RCOG co-founder, Professor William Blair-Bell, can be credited with starting the Christmas card tradition at the College, with his card to the Fellows and Members in 1930, in a move which he explained to his Honorary Secretary, William Fletcher Shaw, as a way to ‘increase the personal interest of the Fellows and Members in the College’. This first card was very simple: the College crest in colour with description of the College arms on the reverse, and sent from Professor Blair-Bell’s private rooms in Rodney Street, Liverpool.
A second card in 1931 apparently included an illustration of the College robes worn by Fellows and Members, but sadly a copy of this card has not survived. However, we do have the card sent out in 1934 by College Honorary Treasurer, Eardley Holland, later to become President of the College. Inside this card was a chart showing progress of income and funds for the College from 1929 and the optimistic hope inscribed on the reverse that Fellows and Members ‘will keep this for recording Amounts year by year from the Annual Reports’.
It was Sir William Fletcher Shaw who revived the custom of sending cards at Christmas to the membership, and in 1938 he sent a replica of Blair-Bell’s original card. A follow-up was forestalled by the Second World War, ‘a time of anxiety and cards seemed out of place…The following year things were too desperate to allow of the printing or posting of cards.’ It was Sir Arthur Gemmell who began again the festive tradition, and although his cards were rather austere, the 1954 card made an attempt to celebrate the College’s Silver Jubilee year.
However, it is not the cards sent out by College Presidents that interested me most on searching through the College Archive, but this rather unexpected find of a card signed by Clementine Churchill, wife of Sir Winston Churchill. It shows the great statesman dressed in military uniform and rubber boots in the snow, the trademark cigar in his mouth, and on the reverse, Sir William Fletcher Shaw had written ‘Christmas card from Mrs Winston Churchill with whom we worked closely on pregnant wives and the armed forces in World War II’.