The RSPCA Canvey Island Branch 1952-1963
and the Animal Defenders
A copy of Canvey’s RSPCA Committee minutes for the years 1952-1963 were found in a box of papers given to us awhile ago. The remains of the minutes, which starts before the floods, is in a bad condition and particularly the meetings recorded in the last months before the flood are very hard to read, perhaps from flood damage! However a surprising amount of information can be found and I have tried to put them into some sort of order that would make interesting reading.
Canvey Island’s local branch and Clinic of the RSPCA was inaugurated in October 1949. The Clinic was just off Chamberlain Avenue in Keegan Place and sessions were held there every Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon. About one thousand animals were medically helped, re-housed or destroyed each year by Canvey’s RSPCA Clinic. The total for the period October 1949 to October 1957 reach 8450.
The position of Chair of the committee was held by Mr E G Shillum of Lakeside Stores, Lakeside Corner from at least 1952 until he died around 1960/63.
The position of Treasurer was held by several members, Mr S C Souster of Barclay’s Bank from 1952-55, Mr Fuller of Gate House, Long Road 1956-7 and Mr Stanbridge, of 3 Hawksbury Rd in 1958. For the last couple of years that Mr Shillum was Chair he also held the post of Treasurer.
The Secretary was Mr & Mrs Downs (joint) of 4 Haarlem Road until 1952, Mrs Underhill 1953-8 and Miss Capser of ‘The Dak’, Roggel Road 1959-1963.
I have been told that Miss Capser was the Chair of the RSPCA and it is likely that 1963 was the year she took over as the Chair. Miss Capser does not seem to be a member of the Committee before the floods. Her name does not appear until 1953 when she was awarded the RSPCA’s Gallantry Medal for her work during the floods. An award ceremony was conducted outside the Clinic on Sunday 13th December 1953 to present Miss Capser and also Mr Oakley with their medals. Mr Oakley could not attend. There was a write up in the local paper, with pictures which so far have not come to light.
Much of the work of the committee was involved in raising funds. With Flag days, sales of Scented Cards and Calendars, Christmas raffles it was a fulltime job just keeping their heads above water. Grants were awarded by the Council for much needed repairs to the Clinic. In 1954 the Pompadour Players held a concert in aid of the RSPCA and Church Funds. The RSPCA received £4-11-3d. The Canvey & District Orchestra put on a show in aid of the local RSPCA on the 29 May 1954 at the cinema. They raised £5-12-0d. In 1957 with funds running dry an appeal was made in the Canvey News and Mr Perry of the Canvey Orchestra again put on a show. On the 28th November 1960 a Jumble Sale was held at Green Glades. Unfortunately inclement weather meant the takings were very low.
A Display Case was built showing leaflets and photos of cruelty to animals and the RSPCA’s role. The Display Case also included two collection boxes. In 1955 the case was displayed outside Canvey Supply near the bus stop. The Showcase proved popular and raised £1-11-9d in its first 6 weeks. In 1956 with new photos it was placed outside the Cinema, later moving to Mr Jones’ Shop. In 1957, after some restoration it was again outside Canvey Supply.
The committee were invited to join the ‘Canvey Organisers’ Exhibition’ which was to be held in the Memorial Hall 28-30 June 1956. Photos, Poster etc were sent through from HQ. Kennards offered to supply equipment such as dog collars to decorate the stall. Chief Inspector Pope offered photographs, a new collection box and a humane rabbit trap for display. Rotas were worked out so that the stall was manned at all times.
A few notations I believe deserve a mention:
- In 1954 Mr Legg of the Council was contacted because of the ‘Rat lodger’ in the ceiling of the Clinic. The rat was evicted!
- In the 1954 Carnival the RSPCA’s tableaux won third prize. Is there a photo out there somewhere?
- The owner of the Clinic property was Mr White. The rent in 1954 was 7 shillings and 6 pence per week.
- In 1955 a new sign was needed and Mr Burton of May Avenue helped the clinic by making up the board. Committee members were sent out to WOOLWORTHS (another disappearing icon) to purchase letters and figures to place on the board.
- The carcass collector was paid £2-2-0d per year, it was noted in the minutes in 1955 that it was ‘not a sufficient yearly sum for his indescribable duties’. It was doubled to £4-4-0d.
- In 1956 there was a big discussion regarding the condition of Canvey’s ‘New’ Roads. Where tins and glass were used as a foundation for the clinker roads it was dangerous for animals. A letter was sent to the Council asking for something to be done. In reply the Council said ‘unfortunately they were short of soft clinker for surfaces of many roads, but it was hoped to comply with demand within near future.’Nothing changes!
The Animal Defenders
Apart from running the clinic the main task of the local RSPCA was to raise awareness of the plight of animals in the young, to this end they started a branch of the RSPCA’s ‘Animal Defenders’. Animal Defenders was open to children from seven to sixteen. They would receive a badge, a monthly magazine and participate in group expeditions.
In 1953 our local branch tried to get the young children of Canvey interested in joining. The first to join were 18 children from Kingsley Hall, Private School. At the start of 1954 there were 96 members. Meetings were held once a month at the local cinema, where the children were shown RSPCA films and listened to talks by Mrs White on ‘The Care of Pets’. Prizes were given to winners of an essay competition, the subject ‘Why we Love Animals’.
The Divisional Education Officer gave permission to hold the Animal Defenders meetings at Long Road Primary School Hall. By March there were 300 members with more joining daily. In May 9 prizes were awarded to the winning entries of a painting competition. The year finished with about 400 members.
1955 saw the number of members continue to rise. Permission was sought and gained to show the films at schools during term time. Films were shown to children at the Secondary School at the end of January and Leigh Beck Primary in February. It was also decided to take the children out of school to test their awareness. They were taken to Benfleet Downs and it was reported that the children were very alert and had noted many birds and small mammals such as weasels. They were also taken on an outing to Priory Park.
Later in the year there was a painting competition and the RSPCA Chief Inspector Pope was asked to judge the 150 entries. He remarked on the outstanding standard of the paintings and drawings submitted and found it very hard to pick the winners. Eventually prizes were awarded in the different age groups to the 8 winners.
Mrs Underhill continued to visit the schools and in 1956 there was a further outing to Priory Park.