The Early History of Australian Camellia Research Society (now Camellias Australia)

Unless the early history of an established society has been clearly defined it has a habit of gradually fading away into the mists of antiquity until at a later date some interested person makes enquiry of its history with the unfortunate result that quite often a vague and even inaccurate account is complied. Already this has happened to our Society in a circulating that the Australian Camellia Research Society was formed with two small branches, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, and that the Melbourne branch was affiliated with the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria.

For this reason it is thought that the early history of our Society should be recorded in our literature.

The Australian and New Zealand Camellia Research Society was founded as a ingle identity without any branches. There has never been a Melbourne branch of the Society but a Victorian branch was formed in 1954 and a New South Wales one in the same year.

The Victorian branch was not affiliated with the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria although the Camellia Society members in Victoria have worked in harmony with the R.H.S.V. members for their mutual benefit.

During 1950, Professor E. G. Waterhouse and Mr. A. W. Jessep attended, in London, the R.H.S. (England) Camellia and Magnolia Conference and its several excursions to camellia collections. The data in regard to camellia was so vague that it was very evident that much research was urgently required into the genus Camellia and particularly into the problems of identification and nomenclature.

The Professor visited Victoria in connection with camellia identification and nomenclature and in July 1951 he saw a small display staged by some Victorian enthusiasts who, since 1949, had been dreaming of forming a Camellia Society of Victoria. At an informal meeting Professor Waterhouse suggested that an Australian Camellia Society be formed in lieu of the Victorian idea of a State Society. After further discussion by correspondence it was decided to have an Australian Camellia Society.

When Mr. Gordon Adams of New Zealand heard of our intention he suggested that some New Zealand camellia enthusiasts would be interested to become associated with it.

In early 1952 the following agreed to found the Society: Professor E. G. Waterhouse, 17 McIntosh St.,Gordon, N.S.W., Mr. Walter Hazlewood, Kent St., Epping, N.S.W., Mr. Alex Jessep, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, and Dr. C. R. Merrillees, 311 CarlisIe St., St. Kilda, and it was launched on June 1, 1952, with Mr. A. W. Jessep, President, Professor E. G. Waterhouse as Hon. Secretary and Vice-President, Mr. W. Hazlewood as Treasurer, and Dr. Merrillees as Organiser.

The following constitution was adopted:
1. The name of the Society shall be The AustraliaNew Zealand Camellia Research Society.
2. Its main aim will be research into the origin and nomenclature of Camellia varieties.
3. Membership will be confined to those engaged actively in Camellia Research.
4. It will publish results of its findings at least once annually.
5. Its publications will be available (on subscription) to all interested in Camellias.

Mr. Gordon Adams, Frankleigh Park, New Plymouth, New Zealand, was appointed to represent New Zealand.

It was decided that the foundation officers remain in office until the election of the Council is carried out according to the constitution and not later than 31st December, 1954.

Almost immediately it was realised that several were interested to become members and that more finance would be required to carry out the activities of the Society. A new Constitution was framed which enlarged the object of the Society, provided for a Council to control and manage the Society and adjusted the membership to include any person introduced by two members to become a member of the Society on payment of an annual subscription of one guinea. The revised Constitution was submitted to the Council on 15th January, 1953 and adopted.

In 1953 it was decided by the Council to publish a modest annual and Professor Waterhouse was elected Hon. Editor. In June 1954 No.1 Camellia Annual of the A.N.Z.C.R.S. was published and distributed to all members according to the constitution.

The members in New South Wales and in Victoria were conducting informal meetings and it was considered that these meetings should be placed on an official standing.

On 27th September, 1954 the President called the Victorian members to a meeting at the Melbourne Herbarium to discuss the constitution and any other Society matters. It was recommended by the meeting that the constitution be adjusted to provide for the formation of State divisions or branches. It was decided to appoint a constitutional committee consisting of two Council members, three members elected from the meeting with the Hon. Secretary as ex officio, to report on the proposals at the adjourned meeting on 22nd November, 1954. The constitutional committee met on 11th October, 1954 and reported its findings to the meeting on 22nd November, 1954.

The Hon. Secretary had raised several points whichwere discussed and it was then decided that the Victorian members recommend to the Council for consideration the following adjustments to the constitution.
1. Add to the objects of the Society the words “and to form local branches”.
2. Give the conditions under which a branch could Be formed and operate.
3. If approved, the branch of the Victorian members to be known as the A.N.Z.C.R.S. Victorian Branch.
4. Make provision for the appointment of a Registrar and set out conditions for registrations.

At the Annual Meeting of the Society on 17th June, 1955, it was resolved to make provision for branches, a registrar and other adjustments. The Hon. Secretary was to prepare for the Melbourne meeting of the Council on 11th August, 1955 an amended constitution. The revised constitution was adopted, approval was given for a branch to be formed in Victoria and provision was made for the N.S.W. members to form a branch. A Registrar, Mr. A. W. Jessep was appointed and regulations for the registration of new Australian-raised camellias were adopted. The first group of registrations was published in the No. 2 issue of the Annual dated December 1955.

The Hon. Secretary reported that after the No. 1 Annual appreciation was received from several members including Mr. C. Newman of W.A., Mr. B. Chandler, Vic., Mr. C. Puddle of the United Kingdom, and several local members, and al a that the membership had increased from 78 in 1954 to 151 – including seven over eas member – in 1955.

In 1955 the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria applied for the appointment of the A.N.Z.C.R.S. as its technical advisor on matters pertainins; to camellias. The request was granted.

In 1956 Camellia Annual No. 3 was published and this interesting publication assisted to increase the membership from 157 to 241 which included 11 from the U.S.A., five from the United Kingdom and one from Japan.

By 1958 the camellia interest in New Zealand had developed to such an extent that they decided to form the N.Z.C.S. and it has ceen very successful. In spite of losing some N.Z. members, our membership in 1958 increased from 323 to 400.

The name A.N.Z.C.R. was adjusted to A.C.R.S. to prevent confusion b tween the names of the two societies.

In 1958 the Society granted permission for a branch to be formed in South Australia and it has deve!oped into a very active branch.

In 1959 the death of Dr. C. R. Merrillees was received with great regret. The Doctor was one of the foundation members. He was the first Chairman of the Victorian branch and he assisted very materially to place the Society on a firm foundation. His many friends miss his great knowledge, which he gave freely, his organising ability and above all his very friendly manner.

The membership in 1959 had increased to 575 including 32 from U.S.A., six from the U.K. and two from Japan.

The year 1960 was one of consolidation and the President spent three months in the U.S.A. and four months in the U.K. visiting collections and shows, both there as well as collections in Italy, where Dr. Sevesi was contemplating forming a Society, and on Jersey Island. The membership of the Society was steadily increasing and through our publications and articles being written by our members and published in overseas camellia journals, our Society was being recognized as an authority on camellias.

With the growing importance of the Society, changes were necessary to keep it up to date. In 1961 the format of the newsletter was changed. For several year a folded newsletter was issued to all members but it had a flimsy appearance and was not in keeping with our advancing Society. It had been issued nine times per year. It was replaced by the Camellia News which is issued in booklet form four times per year with the fourth – the December issue – incorporating the annual publication. This change has been popular as it has the same dimensions as the previous annuals which makes it more convenient to house with them.

The Queensland members were given permission to form a branch in 1961. The membership of the Society in 1961 was over 850.

The year 1962 was the end of the first ten years of the Society and the progress during those ten years has been very gratifying. It includes:
1. The increase in membership from four foundation members in 1952 to over eight hundred and fifty – including fifty-six overseas – members in 1961.
2. Branches had been formed in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and in Queensland.
3. The publications have been increased from one small annual in 1954 to four booklets issued quarterly from 1961 with the December issue incorporating the annual publication.
4. The literature of the A.C.R.S . is welcomed by overseas camellia societies and some of the articles have been republished in their publications.
5. The registration of new Australian-raised camellias commenced with nine in 1955 and by 1962 some fifty-one had been registered, and validly published in the appropriate A.C.R.S. Camellia Annuals.
6. Several hundreds of the different cultivars of camellias that have been imported into, or produced in Australia, have been recorded, investigated and when thought necessary the name was adjusted in accordance with the Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.
7. The Constitution has been adjusted from time to time in accordance with the
requirements of the Society.

The retiring President, Mr. A. W. Jessep, who had been President since the foundation of The the Society in 1952, was not available for nomination and he nominated Prof. E. C. Waterhouse, Hon. Secretary since foundation and the Hon. Editor of the Society, for the position of President, and in July 1962 installed him as the President for 1962-63.

The Society honoured the retiring President by conferring on him the honorary title of Emeritus President.

From 1962 onwards the further history of the Society is well documented in the minutes of the Council meetings, the Camellia News and in the Branch Newsletter.

Emeritus President,
Australian Camellia Research Society .