The Modern Mystic League


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Blackburn & District Society of Magicians

Our February meeting, held in the comfortable surroundings of Kingswood, brought three more ‘lecturettes’ from members on magic-related topics close to their hearts.

Allan Clarke began, with some of his Trains of Thought which he preferred to call ‘Variations on a Theme,’ inspired by Michael Webber at a Session Convention lecture.  The first two effects, although looking very different to the audience, were achieved by the same method, while the second two (based on the well-known Scarlet Pimpernel rhyming patter beloved of Cliff Lount) looked identical but had different methods.  The first pairing utilised the Klondike shuffle (akin to ‘Attaboy’) to force first a Joker and then a chocolate bar.

Brian Glover and the Cavendish Knights were credited with the inspiration for a very effective prediction sequence using coins, leading into ‘Free William Hicks’ as envisioned by Liam Montier, using some superior-quality props. The ‘dual reality’ principle was at work here, prediction decisions being made after spectator choices.

Our thoughts then turned to the restoration of books, as Roger Woods took the floor to talk about another of his interests.  He began by reminding us of the fate of our library, with water damage at St. Silas’s and the effects of cold, damp and dust (not to mention rats) at St Francis’s.  All of these features could have a seriously detrimental effect on books.  Roger explained some of the actions he had taken to ameliorate some of the damage, taking our valuable Harbin book (presented to the League by Eric Halstead in 1970) and Thurston’s Illusion Show Workbook as examples. He had also enlisted the help of Philip Treece, an expert book restorer and owner of  It was, in fact, Philip who eventually purchased the bulk of our volumes.

Opinions can differ, of course, even among experts. Philip, writing in his occasional THOTH magazine, had emphasised the importance of air flow around books, and agreed about the efficacy of putting bicarbonate of soda into a box of books – not to mention cat litter.  He had been rather less enthusiastic about placing laundry sheets between the pages, even with protective layers. 

Apparently freezing books is also a good idea!

Anyway, Roger left us with plenty of food for thought.
During the break we enjoyed a special ‘lemon drizzle’ 110th birthday cake, made by Allan Clarke.  Is there no end to this man’s talents?

Also, Donald displayed the Christmas present of a wonderful illuminated MML logo, courtesy of Francesca & Craig Docherty.

Last up was Paul Guy, explaining all of the research procedures behind his family tree projects on people such as Johnny Hart and INO, who has featured recently in these pages.  Paul spoke of his daily use of the Ancestry site, and how he went about his meticulous searches.  We learned to distrust even ‘official’ documents, all prone to human error, and saw how one small mistake could lead to disaster or a dead-end, using two of our members as examples.  Both Anne and Allan had had their forenames spelt wrongly (as Ann and Alan) on official documents.  Paul stressed the need for absolute certainty before making a definitive claim. He likened the process to assembling a very large and complex jig-saw puzzle without any idea if the final picture, and shocks often emerged. Paul also referred to the value of census records (again with caveats, as information had to be accepted in good faith without checks) and the occasional experience of ‘Chinese whispers’.  It was a fascinating session, with illustrations from the INO project.

Owing to time constraints, we decided to postpone the fourth proposed talk, on old ventriloquial figures, until our next round of lecturettes. 

The depth and scope of specialist knowledge among our members is remarkable, and such meetings are invariably rewarding.

Brian Lead