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The Sherlock Holmes Society of London’s 1961 Garrideb Gathering

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London’s 1961 Garrideb Gathering

“Will you be at home this evening?”

– The Adventure of The Three Garridebs (3GAR)

Proceedings of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London


“The only one in the world”

KILLER Evans would surely have been envious. At 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 3, 1961, the stentorian voice of the head-waiter announced: “Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Garridebs will now gather”. Whereupon 128 members and guests of that illustrious family entered the dining-room of the Charing Cross Hotel, for the Society’s ninth annual dinner.

The menu was printed in the traditional Baskerville type in brown ink-for brown is indeed the patronal colour of collectors-and was enriched with nineteen apt quotations from The Three Garridebs. The courses were all American, while the chief item on the menu undoubtedly was Roast Fort Dodge Cock Pheasant (the Society never overlooks anything so obvious).

Anthony Howlett was in the Chair, and proposed the toast of “The Immortal Memory”. First he welcomed the guest of the evening, Mr. R. L. Jackson, Commissioner at Scotland Yard. He hailed Mr. Jackson as the Bodymaster McGinty of Scotland Yard, “the best of a good lot”. He then praised the record attendance for an Annual Dinner and the present record membership of the Society: these were surely the best of tributes to Holmes’ immortal memory.

With Mr. Jackson as our guest, it was right to recall the professional debt owed to Sherlock Holmes. The American and French police acknowledged this, and so did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A former Commissioner at Scotland Yard once went so far as to declare, “Conan Doyle taught us to think”. But do we today emulate Holmes enough? Do we check our hats in the morning to see if our wives have ceased to love us? (prolonged laughter). Even Scotland Yard should honour a prophet in his own country, and it was therefore a privilege to propose the toast of “The Immortal Memory”.

Mr. Jackson, in replying, declared that even Holmes had his faults; modesty was not among his characteristics. But let it be remembered that both Holmes and the C.I.D. were at that epoch in the early stages of their respective careers. In 1877, three detectives were convicted at the Old Bailey! The usual Royal Commission sat in 1878. The most famous Bachelor Establishment of all time was formed in the latter year. And when the first telephone was installed at the Yard, there were objections: “Good God, the public will soon be ringing us up!”

Dr. Watson was not so popular at the Yard. While Holmes allowed Scotland Yard to take the credit, Watson undid this favour by publishing memoirs of the cases, thereby proving again that the best way of obtaining publicity was ostentatiously to shun it. 1888 was a year of reverses: The Woman foiled Holmes and Jack the Ripper foiled the Yard. Unfortunately, the Official Secrets Act prevented disclosure of what Holmes was doing between 1891 and 1894.

But the feelings between Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes mellowed with the years into respect and affection. Holmes himself had one great virtue: he sympathised with those against whom crime was committed. He was (to use an out-dated term) a gentleman, with dignity and good manners.

Best of all, let us remember that tribute of Lestrade in The Six Napoleons – it was a tribute with which Mr. Jackson whole-heartedly associated himself (prolonged applause).

Mrs. Winifred Christie then rose to propose the toast to “The Woman”. Irene Adler came on Sherlock Holmes’ path like a comet; what impact did other women make on him? He was an amateur appreciator of music, of art and of detection. Was he also an amateur of women? (laughter). Holmes seemed to like terrified wives like Mrs. Neville St. Clair, deceived spinsters like Mary Sutherland, spiritual cyclists with spatial fingers-they gave him such a nice, manly, superior, protective feeling.

But Irene Adler was the unattainable, a woman with brains and courage. In the seclusion of his Sussex retreat, Holmes could contemplate at ease the Queen segregated in velvet, the daintiest thing under a bonnet.

Frederick Bryan-Brown then proposed the toast to “Dr. John H. Watson”. Speaking as Watson’s only fellow rugger club member present, Mr. Bryan-Brown suggested that Watson presumably played in the first row. But why did Big Bob Ferguson throw him over the ropes into the crowd -unless because it was as J. P. W. Mallalieu ventured: he had unwarrantably strayed on to the field.

Holmes did not always behave very decently to Watson. He was neither a fool nor a foil. And if Watson is thought a fool, the fault is of people who produce plays and films. Art in the blood-but with Watson it was medicine in the blood. Where there was a female in distress, Watson was always ready to rally round. Touch him where you would he would always ring true-that was the hallmark of his character.

And so ended a fine evening, with four superlative speeches, each different in style, none inferior in calibre, to the others. To each speaker, and to all those who contributed to the wit and bonhomie, a medal the size of a soup plate.

SHJ LogoThis article was originally published in the Spring 1961 issue of The Sherlock Holmes Journal, Volume 5, Number 2 (Eighteenth Issue). Thanks to the 48th Garrideb (and current Editor of the SHJ), Roger Johnson, for giving us permission to share this.