Second British Convention

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Did you mean a different Necronomicon?

The Second British Convention was held Sunday April 10, 1938, at the Ancient Order of Druids' Memorial Hall in Lamb's Conduit Street, London. It was sponsored by the Science Fiction Association (SFA) and G. Ken Chapman was chairman. It was at the time only referred to as The Second Convention and Annual General Meeting (or the other way around) but was retroactively named Necronomicon in an advertisement for Loncon, the 1957 Worldcon, in the Nycon II programme book. John Russell Fearn may have been GoH but see below.


There were no specific plans for a second convention at the conclusion of the first but Ted Carnell was urging for it to be held in London. The convention was trailed in Novae Terrae #21 in March. It named Carnell and Chapman as organisers of a convention to be held 'Under the auspices of the London SFA':

All SFA members and friends are especially requested to attend this important convocation. The SFA cordially invites any and every author, editor, reader, publisher or enthusiast of science-fiction. Be sure you take advantage of this unique opportunity of meeting Britain's science-fiction personalities.

Several of the 'distinguished s-f personalities who have promised to attend' were also named, almost all of whom were in fact present.


The Ancient Order of Druids' (AOD) Memorial Hall was, according to the official report:

... the 'temple' of the local branch of the Ancient Order of Druids, suitably disguised with dim lights and the conveners were appreciably impressed by the bizarre surroundings.

Harry Turner commented on its 'impressive papier-mache Stonehenge decor'.

The hall had been used for regular formal monthly meetings of the London SFA since November 1937 and would be used again for the third convention in 1939. It would be destroyed in a German bombing raid on May 10, 1941


There was again seemingly no charge for attendance. There were 43 people present according to Novae Terrae #22 of whom Rob Hansen has identified 25. Eight had also present in 1937:

Sid Birchby is also listed as a steward in the official programme but is not otherwise known to have been present. Harry Turner recalled meeting Frank Arnold there but he was writing years after the event and Arnold is not mentioned in contemporary reports. Similarly, Ron Holmes recalled meeting Sam Youd who definitely wasn't there and it's almost certain that Holmes was conflating memories with their meeting at the Third British Convention in the same venue in 1939 which Youd himself described.

The convention[edit]

The afternoon session was given over to the AGM of the SFA and was attended only by members. It saw a change in the group's headquarters from Leeds to London. There was also a vote to elect a president. The nominations were John Russell Fearn, Walter Gillings, John Beynon Harris and Professor A. M. Low, with the latter being appointed after a secret ballot.

The evening session involved speakers (in the following order, slightly different from the listing in the official programme where Mayer isn't even billed):

  • Professor A. M. Low
  • Leslie J. Johnson
  • I. O. Evans
  • Walter Gillings
  • Douglas W. F. Mayer
  • Benson Herbert
  • John Russell Fearn
  • Messages from Overseas – Messages in support of the convention from, among others, Leo Margulies, Ray Palmer and Oliver Saari

After the speeches there was a concluding supper party.

During John Russell Fearn's evening speech he said:

As to myself I see no particular reason why I should be made the guest of honour at this meeting. I can only assume it is because I've told more lies in print than anyone else.

Fearn was a well-established author, having been professionally published for several years with numerous stories in venues such as Astounding and he was the last to speak. But the words in his speech are the only reference to him having guest of honour status. It's not mentioned in the advance publicity for the convention in Novae Terrae where he is only one of the 'the distinguished s-f personalities who have promised to attend' albeit the first named. Nor is it noted in the programme booklet, the official report (aside from the extract from his speech), or any of the contemporary accounts. Moreover, guests of honour were not a feature of early conventions; there wasn't one in 1937 or more significantly in 1939, an event of the same size and in the same venue and broadly the same programme structure where there were just a number of speakers. So it's possible that Fearn interpreted an invitation to speak as meaning he was a 'guest of honour' although without there being anything grandiose or presumptive about that given that the term then had no context within science fiction conventions. It may also have been a spur of the moment decision by the organisers on the day. If Fearn was a guest of honour then he was the first guest of honour at any convention anywhere, and likely the only one at any convention other than a Worldcon for several years.


A programme booklet was produced for the day. The subsequent official report was compiled by Maurice K. Hanson in collaboration with G. Ken Chapman and Eric C. Williams. It included extracts from, or descriptions of, the speeches, and William Temple's account of the supper party. In a section of 'Impressions', Les Johnson said:

My most pleasant memory is in having met old friends and acquaintances in mental substance to those formerly but names. I was impressed by the hall's mystic atmosphere almost under the shadow of Stonehenge, Prof. Low's stimulating wit, John Russell Fearn essentially practical, and Douglas Mayer surprisingly oratorical.

See also Early Conventions.

This is a convention page. Please extend it by adding information about the convention, including dates, GoHs, convention chairman, locale, sponsoring organization, external links to convention pages, awards given, the program, notable events, anecdotes, pictures, scans of publications, pictures of T-shirts, con reports, etc.