Scottish Conjurers' Association

Scottish Conjurers' Association

The Scottish Conjurers Association was formed in 1924. Founder members included:- Alex Stewart, Harry Vernon, J. Wilson, Jimmy Findlay, Fred J.Smith, Will Dale, Richard Armour and Duncan Johnstone. At least four of this group had been members of the now departed Glasgow Society of Magicians. The first meetings were held in the home of J. Wilson at 173 George Street, Glasgow.

In the Sphinx it is reported that the Association was founded prior to December 1924 and that the objectives of the Association were to provide a magical club for enthusiasts in magic, to stimulate magic in Scotland, and to have branches all over Scotland. These branches would be under the control of the Scottish Conjurers Association and would be known as Clans. It should be noted that prior to December 1924 there were only two magical clubs meeting in Scotland (Dundee Society of Magicians and the Scottish Conjurers Association). This excluded The Mystic Twelve which was to all accounts a private club. The Association was soon at work to develop the last section of their objectives. As new groups were formed they were invited to apply for affiliation. These groups including Dumbarton and Alexandria, Ayr Brother Conjurers, and Paisley Magical Society. In reality the Dumbarton club (Clan one) disappeared very soon after joining. There are no records of the Dumbarton club in either the magical press or the local area press around 1924/26. Paisley Magical Society (clan two) was expelled from the Association as the club was sectarian. The group had been set up by the Knights of Columba, a well known and respected Catholic organisation. The Ayr Brother Conjurers (Clan three) continued to keep their ties mainly through John Ramsay who attended the Scottish Conjurers Association regularly. A group from the Association travelled to Aberdeen to persuade the Aberdeen Magical Society to become clan four. The President of AMS, W.G.Craigens, did not agree with the principal of one Society being in charge of all the other magical clubs and rejected the invitation. W.G.Craigen suggested that a society be formed under the name of Magicians and Conjurers of Scotland (MACS). This left the Scottish Conjurers with only one affiliated club and this was how it stayed until the Ayr club ceased to exist in 1953.

Despite this set back the Association did make great steps forward. They invited Frederick Burnett of Mystic Twelve fame to be their first Honorary President (1924/40). He was followed by W.G.Craigen (1940/50), John Ramsay (1950/61), J. B. Findlay (1961/73) and E. A. Dawes (1974/ ).

The Association started producing its own magazine in 1928 and the editor was J. B. Findlay. He was followed by Will Dale 1932, Douglas Swanson 1936, J.Wallace Bennet 1940, Richard Armour 1941, Will Dale 1947, Tommy Frederick 1952, E. A. Dawes 1958, Duncan Fletcher 1962, Tommy Frederick 1964, Tom O'Beirne 1967, Alan Hodgson 1976 and Moira Colvan 1996. The magazine had a number of starts and stops over the years. These magazines are a great help in tracing the history of the club, reports of the acts of various professional magicians and the historic reports of events and personalities of Scotland.

The Association organised a weekend convention in 1938. It was titled "The First Scottish Magical Convention". The inspiration for this probably came from Aberdeen's Magical Conference two years earlier. Also, 1938 was a special year in the life of the City of Glasgow who were organising the Great Exhibition. This was a trade fair advertising everything that was good in Glasgow and Scotland.

The club had a number of members who were highly respected throughout the world of magic. Alex Stewart in collaboration with Chris Van Bern wrote "A Whirlwind of Wizardry". He also published a number of manuscripts which included: Formula X, Summertime Sorcery, Sensational Secrets, Selected Secrets, Patterettes, Conjuring for Children, More Conjuring for Children, Tricks with Toys, Miscellaneous Manipulation and Effects, Conventional Conjuring, and Conjuring for Children.

James B. Findlay gained his reputation as a collector of all things magical. Jimmy also published a number of books including Conjurers Coins and Medals, International Guide to Posters and Playbills and ten issues of Collectors Annuals. He was a regular contributor to Sphinx, The Thistle and SAMS magazines.

Tommy Frederick was known all over Britain as a collector of magical books, props, coins and old catalogues. Tommy acted, once a year, as Editor for the Gen magazine which was produced by Harry Stanley. Each year Tommy would produce a Scottish edition. His writing did not stop here as he also authored a book entitled The Magic of Frederica. He was the man behind the magical group known as the Night Owls. Tommy was an Honorary member of many of the Scottish magical clubs. These honours were usually presented to him for his willingness to help other clubs by lecturing, showing his old film collection or taking part in club shows.

Duncan Johnston was also well known as a collector of magical memorabilia as well as regularly writing in magical magazines. He was secretary of the Association for around 45 years.

Edwin A. Dawes also fits into this list of prominent members. Eddie is the present Honorary President of the Association and was a member for some years. His publications include: The Great Illusionists, over 200 issues of A Rich Cabinet of Magical Curiosities in the Magical Circular, The Book of Magic in collaboration with Arthur Setterington, Charles Bertram the Court magician, Vonetta Mistress of Mystery, Barrister in the Circle, and many more. Eddie was also an adviser to A & E Television Company in America who produced The Story of Magic.

To celebrate the Association's fifty years Alan Hodgson and Stewart McMillan produced a book entitled Fifty Years Later. It consisted of a short history of the Association by Duncan Johnston and a number of magical effects by members and friends of the Association. The Association has produced two badges over the years.

The first record of the club badge is 1936 and the second badge around 1979. The first badge had a ribbon of the Stewart tartan attached for fixing onto a jacket while the second had a pin fixing. Originals of both these badges can be seen in The Magic Circle in London or the J. Cuthbert collection.

Although the Association was not one of the original members of The Scottish Association of Magical Societies it did join in the first year. Over the years the Association did well in the competitions organised by SAMS. The list includes-

The Cannon Trophy
1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990

Ramsay Rose Bowl
Jim Faulds 1983, Richard James 1990

Anne Warlock Trophy
Tommy Frederick 1970, David Campbell 1972, Allan Hodgson 1975, George Hills 1976, Bill McBrinn 1978, Jim Faulds 1983

McMillan Shield
Drew Masters & Tess 1956, Eddie & Amy Dawes 1957, John Shearer 1960, Duncan Fletcher & Olive 1962, John Hay 1969, John Williamson 1970, David Mungall 1971, Rena Fletcher 1975.

Max Raskin Cup
Drew Masters & Tess 1956, Eddie Dawes & Amy 1957, Russell Brownlie 1961, Harry Murdoch 1962, Bill McBrinn 1964, Hugh Gillies 1972.

Murray Wand
Drew Masters & Tess 1967, 1968, 1972.

Craig Quaich
Duncan Fletcher 1995.

Presidents of SAMS
Wilf Cottrell, Duncan Fletcher, Hugh Gillies, Bob Lees, Bill McBrinn, Eric McDonald, George Piggot, John Shearer and Olive Fletcher.

Thistle Magazine
SAMS Magazine Volume 10 number 2 page 23
Sphinx December 1924 page 322
Sphinx October 1925 page 237
Abracadabra 1993 Volume 95 Issue 2460 Page 400
Alan Hodgson