AGM traditions

As July is the month of the RCVS Annual General Meeting (AGM), I thought it would be a good time to share a few nuggets of history from RCVS AGMs back in the 1840s and the first few years of the college’s existence.

Initially, the AGM was scheduled for the first Monday in May each year. As there was no building owned or rented by the RCVS, meetings were held at the Freemasons’ Tavern (you can learn more on notable venues of veterinary history in my guest blog for RCVS Knowledge).

As the AGM and the RCVS Day event has grown, we have returned to this historic tradition of renting a space to host the event – ​​as such, this year is at One Great George Street in Westminster.

A typical AGM in the 1840-50s provided a space to share the accounts of the RCVS, and this still happens today.

Home from home

Similar to the RCVS’ current situation of finding a new building and moving into it, 1854 saw 10 Red Lion Square – the first building used as a permanent base for the RCVS – being worked on and furniture purchased.

The finances below show the expenditure, with the builder clearly being the winner in this financial situation – earning himself a fee roughly equivalent to almost £20,000 in today’s money!

The veterinary press

Advertisements to announce the AGM were placed in The London Gazette around a month before the meeting, even members of the profession were initially invited.

An important part of communicating the events of the AGM included the proceedings being published in the relevant journals or papers. At the time these would have included:

  • The Veterinarian
  • Veterinary Record
  • The Field
  • The Mark Lane Express

The Veterinarian in particular liked to report on the events, with both the official report of the meeting, but also an editorial comment. While the editor was William Percivall (also RCVS examiner), the AGM report was front page news. Following his death, however, the AGM was relegated to further back in the journal, although the editorial comments remained.

In 1854, the editorial comments were focused on a plan to call the new building the RCVS resided in “The Institution”. The editor of The Veterinarian felt this would demote the status of the royal college and confuse things with a “new name for the veterinary profession”.

Socializing

Early AGMs were followed by an “annual dinner of the veterinary profession”. While this was not recorded by RCVS records, The Veterinarian had a reporter present and they recorded the events of the dinner, as well as the AGM. It would appear that the evening was spent discussing some veterinary matters, with a good amount of toasts declared to the health of everyone even vaguely connected with the veterinary profession.

There also appears to have been some singing:

Finally, a tradition we could possibly consider bringing back in the coming years, although we may not have long enough to learn the words before the next AGM. That said, I cannot find lyrics for “Bring me, boy, a sparkling bowl”, but it appears to be linked to the Charles Dickens novella The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Homewritten in 1845.

If anyone has the lyrics, please share!

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