Does the Gresley Society inspire public confidence in the charity sector?

According to its website, the Charity Commission has a regulatory role to ensure that charities are accountable, well run and meet their legal obligations and objectives for public benefit. It strives to ensure that the public can be confident about giving their support to charities.  Two of its three priorities are to develop:

  • public confidence in the charity sector
  • the sector’s compliance and accountability

In March, campaigners for the reinstatement of the mallard to Sir Nigel Gresley’s statue submitted a complaint to the Charity Commission concerning the recent conduct of trustees of the Gresley Society Trust (GST) (charity number 1081581) both towards the public, and at their 2015 AGM. It contends that the trustees’ conduct seriously undermines public confidence in charities and should be investigated.

Some of the issues raised concern breaches of Charity Commission ‘Best Practice’ guidance, while others involve the more serious contravention of the Companies Act 2006. Together, they indicate corporate mismanagement of the Gresley Society Trust by trustees bent on defending a simple decision made at a committee meeting in early 2015.

maquetteThat decision was to alter the design of a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley (due to be unveiled at King’s Cross on April 5th) that the GST had commissioned, by instructing the sculptor to remove a mallard duck that was to stand at the feet of the famous LNER locomotive engineer. A trivial matter, on the face of it, but one which has aroused a great deal of debate not just within the Gresley Society but in the regional, national, railway and third sector press, local and national radio, television, and on social media.  An online petition calling for the mallard’s reinstatement has over 3,200 signatures (representing six times the membership of the GST).

Since March 2015, we contend that the Gresley Society trustees have:
1. Influenced the outcome of 2015 AGM by:

  • failing to comply with the law on proxy voting (which they have partially admitted)
  • subverting the process for the election of trustees
  • withholding the membership list from members to prevent them contacting one another

2. Made a series of false claims in an attempt to justify their actions (eg this one)
3. Acted disreputably towards donors
4. Publicly insulted those who disagree with them

Conduct of trustees at the Gresley Society AGM

The 2015 AGM was held at Friends’ House, Euston on December 5th 2015. Certain actions by the trustees’ (pictured) before and during the meeting, it is contended, were calculated attempts to deny free and fair voting at the meeting, and to get three existing trustees re-elected whilst preventing new trustees from gaining places on the committee. These actions were successful.

20151205_130446 (Copy)

In advance of the AGM
1.1 Notices of the meeting failed to mention that there were a number of vacancies on the committee, nor was there any call for nominations.

1.2 Notices failed to mention members’ rights to vote by proxy (under the Companies Act 2006). The Vice Chairman admitted this when it was raised at the meeting, and again in an interview with Steam Railway Magazine in January 20162. This breaches s325 of the Companies Act 2006.

1.3 One of the trustees attempted to canvas proxy votes for his own use by contacting some members in the days before the meeting. In one canvassing email, the trustee concludes “It could prove crucial at the meeting.” This breaches s326 of the Companies Act 2006.

1.4 The trustees repeatedly refused to provide members with a membership list, which meant they were not able to contact one another in advance of the AGM (to arrange proxies, for example). This breaches s117 of the Companies Act 2006.

The reasons given for the refusal changed as time went on, vis:
i. The unavailability of a list in a “suitable format which can be circulated”. The Membership Secretary said in an email on 19.9.154 “The last such booklet was distributed to members in June 2008 and I regret I have not got round to replacing this with up to date information.” If true, this would appear to be in breach of s114 of the Companies Act 2006.

ii. The illegality of providing a list. The Chairman said in an email on 18.9.155: “Your demand for [a] membership [list] is asking us to act illegally, we cannot supply this information without the prior permission of members.”

secret squirreliii. ‘Legal requirements’ for requesting the list. The Chairman said at the AGM and again in an email on 5.2.15: “To have a membership list you have to meet several legal requirements and one will be supplied when you comply with them, and not before.” The Chairman was asked at the AGM what the legal requirements were. He replied: “It’s not for us to tell you; you can find out for yourselves.”

During the AGM
1.5 During the meeting, the chair ruled that 26 proxy authorisations held by a (pro-duck) member, were inadmissible, in breach of s327 of the Companies Act. When challenged, the chairman explained that the member had not declared the authorisations before the start of the meeting, saying ‘the rules on this are quite clear’ (which they are, but the declaration need only be made before the vote, not the meeting).

1.6 Five of six nominations to the committee were ruled out of the election of trustees for unexplained ‘technical’ reasons. The chairman said the membership would be balloted (by post) on these nominations once the technical issues had been resolved. This has yet to happen, four months later.

1.7 Three trustees retired (by rotation) at the AGM and all stood for re-election. They were elected en bloc in breach of s160 of the Companies Act 2006.

 

The Charity Commission’s priorities – of developing public confidence in the charity sector, and accountability and compliance – would seem to make this complaint against the Gresley Society trustees worthy of the regulator’s urgent attention.

The man who rescued Flying Scotsman says save the duck!

It’s great to see Gresley’s Flying Scotsman back on the rails this week – and in the news – following restoration. Spare a thought for Sir William McAlpine, who rescued the engine from San Francisco where she was stranded after a financially ruinous US tour in the 70s.
McAlpine, patron of the Gresley Society, liked the original Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard statue design and in the summer urged the Gresley Society trustees to reconsider their decision to remove the mallard.

sir william mcalpine ews named engine

McAlpine (pictured, centre) said, in a letter to Chairman David McIntosh:

I was attracted by the statue with the duck, when it was first shown in the press. I thought it was interesting and appropriate as did many, who saw it.

The duck would attract attention to the statue, which presumably was what it was intended to do. I still think so.

The Godfrey brothers ….no doubt wish to show respect for the Great Man, but I think they have missed the point. The duck shows him as human and with interests other than railways.
Future generations will not know who Sir Nigel Gresley was, but would ask about the duck and would discover what he achieved.

But the Gresley Society trustees refuse to change their minds. Rather than heed the views of Sir William, one of heritage railway’s best loved and most respected figures, they will only listen to Sir Nigel’s grandsons.

Grandson senior, Tim Godfrey, is quoted in the press this week talking about the return of Flying Scotsman:

I’m really glad it is going to be running once more; it is about time, it’s taken long enough.

LNER_4472_on_Jefferson_March_1972xRP_-_Flickr_-_drewj1946

Ruffling a few feathers at King’s Cross

Here’s a  Railway Magazine leader by Nigel Devereux from April that’s worth revisiting:

To a child, one statue looks very much like another, so when the Gresley Society Trust succeeded in persuading the authorities to let it place a sculpture of LNER chief mechanical engineer Sir Nigel Gresley on the concourse at King’s Cross, something was needed to make it stand out from the crowd and appeal to the many children who would pass it during the ensuing generations.duck0

Knowing that the great man will forever be associated with his world-record breaking A4 Mallard, the trust’s members came up with the idea of placing a mallard duck down at his feet. This, it was felt, would encourage children to go over to the statue and perhaps ask their parents to explain what the bird was doing there. The parents would then use their smartphones to scan a QR code on a plaque on the wall and, hey presto, another young citizen is aware of the Gresley story.

However, the trust has now reluctantly had to tell the sculptress to leave the duck off… because Sir Nigel’s two grandsons don’t consider it to be appropriate. What a shame!

Their decision is all the more difficult to fathom given the fact that their grandfather was a keen ornithologist!

Thousands want to see Gresley’s mallard reinstated

Hazel and Portillo cropped (1)People who believe the mallard should be reinstated to the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley include:

  • Sir William McAlpine
  • Michael Portillo (pictured with sculptor Hazel Reeves)
  • Jeremy Vine
  • Vanessa Feltz

Leading railway magazine editors:

  • Robin Jones (Heritage Railway)
  • Nigel Harris (RAIL magazine)
  • David Wilcock (Steam Railway, Founding Editor)
  • Nick Pygott (formerly Railway magazine)

Best-selling railway authors:

  • michael-williamsDon Hale OBE
  • Michael Williams (pictured)
  • Christian Wolmar
  • Richard Derry
  • Colin Boocock

Top railway artists:

  • Malcolm Root FGRA
  • Philip D. Hawkins FGRA
  • Jonathan Clay GRA
  • Matthew Cousins GRA

Leading figures in heritage railway including:

  • Andrew Scott, former Director of National Railway Museum
  • John Scott-Morgan, founder of the British Overseas Railways Historical Trust
  • Julian Birley BEM, Chairman of The North Norfolk Railway & The Bala Lake Railway Trust (pictured)
  • Ian Atkinson, former MD Steamtown Carnforth
  • Carole Cuneo, Cuneo Society President

julian birleyPlus:

Gresley Society Patron says keep the mallard

One of heritage railway’s best loved and most respected figures, Sir William McAlpine, has joined the thousands of people calling for the mallard to be reinstated on Sir Nigel Gresley’s proposed statue. Sir William, who is Patron of the Gresley Society, added his name last month to those petitioning the statue’s commissioners (the Gresley Society) for a change of heart over the mallard.

Sir_William_McAlpineSir William McAlpine, a former director of the construction company Sir Robert McAlpine, is best known in railway circles for rescuing the Gresley-designed A3 Flying Scotsman from a financially calamitous tour of America, getting the locomotive shipped to the UK from where it was stranded in San Francisco, and returning it to running condition. Flying Scotsman went on to enjoy mainline working here and abroad, and is currently undergoing restoration at the National Railway Museum.

Sir William runs the standard gauge Fawley HIll Railway in the grounds of his home near Henley-on-Thames, and actively supports many other heritage railway projects. He is currently chair of Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, and he established and chairs the Railway Heritage Trust which was set up to assist the operational railway in its preservation and upkeep of listed buildings and structures, and to facilitate the transfer of non-operational premises and structures to outside bodies willing to undertake their preservation.

Sir William joins over 2,150 other people who have signed the petition to date, which has the support of editors Robin Jones (Heritage Railway), Nigel Harris (RAIL magazine) David Wilcock (Steam Railway Founding Editor), Nick Pigott (formerly Railway magazine); best-selling railway authors Don Hale OBE, Michael Williams and Christian Wolmar; top railway artists Malcolm Root FGRA, Philip D. Hawkins FGRA, Jonathan Clay GRA and Matthew Cousins GRA; plus leading figures in heritage railway including Andrew Scott, former Director of National Railway Museum and John Scott-Morgan, founder of the British Overseas Railways Historical Trust.

flying scotsman (Copy)

Top railway editors support the mallard on Gresley’s statue

mallard-imageThe long list of people that support the mallard on Gresley’s statue include best-selling railway authors, top railway artists, and editors from the leading heritage/railway magazines. Robin Jones of Heritage Railway, writing in the Times in April said:

London is littered with statues of the great, good and often forgotten: this symbolic addition would have made this particular one memorable and a talking point for passers-by of all ages.
I recall the great golden all-conquering take-no-prisoners eagle which stood atop the swastika on the motif of the nation which took the world speed record in 1936, reaching 124mph on a VIP trip for Nazi top brass, with some fairly unpleasant people on board.
Two years later, a locomotive named after a harmless unassuming commonplace duck snatched that speed record and kept it forever. That itself is so wonderfully British. Love a duck – especially that one!

RAIL magazine’s editor Nigel Harris said via twitter:

Art needs to be discussed to have relevance/impact. The duck would promote discussion. Just another statue otherwise.
Maturity needed. Great opportunity to create a ‘talked-about’ statue is being lost. Without the duck it’s ‘just another statue’

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Gresley Society members speak out about the ‘shaming’ statue debacle

Two Gresley Society members have written open letters to the Society’s chairman David McIntosh, in response to his comments in an interview with Steam Railway.

Ron Vale, writing on the Gresley Society’s Facebook page said:

As a long serving member of the Society I feel that your comments regarding the ‘pro duck’ group are degrading and insulting and as a result are putting the Society in a very bad light.

I feel ashamed that what is considered to be a leading Railway Society is driven to insults, no wonder members are resigning in disgust, and I submit you are the main reason for this exodus.

May I suggest that you refrain from making any more stupid comments, as a certain vice president has also been quoted in The Scotsman some time ago, and start on a damage limitation exercise for the Society. What person in his right mind would want to join an organisation whose chairman and a vice president resort to these kind of tactics? Some of the comments over the past few months have been, in my opinion ‘toe curling’ in the least, something I would not expect or tolerate from my chairman, let alone a ‘respected’ vice president.

sngGavin Whitelaw shared his letter in a comment here on gresleyduck.org said:

I am surprised and shocked at the high handed manner in which you and the council are conducting the matter of the removal of the mallard from Sir Nigel’s statue. Your statements are bringing the society into disrepute with not just the railway press, but the national press as well.

I, along with quite a significant number of members are appalled at the statements you have put out, maintaining that you are speaking on our behalf.

Can I now inform you that you are not and that it may be unwise if you continue to ignore the membership as you seem to be doing at the moment.

The appeal to the public was mounted on the assumption that the duck was part of the statue, yet you decided, with no further consultation to remove the duck from the statue. That was it. No consultation with the membership, no consultation with those that had contributed already.

The fact that you are ignoring all the negative press that the Gresley Society is receiving in various publications is appalling. The good name of the Society is being dragged through the mud purely to appease the fragile egos of the Godfrey brothers, neither of whom were old enough to know anything about Sir Nigel while he was alive.

May I remind you that it is the Gresley Society and NOT the Godfrey Society. The donations were made to ensure that the statue was erected as per the original maquette, Gresley, duck et al.

May I also remind you that you are Chairman and as spokesman therefore representing the members and patently making a very bad job of it.

It is a difficult thing to gain respect. The Gresley Society has, over the years, managed that and until this badly mishandled debacle, was a respected society. It is now almost a laughing stock and I am almost ashamed to admit I am a member.

A call to action to save Gresley’s duck

Gresley Society Council members Mike Foreman and David McIntosh promoting the Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard statue in happier times,  before they ditched the duck, November 2014

Gresley Society Council members Mike Foreman and David McIntosh promoting the Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard statue before they changed their minds

It appears to be a waste of time trying to talk to Gresley Society Chairman David McIntosh about the statue – he has made up his mind about the mallard (or, rather, the Godfreys have made it up for him), and also made it clear he is not listening to anyone who disagrees with him.

However, we cannot give up this campaign to get the mallard reinstated until all lines of persuasion have been exhausted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to raise awareness of Sir Nigel Gresley and his work, by way of an iconic, memorable statue that will be seen by millions over the next 100 years or so.

Mr McIntosh may think otherwise, but our intent is serious. It is to see Sir Nigel Gresley honoured in a fitting and appropriate manner, at King’s Cross station.

michael-williamsIn addition to the 2,000 people who have already signed the petition, the mallard’s inclusion is supported by many eminent railway people, including: authors Don Hale, Michael Williams (left), Christian Wolmar; artists Malcolm Root, Jonathan Clay, Matthew Cousins, Philip D. Hawkins; magazine editors Robin Jones (Heritage Railway), Howard Johnston (Steam Railway), Nick Pigott (Railway); and former National Railway Museum Director Andrew Scott.

So, let us step up the action. Please would you consider doing one, some, or all of the following:

  1. Sign the petition 
  2. If you have donated to the statue appeal on the basis of the with-mallard design, ask for your money back via enquiries@gresley.org
  3. Many people have said they would contribute to the appeal if the mallard were reinstated – write and let the Gresley Society know this enquiries@gresley.org
  4. Write to Camden Council, whose planning consent was based on the with-mallard design. Campaign supporter Stephen Jackson, a senior planning officer, suggests Camden cannot allow the statue to be erected without the mallard (which would be akin to granting a builder consent for a house with two parking spaces and turning a blind eye if it were built with only one). See his argument here. The Gresley Society are saying Camden will allow the statue without the mallard.
    The planning officer at Camden is Antonia Powell antonia.powell@camden.gov.uk
  5. Contact Network Rail, who are also apparently happy for the statue to go ahead without the mallard – an unremarkable statue, in a very public place, seen but unnoticed by millions. Do they really want this for one of their premier stations? Public opinion clearly favours the inclusion of the mallard.
    Ian Ball, Network Rail, 1 Eversholt Street, London, NW1 2DN (Switchboard: 020 7557 8000)
  6. Contact the Charity Commission on two counts.
    Firstly, we suggest the Gresley Society Trust’s handling of the statue debacle is in danger of ‘bringing the charity into disrepute’ – by taking money based one thing (the original statue design), then substantially changing it (by removing the mallard); and by making insulting public statements about people who have expressed an interest in the statue.
    Secondly, the trustees appear to be in breach of their duties under the ‘public benefit requirement’ – ie to act in interests of the public rather than small numbers of individuals. (For more info read this) The Gresley Society Trust’s aim, lodged with the Charity Commission is THE ADVANCEMENT OF EDUCATION OF THE PUBLIC IN PARTICULAR BY THE PROMOTION OF INTEREST IN THE LIFE AND WORKS OF SIR NIGEL GRESLEY IN THE FIELD OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING. There’s a complaints form here or email the case workteam (we have had some dealings with Ken Rogers) fcemailteam@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk
  7. If you are a member of the Gresley Society, write to Council to complain. It might be more worthwhile contacting the new Vice Chairman Philip Benham than Mr McIntosh. Council email addresses can be found here or in the Gresley Observer. Also get in touch with other like-minded members via gresleypoll@gmail.com.
  8. Download and display the campaign poster to raise awareness
  9. Write to the railway and national press.

And if you have other suggestions, please share them.

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Campaign poster by Jonathan Clay – download yours here!

We’ve been asked by many people for a save the duck campaign poster to help spread the word and raise awareness of the petition. Railway artist Jonathan Clay has kindly designed one, and it can be downloaded from the link below, along with a petition proforma for people who would like to sign but are not online.

Gresley duck poster

Gresley duck petition proforma

Please let us know if you have any difficulty downloading these and we can email them instead.

As you will see, the poster features a QR code, and this links directly to the petition. The wall plaque behind the statue of Sir Nigel is also to have a QR code (linking to information about him, on the Gresley Society website).

Please do print out the poster and display it where railway enthusiasts and non-railway enthusiasts alike will see it!