Thomas Brittain

Manchester Cryptogamic Society

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We have been having a bit of a spring clean in the Herbarium recently and, whilst sorting through some old reprints, I found two rather dog eared books.  On closer inpection I was excited to discover they were the minute books from the Manchester Cryptogamic Society.  Cryptogams are plants that reproduce by spores, the commonest groups being lichens, mosses, ferns and algae.
Minute books dating from 1878-1890, 1891-1896

I’ve transcribed the first few pages of the book detailing the society’s first meeting:

Manchester Cryptogamic Society

Lower Mosley St School

November 4th 1878

Meeting of Cryptogamic botanists for the purpose of carrying out some suggestions recently made and further formulated at the annual service of the Lower Mosley St. Natural History Society by the cryptogamic botanists present, having reference to the establishment of a society for the especial study of cryptogamic plants. Mr James Cash having been duly elected as chairman.

  1. It was proposed by Mr Thos. Brittain and seconded by Mr James Neild of Oldham that the title of the aforementioned society be the Manchester Cryptogamic Society. – carried unanimously
  2. Proposed by Mr Sunderland of Ashton andseconded by Mr Neild that a subscription of 2 shillings per year be contributed by each member of the society in accordance with the rule which regulates the membership of the Natural History Society., and which said contributions are applied in defraying incidental expenses of meeting and purchasing books on Natural History for the use of members of both these societies. – carried unanimously
  3. Proposed by Thos. Rogers and seconded by Thos Brittain that Mr John Whitehead be elected president of the society. – carried unanimously
  4. Proposed by Mr James Cash and seconded by Charles Weld that Thomas Rogers be elected as secretary. – carried unanimously
  5. Proposed by John Whitehead and seconded by Thos Rogers that W H Pearson and Thos. Brittain be elected as vice president. – carried unanimously
  6. Proposed by Peter Cunliffe of Handforth and seconded by John Whitehead that Mr Cash, Mr Hyde, and Mr Weld be elected as a committee in conjunction with the foregoing officers as managing committee for the next twelve months subject to re-election. – carried unanimously
  7. Proposed by Mr Neild and seconded by Mr Cash that the secretary be elected as treasurer. – carried unanimously
  8. Proposed and seconded that the meeting of the Society be held in the library of the L.Mosely St. Natural History on the second Monday in each month at 7.30. – Carried unanimously

The meeting which carried the foregoing resolutions was well attended and about 20 members joined the society whose name will be entered in subscription list at the end of this book.  The following paragraph is cut from the Manchester Guardian Nov 5th.

Page 3 of minute book showing report in Manchester Guardian, Nov 5th1878

The books are full of the minutes of the of the society’s meeting together with many newspaper clipping reporting the meetings in the Manchester Guardian.  As well as being a keen amateur botanist,  James Cash, the society’s first Chariman, was also a journalist for the Manchester Guardian, this may or may not have something to do with the meetings being reported so frequetly in that publication.

The subscription lists at the back of the books are a great resource for the history of Manchester botanists.  Not only does it give the names and addresses of the key botanists working in Manchester at that time but it also shows how closely they knew each other and that they regualrly met to discuss and share their knowledge and passion for botany.

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