THE STORY OF THE SCOTTISH
ASSOCIATION OF MAGICAL SOCIETIES
In 1949, Max Raskin, a member of Paisley Magic Circle, discussed, with any one who would listen, his idea of setting up an association of magical clubs in Scotland. He soon had the members of Paisley Magical Society, as it was at that time, convinced that this was a good idea and received their full support. The club decided to go ahead with the idea and invited Max to contact all the magical clubs in Scotland on their behalf. Max was soon writing to all the clubs with a request that they contact him if they were interested. The clubs contacted were Aberdeen Magical Society, Dundee Magic Circle, Edinburgh Institute of Magicians, Edinburgh Magic Circle, Kirkcaldy Magic Circle, Kilmarnock Magic Circle, Paisley Magic Circle, Perth Magic Circle and Scottish Conjurers' Association. Due to the response Max soon arranged a meeting where delegates could discuss the formation of an Association.
On the 16th December 1951 delegates from Dundee Magic Circle, Edinburgh Institute of Magicians, Kirkcaldy Magic Circle, Kilmarnock Magic Circle, Paisley Magical Society, and Perth Magic Circle all attended the meeting. It was agreed to form an Association of magical clubs, which would be known as S.A.M.S. short for The Scottish Association of Magical Societies.
A number of conditions were set. These included:-
- SAMS would help to unite all Scottish magical clubs without interfering with their separate identities.
- It was also agreed that only clubs could be members of SAMS. It was at this meeting that the first officials of SAMS were elected:-
President - Max Raskin
Vice President - James Hynd
Treasurer - David Kelly
A follow up meeting was arranged for 24th February 1952. This must have been a busy time for an association just having its second meeting as they agreed to publish a SAMS magazine, with John Geddes as its editor, and also arranged to have a magical convention in that same year. Convention organisers were appointed. These were Registration Officer Dr. G. H. Browne, Gala Show Organiser Capt. G. H. Smith, Accommodation and Catering Officer Jim Hynd, Press, Publicity and Dealers Organiser John Geddes. To help ensure a good convention Harold McMillan and Max Raskin presented cups for competitions. The McMillan Shield was awarded for a Stage act and the Max Raskin cup for best children's act. The only restriction was that all competitors must be members of a Scottish Magic Club.
The convention took place in the Station Hotel, Kirkcaldy on the 13th to 15th June 1952. Registration was fifteen shillings for members of a Scottish magic club (the equivalent of 75p now) and eighteen shillings for non members of a magic club (the equivalent of 90p now). Bed and breakfast in the Station Hotel was sixteen shillings (the equivalent of 80p now). A full report of the convention can be read in SAMS magazine issue 1 number 5/6. Reporters included G.M. Browne, Tom Harris, Ed Garson and Martin Miller. In this report we read that a children's show was organised and the following were the performers:-
Tom Harris, John Geddes, Bill Given, Tricado & Willie, Douglas Swanson, Madam Rala, Arthur Leo and Miss Zarina. The Gala show had Jack House as compere, Bill Milligan, Marko (Harry Carnegie), John Geddes, McClelland, Zarina's, Zanda, Tom Harris and Fred Gordon.
As an after thought a late night show was organised starting at midnight and running till three a.m. The late team performers included Tom Harris, John Warrander, Louis Hister, John Geddes, John Ramsay, Ken Brooks, Bill Burnside and Max Raskin. Is it any surprise that the show lasted three hours?
The first convention was such a success that the club delegates decided to organise another one. As part of a celebration, SAMS decided to have a special get-together which was organised by The Edinburgh Institute of Magicians on 19th October 1952. Representatives from all but one club attended. There is no record of which club, only that one club was missing. This was soon followed by a Dinner in Station Hotel, Kirkcaldy on February 1953. The toastmaster was John Geddes who introduced the special guests, Provost James Young and John Ramsay. After dinner a cabaret was presented by John Geddes who introduced Bill Milligan, John Ramsay, Radeen and June, Max Raskin, Louis Hister, George Barrand and Ian Spark.
The first issue of SAMS magazine was published in March 1952, and proved a great success with the club magicians. The first Editor was John Geddes.
The Editor's chair was occupied over the years by John Geddes, Tom Johnston and Eddie Dawes. These editors were to give the members reports of the actions of the SAMS committee, review new magical effects, provide space for the magical dealers to advertise their wares, the historians the chance to share their knowledge, information of future SAMS convention, reports of magical club activities, full reports on SAMS convention for the members who could not attend and many other issues. Indeed had it not been for the work of these editors and reporters we would have no records of SAMS or magical events in Scotland from 1952 till 1972. Most of the minutes of SAMS meetings prior to 1988, like our rabbits, silks or cards, have disappeared.
The Society was now into full swing when a request came from the International Brotherhood of Magicians, British Ring, for SAMS to arrange the first night get-together programme for their convention in Edinburgh. This request was accepted. On Wednesday sixteenth of September 7:30pm in The Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh, the members of SAMS and their wives had arranged for a fantastic spread of sandwiches, cakes and a large selection of the golden nectar. These had all been donated from every corner of Scotland. As IBM conventioneers entered, the first thing they saw was a large display board with the words "Ceud Mile Failte" which of course translated from Gaelic means "A hundred thousand welcomes". The IBM President John Gambling was escorted into the hall by two pipers. John in turn was followed by SAMS President Max Raskin and John Ramsay Past President of the IBM. As part of the evening John Ramsay cut a large cake and had it distributed to the conventioneers. Informal magic of course took place as part of the night's entertainment but mostly it was an opportunity to meet with old friends. For their part Edinburgh District Council arranged for the Castle to be specially floodlight so all the conventioneers could see the castle by night.
When John Gambling retired as President of the I.B.M. it was his intentions to make a return journey to Scotland to present SAMS with a President's chain. This was to be his special thanks to SAMS for their help in making the I. B. M. convention such a success. Unfortunately he died (24 March 1954) before he could arrange the visit but his daughter, Mrs Starling, paid a visit on his behalf and presented the President's chain to our President Max Raskin on 3rd September 1954. The presentation of the chain was made at a special dinner in the Rogano Restaurant in Glasgow where all the executive of SAMS, their wives and the Presidents and wives of all the magical clubs in Scotland attended. The design on the President's chain was from a proposal by Paisley Magic Circle.
It would appear that around this time special dinners were in vogue as another dinner was soon arranged to welcome Dr. Zina Bennett to Scotland. The dinner was held in North British Hotel, Glasgow. Zina was well known for his manipulating of jumbo cards. He invented a number of magical effects including the ZinaB deck.
The 1955 convention started a new phase with the inclusion of a magical lecture by Tom Harris. His lecture included close up magic and antics with a mouse made from a white handkerchief in front of your eyes.
Dr Sir Alexander Cannon (1955 - 1960)
Peter Warlock (1960 - 1996)
Dr Eddie Dawes (1996 - present)
In 1955 we saw the first mention in SAMS magazine of His Excellency Dr. Sir Alexander Cannon. He was invited to become the first Honorary Life President of the Scottish Association of Magical Societies. In late October a delegation from SAMS went to the Isle of Man with the purpose of installing Dr. Cannon as the Honorary Life President. The deputation consisted of Max Raskin, George Piggot, Eddie Dawes and John Geddes. Cannon, not to be outdone, presented SAMS with a trophy to be known as the Cannon Trophy. This would be awarded to the club which gained most points over the year. Points could be gained for delegates attending SAMS meetings, contributing articles for the magazine, winning cups at the convention and for the author of the best thesis on a chosen subject. Dr. Cannon had a special badge of office made for himself as Honorary President. When he died his family held onto the badge of office but did donate a copy of the original. There have been only two other Honorary Presidents of SAMS. On the death of Alexander Cannon in 1960 Peter Warlock became the second Honorary President. Peter was followed in 1996 by Eddie Dawes.
Over the years SAMS introduced some first class lecturers at the convention. The names read like a who's who in magic. Names such as Tom Harris, Lewis Ganson, George H. Smith, William Scotty Lang, Fred Barton, Harlan Tarbell, Frank Baunforth, Peter Warlock, Graham Davis, Francis Haxton, Ron McMillan, Jack Morrison, George Blake, Bob Ostin, Horace King, Geoffrey Robinson, Pat Page, Fred Lowe, Malcolm Davidson, Arthur Setterington, Bob Read, Ken De Courcy, Donald Bevan, Ali Bongo, Rovi, Trevor Lewis, Peter Scarlett, Neil Roberts, Billy McComb, Graham Reid, Tony Griffith, John Wade, Mark Leveridge, George Hill, Malcolm Davidson, Terry Herbert, Stephen Tucker, John Palfreyman, John Hotowka, Henrique, Stewart Murray, Ali Cardabra, Simon Lovell, Aldo Colombini, Terry Seabrook, Bob Wooding, Shaun McCree, Lee Earle, Alan Driffield, Paul Hallas, Brian Sefton, David Charles, Peter Duffie, Mike Wallis, Helmut Kautz, Scott Penrose, Mike Smith, Tom Owen, Barry Miller, Pat Fallon, Paul Wilson, Pat Gresham.
From the booklet "50 Golden Years of the Scottish Association of Magical Societies" by Jim Cuthbert