In early September, I decided to join the Gresley Society, so I filled out the online form on the GS website and paid my £25. Some 8 weeks later, having heard nothing from the Gresley Society at all, I was surprised to receive an email from Mr McIntosh, inviting me to an interview with the trustees.
The correspondence with Mr McIntosh regarding my application to join is below, culminating in a rejection.
On 28 October 2015 at 11:51,
Dear Ms Ranzetta,
In accordance with our M&As Rule 2 (1) membership applications have to be approved by the Trustees. The Trustees would like to interview you regarding your application and I should like to suggest the Parcels Yard at London’s Kings Cross station at 1130 on Saturday 7 November 2015. Could you confirm whether this is convenient?
David McIntosh. Chairman.
“interview… at the Parcels Yard at London’s Kings Cross station..”
Date: 29/10/2015 11:26
Dear Mr McIntosh
Thanks for your email. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect me to spend £40 on the fare and the best part of a day to attend an interview – could you not ask me any questions you may have by email or telephone/telephone conference?
On 31 October 2015 at 15:41,
Could you please explain the reasons why you wish to join the Gresley Society?
Date: 31/10/2015 16:44
Dear Mr McIntosh
My reasons for wanting to join the Gresley Society are twofold:
1) I want to ‘put my money where my mouth is,’ as you have put it (in Steam Railway); and
2) I want to learn about Sir Nigel Gresley’s life and work.
On 3 November 2015 at 12:31,
Thank you for your response. You will hardly be surprised if I find your reply somewhat disingenuous. As you make no reference to your role in the Duck campaign for the last eight months are we to assume that you have now accepted the inevitable that the statue will appear without the Duck?
Date: 4/11/15 13:53
Dear Mr McIntosh
Disingenuous? I am sorry if saying I want to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ wasn’t entirely clear. As you are well aware, I think the statue of Gresley should include the mallard, as per the sculptor’s original design, which your Council approved last summer. I remain optimistic that the mallard will be reinstated.
I am not sure if you still require me to be interviewed by the trustees, but would be grateful if you could answer some queries I have.
1. You quote the Mem & Arts and the requirement for approval of the trustees – how many applicants have been called for interview in the history of the Society?
2. I know of others who have applied for membership and not been required to attend for interview so why am I being asked?
3. How many applications for membership have been refused over the history of the Society?
4. How will you decide on whether or not to accept my application?
5. My understanding is that some people have joined ‘on the spot’ at various railway events, so is this practice to cease in future?
6. You mention my support of the mallard – has this anything to do with the request for interview?
7. I have already stated my reasons for wishing to join the Society, why aren’t these reasons acceptable or are they?
8. Since I understand that you are a retired railwayman I presume that rail travel is free and so could I suggest that if you do wish to interview me then you and any other of the trustees could travel to Bury St Edmunds and we could meet for a coffee or lunch? Or are my travel expenses to be paid by the Gresley Society Trust?
On 6 November 2015 at 11:50
Dear Ms Ranzetta, Thank you for your message. To answer your points
1. Do not know, but the Rule has been in place since incorporation 1/10/99.
2. We are aware of your significant efforts as a non-member to undermine our project and the campaign which you appear to lead has cost us significant sums by deterring contributors. Other applicants have been discussed by Trustees, without such negative information being available.
3 Do not know but this is provided for in the Rules.
4. Discussion amongst Council members, in accordance with the Rules.
5. There has never been “on the spot” membership as this process is not complete until a membership card has been approved and issued.
6. Obviously your motives and intentions are relevant.
7. We were seeking clarification.
8. You cannot presume to know the demands on my time or budget and other Council members do not enjoy free rail travel. I am surprised that as ordinary meetings are open to the public (NOT the AGM however) and we have held meetings in London and York in 2015 that you have never felt the need to attend. Our members attend meetings at their own expense. Does your diary include a London visit in the near future or another location convenient to us all other than Bury St Edmunds?
Date: 07/11/2015 16:45
Dear Mr McIntosh
Thanks for your email. So far as I can ascertain, nobody in the history of the Gresley Society has ever been interviewed about their membership application – or can you tell me otherwise? I’m afraid your insistence on a face-to-face meeting with the trustees is looking less and less like a bona fide interview, and more like an ambush. I would be grateful if you could explain what can be achieved by a face to face meeting with the trustees that can’t be done by email, or telephone, or telephone conference.
You suggest I have tried to undermine the statue project, but that is not so. I have simply provided a platform for debate about the project, in which there is enormous public interest – as evidenced by coverage in the heritage railway, local and national press, TV, national and local radio, not to mention comment from all over the world via social media. You should be grateful for the free publicity! You suggest the campaign has deterred contributors – why would it? Surely if the contributions have dried up since you decided to remove the mallard, it is because potential donors don’t wish to support the mallard-less statue.
“your insistence on a face-to-face meeting with the trustees is looking less and less like a bona fide interview, and more like an ambush”
You say that other applicants have been discussed by the trustees, and that in the absence of ‘negative information’ about them you admitted them to the Society them without interview. However, Mr Nettleton takes issue with one such applicant in the letters page of Heritage Railway, and another applicant has been far more assertive than me in his criticism of you and the trustees on the Save Gresley’s Duck Facebook page. Is this not ‘negative information’? Again, it appears I am being singled out for special treatment – or is it your intention now to expel all members who dare to disagree with the trustees’ stance on the statue?
Please can you clarify further re “on the spot” membership? I understand this involves paying over money (typically cash or cheque) and receiving a number of back issues of the Gresley Observer in return. Do you make it clear to applicants, as you trouser their money and hand them the GOs, that they cannot consider themselves members until such time as the trustees have formally approved them? Such a process is certainly not mentioned on your website. I paid £25 to join the Gresley Society through your website two months ago, and there was no mention of a vetting or approval process. Indeed I had to send two reminders to the Membership Secretary asking what had happened to my membership card before you contacted me just ten days ago (about the interview).
You say you are surprised I have not attended the Society open meetings this year. Is it a requirement that applicants do this? Also, how do you know I haven’t been at your meetings?
I look forward to hearing from you. I hope you will understand that I am not prepared to meet you until I am satisfied the interview is justified and that your intentions are honourable.
On 08 November 2015 at 12:04
Dear Ms Ranzetta, Thank you for your further email. I do not know whether there is any precedent for the Council invoking Rule 2(1) of our Articles. Several recent applications have been discussed by Council and the only one about which we had clear evidence of potential conflict of interest was yours. It was our view that the only correct way for this doubt to be resolved was by a face to face discussion. Hence our request for a meeting. We have no wish for this to be an “ambush” or unpleasant, merely a reasonable discussion.
I note that Mr Gavin Whitelaw is now claiming that your application has been refused, who has supplied him with this erroneous information, all we are doing is showing due diligence in our exercise of our long standing Rules. We would also be interested in hearing your interpretation of the transfer of our Gresley.org twitter feed into Gresleyduck and whether you repudiate the disreputable attack on the Godfrey brothers over the maintenance of their grandfathers grave. I have always felt that face to face discussion is far more effective and less capable of misinterpretation than letters or emails – was it not Churchill who commented that “jaw jaw is better than war war!”
Date: 09/11/2015 12:14
Dear Mr McIntosh
I’m afraid your email does nothing to persuade me that this ‘interview’ is not an ambush, especially as you are now invoking wartime quotations to make your case. We clearly have a difference of opinion over the statue, but that is not the same as a conflict of interest – I would like to see a statue which honours Gresley and promotes awareness of his achievements to the wider public. I imagine you do too. As you well know, I and
thousands of others believe the original Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard design would be far more effective than the mallard-less version the trustees currently favour (since their change of heart earlier this year).
If you do not want me as a member, you should have told me two months ago when you took my money. Why do we need this completely unprecedented rigmarole of an ‘interview’ when you know my views, and I have given my reasons for my application? I simply do not trust your intentions.
To answer your queries (although I note you do not do me the same courtesy), you should ask Mr Whitelaw why he says my application has been refused. However, there has been much discussion of my ‘interview’ on the internet, and I suspect he is not alone in drawing this conclusion from your actions. I will readily correct and apologise for any false claim I have made.
On Sir Nigel’s grave, I can only recall saying three things,
but perhaps you will let me know if I have missed something: on gresleyduck.org ,on Facebook and on Twitter I said “Gresley Society: the grandsons didn’t neglect Sir Nigel’s grave – we did that for them.”
On the subject of Twitter, I am not sure what you mean by the ‘transfer of our Gresley.org twitter feed into Gresleyduck.’ Andrew Dow’s daughter set up and ran the @gresleyduck Twitter account to promote the fundraising appeal. When Mr Dow resigned at the removal of the mallard from the statue, she was understandably unwilling to continue supporting the appeal, and in any case the gresleyduck handle was no longer suitable for your purposes.
When I started my petition for the reinstatement of the mallard, she began tweeting about that, and gradually I took over. As she explained to you at the time, Twitter account names cannot be changed. If you want a Twitter presence you should have set up your own account, with a suitable name (@GresleySociety perhaps).
I don’t know what else I can say; you know my views. Are you going to let me join or not? If it’s the latter, please refund the money to my debit card.
On 13 November 2015 at 09:30
Ms Ranzetta, I am sorry that you do not trust our assurances of good faith. For clarification can you confirm that your offer to attend a meeting at Bury St Edmunds is now withdrawn?
Date: 14/11/15 22:00
Dear Mr McIntosh
My suggestion of a meeting in Bury St Edmunds belonged to a more innocent time – a time when I thought an interview with the trustees was a routine part of joining the Gresley Society. Since then, we have established in our correspondence that interviewing membership applicants is unprecedented, and that so far as you know, nobody has ever been refused membership. So I am now suspicious of your motivation for the interview and your insistence that it is face-to-face.
I have explained that my reasons for wanting to join are twofold: i) to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ as you have challenged people to do; and ii) to learn more about Sir Nigel Gresley. I have answered all the other questions you have put to me.
I sense you feel hostility towards me – you accuse me of costing the Society money and say we have a conflict of interest, but you fail to explain either of these, and you ignore many of my questions concerning the membership vetting process.
“you accuse me of costing the Society money and say we have a conflict of interest, but you fail to explain either of these”
As far as I can see, there are only two things you could achieve from a face-to-face interview that could not be got from a telephone interview/conference. I am forced to the distasteful conclusion that:
i) my appearance is somehow pertinent to your decision
ii) and/or you wish to physically intimidate me.
I do not believe either of these can be justified within the context of my membership application. A telephone conference would surely overcome the concerns you have expressed regarding emails.
However, if you can explain why a face-to-face interview is still necessary, I will meet with the trustees. You will understand if I insist on being accompanied by a friend.
Mine was the last email in our exchange. The final decision on my application came by post: