A Brief History of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Australia and the Sherlock Holmes Society of South Australia

Based on an article by past President, John Bushell

The Sherlock Holmes Society of Australia was founded by Alan Olding (BSI). As with many Holmes enthusiasts, Alan’s interest in Holmes began in the UK as a boy, when he read his father’s Sherlock Holmes books. These books were destroyed during the London Blitz but Alan’s interest in Holmes continued. In 1951 he applied for an ex-serviceman’s passage to Australia and moved to Brisbane with his wife Olive.

Alan’s interest in Holmes was rekindled in the 1960’s, when he learned of the Sherlock Holmes Society in London, as well as the Baker Street Irregulars of New York. Alan became a member of both.

Alan and Olive finally settled in Adelaide and he was keen to start a local Holmes group. In 1977 he wrote to the Adelaide Advertiser, asking for anyone interested in forming a local Sherlock Holmes Society, to contact him. As a result, twelve enthusiasts met at the Hotel Adelaide in January 1978, and agreed to form an Australian Society, which became Sherlock Holmes Society of Australia. This was the beginning of Sherlock Holmes groups in Australia.

Alan Olding. Founder of Sherlock Holmes Society of Australia

Alan was President, Secretary, Newsletter editor & Treasurer. He became a member of several other Sherlock Holmes groups in Australia & overseas.

It was with regret that Alan, in 2002, having run SHSA single-handedly for approximately 25 years, and not being able to continue, suggested that he would need to dissolve the society unless a small committee could be formed, to assist in the running of the society. A group of 4 members was formed in March 2003 and operated for approximately one year, but did not continue. Early in 2003 Alan actually did dissolve Sherlock Holmes Society of Australia.

In an all-out effort to try to rekindle the Society, Ray Parkin, Liz van Zanten, Viv Bushell and John Bushell met in January 2004. They agreed that the Society must continue and formed a new committee. Ray became President; Liz was newsletter editor; Viv was Secretary; and John was Treasurer.

And so began the new Sherlock Holmes Society of SA. It was as a result of a typist error, that our Society was called the SHSSA, which is actually more correct. This was discussed by members, who decided it should remain as SHSSA, as it was essentially a new Society. Also, Alan had given the name SHSA to Sydney Passengers, so it could not be used by a new interstate group.

Captain Bill Barnes from Sydney Passengers, was most helpful during the early days of SHSSA. The society had a very rough beginning. For personal reasons, Ray resigned as President after our first lunch meeting in March 2004. Liz then became President. Ray remained a member but also left the committee. Mark Chellew took his place on the committee and volunteered to be newsletter editor. Liz resigned in January 2005 and John Bushell became President and Treasurer in June 2006.

Alan Olding was made a life member of SHSSA as a tribute to his outstanding Sherlockian knowledge. John Bushell was President of the Society from 2006 to 2017. Mark Chellew then took over as President and carries on that position to this day.

In a world where many social and special interest groups struggle, the SHSSA remains strong and vibrant. We will continue to make sure that the name of Sherlock Holmes and the artistry of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will continue to be relevant and respected for generations to come.

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