This report was prepared for the Society’s Annual General Meeting scheduled for 17 March 2020 and amended shortly after its postponement. The meeting was held by Zoom on 11 August 2020.

It is my pleasure to present my first report as Chairman though in somewhat unusual circumstances due to the Coronavirus19 outbreak. The last minute decision to cancel the AGM was I feel the right one, The message seems to have reached members as only one person,( a non-member who arrived on his bicycle), turned up at the URC! 

My first thought is to thank you all for attending our meetings throughout the year in such large numbers, despite some unpleasant weather in the second half of the season. Attendance has been consistently high with a record of 122 ( including visitors) for the talk by Major-General Julian Thompson on the Falklands War. 

Coupled with a positive reaction by way of questions and comment we create an atmosphere which many speakers find stimulating and which encourages a return visit. 

Once again our thanks to the URC Church, and in particular Chris Bruce-Jones and Russell Guthrie, who liaise with our speakers to ensure there are no technical blips.

I should also like to thank two people whose efforts may go unnoticed but who are essential to the smooth running of our meetings. The first is John Fogg-Elliott who arrives early and leaves last. He ensures we have sufficient chairs, that speakers have a glass of water and a working microphone and that we leave the hall in good order. The second is Janet Brealey. Though not on the committee, Janet is our link with the speakers. She contacts them to ensure they have the date in their diaries, that they know how to find us, and arranges for the fee cheque to be available at the end of the meeting. Thanks to both of you. 

In her report our Treasurer, Anna, refers to expenditure on the website. My thanks to Peter, Chris and Stuart for a great deal of work in the last two years considering various options some of which would have required considerable expenditure. Fortunately a solution was found which, the Committee feels , meets the needs of members and which involves minimal expenditure. I would encourage you to visit the web-site which Peter has designed and keeps up to date. 

Last year’s Report indicated that the post of Secretary was vacant. We are very fortunate that Fiona Shipley agreed to take over the role despite a very busy professional life. Both she and Peter are very patient with my efforts to master basic computer technology for which I am ever grateful.  We now have two husband and wife teams on the Committee who give a lot of time to the Society’s activities. 

The summer outing to Brooklands seemed to be enjoyed by those who joined the coach. Both groups reported excellent guides who were generous with their time as were the volunteers manning many of the individual exhibits. Both the weather and the M25 were fine. 

Had we held the AGM Chris would have outlined the programme for next year. Achieving a balance between local, national and international topics is not as easy to achieve as might be supposed. He is always happy to receive reports of good speakers or of topics which members would like covered in a future lecture. Meanwhile we hope, and at present assume, that we shall be able to resume lectures in October. 

It is always a pleasure to read the summaries of our meetings which Stuart Paterson sends to the local media. They are masterpieces in themselves but are not always featured in the local press. Our meetings are publicised on local notice boards where there is much competition for space and drawing pins! I make a point of removing outdated notices and ensuring ours has prominence. 

Finally, your Committee would have asked you at the AGM to endorse the nomination of Trevor Burrage to the position of President of the Society. Trevor has been a member and fulfilled almost all the roles on the Committee over many years. The committee is considering how best to deal with the handling of AGM business and will keep you informed. 

In these uncertain times it is important to stay in touch and support each other particularly as many of us are in the age category deemed more at risk. If you feel in need of support or assistance please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of the Committee.  Provided it is within our power and current guidelines we will do our best to help you. Meanwhile, stay healthy, exercise, and catch up on all those history topics you have always wanted to know more about.  

I look forward with optimism to the start of the new season of lectures in October.  

Peter Jarvis