Monday 11th December 2023
1: Apologies - Maureen, Fay, Christine.
2: Address by the Chair, Dr Joanne Backhouse
Dr Backhouse discussed the year’s events, describing it as a good year for the Society finally returning to a full year of lectures in Bebington after the pandemic hiatus. There were 53 members in 2023, 8 newly joined during the year. She explained that the annual membership fee was being increased from £20 to £25 to cover increased costs in room hire, public liability insurance and PAT testing, the last two a requirement to continue using Mayer Hall. The additional funds would also enable us to pay travel expenses to attract speakers from farther away. Unlike other local societies we have a year-round programme, with no break in the Summer, and free Zoom lectures in April and September when Mayer Hall is unavailable, so this represents good value for money.
Lecture fees remain at £2 for members and £4 for visitors.
The 2023 lectures were excellent and varied.
Including in April, Dr Heidi Koepp-Junk, via Zoom, lecturing us on Ancient Egyptian Music and playing replicas of original instruments. Two of our members, Dr Corbelli and Dr Muskett, gave both interesting and informative lectures in their fields of expertise and our September lecturer, spoke on Zoom from Egypt.
We have a similarly interesting programme to look forward to in 2024. In February 2024, one of our previous bursary students, Megan Clarke, is returning to give a lecture on Paddle Dolls.
Dr Backhouse was pleased to announce that 2 volunteers had joined the committee in 2023. This takes it up to 6 members; 1 over the 5 needed for a quorum. Cheryl Tempest is producing the monthly newsletter as well as organising events and has taken over as membership secretary from Rosie (general secretary) and Cheryl Hanson (treasurer). She has already hit the ground running, producing six newsletters and organising a visit to view the Golden Mummies exhibition and newly reopened galleries at Manchester Museum. Steve Tasker has taken over the ongoing sale of books from donations and the now defunct library. Gwen is sadly standing down from the committee after serving as treasurer for many years and lately as meeter and greeter, welcoming arrivals at the start of each lecture. She was warmly thanked for all her service to the Society and we are all sorry to see her leave the committee. She has been a stalwart and the committee will miss her input at meetings. Bill Jackson will take over her duties from January. More volunteers are still needed to ensure the smooth running of the committee in case of illness or absences. Dr Backhouse asked everyone to please consider joining us.
She thanked Colin for another excellent year’s work on the website. It looks superb and showcases what we do really well.
Sadly, Dr Backhouse had to inform the members that the former President and co-founder of Wirral Ancient Egypt Society, Dr Dorothy Downes, had passed away. Our current President, Dr Ashley Cooke, Senior Curator Liverpool World Museum, will talk about her achievements before his lecture later.
3: Treasurer’s Report – Cheryl Hanson
Cheryl went over the full financial details for 2023, which had previously been sent out to members by email for their information. There were hard copies available at the meeting for the few without an email address. She also asked all members to collect their envelopes from the back of the room as these contained membership renewal forms for 2024 and the programme for next year.
This year income exceeded expenditure by £101.73 and she detailed the income and expenses over the year. Rising costs have made it necessary to increase the membership fee from £20 to £25 for the 2024 year, but lecture fees remain at £2 for members and £4 for visitors, teas/coffees remain at 50p and there is still to be no charge for the two Zoom lectures in April and September and the December meeting. This small increase will enable us to maintain an appropriate balance during 2024.
She said membership fees could be paid today or at the January lecture meeting.
The treasurer then handed the chair back to Dr Backhouse.
4: President’s Address; Dr Ashley Cooke
Dr Cooke spoke about his predecessor as President, Dr Dorothy Downes. He described her as both his predecessor as President of WAES and as Senior Curator at Liverpool World Museum. He told how in 1957, mice had begun to attack two of the mummies stored in an old warehouse. Dorothy, aged 24 at the time, was working as assistant curator of archaeology at Carnatic Hall, Mossley Hill and was concerned at the damage being done. She studied at Cambridge and was the first Egyptologist to work at the University of Liverpool. The mummies, along with other material had been boxed away during WW2 and had not yet been sorted or rehoused. In 1964 she began to centralise the scattered collections into a large warehouse, sorting out old objects and new acquisitions and cataloguing them. She began the conservation of the Roman mummies and was promoted to keeper of archaeology. In 1966 Warren Dawson wrote asking her to consider radiographics as a way of study, as proposed by retired Surgeon Commander Peter Gray as another means of investigating the mummies in Liverpool. In 1968 Gray and Shaw published a detailed description of their and her work. In 1976 the Humanities Gallery opened with comprehensive displays of the Museum’s antiquities and ethnology collections including Ancient Egyptian antiquities. Dr Downes’ work covered many years before she retired in 1978 to concentrate on raising her family after achieving considerable recognition for her work at Liverpool.
5: Motions from the floor.
No motions were put forward and Dr Backhouse formally closed the AGM.