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The View from the East End (11)

By Inspector Hopkins

April 24, 2005

"The Many Facets of Sherlockiana"

Part 8: Scion Societies

A very, very important facet of Sherlockiana for the newcomer is what we refer to as "scion societies", or just plain "scions". They are essentially miniature versions of the most famous and largest group of Sherlockians known as the "Baker Street Irregulars" (BSI). This group was founded in the 1930’s by Christopher Morley, the great American pioneer of what we now know and refer to as "Sherlockiana". Today there are some 371 living members, and they meet once every year in New York City on the weekend closest to January 6th, the accepted birth date of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Unfortunately, you cannot just walk in and join the BSI! You have to wait to be asked to join them, since the BSI is a "by invitation only" society. Some people wait for years and years for this privilege. Some get asked in, and some do not . . . I will have more thoughts on this for you in a later column. The newer Sherlockian must be advised that there are other scions out there that are also "by invitation only".

Although individual scions may have their own entrance requirements, essentially all you have to do is show up at their meetings to become a member. Some scions are more "serious" and emphasize Sherlockian scholarship, while others are much more social in nature with a more laid-back atmosphere. Some may require you to pass an entrance examination to prove your Sherlockian knowledge. Some may not.

The format of each particular scion society meeting varies, but basically people meet in a restaurant, library, other public place, or even in someone’s home if the group is small enough. Most of the time a meal is eaten, traditional Sherlockian toasts are given, and a particular story from the Canon is discussed. There may be some business matters to attend to, for example, reports from secretaries or treasurers. An essay by one of the members may be read aloud to the group, or there might be a guest speaker. There is often a quiz presented by one of the members.

Different scion societies may meet at any frequency from once a month to once a year and on different days of the week, thus making it quite possible to belong to several of them at the same time! Some societies are only a few years old, while others have been around for decades. Some have many members, and some have only a few. The cost to attend a meeting chiefly depends on the venue and the price of the meal, and can range from anywhere between $5 and $75. Believe me, there is a scion out there tailored to meet the needs of anyone calling themselves a Sherlockian!

One of the most interesting aspects of scions is the name that is chosen for the group, and some of them are quite imaginative. The name is taken as a name, phrase, or title from the Canon, and is often combined with the location of where the scion society is based. Thus, in a listing of scions, we might find "The Sydney Passengers" based in Australia, "The Seventeen Steppes" based in Kyrgyzstan, "The Cardboard Boxers of Croydon" in England, and so forth.

A little closer to home we might find "The Pips of Orange County" in California, and "The Silver Blazers" in Kentucky. (Personally, I liked the name of "The Afghanistan Perceivers" of Oklahoma as my own favourite!) And I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t mention the "Hansoms of John Clayton", based in the heartland of the USA, in Peoria, Illinois. Our editor and the "Rascally Lascar" would be more than happy to give you particulars!

There are also a number of scions over here in the East End, and during the next several months, I am going to visit as many of them as I can, and report back to you on my experiences.The interested Sherlockian is referred to the following links for more information regarding Scion Societies:

Scions are a great way to get together and meet fellow Sherlock Holmes devotees without any waiting to be asked to join. Best of all, there is sure to be one close to where you live, so you won’t have to fight your way into New York City, either!Until next time, and thanking you for your attention, I remain,

Yours faithfully,