkably true to life, even to watch, that he fully just,tied the loud applause received.

Borra, acknowledged star of the evening, came stealing onto the floor ... or shouldn't I have said that? Anyway, he commenced with his remarkable Smoke Rings routine, wherein he blows one ring through another and even passes a handkerchief completely through a ring. His act was described in detail in this Magazine last year, after the Edinburgh Convention report. His pocket picking was highly skilled and amusing, particularly as he worked to wary magicians, but he succeeded only too well, as was evidenced by the surprised looks on the faces of his victims. (Who, was it, by the way, who lost his braces?)

The evening continued with further dancing and much conviviality, and all too soon came the finish shortly before midnight. Most of the visitors like ourselves, were staying at the Cumblerland, and we foregathered in the lounge for tea, coffee, and a final early morning chat before retiring. A very successful affair, and our sincere thanks to the organisers.

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