The Society

A Brief History of The Haworthia Society

Our aim is to keep Haworthia growers across the world in touch with each other and the Haworthia Society is still evolving   This review looks back at the Society’s achievements.

Membership

Since the 1960’s, specialist societies have sprung up for the study of popular succulent plants.  Alan Scott Akers recognised that Haworthias were worthy of their own society and advertised for support in 1986.  The Haworthia Society was established as the result of his efforts.  He was the first Secretary and Editor of the Newsletter, which was renamed “Haworthiad” from 1989.  The initial membership totalled sixteen: one from the USA, one from Italy and the rest from England.  From this simple beginning, the Society has developed and transformed, with honorary agents, in countries all over the world, to whom payments can be made in local currency.  We currently have National Representatives in (in random order) the USA, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany, Belgium and Russia.  The Society is very grateful for the continuing help and support it gains from these Representatives.  We now have an international membership: about 40% reside in the UK and 60% abroad in about twenty different countries.

Organisation

From the one-man start-up, the Haworthia Society formed a committee comprising other helpers:

Editor/Secretary Alan Scott Akers FLS
Membership Secretary Liz Drummond
Journal Sales Ian Lawrie
Committee Member John Collins
Committee Member John Gregory

Regretfully, things did not run entirely without difficulties and a proposal to close the Haworthia Society was announced in July 1992 !  The Editor/Secretary informed the members that, as contributions to Haworthiad had declined, more reprints from other publications had to be used to fill the pages.  This was not desirable and, since he considered that the Society had fulfilled its objectives, he thought that the time had arrived “to call it a day”, with the agreement of the majority of the committee.

However, by October 1992, several members had expressed dissatisfaction with the closure decision.  Following the efforts of Graham Walker, a questionnaire was distributed to gauge support for continuing.  The January 1993 Haworthiad announced the formation of a new honorary committee:

Life President Allan Scott Akers FLS
Chairman Derek Tribble
Secretary/Show Manager Graham Walker
Treasurer Stirling Baker
Editor David Hutchinson
Journal Distribution Alan Rollason
Journal Type Setting Phil Blackman
Plant & Seed Distribution Joyce Cocozza

The original subscribed capital at the launch of the Society amounted to £50.  When this new committee took over in 1993, it inherited funds of less than £100.  The picture is now much healthier !  The Haworthia Society was formally established with a written constitution giving guidelines for running the Society.

At the 1998 Biennial General Meeting (BGM), Derek Tribble and Graham Walker stepped down, having set the Society on its feet.  The Society owes a great debt of gratitude to the efforts of both of them.  From October 1998, the Committee comprised:

Chairman Dorothy Minors
Treasurer/Show Manager Stirling Baker
Editor Harry Mays
Minutes Secretary Chris Minors
IT Secretary Harry Mak
Journal Distribution Alan Rollason
Journal Formatting Philip Blackman
Seed Distribution David Hutchinson
Seed Packing David Bennett

At the BGM in 2002, Alan Rollason, who had been on the committee since 1992, retired from it due to pressure of work.  Thanks must go to him for his staunch support of the Society through the years.  Harry Mak also stood down from the Committee, but continues to support the Society by running the Plant Exchange Scheme.  New faces joined and the Committee was now as follows:

Chairman Dorothy Minors
Secretary/Show Manager Stirling Baker
Treasurer Costas Papathanasiou
Journal Editor Bill Keen
Minutes Secretary Chris Minors
Journal Technical Support Philip Blackman
Seed Distribution David Hutchinson
Members Lists, Journal Back Numbers, Indexing & Seed Packing David Bennett
Journal Distribution Bill Geddes

Also at the 2002 BGM, Derek Tribble and Joyce Cocozza were elected as the first Life Vice-Presidents of the Society.

The Committee remained stable for several years but with David Bennett taking on increasing responsibility as Membership Secretary as well as Seed Distributor from October 2004. In October 2006, David Bennett relinquished his role as Seed Distributor, this role being taken on by Rob Stevenson. Joyce and John Jackson also joined the Committee at this time.

Sadly, David Bennett passed away in early 2007, which resulted in a shuffling of responsibilities within the existing Committee which in June 2007 comprised of:

Chairman Dorothy Minors
Membership Secretary Joyce Jackson
Treasurer Costas Papathanasiou
Minutes Secretary Chris Minors
Publicity Officer John Jackson
Journal Editor Bill Keen
Events Organiser/Show Secretary Stirling Baker
Seed Purchaser Lawrence Loucka
Seed Distribution and Back Issues & Binders Rob Stevenson
Journal Distribution Bill Geddes

Alan Rollason re-joined the Committee during 2009, after an absence of seven years. Prior to the BGM in October 2010, several Committee Members expressed their intent to retire, namely, Dorothy Minors, Chris Minors and Costas Papathanasiou.

The new Committee from October 2010 was:

Chairman Alan Rollason
Membership Secretary Joyce Jackson
Treasurer Tony Roberts
Minutes Secretary Roger Hefford
Publicity Officer John Jackson
Journal Editor Bill Keen
Events Organiser/Show Secretary Stirling Baker
Website Administrator Bill Hildyard
Seed Distribution and Back Issues & Binders Rob Stevenson
Journal Distribution Bill Geddes
Committee Member Les Hewitt

Bill Keen relinquished his post as Editor at the end of 2011, due to failing eye-sight, and this post was taken on by Bill Hildyard. Rob Stevenson stood down at the BGM in October 2014 and Tony Roberts took over responsibility for the ‘Membership Database’ in early 2015. Bill Darbon was co-opted onto the Committee as Sales Officer. John and Joyce Jackson retired from the Committee at the end of 2015. The Society owes a great debt to all these afore-mentioned people who served it so well. Les Pearcy carried out the role of Seeds Distributor in 2016, and joined the Committee, formally in 2017, which consisted of the following:

Chairman Alan Rollason
Treasurer and Membership Enquiries Tony Roberts
Sales Officer (Books, Journals and Binders) Bill Darbon
Seeds Distributor Les Pearcy
Events Manager Stirling Baker
Minutes Secretary Roger Hefford
Editor and Website Administrator Bill Hildyard
PR Manager Les Hewitt
Publications Distributor Bill Geddes

The ‘Presidential’ positions changed too. Sadly, the Society’s first Life President Alan Akers passed away in May 2012 followed by one of our two original Life Vice-Presidents Joyce Cocozza in 2014.

Dorothy Minors was made a Life Vice-President in October 2011 in recognition of her leadership of the Society as Chairperson for more than a decade and in October 2014 Derek Tribble was ‘promoted’ to Life President.

Haworthiad

The journal has always been of major importance to the Society.  Because of the Society’s international membership, it is the principal benefit for most members.  Initially it was a few photocopied pages and the contributions were mainly descriptions of members’ collections, comments and questions.  Rapidly, more substantial articles on specific subjects, such as pollination, cultivation, plant descriptions and comment from South Africa, etc. began to appear.  The current policy is to publish relevant articles of all levels.

Prior to 1992, Haworthiad had been illustrated mainly with line drawings and the occasional black and white photograph.  The July 1992 edition contained pasted in colour photographs.  After the new committee took over, Haworthiad was type set and printed, rather than typed and photo copied.  The fact that both Phil Blackman and Alan Rollason worked in the printing trade was a distinct advantage!   Haworthiad grew again from twenty pages in 1993 to twenty-eight by the end of 1994.  A central spread of printed colour illustrations was introduced from January 1995.

When David Hutchinson retired as editor (because of family and work commitments), Harry Mays took over from April 1995.  Haworthiad increased to thirty-two pages per issue.  From 1997, better quality and more expensive paper was being used, which improved the feel and appearance of Haworthiad to attract more authors and members.   However, the Haworthia Society and Harry Mays parted company in 2000.

Alan Butler then volunteered his services as Editor, suggesting several improvements to the layout of the Journal, which the Committee agreed should be produced in A4 format. However, matters beyond his control resulted in the production of Haworthiad being considerably delayed. He felt therefore, in April 2002, that the Society needed to appoint a more permanent Editor, and Bill Keen was invited by the Chairman to step in. A decision was made, on financial grounds, to retain the previous A5 format, but with colour pictures integrated with the text. After 10 years as editor, Bill Keen passed on the Editor’s baton to Bill Hildyard in 2012.

The Journal continues to be eminently readable and publishes articles from world authorities intermixed with contributions from members.  In addition to promoting the sale of back issues, the Society supplies binders and badges.

Seed & Plant Distribution

Seed sales make the short-lived seed of desirable or unusual plants available to members.  It also provides additional income.  This side of the Society’s activity was developed by Joyce Cocozza, and when unable to stand for re-election in 1996 (because of ill health), David Hutchinson and David Bennett volunteered to run the service, with David Hutchinson distributing the seed and David Bennett packing it.  In 2001, Laurence Loucka joined the team taking on the duties of Seed Purchaser. Rob Stevenson ably carried out the role of Seeds Distributor from October 2006 to October 2014 and Les Pearcy has handled the seed distribution since the February 2016 offering.The Society is rightly proud of its seed lists, which are very popular.

A new venture was announced in 2002: the Plant Exchange Scheme.  It facilitates the exchange of surplus plants between members and has been organised by Harry Mak.  To pay tribute, the original idea came from the successful plant exchange run by Ray Stephenson within the Sedum Society. The status of the Plant Exchange Scheme is currently under review.

Major Haworthia Collections

Compared to the start, there are now significant collections of Haworthias in the UK.  Robert Scott near Woking keeps Steve Stringer’s comprehensive Haworthia Reference Collection, now registered as a National Collection under the NCCPG scheme.  The late Joyce & Michael Cocozza built up an outstanding collection in Leicester, including many seed grown Haworthias and unique hybrids.  Brian Fearn’s collection at Matlock and Harry Mak’s collection at Manchester are also recognised under the NCCPG scheme.

The oldest collection is the SPI Bates Collection, which moved from Mel Roberts in the Wirral, to Allan Akers in Buckden and is now with Andrew Gill in Leeds.  A second SPI Haworthia collection, based on propagations from J R Brown in California, is in the care of Peter Bent in south London.  Finally, there is also a SPI Bates Collection of Gasteria with Ray Allcock in Liverpool.  It would be interesting to hear about other large Haworthia collections around the world.

UK Meetings

Because members are spread internationally, meetings are not central to our Society.  However, UK publicity stands and social events are still important as recruiting grounds for new members.  Open days have been arranged at members’ collections.  We would also like to see Haworthia Society events organised in other countries.

The Society organises biennial weekend Conventions, which are outstanding for their friendliness.  The first two conventions were held in the delightful countryside of Alan Akers’ home in the Pennines.  Members stayed in local guest houses and farms, talks were held in the village hall in front of a wood fire and meals were taken in “The Buck Inn”.  For the third and subsequent conventions, a more central venue, the Hilton (Stakis) Hotel near Leicester was chosen so that it could be combined with a visit to the Cocozza Collection.

Every two years, Haworthia Shows are held at Birmingham Botanical Gardens at the invitation of the BCSS Birmingham Branch (The BGM is also held at this event).  Such specialist shows allow display a far wider range of species than cactus shows usually cater for, and encourage higher standards of cultivation.

Future Scope

The committee is conscious of the need to take all possible opportunities to raise interest in the Society’s objectives.  Initially, the Society was concerned only with the genus Haworthia, but it became recognised that related genera were also of interest to members.  Now, Haworthiad embraces Aloes, Astroloba, Bulbines, Chortolirion, Gasteria and Haworthia.  It has done much to raise the popularity of hybrids and cultivars.  The Society is actively concerned about Conservation and supports this by encouraging the propagation of “our” plants.

If you are not already a member and have an interest in these wonderful plants, we invite you to join us today.