7. BAN THE BURN

AUGUST 1960:

Ella Parker:

Thursday 25th August 1960 was fairly quiet, which was just as well as Friday was simply murderous. Some out of town fen were coming to London to go with Ron to meet Bruce's boat at Southampton. Ron had arranged to meet them in the booking hall of Waterloo station about 15 mins. before the train left. For some reason he had taken it into his head to phone the shipping line sometime during the afternoon. They told him the boat would be 24 hours late in docking. This was just great! He couldn't get hold of me to let me knew and I was spending the day fondly imagining I would have a nice cushy evening to myself. I'd go to bed real early with a book er maybe even CRY if I had one still unread. I'd be fit then for all the work facing me the next day. As I got out of the train that night I was hailed from the platform on the other, track. Looking over I got my first sight of someone who had to be Chris Miller; I'd known he was coming but we'd never met before although we'd exchanged letters. Ron and Ken Cheslin were with him. A hurried conversation across the lines and all was made clear to me. They were on their way to try and catch the others at Waterloo before they'd had time to buy tickets. They would be coming back to my place later. I went home all my fond imaginings shattered. They trooped in - there's no other way in which to describe it - and at the final count we had:- Ted Forsyth, Jhim Linwood, Ken Cheslin, Chris Miller, I think ATom was there, but can't be sure, and Bennett. I've get the feeling I've left some out; you must put it down to my bad memory. Ghod knows how or where they all slept that night, we managed somehow. I knew Jimmy went home and Ted took Linwood back with him, the rest stayed here.

Next day, Saturday, was nothing short of hectic. Meals had to be planned off the cuff and then the lads went out while I got squared around for that night's jollity. Ethel, bless her, had come early to give me a hand and we got things done in good time. We had a wonderful Party! This was the first taste of fannish social life for Chris Miller and he took to it like a duck takes to water. Arthur was in good form and played barman to the manner born. Archie (Mercer) had turned up sometime during the day and was right in there punning like mad, Ron and Ted were busy discussing the kind of shots they might be able to get in Southampton.... with their cameras. Ethel was being helpful in every way she could while managing to have a rare old time as well. The Potters had come, but Irene wasn't really fit to enjoy a party and had to be taken home early. That episode is worth an article in itself! Tom Porter had heard there was a party and came along with his portable radio which he listened to on the landing; the noise in the room wasn't conducive to good hearing. Round about 3 am. those who were going to meet Bruce had to make a move. They phoned for a taxi and went off in high spirits, This seemed to bring things down to a slower tempo We sat around talking about fannish matters such as fanzines etc. It must have been 6ish when we broke it up and found ourselves places in which to get a bit of shuteye.

Next morning we looked a haggard lot as we sloped round putting the fenden to rights, washing glasses etc., and generally hiding any signs of the previous night's high jinks. We didn't want to make Bruce jealous when he finally got here. It must have been about noon when the last of the party left, with the exception of Jimmy Groves who wanted to stay on and meet Bruce after having attended his party an' all.

Archie was the first to come back of the bunch who had gone to Southampton. He was full of the good time they'd had and of the hospitality given them by Jill Adams who lives down there. I'm glad she was able to take part even if not for long in some of the fannish goings on. Enjoy it, Jill? Archie had a train to catch for home and sleep. Fed but unrested he went his way with still no sign of Burn, though Archie, assured me he had indeed landed. Remarkably negligent those immigration fellows. Arthur returned unexpectedly. As he put it:- "I've stayed up all night to meet Bruce Burn and I'm gonna *see* Bruce Burn!"

((Archie wrote a VERY comprehensive account of the weekend, which can be found at the link below))

SKYRACK 23 (6 Sep 1960):

WELCOME TO ENGLAND, BRUCE BURN, said the Science Fiction Club of London. On 27th August the SFCoL held a party in honour of the arrival in this country of New Zealand’s leading fan, Bruce “I’ll turn up on time” Burn. Terrain was the Parker Penitentiary. Attendees, were Ella, Ethel Lindsay; Ken & Irene Potter, Tom Porter, Chris Miller, Jhim Linwood, Archie Mercer, Ron Bennett, Ken Cheslin, Ted Forsyth, Jim Groves, Arthur Thomson and Don Geldart. Notable absentee was Bruce Burn.

Plans had been in full swing to meet Bruce’s ship, the 1,500 passenger, 12,150 ton ‘Castel Felice’ at Southampton early on the morning of Saturday, 27th August, collect Bruce, pull several ploys on him (like having him bump into a complete stranger at Waterloo Station, said stranger driving Bruce out to East Sheen where he is now staying and then appearing at the party to reveal himself as Atom) and take him along to the surprise party at Ella’s. On phoning the Sitmar line on the Friday, I was told that the boat was delayed 24 hours! Hurried telegrams to and from. Jill Adams in Southampton and dashes round London to inform the gang. The party was still held. At 2.40 am Mercer, Forsyth, Linwood, Bennett and Geldart endured a wild taxi ride to Waterloo to catch the 3.10 train to Southampton. We arrived at the dock where three days previously Joy and Sandy Sanderson had sailed to the USA and were greeted a) by police who wouldn’t allow us on the dock until 7am and b) a cloud burst.

We retired to a cafe to drink muddy, slate coffee and at seven braved the rain to go on to the dock. Placards drawn. up by SFCoL signwriter George Locke (”Ban the Burn”, and “Go Home Bruce Burn”) were displayed at the ship’s assembled passengers until we located Bruce. After a further three hours waiting, Bennett and Forsyth chickened out and taxied up to the home of Jill and John Adams where slide photography was discussed (Bennett’s new 35mm camera had recently produced a roll of colour slides in which everything had turned out slate blue). At 12.30 there was still no sign of Bruce, so Jill, Bennett and Forsyth shot back to the docks, only to find the place deserted. Back to Jill’s and finally a meeting with the Burn himself. We took him up to London, out to East Sheen and then up to Ella’s. Jill’s two pounds of slate blue sausages never did get eaten, and neither did the six pounds that Ella was toting.

Ella Parker:

Jimmy finally had to go home and hadn't been gone very long before Ted showed up. He told, us that Ron had gone with Bruce to drop his bags off and they would probably be at my place by 7-30. I was loafing on the bed trying without much interest to read the Sunday papers which had so far lain unopened. Right then I felt. I couldn't care less if Bruce turned up or not. We'd spent two hectic nights preparing for him; all our ploys had come to naught and I was tired, so it was something of an anti-climax when the room door opened and Ron escorted a bewildered and apologetic Bruce in to us.

We did our best to make him feel one of us. Arthur asked him where the hell he'd been? I, intending to prove that whatever the boys had told him wasn't true and I was so hospitable, gave him a man-sized tot of whisky, and generally fussed round him. He drank it uncomplainingly and it was only weeks after he told me he can't stand the stuff; he prefers beer! Oh well, serve him right.

Nobody stayed late that night they were all too tired for much in the way of fannish wit or chatter.

SKYRACK 23 (6 Sep 1960):

During the ensuing week Bruce was taken round London by Don Geldart, met Andy Young and the Bulmers at Ella’s and at the Tate Gallery was shown how Picasso was once a disciple of Bennett’s slate blue period.

THE WANDERING GHU - Bruce Burn

These are Bruce Burn's own memoirs of his time in the UK, followed by an appreciation of Ella Parker. All are from Peter Weston's fanzine RELAPSE (formerly PROLAPSE):

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