Gresley Society AGM part 1: off to a bad start

We’ve been looking at the ins and outs of the Gresley Society AGM, held in London last December, in connection with a complaint to the Charity Commission. A lot of people who attended were shocked at the way it was run, for reasons which will become clear over the coming days.

It was obvious at the time that the trustees were determined to get their way over the statue and over the election of trustees – whatever their members thought. The way they achieved this was absolutely ruthless and, we contend, in large part illegal.
How were the trustees ruthless in pursuit of what they wanted? Well, let’s start with just one example, which gives a flavour of how things went.

The Gresley Society AGM is normally tagged on to a talk of interest to GS members, which is also open to the public. The AGM notice on the GS website is still there as of 12:47h today, and there is nothing to suggest the meeting was to be members only. Nor was there any mention of this in the notices of the meeting that appeared in the house magazine, the Gresley Observer.

One member from Gloucestershire had been nominated to stand for election as trustee and was accompanied to the meeting by his wife. The couple had driven up to London that morning, directly after she had finished work (on a night shift).

The couple, like the other attendees, were checked-in just outside the meeting room and took their seats inside. As the proceedings got under way, the Chairman announced the meeting was for members only, and said any non-members must leave the room. He said ‘we know there is a non-member present.’ And so, the poor woman was evicted from the room, all eyes on her as she walked out into a cold winter afternoon.

Why did the trustees think that was necessary? Perhaps it was designed to set the tone for the rest of the meeting. In fact, the rest of the meeting was even more unpleasant.

To be continued…

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Gresley Society trustees (L to R): Peter Beynon, Ian MacCabe, David McIntosh, Philip Benham, Graeme Bunker, Mike Foreman. Chris Nettleton (not pictured) was on sentry duty outside the room


Gresley Society: we acted illegally over duck

sp3The Gresley Society has admitted it broke the law in defending its controversial decision to alter the statue.

As readers know, the 7’4 bronze statue, due to be unveiled at King’s Cross station in April, was to feature a mallard duck at Sir Nigel’s feet, symbolising his world speed record breaking locomotive Mallard, and as a nod to his love of waterfowl. But the trustees of the Gresley Society, who commissioned the work, gave in to the demands of two of Gresley’s grandsons, who said the duck was demeaning and must be omitted.

steam railway agm reportThe decision to axe the mallard caused an outcry and led to resignations from the Society, a 3,000-strong online petition and objections from leading figures in the heritage railway world, including the Gresley Society’s own patron Sir William McAlpine.

It was anticipated that differences would be resolved at the Society’s recent AGM, but trustees failed to comply with legal requirements on proxy voting, effectively denying most members a say. Vice Chairman Philip Benham, in an interview with Steam Railway magazine, admitted the trustees had broken the law, saying the matter “will be remedied in future”.

Ron Vale, a Gresley Society member for over 30 years, said:

“I had been authorised by 26 fellow members to vote on their behalf at the meeting, but was told on the day that the votes wouldn’t count.

This is not the way a respectable organisation should behave. I am appalled and embarrassed at the way the Gresley Society has handled this whole affair.”

How hopelessly dim-witted – for Gresley to go without his duck

Guardian journalist Ian Jack made a thoughtful addition to the thousands of words written about the great Gresley statue debate, in an article entitled Duck and cover: there’s no row like a railway enthusiasts’ row published on 16th January.

The whole thing is well worth a read (as are the comments at the end), but here’s Ian Jack’s conclusion:

Sometimes during my short investigation of this story, I thought of how it might suit a dark Ealing comedy such as Kind Hearts and Coronets: Gresley was from the cadet branch of the family, which meant that after he was knighted in 1936 there were two Sir Nigel Gresleys, the other being the baronet. At other times I thought of Marcel Varnel’s Oh, Mr Porter!: the first scene, in which men in top hats and ladies in fine dresses have gathered to name one of Gresley’s streamliners and Will Hay’s clumsiness nearly drowns them all in a flood of misdirected engine-water.

But mainly what I thought was how sad and stupid it would be – how hopelessly dim-witted – for Gresley to go without his duck.


Gresley statue letters in the Times – January 2016

james dow lettter1 (Copy)James Dow, son of the former Gresley Society Vice Chairman Andrew Dow BEM, kicked off a slew of pro-mallard letters in the Times last week. Dow Senior was the driving force behind the statue project, and resigned when most of his colleagues voted to remove the mallard.  (James’s grandfather George Dow was Press Relations Officer for LNER during WWII.)

The following day (27th Jan), a second letter highlighted the importance of the molehill in the St James’ Square statue of William III.


On 28th Jan a third letter-writer felt the mallard deserved a standalone statue, whilst a fourth the next day talked of other notable statues that include animals.stationary duck

mans best friends 29.1