Port Pirie stamp club celebrates 85th birthday

TREASURE: Ray Baverstock uses a magnifying glass to check some of his prized stamps. A collector for 50 years, he is a former shopkeeper in Risdon Park.

TREASURE: Ray Baverstock uses a magnifying glass to check some of his prized stamps. A collector for 50 years, he is a former shopkeeper in Risdon Park.

The Port Pirie Philatelic Society has stamped its place in history by celebrating its 85th birthday and secretary Ray Baverstock and members are thrilled with the milestone.

The collectors have gathered many thousands of items in this time with Mr Baverstock having hundreds of postage stamps in his folders at his former store in Port Pirie.

The first club went into recess at the start of World War I in 1914. 

In 1933, Herbert J. Stacey arranged a meeting among a group of stamp collectors and the second Port Pirie Philatelic Society was set up.

Reverend Kilmartin was elected president with R.H. Barty as secretary. For several years meetings were held in the trotting clubrooms above Chris’s Fish Shop, in Alexander Street, and on a hot night the stench was decidedly on the nose. In 1939, membership reached 65.

Mr Stacey once told his story of a “chase” after some South Australian departmental stamps.

He had heard that the Port Augusta Police Station was packed with old envelopes that had been officially received in the past 60 years.

Mr Stacey upended himself, caught the goods train to Peterborough and changed into the 10mph train to Port Augusta via Quorn, a journey of about 190 miles.

On arriving at Port Augusta, he booked into a local hotel to rest. The next morning he presented at the police station “oozing” charm. “No go,” said the constable. A Mr Black from Port Pirie had called the previous week and collected all the envelopes!

Through the 1940s, meetings were held above the Eudunda Farmers Building and occasionally in the Gladstone home of foundation member Jock Borthwick.

At least one meeting was held in the Lutheran Manse in Laura.

In the early 1950s, meetings moved to the Country Women’s Association rooms and then to the YMCA rooms which proved to be a poor move because the noise was horrific.

A switch was then made to the Baptist Hall, in Marie Ellie Street. Through the 1950s membership fell to below 10. In the 1960s, the society struggled to survive. In 1960, Mr Borthwick was awarded the first life membership.

In the early 1970s, philatelic societies had formed in Whyalla, Port Augusta, Peterborough, Snowtown and Moonta. Sadly, by the mid-1990s, only Port Pirie had survived.

In 1970, the headquarters shifted to the Parish Hall, in Florence Street. In 1972, an Australia-wide competition was held by the magazine Stamp News for the most active society in country areas. Port Pirie finished second behind Tamworth, New South Wales.

The society has survived through the dedication of many members. Alan Kent, Bill Passaris, Graham Wade, Stewart Catford, Elly Marshall, John Edwards, Kevin Saler, Mr Baverstock, Angela Brustolin, Bill Rossini  and Don Evely were instrumental in promoting the club.

Mr Passaris was awarded life membership in 1983. Both Bill and Jock Borthwick were recipients of the Briskham Award – awarded annually to a philatelist whose contribution in SA is regarded as outstanding.

The society held its Golden Jubilee at the weekend of April 30 and May 1, 1983. The celebration was in the new Northern Festival Centre – the first official event to be held at the venue and due to good public-relations work the centre was free.

In 2005, the society moved from the Anglican Hall to the Gem Club room on the old railway station platform.

In 2008, the society produced a special envelope to commemorate its 75th anniversary and a dinner was held in the Risdon Hotel where many prominent SA philatelic dignitaries and past Port Pirie members attended.

Membership in the past 30 to 40 years has stabilised and been maintained about 12 members on average yearly.

The society is the second oldest in SA behind the South Australian Philatelic Association based in Adelaide.

Members live in Wallaroo, Port Broughton, Spalding, Crystal Brook and Redhill. This year, meetings will be in the Port Pirie Sports and Community Club, in Broadway Road, at 2pm on the last Monday of each month (except December and January). The society is keen to attract new members and visitors are welcome at meetings. Inquiries can be made to Mr Baverstock on 8632 1105 or president Geoff Edwards on 0429 858 856.

There are no rules which apply to stamp collecting. You collect what interests you and your particular pursuits may be shared by no other collector.

Meetings include circuit books from which purchases can be made, an auction and an organised display. The society has a library from which members are free to borrow reference material.