Club History

The Bon Accord Camera Club was born in 1939. Well, this is the date we use but there is a little bit of doubt about our actual birthday.

From my own researches it would appear that the Club had one or two false starts. In 1936, a Club was started but collapsed after a few months probably due to the difficulty of getting accommodation. The f8 Club (some of the same members’ names appearing) was formed in 1937 at a ‘Founder’s Meeting’ (according to George Weir, who was present) and George Kirton became President, George Weir the Secretary, and Helen Henderson the Treasurer. The f8 Club arose from an evening class run by Miss Hilda Bailey and became the Bon Accord Camera Club. This would have been in 1938 or 1939.

There were either no proper records of the early days of the Club or they have been lost over the years. By the time we got around to compiling the history, most of the founders had passed on and two remaining Founder Members, Miss Helen Henderson and Harold Sadler (who emigrated to Australia) could no longer remember the details.

The 1939 start seems quite improbable as many of the members were almost immediately whisked off to war. In a strange way, this fact is perhaps the reason for the survival of this particular attempt because, there being only a few members left, the meetings during the war years were held in the home of the President, George Kirton, a newsagent.

Miss Bailey, a teacher of the deaf, arrived in Aberdeen just before World War I and was well-known for her lantern slides, giving lectures all over Britain. She was a member of Aberdeen Camera Club (Aberdeen Photographic Association, as it was then) and was involved in running a major international exhibition for APA in 1938 (jointly with Niven McKenzie). After this exhibition, there seems to have been some sort of disagreement and both left Aberdeen CC. Miss Bailey formed the ‘Camera Pictorialists’, an exclusive Club whose members were recruited by her personal invitation. The members were expected to enter international exhibitions, failure to exhibit terminating their membership. Niven McKenzie and Sandy Cain (who was to take over her evening class later) were among the members of this group.

After the war, the Club rented premises at 123a Union Street. At this time, George Kirton was Hon President and Miss Bailey Hon Vice-President. Miss Bailey later became Hon President and Sandy Cain and Niven McKenzie were Hon Vice- Presidents of Bon Accord for many years. Due to age and failing health, Miss Bailey gave up her post and Sandy Cain took over until age and poor health caused him to give it up also.

Bon Accord ran the Scottish Salon in 1948. It was opened by Lady Tweedsmuir and the President of the SPF, Mr A B Welsh, was present. Not only were the prints on show in the Art Gallery but every evening, for the duration of the Salon, there was an event organised for the Cowdrey Hall (adjacent to the Gallery). These events included an evening of lantern slides by Miss Bailey and an evening of songs by Sandy Cain.

Increasing rent forced the Club to look for a cheaper alternative to Union Street in the mid ’50s. Harold Sadler obtained the use of 17 Leadside Road in 1957. The Clubrooms had been the office/shop for a laundry with space for a hand- cart. The room was basically a large square with one front quarter (the cart shed) having the darkrooms and lockers built on its earth floor. The rest of the room was then L-shaped with a large granite pillar in the angle of the room supporting the tenement above.

Bon Accord again ran the Scottish Salon in 1975. This Salon was opened by Donnie B. MacLeod and the President of the SPF, John Harvey (Inverness), was present.

The Trust that owned 17 Leadside Road was to be wound up in 1979. This meant that the Clubrooms and the flats above (some had already been sold) were to be put on the market. We at first thought we would be homeless but were offered the premises at a very good price. However, no matter how good the price, the Club had no funds and purchase was not going to be easy, but homelessness was the only alternative. We raised the money by interest-free loans from the members and purchased the Clubrooms and the attic flat. The loans were repaid over a few years. We got a copy of the original deeds at this time and according to this document, the owners of the building were responsible for the upkeep of the south bank of the lade (Leadside!). This lade, which no longer exists, had been to supply water power to the Mill next door. The purchase allowed us to move the darkrooms up to the attic and enlarge the meeting-room. The pillar that had been at the corner of the L was now really in the centre of the room and in the winter it ran with condensation, but we were now safe and secure in our own premises. Wrong!!

We were hit with a compulsory purchase order in 1988. We had already agreed to run the Scottish Salon in 1990….

There was a lot of lobbying done for alternative premises. The result of this was to get us our present premises in Spring Garden. The building was derelict and had a structural fault. We had to leave Leadside Road in 1989 and met in a church hall for two years. Spring Garden was meanwhile gutted, walls taken down to the ground and rebuilt, a new roof put on and stairs fitted. At this point, the builders stopped work and, to save money, members completed the interior, joinery, electrical, plumbing, insulating plaster-boarding, door hanging and painting. Meanwhile the Salon for 1990 was re-packed in the shell, light coming from temporary bulbs hanging on wires from the roof. Even with the money from the sale of Leadside Road and a disturbance allowance, we still had to borrow a lot to complete the work. Repayment of these loans should be completed over the next two years. With all this going on we were crazy enough to agree to hold the 1991 Salon. The Club moved into Spring Garden, but after the Salon. The two years in the church hall did nothing for our membership: it fell from over 100 to under 60, and has not yet recovered.

1992 saw the start of Bon-A-Slide, our very own International Exhibition. For Bon-A-Slide ’95 we introduced a Photo-Travel section.

2000 The new millennium brought with it big improvements in digital photography and the introduction of the first digital SLR’s. By 2008 the Bon-A-Slide Exhibition had folded and slide film was used only by a minority. The digital photography revolution had arrived and the majority of club members no longer used film.

All Notes by the late Charles Lawson APAGB

April 2014

Bon Accord Camera Club hosted the 2014 Grampian Eye inter club photographic competition. The Competition took place at the Phoenix Community Centre, Newton Dee Village, Bieldside, Aberdeen, On Saturday 26th April 2014.

The Judge for 2014 was the renowned Scottish Photographer Duncan McEwen.

14 Camera Clubs from NE Scotland participated in the 2014 Grampian Eye Competition.
Mearns CC, Moray CC, Aberdeen CC, Moravia PS, Bon Accord CC, Forres CC, Donside CC, Craigewan PG, Deeside CC, Deveron CC, Peterhead CC, Visions PC, Fraseburgh PS, Ellon PG

Approx 150 People from the participating Clubs attended the competition and £600 was raised at the event and donated to the Newton Dee Camphill Community.

May 2015

The 92nd Scottish International Salon of Photography Opening Exhibition was held at Bon Accord Camera Club in May 2015. The Scottish Salon has a long history with Aberdeen, and with Bon Accord Camera Club. This will be the tenth Scottish Salon Exhibition to have been shown in Aberdeen since the Salon began in 1904.

The first Scottish Salon exhibition to be held in Aberdeen was the 5th Scottish Salon, in 1908 and. At that time it was a National Exhibition, and Bon Accord CC wasn’t yet in existence. Aberdeen Photographic Association were the hosts both then and in 1914, 1926 & 1933 when the Salon was to return.

Bon Accord were formed in 1939, and they were to catch the Salon Exhibition ‘bug’ big-time running the Scottish Salon on several occasions over the years, most recently in 1991. By that time it was ‘International’ with FIAP & PSA patronage.

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