I expect you will be aware that I am retiring as President of your Association at the Annual General Meeting on 4th April 2016 after six years in office. It might, therefore, be in order to conduct a short tour d’horizon of what has happened to BACSA over this period and perhaps also to look ahead to the future of the Association.
Our subscription income is falling as you might expect – however our overall income has been rising due inter alia to donations, legacies and grants. These income sources are increasingly important to us and we need to make a big effort to cultivate grant-making trusts. Our capital position is satisfactory, although not overly so. This income increase has enabled us in our turn to increase our own grant expenditure on cemeteries – our raison d’etre and I would like to emphasise how very grateful we are for these legacies, donations and grants. My particular thanks go to the members, Life Members especially, who responded so generously to the Secretary’s circular last July.
During these last six years, there have been two changes in our governance: the first has been the substitution of the Council by Vice-Presidents; the second has been a new Constitution – all this with a view to updating the Association. Our very important website has been enlarged and modernised and grateful thanks are due to David Blake for this; an important Strategic Review of the Association led by Brigadier Ian Rees with a view to determining our way forward and grateful thanks are due to him for this. We have also initiated discussion with FIBIS – the Families in British India Society – with a view to the two organisations working together – perhaps some formal arrangement may come out of this.
Many thousands of tourists go to South Asia each year and although cemeteries are not high on their agenda, nevertheless for an increasing number they are and this is leading to cemetery tourism given their historical importance, and we must work with these travel companies. At the same time, South Asians and Indians in particular are now more interested in this historical heritage, which in its turn means closer co-operation with Indian restoration and conservation bodies like INTACH – the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage – and other such bodies including state government culture departments.
Such links – perhaps leading to joint projects – will hopefully form an important element of our work, because these bodies are in situ so to speak and we are not as yet, although our wonderful dedicated area representatives do their best given the limited periods they spend in the country. It is difficult to manage projects at long distance and local participation is essential with BACSA providing financial and archival support.
I mentioned at the general meeting last October that several long-serving office and post holders wish to retire. They include the membership secretary, the publications distributor and the second-hand book sales manager. I strongly urge members to come forward to succeed them.
It remains for me to thank most gratefully the officers of the Association for their support and equally to thank the membership for their support – it has been a great privilege to have been your President and I hope that I have the approval of Theon Wilkinson, my good mentor, for my tenure of office.
In my place you approved the appointment of Sir Mark Havelock-Allan Bt QC and I am sure that he will preside over the affairs of the association with great care and enthusiasm.