The Open Spaces Society is preparing for its new look. A new logo has been designed and it will soon appear on website, stationery and publications.
Its first outing was today, when we changed the signs outside the office in Bell Street. I felt quite sad when the old sign outside our door was taken down. It had hung there, somewhat precariously, since 1985.
The sign was funded by Sir Francis Boyd (1910-1995), the society’s former treasurer and vice-president. When he died I wrote about him in the society’s magazine, Open Space, spring 1996. I’ve reproduced some of it below.
Francis was born in Ilkley in West Yorkshire. He had a distinguished career in journalism, before the war as a reporter on the Leeds Mercury and parliamentary correspondent on the Manchester Guardian, after the war becoming political editor of the Guardian. He knew the workings of parliament and the press—invaluable assets for a campaigning organisation.
Francis became treasurer of the OSS in 1977 at a time when the society was having one of its tricky financial spells. He steered us through with his sound common sense, good humour and his engaging pessimism (which, Ian Aitken tells us in his Guardian appreciation, won him the nickname of Eeyore).
A typical note from him appeared in our journal of autumn 1979:
‘Sooner or later—and almost certainly sooner—the members of this society must wrench their gaze from ploughed-up footpaths and snorting bulls, to do their sums … . Miracles are out: inflation, rising rents, redundancies, the freezing of staffs, all make the prospect sombre … . What the figures show beyond any doubt are annual deficits for the society unless we can strengthen our finances permanently by our own efforts.
‘Beyond any doubt, too, the forces fighting to control more land for private or institutional purposes are not only highly organised but are rich enough to spread their campaigning through endless and costly legal processes. There is therefore no excuse for any member of this society moaning that there is no purpose in life nowadays, no stimulating challenge left: there are mountains to scale on open-access paths.’
A note in the Guardian on 11 July 1990, to celebrate his eightieth birthday, said ‘his political nous and productivity are still legendary to younger colleagues … . Four score years have deepened the affection of his friends and amiably lengthened his famously short fuse’.
I thought of Francis today as the sign came down; he might well have made an Eeyorish comment about our new logo, muttering that it wouldn’t help the annual deficits, but let’s hope that he might have been pleasantly surprised.