The story of Albert Huxley and the Challenge Cup

Pause for another diversion – this time into the more recent past.  The engravings on the Cup show it was awarded each year for ten years.  Rd(Richard) Croston won it in 1930 and 1932, John F Parr in 1931, Fred Beech in 1933 (If you remember, his garden was damaged by boys in 1922) and Albert Huxley in 1934, 1936 and 1937.  Then there is a long gap until 1971.

Albert Huxley first rented an allotment in 1930.  In 1932 he became a member of the committee and by 1936 he was also auditor and trustee.  He was a regular and active committee member for many years and was one of the trustees when the land was purchased in 1947.  As he won the cup at the last show in 1937 it was left in his possession after the Second World War began.  In 1951, when Albert was a member of the committee, they decided to call a Special General Meeting consider whether or not to revive the competition to “compete for cup at present in the hands of Mr Huxley.”  There is no record of this meeting taking place and the matter was not mentioned again for another 20 years.  In April 1971, when Albert was 84 years old and no longer a committee member, the matter was revived again and it was unanimously agreed to restart the competition.

In the NSHS archives there is a copy of two newspaper articles from the Wigan Observer and some correspondence to and from Platt and Fishwick, Solicitors, dated May and June 1971, regarding the return of the Cup – which they call the Dorothy Rawcliffe Cup (so her first name was Dorothy, and poems I described in the previous post may well have been hers).  According to the newspaper account Mr Huxley received a solicitor`s letter out of the blue wanting his cup back – it is hard to imagine that they would have agreed to pay a solicitor without asking Mr Huxley to return the cup first, and him refusing to do so.  Unfortunately for Mr Huxley the committee had resolved in March 1926 that the Rawcliffe Cup would not become the property of any individual gardener but always remain the property of New Springs Horticultural Society and this had been recorded in the minutes.  The secretary wrote an open letter to the Observer to explain the misunderstanding, which was referred to in the second article.  The lawyers were annoyed the paper had not printed the letter in full but hoped the readers would appreciate that the society had justification for its actions. A special meeting of the committee approved the officials` action in obtaining the cup.  They agreed to pay him £10 for looking after the cup, but only after an amendment that he be paid £5 had been defeated.  This added insult to injury, he resigned his trusteeship and vowed never again to show in the Society`s competitions.

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