In the best of amateur traditions, the inspiration for a ‘local’ guild came from the children of Geoff Coles. A keen Meccanoman in his youth, Geoff had bought a large set when his son was just 2 weeks old – just in case! This was brought out of hiding along with other old treasures, when his son, Julian, was 8. As Anne Coles herself writes, ‘Meccano met with approval, Meccano magazines were devoured and the family – including by now Francine – set off for their first Henley show in 1974’,
Succeeding years saw the family involved with the Pennine Meccano Guild at Clitheroe in Lancashire and also with Frank Beadle and what was to become the North Eastern Guild at Darlington. Inevitably by now the circle of acquaintances had widened considerably, both in the Northeast and Northwest as well as the Midlands Guild, and thoughts had turned to forming a ‘local’ club, – particularly interesting to Francine as she needed to ‘run a club’ for a Girl Guide badge! The final motivation came from a local young friend of Julian’s together with a number of ‘seniors’ who offered support and the first informal meeting was held in Bleasby Village Hall in April 1977. This April get-together was highly successful and a future meeting was fixed for September. This seminal date became the first meeting of the North Midlands Meccano Group, as it was called.
By 1st December, 1977 there were 20 adult members and 11 juniors but now we have about 360 members altogether, of whom 70 are overseas! But that family feeling about the Guild is still strongly felt and the debt it owes to those early enthusiasts – many of whom are still with us – is freely acknowledged.
Now meetings are held in the village hall at Oxton (near Nottingham) and last all day. In fact, so keen are folk to get in that some still turn up at 9am for a 9.30 start! Nothing – not even fuel shortages, floods or snow – stops a Meccanoman when he has set his heart on getting there. Nothing, though, beats the effort of one enthusiast from California who ‘bummed’ his way across Europe, found a bus going our way in Nottingham and walked the last 4 miles.
Come dinnertime, the large car park overflows and cars are parked halfway to the ‘Green Dragon’ pub, where members are wont to ‘browse and sluice’ – as P.G.Wodehouse delightfully puts it!
We are exceptionally fortunate in that we can count among our regular and welcome attenders some distinguished collectors and a clutch of prize-winning builders together with some skilled photographers. Our regular dealers, too, are responsible for an atmosphere of a large, exciting and hugely successful bazaar. Obviously we welcome newcomers to the hobby as well and every kind of builder or anyone else with a particular interest in Meccano! We also encourage our members’ children to come and get involved. There is a ‘free for all’ construction session for them on the stage under the watchful eye of Jonathan Shapero. In a Guild whose start was inspired by children’s needs this is only appropriate.
The Committee are very keen to make people welcome when they first come! A good many newcomers come back into a hobby having never built anything more exciting than one of the models from a post-war instruction book. The last thing we want is to discourage them or suddenly confront them with the seemingly unattainable in size or complexity. We would hope there is always room at our tables for the small and simple as well as the huge and complex.
In a similar frame of mind, we don’t tend to go in for model talks or insist that modellers do their own reports if they want to be published. Modelling, speaking and writing skills are very seldom found together in equal measure – and we’d do anything rather than lose a member because he/she doesn’t feel adequate to a speaking ‘engagement’.
Our annual jamboree is SKEGEX, ‘brainchild’ of the late Mike Cotterill, a lifelong Member of NMMG and the Midlands Guild before it. He started it after the embryo Guild’s arrangements at the Newark Agricultural Show fell through one year and it has generally gone from strength to strength ever since. Although it is nominally the NMMG’s affair, we are very appreciative of the support from all round the hobby. Nor – for the record – do NMMG members actually get any priority! They have to get up early just like everyone else! Having said that, we will always try to accommodate large models so long as some notice can be given to us: i’s a balancing act – but we expect that by now.
This great international show is held in the Embassy Theatre hall in the centre of Skegness. Again, like our meetings, no-one must feel inhibited from attending because he is not in the supermodel league – the show is for everyone. If that results in the occasional bit of a squash, so be it.
Having met regularly on the first weekend in July for years, recently we have been experimenting with an earlier mid-week show over just two days (plus set up) – see the Skegex tab for details.
Obviously this and other meetings are suspended until we are free from the pandemic restrictions but we look forward to the day when we can all meet again.