Glasgow Society Of Magicians

Glasgow Society Of Magicians

The Glasgow Society of Magicians was formed in September 1918. The founder members included Peter Allan (Allan Peterson), Captain Townsend, Eugene DeVoe, Jock Kilpatrick, William Morgan and William Jeffrey (all of whom had been members of the previous Universal Society in Glasgow which had closed its doors only months earlier) plus William Jeffrey.

The meetings were held in The Royal Glasgow Institute for the Blind at 158 West Regent Street, Glasgow, Carlton Halls 567 New City Road, Glasgow and 180 West Regent Street, Glasgow.

The Society was well organised in so much as at their first A.G.M. in 1919 they agreed to publish a club magazine. They had a healthy bank account and a library. The reason for introducing the magazine was so that members, who could not attend regularly, could be kept up-to-date on the working of the society.

This was changed three times over its life span. The Editors of the magazine were DeVega (Alex Stewart) followed by Harry Vernon and later by Will Dale. Circulation was for members only.

The first issue of the magazine shows a list of Office Bearers for the following year (1919) is recorded. President M.W.Jeffrey, First Vice President Allan Peterson, Second Vice President Nelson Morkill, Secretary T.J.Anderson, Treasurer L.Maxwell, Assistant Sec. J.Loudon Palmer, Reporter DeVega and Librarian Richard Armour. The reporter’s duty was to write regular reports on anything related to the society and forward this to the Sphinx and any other magical magazine.

Also in the first issue the members were informed that the Society's Council had decided to institute a degree of merit, or fellowship, within the society. This would be awarded to members at the discretion of the Council. The first members to be honoured in this way were DeVega, W.Jeffrey, Loudon Palmer, Mr Anderson, Mr Regent and Mr Cambridge plus any Honorary members. The title allowed honoured members to fix a bar onto the ribbon of their society badges, the ribbon should have a small metal letter F attached to it. Although the constitution states that this was implemented to encourage members to increase their study of magic and that the council would decide who should be awarded the degree, it is interesting that the council awarded themselves with the degree first. This gives the impression that there would now exist a Society and an Inner Society. Mr Charles Dacre, William Ross and Jock Kilpatrick were to join the illustrious group at a later date. The idea of a fellowship or degree was not a new idea but this was the first group in Scotland to have instituted the system, and probably the last.

A copy of the club badge was used on all club headed paper. An original of this badge can be seen in the Magic Circle in London.

The club honoured a number of well known professional magicians by making them Honorary Presidents, Vice Presidents or Members. These included:-

David Devant who was considered to be one of Britain’s best magicians. He created a number of illusions and performed his magic in The Egyptian Hall and St George’s Hall as well as having a long partnership with Nevil Maskelyne. He was the author of a number of books which included: Hand Shadows, Magic Made Easy, Tricks for Every One, Ways of a Wizard, My Magic Life, Our Magic with Nevil Maskelyne.

Harry Houdini the world famous card king, escapologist, editor of the Conjurors' magazine, author of The Unmasking of Houdin, The Right Way To Do Wrong and A Magician Among the Spirits. Many biographies have also been published.

Billy O’Connor, who advertised himself as Billy O’Connor and his 52 assistants, toured the theatres all over Britain for 40 years. He performed firstly with a card manipulation act and later an illusion show, with all the illusions produced by P.T.Selbit.

Dr A.M.Wilson is well known as the editor of the Sphinx magical magazine from 1904 till 1930. He said of magic that “it was an art that sometimes instructs, often amuses and always entertains.”

Chris Van Bern was a well known magical, quick change, vocal and instrumental act. He was to be seen around the British music halls for many years. He also co-authored a book with Alex Stewart (DeVega) entitled Whirlwind of Wizardry.

Owen Clark toured the theatres with an escape act. He later changed his act to illusions. He toured America, Australia and New Zealand. He also invented a number of magical effects.

Other honoured members include Laurence Glenn, J. Kilpatrick, The Great Lester, Allan Peterson and William Jeffrey.

The Society had at least three lady members on its membership list of sixty. Mrs Charles Adam, Mrs Charles Lumsden Chapman and Mrs Charles Durwood are named as members and are listed in the magazine (1919).

One night, which is particularly highlighted, was in 1919 when LeDair, David Devant, Chris Van Bern all visited the club on the same night. Chris is recorded as performing and explaining his Pearl Mystery while LeDair performed with cards. No mention is made of what, or if, David Devant performed.

The club membership boasted a number of very good performers so it was no surprise that they presented their first show on 22nd October 1919. The cast included Rex Regent, Nelson Lyford, Peter Allan (vent), DeVega, Leslie Maxwell and C.H.Charlton (the Royal Conjurer).

On 25th June 1921 William Jeffey and Harry Vernon represented the society in London at a conference organized by the Magic Circle in the Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street. Nine clubs attended this meeting. They were: British Magical Society, Order of the Magi, Northern Magical Society, Sheffield Circle of Magicians, Glasgow Society of Magicians, Pentacle Club and the West of England Magical Society. London Magic Circle was represented by Sidney Clarke, David Devant and Nevil Maskelyne. The impression is that the Magic Circle wanted to have all magical clubs affiliated to them.

Representatives of the society also attended the affiliation meetings on 29th October 1921 and 1st March 1922.

Something was happening in the club but we can only guess what. The A.G.M. had an attendance of twelve members, very limited items were offered for the club magazine, DeVega wrote a rather damning response to the report on the meeting of affiliated clubs with the Magic Circle. He implied that Scotland should have its own affiliated group and that the Glasgow Society should be the organiser. All this despite the fact that there were only three clubs in Scotland at that time and one of these was the Mystic Twelve (by invitation only). Members were invited to take part in the society show but either there was no response or the Council preferred to use themselves and friends. The Council proposed that members pay one shilling per copy for the magazine. This was rejected. The yearly programme appears to have consisted of various members of the council lecturing or demonstrating effects.

The club continued till June 1924 when it closed its doors for the last time. It has been said by some of the members, who were still around years later, that the treasurer had absconded with the funds; others said that internal politics were to blame. A number of the council wanted to set up a new organisation which would oversee all magic in Scotland. Probably all of these plus the two-level membership all played a part in the downfall of a great club.

The Glasgow Society of Magicians Magazine.
Alex Stewart and James Cameron.
The Thistle J.B.Findlay.
Sphinx 1919 page 36,110,186,245
Sphinx 1920 page Jan,171,291,325
Sphinx 1921 page 95,137,308
Sphinx 1922 page June,253,289
Sphinx 1923 page 440,325
Sphinx 1924 page