A Short History of the
Melbourne Meccano Club Inc.
Prior to WW11, at least three Meccano clubs were in existence in the state of Victoria. One of the most distinguished, the original Melbourne Meccano Club, formed on 8th October 1930, had Len Ison as its secretary from either 1931 or 1933. It ran continuously until 1959, meeting mostly in the front room of Len's home in suburban Northcote, where an elaborate Hornby electric O-gauge railway was set up, with bridges and lineside features made from Meccano. This was also the meeting place for the Melbourne Branch of the Hornby Railway Society. Len kept detailed and meticulous records of Club activities. The activities of the MMC were reported from time to time in the Club News pages of the Meccano Magazine, such as one below, from July 1939.
One of the present MMC members, Bruce Thompson, as a young boy, was a member of the original Club, keeping in close touch with Len until his death in 1989. Bruce still has the framed MMC Guild Certificate from 1931, signed by Frank Hornby. Another present member, Bruce Douglas, has copies of the records of the original club.
During the 1960s and early 1970s Meccano interest was maintained by a number of people. Along with Len Ison, there were other Melbourne men, all keen, expert modellers and collectors, who were active with the hobby, but not in any organsied, formal way. These include Bill Inglis, Col Burnett, Wal Maynard, David Somerville and Keith Nichols. Most were known to each other and some were members of the renowned G Maurice Morris' "Meccanoman Club" set up during 1965 for advanced modellers.
Bill Inglis is known to many around the world for having manufactured Meccano replica parts and as an expert modeller. His entry in The Meccanoman's Journal 17, October 1969 is shown below, along with an endorsement from that issue of his fine replica channel segments p/n 119.
(The MMJ was not noted for the quality of its artwork, to say the least!)
A decade later, with a major change of lifestyle, he left the hobby altogether and he sent all his Meccano (about 5 TONS) to the US for sale by auction from late 1981. Later, Bill set up a stamp and coin collector business and his unsold Meccano passed through a number of hands for sale. Bill was a special guest of the present MMC at the meeting of December 1987.
Col Burnett used to construct large demonstration models for Meccano retailers from plans, parts and motors supplied by the local Meccano agent. Wal Maynard, a renowned Meccano builder and collector, is a valued member of the present Club. Keith Nichols is still living in Melbourne. David Somerville has moved to Adelaide, both maintaining a reduced interest in Meccano.
A "New" Club
Enthusiasts advertising for Meccano in the local press in the early 1980s not only attracted responses from potential vendors, but enquiries of genuine interest from latent Meccano enthusiasts in country and suburban Victoria. Inevitably each person had one or two other Meccano contacts and it soon became very apparent that much more potential interest existed. In July 1984 about eight people met in the home of Dr Bill Fitzgerald, at his initiative, for a "one off" meeting. "Foundation" members apart from the host included Dave Doddrell, Bruce Douglas, Graham Jost, Wal Maynard and Jim Osborne. Because of the interest generated, these get-togethers became a regular event, as the Melbourne Meccano Group. Through the rest of the decade, meetings followed in homes and schools, sharing mechanisms, models, friendship, anecdotes and suppers. Numbers increased gradually.
In December 1987, Lindsay Carroll commenced editing and publishing the Meccano Notebook (initially on a monthly basis, then quarterly) renamed the Melbourne Meccano Notebook from February 1989. This was made available to MMG members and included notes of MMG meetings, letters, entertaining and informative contributions (and fascinating travelogues) from members, along with excerpts from Meccano literature and miscellaneous relevant articles. Contributors included the editor, Bruce Douglas, the late Ken Gordon (author of Ken's Kolumn - Replica Rumblings by The Metal Master "Flash" Gordon), the late Max Haustorfer (who, in addition to many articles also wrote the meeting notes for many years under the pseudonym "Northern Reporter"), Graham Jost (who took over and ably performed this reporting task more recently, as the "Southern Reporter"), the late Jack Nelson (who also manufactured excellent replica Meccano four-drawer cabinets), Jim Osborne, Tony Press and Malcolm Booker from Sydney. More than 20 issues of MMN were published until 1992, a fine achievement.
This comfortable venue will also be the home of the Club's first exhibition on its "own home ground", scheduled for 14th October 2000. Partly in response to the need for adequate public liability insurance, it was agreed by members that the Club become an incorporated body -
we are now the Melbourne Meccano Club Inc.!
Voting will shortly take place to elect office-holders.
It was also felt appropriate at the time of incorporation to agree upon and circulate to members (which as at mid-2000 approach 70)
our Statement of Purpose, which is stated here:
The goal of this Club is to foster all aspects of the Meccano hobby including:-
1) sharing the companionship of like-minded people.
2) learning more of the history of the Meccano system,
other Meccano Ltd products and current Meccano developments,
by sharing the diverse skills and knowledge of other members.
3) building and exhibiting models and/or mechanisms
for display at Club meetings and various Exhibitions.
4) the acquisition, disposal and exchange of parts and literature,
for the mutual benefit of members.
To put the Club in its correct national context, the MMC is one of several Meccano clubs active in Australia. Others are the Southeast Queensland Meccano Club (SEQMC), whose newsletters are circulated at our meetings (contact Paul Dale), the newly resurgent Maylands Meccano Club in Perth, Western Australia (contact Ross Smith) and the Sydney Meccano Modellers' Association, who have their "Nuts and Bolts" Meccano page. If there are other Meccano clubs out there around Australia, please contact the MMC webmaster, Paul Johnstone: I will be happy to post your contact details on this site.
•Adapted and supplemented by Paul Johnstone
from notes prepared by Jim Osborne, January 1998
•Additional material from Club notes 1984 - 2000
•Additional material on Len Ison from obituary by Bruce Douglas,
Melbourne Meccano Notebook, issue 11, August 1989
•Additional material on Bill Inglis from contribution to "Spanner"
internet discussion group by the late Norm Lacroix, November 1998,
also from Melbourne Meccano Notebook, issue 2, February 1988
•Additional material from Lindsay Carroll, as editor of
Melbourne Meccano Notebook, No. 14, June 1990
•The webmaster acknowledges Graham Jost in his kindly making available
much of the archival material used in compiling this history.
•Apologies for the incomplete nature of members' individual photos - submissions welcome!
•The webmaster of this site, Paul Johnstone welcomes any corrections and additions to this history and apologises for any errors and omissions, all of which are entirely accidental and posted in good faith.
In 1991, it was decided to formalise part of the meeting agendum, without in any way destroying the atmosphere and relationships which had steadily evolved. Discussion is minuted and has resulted in the production of our newsletter after each meeting, about five publications annually. Three members always share responsibility for writing, production and dissemination. An annual membership subscription is levied to cover the costs of photocopying and postage.
Finally, the Group entered the model exhibition phase. Unlike our Sydney colleagues who hold one Meccano exhibition annually, in 1995 an invitation from proprietor Jean-Jacques Lale-Demoz was received to exhibit at the Australian Toy Museum in (now defunct, but will hopefully resurface in a different venue) and following this other invitations were received to display from Model railway groups and other hobbyists, both around Melbourne and also in country Victoria. Some of these ventures have resulted in television and radio coverage. 1997 also saw the MMGroup become known as the MMClub. The Toy Museum was the successful venue for annual exhibtion over three years until its closure. Photographs of models at these and other exhibitions are shown on the exhibitions page in this web site. As a result of media coverage and interest shown at exhibitions, membership grew from around 20 in 1991 to 39 by the end of 1997.
Indeed, membership had by then grown to a size that it was increasingly difficult to accomodate all members, their models and trading/swap items comfortably at meetings held in private homes (or at least those without capacious outside decks and verandahs!) The decision was made to find a larger premises to hold most meetings. The first meeting at the Brighton Philatelic Society Hall in August 1999 attracted a record attendance to date.