The History of Paisley Magic Circle

Compiled and written by Jim Cuthbert

Paisley Magic Circle was formed in September 1938. Originally it took the name of the former Paisley magical club, Paisley Magical Society. It kept this name until 1967. The founder members were Tom Ellis, Watson Black and Wyndham Lee.

The first meeting was held in the YMCA building in the High Street, Paisley. This meeting place lasted a very short time as the YMCA was handed over to the War Office for use during the war years. The first meeting saw Harry Fenton, Alex Gillougley and Malcolm McIntyre joining with the founders. During the war years the club took on the role of a transit club. Many magicians both British and American landed at Glasgow, Greenock and Paisley harbour and were soon making their way to Paisley Magical Society meetings. Despite the rationing there was always tea and magic on the menu. Like the London Windmill the society never closed.

The club moved to many meeting places over the years. These included: Miss Balmford’s home in High Street, Paisley, The Masonic Hall, Ralston, Methodist Hall, Coats Memorial Hall, Coats Memorial Church Hall, Paisley Town Hall and the Boys Brigade H.Q. in Paisley.

Like most other clubs PMS started to present magical shows annually from 1943 and after a long run the members decided to stop in 1963. A few have been organised since then but usually along with some other organisation such as Church groups. The entrance fee is shared with the organising group and the club.

It was the Paisley Club which proposed the formation of The Scottish Association of Magical Societies in 1950 and Max Raskin was invited to carry out all the planning on behalf of the club. A record of this intended meeting with all the magical clubs in Scotland is recorded in the minutes of Perth Magic Circle of 16th May 1950. Max was the first President of SAMS and presented the Max Raskin Cup for children’s magic.

The club organised a one day magical convention in 1979. It was held in Johnstone Town Hall and had lectures by Peter Jeffries and Paul Scott and a gala show with Bill McBrinn, Jimmy Fleming, Les McLean, Freddy Lee, Les & Lynn Paul, Cadabras and Paul Scott. This one day convention was so successful it was repeated annually, remaining a main part of the club’s programme for many years.

The Renfrew District Council have supported the club by providing Civic Receptions for the Fifty and Sixty year celebrations. As part of the fifty year celebrations the council also worked with the club to present the first one month Museum exhibition of magic in Scotland.

The club also had its own club magazine in 1997 entitled The Pattern (the Paisley Pattern!). The magazine contained reviews on magical effects, suggested reading, personal best books list, coming events and some history of the club and magicians of the past.

Paisley Magic Circle has honoured many magicians over the years.

Honorary Presidents
Harry Fenton
Jimmy Flemming
David Haggarty
Val Le Val
Margaret MacLean
Brian Jeffrey

Honorary Life Vice Presidents
Peter Allan
Les Levant
John Ramsay
John Cranston
Zina Bennett
Tom Ellis
Harry Fenton
George Birrell
William McDonald
Colin Goodburn
Jim Cuthbert
Tommy Templeton

Honorary Life Members
Harry Willane
Tom Ellis
Charles Wilson
Tommy Frederick
George Willison
Fred Balme
Bill McBrinn
Adrian Harris
Stuart Leith
Cynthia Neptune
Bill McLeod
Roy Scott
Paul Daniels
Doreen Clark
Brian Jeffrey
Tommy Templeton
Paul Nardini
Peter McLanachan

The club has provided the magicians of Scotland with a number of magical lecturers. These include Val Le Val, Jim Cuthbert, John McCracken, Colin Goodburn, Peter McLanachan and Jimmy Fleming.

Paisley was one of the six founder members of the Scottish Association of Magical Societies and went on to win many of the SAMS competitions.

Cannon Trophy – Best Magical Society of the Year
1985, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2015 (Shared with Kilmarnock Magic Circle)

Anne Warlock Cup – best act in the Close Up Competition
Bill Miller 1985
Alan Duncan 1995
John Kelly 1998 and 2000
Peter McLanachan 2017
Billy Reid 2019

Stuart Leith Shield – Runner Up in the Close Up Competition
Guillermo Amodeo 2014
George Speirs 2015

Ramsay Rose Bowl – best magic effect in the Close Up Competition
Bill Miller 1985
Nigel McCulloch 1988
Ina Cuthbert 1993
Alan Duncan 1995
Paul Nardini 1997
John Kelly 2000
Amanda Gott 2014
George Speirs 2015
Billy Reid 2019

Harold McMillan Shield – best act in the Stage Magic Competition
Harry Willane 1961
Secret Service (David Ennis, Brian Jeffrey and Karen Kelly) 1997
Pavneesh Gupta 1999
Afzal Aziz 2013 and 2014

The Fletcher Cup – Runner Up act in the Stage Magic Competition
Hugh Gillies 1969, 1977
Brian Jeffrey 1988, 1989, 1990 1992, 2014, 2016
Paul Nardini 1997, 1999
Afzal Aziz 2015 (with George Speirs)
George Speirs 2015 (with Afzal Aziz), 2019

Max Raskin Cup – Best Act in the Children’s Magic Competition
Bill Miller 1985
George Speirs 2015

Murray Wand – For the person showing the most showmanship at the convention
Margaret McLean 1991
Leslie Melville 1993
Afzal Aziz 2013, 2014

Ian Adair Award – For the person showing most originality in the competitions
Peter McLanachan 2017
George Speirs 2018

Craig Quaich – Presented by the SAMS President who, in their opinion, has done the most for Scottish Magic
Ina Cuthbert 1992
David Haggarty 1999
Peter McLanachan 2017
Billy Reid 2019

Presidents of SAMS
Jim Cuthbert
Jimmy Fleming
David Haggarty
Brian Jeffrey (twice)
Robert Lees
Max Raskin (3 times)
Val LeVal
Margaret Maclean
David Ennis
George Speirs