The '22 Club - of the Royal College of Science


The ’22 Club of the Royal College of Science was founded on November 29th 1922 by a gathering of some twenty stalwarts of the RCS. The inspiration for this meeting was brought upon by three gentlemen over a few beers: Randerson ’22 (who would later be elected president in 1924-25), T.B. Philip ’22 and Jeffries ’22. Philip ’22 and Jeffries ’22 were rewarded for their efforts by being elected President and Secretary respectively for the founding session. A second meeting was held on the 13th of December that year where a draft of rules were presented before the original members and some twenty more members were elected. The Club tie was then designed by Freeman ’22 : dark blue (1 ”), claret (1/2 “) and white (1/16 “) in order going down. The first Club dinner was held on the 15th June 1923 with 22 members present. Interestingly, over the summer the original minute book was lost so a new one was brought to the next meeting in October of 1923 where the members were re-elected and it is recorded that at this point there were 53 members.

The Club grew rapidly in its early years; in 1926 it was decided that the rulebook be changed to permit the election of ‘honorary members’ – consisting of students from other disciplines, members of staff and alumni. By the tenth Anniversary ball there were 162 members, including 4 staff and 13 honorary.

Fortunately for the members of today, The Club has a tradition of producing an annual booklet to record events and membership. This began in 1925 and has intermittent years but nonetheless provides a strong account of the history of not only The ’22 Club, but the history of Imperial College. For example, the 1926 booklet accounts for the opening of the IC Hostel (presently known as Beit Hall and Quad), which housed 50 students of the college. The 1942 booklet was the only wartime booklet printed (for the 20th Anniversary) and was printed on red paper due to rations during the war. It provides descriptions of life at college from a unique and apolitical viewpoint. The membership, so passionate about the unifying body they had in such bleak times, worked hard to keep The Club alive in the war years. It is noted that in ’41 they managed to hold two dinners. One of which was hosted by The Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch and was graced by the presence of the founding President, T.B. Philip ’22. Much to his own dismay he arrived without his tie and so his enthusiastic audience were all supplied with refreshment at dinner! The same booklet informs us of how Imperial College was very nearly relocated up in Edinburgh for the war but the decision to move was taken back in the eleventh hour. The 1939-40 session saw no first year men enroll in college but other years carried on, as did research. Whilst the school of mines retreated to Camborne and the Meteorology Department left for Oxford, the students and staff of the RCS remained in South Kensington to frequently offer their hands repairing bomb and incendiary damage.

In 1954 the first proposal of automatic life membership was made due to members not paying their subscriptions. This was also the same year that the RCS was given its red fire engine, “Jezabel”, by Unilever. The most important news from the decade came on January 3rd 1957. The new Union Bar was opened. The first pint was drawn by Linstead ’24 and consumed by Kitchener ’52.

Members from the ’47 era provided a lid to the loving cup in 1963 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary. After several false starts, it eventually made its appearance at the Christmas Dinner of ’63. Whilst the ‘60s boasted of dinner attendances of almost 100, there was a cry out for older members to come back and get involved. The student membership was thick but it was recognized that much of the strength of The ’22 Club is in its returning alumni – the embodiment of “promoting good fellowship amongst past and present student of the RCS”.  These days it is normal for members of all age groups to flaunt their ties in the Union Bar on Wednesdays. 1969 saw, for the first time, the general student body elect the President and Secretary of the I.C. Union. This coincided with the Union, as a whole, becoming more politically minded and radical. This was a trend throughout British Universities. This period was also the shameful year of exile, an episode that was hoped to never be repeated for it was a lesson painfully learnt.

1971 saw an interesting general meeting held about the finances of The Club. With the change to decimal currency it was decided that members leaving college were to alter their annual subs payments to £1 to keep the accounts healthy and in order! The fiftieth Anniversary dinner was held in ’72 and headed by Morrisby ’70 – it was a momentous occasion for the Club for many reasons, one being that it was the first event that welcomed women. This year also regrettably was the year that the founder of the Club passed away. A glass was raised in honour of Phillip ’22 and his idea lived on.

The late ‘70s were a fruitful era for the Club – seeing twenty members and more in the Union Bar on Wednesdays. Unfortunately it was also a time of financial hardship, since all the cheques to pay for the 56th Summer Dinner were lost that same evening… it begs one to wonder why!

Under Reeve ’81, the ‘22s appeared to have their most successful sporting year in history in 1982. Not only were the student membership victorious in the Links cricket match and golf day, but demonstrated athletic prowess in the three-tie darts competition. The early 1980’s are considered a strong era for camaraderie, considering the improving relations and repeated joint events with the other tie clubs at College. This decade also saw fantastic performances on the mascotry front. The ‘87/’88 team for the RCS (featuring numerous members of The ’22 Club) held the Spanner and Bolt. The following year, Davy was captured and due to the monopoly of mascots the RCS managed to raise hundreds of pounds for charity out of selling clues of the mascot’s whereabouts.

The nineties and early noughties were a thin period for membership and a quiet one with regard to booklets. However, this generation of members and the stalwarts of the Club who kept coming back to the bar have proved how strong the ’22 Club is – since it is still around today! The second half of the noughties saw a massive increase in strength of membership. At some point, the subs increased in price to an appropriate £22.22 and in the ’09 session, the first Club website was launched. The booklet was crying to be re-launched after over a decade of retirement, and so it was in ‘09/’10. These years of success and sinew are evident from the regular attendance at dinners of those graduated members from ’05-’13, usually making up nearly half the number in attendance.