Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 21st June 2018.

Present: Doug Daniels (President) and 25 members.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 22nd June 2017

Simon Lang proposed accepting the minutes of the previous AGM, with Melvyn Reiss seconding. The minutes were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President’s Remarks

The President remarked that members would be aware, if they read the Newsletters, which he was assured that some actually do, that this would be his last Presidential report. He had decided to resign from the position following a couple of health scares last Winter. He was now 78 and beginning to experience ‘brain fade’ and continued good health could not be guaranteed. It had been his pleasure to have served the Society as President for the last ten years during which time he had been well supported by our Council. He felt that it was now time to hand over the reins to a younger person and he was pleased to inform members that at the last Council Meeting, Simon Lang was proposed and he had agreed to fill the vacancy, subject to ratification by members at this meeting.

He wished Simon a long and happy Presidency and knew that he could count on the full support of Council.

The lecture programme was as usual varied and interesting with talks ranging from ‘Ancient Chinese Science’, to ‘Responding to Major Emergencies’ – very topical considering the recent attempted assassinations in Salisbury. Once again well done the Programme Secretary, and he understood that next session’s programme would very soon be complete.

But all has not been plain sailing. The two main problems facing the Society this session have been the continuing problems at the Observatory, which is still not up and running after a year’s closure. And the unwinding ‘red tape’ required to comply with the new laws on data protection. He feared that much of the work to resolve the latter had fallen into the lap (top) of our able Secretary, who had dealt with it enthusiastically! We are now fairly confident that we have all bases covered.

In past reports the President had been pleased to say that this was ‘another good year for the Society’, but it wasn’t. Last April, we were saddened to hear of the death of Brian Bond a member since 1980. Brian was our Solar Observer and you would find him up at the observatory on any sunny Sunday morning, showing visitors the true nature of our Sun with his hydrogen alpha telescope. Brian was an enthusiastic member of the observatory team and his passing is a great loss to the Astronomy Section.

We were further saddened to hear of the death of Philip Eden our ex–Hon. Meteorologist after a long illness. Our sympathy to Philip’s brothers.

Then to cap it all, we were informed of the passing of Prof. Heinz Wolff. Heinz was a member for more than 60 years and President from 1968 – 1987. His last lecture to the Society was in September 2017, in which he described the fun he had with spoof talks and practical jokes. A full obituary will be published in the September Newsletter.

In conclusion the President took the opportunity to thank all Council members for their continued help and support and all those members who assist at meetings lugging chairs and tables, and to all those contributing to tonight’s feast.

3. Secretary’s Report

The Secretary explained that this year, the Council’s separate reports would be collated into a Trustees’ Annual Report as recommended by the Charity Commission. Therefore she would present the main body, the other reports would be presented separately as usual, and there would be a separate agenda item to formally accept the report.

She presented the main body of the Trustees’ report.

The Secretary then thanked members of Council for their contributions, Doug Daniels and Peter Wallis for the newsletter and its content, all those who help with coffee and chairs at meetings and those who provided food, wine and arrangements for the AGM.

4. Treasurer’s Report

The Treasurer, John Tennant presented his report as contained in Appendix 1 of the Trustees’ Report.

Leo McLaughlin noted that the Society had suffered a double whammy with the observatory closure: no associated publicity or donations. There would be minor gain in a lower electricity bill. He noted that the deficit was not as bad as it seemed, as gift aid had not been claimed and would reduce it.

5. Election of Officers and Council

The Secretary said that Doug Daniels had decided to stand down as President this year after 10 years in the position. She announced that according to the Constitution, it is the Society’s Council that elects the President, at a meeting before the AGM, and the AGM then elects a new Council. The Council had elected Simon Lang as President at the Council meeting on 5th April 2018, and she handed over to him to say a few words.

Simon Lang said he wanted to say thank you to Doug Daniels for being the President for the past 10 years, when after all he’d reluctantly taken on the job providing it was only on a temporary basis! He said that Doug and Julia had done such a huge amount for the Society, having been running the Observatory for more than 100 years jointly! Most of all Simon wanted to say thanks to them for mentoring him since he joined the Society in the eighties, often having to be patient while he made mistakes and how it was a miracle he hadn’t found himself buried under the foundations of the Observatory!

He then proposed a toast of thanks from all assembled which was warmly supported.

The Secretary said that Council had announced its nominations for officers in the April newsletter. As there were no further nominations, the following officers were declared as elected:

Hon. Secretary Julie Atkinson Hon. TreasurerJohn Tennant
Hon. Programme Secretary Jim Brightwell Hon. Membership SecretaryJohn Tennant

The constitution requires at least one ordinary Council member to resign at the AGM. The Secretary reported that this year, Martin Williams was resigning, having served for 8 years and being the longest serving member of Council. She thanked him for his service.

The following nominations were received for the 5 ordinary members of Council:

NomineeKevin DevineDavid MarkhamDavid BrandtAnne WatsonJonquil Florentin
Nominated byCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncil

As there were no further nominations, these nominees were declared as elected to Council.

6. Proposal for Change to Wording of Auditing Requirement in Constitution

John Tennant said that a member had pointed out that the term audit usually refers to a formal professional inspection of accounts, whereas that is not what the Society has done. Also, that the Society’s audit is not independent when an auditor is one of the Council, who are the Society’s trustees.

The Constitution implies there is a difference between an audit made by a member and a professional audit, but the term auditing is generally taken as referring to a professional service.

The current wording of the Constitution is:

The Council shall present to each Annual General Meeting a Report of the Society’s activities during the preceding year, including a statement of accounts duly audited by two members of the Society, who shall be appointed at the previous Annual General Meeting.

Council shall have power to employ, if it thinks fit, the services of a professional auditor.

The Charity Commission does not require a charity with our income to have a formal audit, but accepts an ’independent check’. Council recommends that the Constitution is reworded to be consistent with the Charity Commission’s terms and require the check to be made by a member who is not on Council.

The proposed replacement wording is:

The Council shall present to each Annual General Meeting a Report of the Society’s activities during the preceding year, including a statement of accounts duly examined by one examiner chosen from two members of the Society, but independent of the Society’s governing Council, who shall be appointed at the previous Annual General Meeting.

Council shall have power to employ, if it thinks fit, the services of a professional auditor.

John Tenant proposed the change of wording. Julie Atkinson seconded. The meeting voted to accept the change.

7. Election of Independent Checkers

It was pointed out that although the Agenda Item was Election of Auditors, given the agreed new wording it should be election of independent checkers.

Julie Atkinson proposed Leo McLaughlin and Martin Williams as independent checkers, pointing out that since Martin Williams was no longer on Council he was eligible, with David Brandt seconding. He was not present, but David Brandt was able to contact him and obtain his consent to stand.

Julia Daniels was concerned that Martin Williams may not give a thorough check of the accounts, and the Secretary asked for other volunteers.

Melvyn Reiss was willing and was proposed by Julia Daniels, and seconded by Simon Lang.

A vote was held, with members having two votes each. The results were Leo McLaughlin 25, Martin Williams 11, Melvyn Reiss 10, and so Leo McLaughlin and Martin Williams were duly elected as independent checkers.

8. Astronomy Section Report

The Astronomical Section Secretary, Doug Daniels, presented his report, as contained in the Trustees’ report.

Simon Lang added that teams of volunteers have now completed the basic work on the outside of the observatory building, but need permission from Thames Water to lay a new paved area to avoid problems with their membrane. He was confident that the observatory should be able to re-open in September.

The Astronomy Section Treasurer, Julia Daniels, presented the Astronomy Section accounts as contained in the Trustees’ report.

9. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary presented his report as contained in the Trustees’ report

10. Approval of Trustee’s Report

The Secretary called on the 2017–18 members of Council, as Trustees of the Society, to vote on accepting the Trustees’ Report. The Trustees voted 8 in favour, and with three absences, and so the President signed the report on behalf of the Trustees.

The Secretary then called on the members to accept the Trustees’ report. The vote was in favour, with none against and 4 abstentions.

11. AOB

The Programme Secretary gave a brief indication of next year’s programme so far, from Water on Mars to Human Colour Vision.

He also noted that there would be a total lunar eclipse on 27th July.

Kevin Devine noted that Mars was in opposition, close but low down. Trevor Law said that a global dust storm was in progress on the planet.

The Secretary announced that

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM, and since there was plenty of food left from the wine and cheese, the members retired to browse rather than having a scientific entertainment.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 0118 977 5192

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