In 1942, as the Eighth Army struggled with Rommel’s Afrika Korps, the RS Surtees Society was conceived by Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Bt. Its conception was minuted in the Michaelmas term papers of the Cambridge Conservative Association. The decision was not immediately put into effect.
Forty years later, Peter Simple of the Daily Telegraph nudged the Society into wakefulness. While Sir Charles Pickthorn was out of the country on business, the Peter Simple column solemnly announced (as fact) the establishment of the RS Surtees Society by the absent knight. At the time not a single Surtees title was in print.
Sir Charles Pickthorn Bt threw himself vigorously into the task. As support flooded in he rapidly assembled a membership list of a thousand. These – ‘The Old Members’ – contributed to the Society’s Exchequer and the complete re-publishing of the Surtees canon.
A feeling that the job was done saw the founding fathers of the Society propose withdrawing their funds and winding the Society up. A new Executive Commitee was appointed at an extraordinary general meeting in the Linnaean Society. On Sir Charles’ death in 1995 Lady Helen Pickthorn took on the Society, running it with great elegance and verve until 2011, when she handed the reins to Rob Williams.