A Story about a Caravan Club

and one of its Founder Members

(and the Templeton Trophy)

Once upon a time in the 1980’s, a caravan manufacturer called Avondale Coachcraft started to make two more ranges of caravans as well as the range that the firm had manufactured first of all in the 1970’s.  The caravans in their original range were all high ‘spec’ and named after birds such as Avocet, Sandmartin etc.  The two “new” ranges were made to a mid and basic ‘spec’. The mid range were all named “”Leda”, followed by the name of a range of hills or mountains such as Quantock or Grampian and the basic range were all named “Perle”, followed by a classical Greek name such as Olympus or Adonis.  A lot of buyers of the ‘bird’ name vans had decided in 1976 to form the Avondale Caravan Owners Club so that they could organise rallies to meet together and to maintain close contact with Avondale Coachcraft.  They were aware of the venture into the new ranges by the firm but decided that they would continue to accept only owners of ‘bird’ named vans into their club.

Some buyers of the new Perles and Ledas were aware of the ACOC and applied to join it but were turned down.  One couple, who had bought a Perle, applied and when told that they could not join, decided to try to start a club for buyers of vans from the two new ranges.  They requested permission from the owner of Avondale Coachcraft, to use the names Perle and Leda which was granted. They allowed leaflets with details of an inaugural rally to be placed in new caravans and they got some publicity about their intentions into the caravan press.  The first rally was held on Cannock Chase on the first weekend in September 1984, Twelve owners of Perle and Leda caravans and their families turned up and were made welcome by the couple who had started the ball rolling.  Amongst the arrivals was a retired couple from Sutton Coldfield, Alex and Bobbie Templeton, accompanied by their granddaughters, Gail and Clare.  The abiding memory of others who were there is of a white haired Scotsman with a fine command of the Scots language who was attacking awning pegs that were reluctant to go into the mix of tree roots and concrete that lies just below the surface in that part of the Chase. The rally was a great success and by the end of the Saturday evening “get together”, the decision to form a club called the Perle Leda Owners Caravan Club had been taken and that a further rally should be held in 1984 and a rally programme organised for the following year.

The 1st Rally - Cannock Chase, September 1984

An equally successful second rally was held and a rally programme booked.  That programme went well, lasting friendships were formed at the inaugural rally but with no specific allocation of tasks amongst its members and no meetings were called during the year.  This left control of affairs with the founding couple and led to increasing uneasiness amongst the committee.  Up to this point, the PLOCC lacked a proper constitution, and this was put on the Agenda for discussion at the first AGM in 1985.   The founding couple proposed a constitution in the form of a “co-operative” and it was rejected by all the others present when it was put to the vote.  Alex, who had had a wide experience of organisations and committees, business and voluntary, proposed a structured constitution that would set up a committee of members with the usual offices of Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Rally Secretary, etc. who would be nominated and voted for in the manner customary in most voluntary organisations.  This was accepted by the meeting and formed the foundation on which all has been built since.

At this juncture, a major disagreement broke out – the founding couple claimed that they should continue in complete overall control indefinitely as of right as they had done the work that had got the PLOCC under way.  Everybody there said that they fully deserved credit and thanks for all that had been achieved and that they would be more than happy to nominate and vote for each of them to such post as each one might wish to undertake but that others must be nominated to posts and as committee members in accordance with the constitution that had been adopted.  Sadly, no agreement could be reached and the founding couple and their children left the rally in haste the same day.

This was a very sad outcome but the founding couple’s unwillingness to work within a democratic structure would have made future progress impossible.  Members gathered together to try to pick up the pieces and sought Alex’s advice about what to do next.  He advised that an Extraordinary General Meeting of all members present could be held the next day with a view to implementing the constitution that had been adopted so this course of action was followed.  A committee was formed and Alex was unanimously nominated as Treasurer, an office he held with great distinction until June 1992

The new committee, who had no experience of running a caravan club, hesitantly took up their duties and would all testify to the staunch support, help, advice – palatable or unpalatable, that was always available on request from Alex.  He was a tireless worker on committee and gave freely of his time, humour, expertise in many fields and clear view of the overall welfare of the PLOCC.  He and Bobbie always gave as much support as they could to club events and Alex took to the roads again following Bobbie’s sad decline in health and then death in March 1989.  He continued to work hard on behalf of the PLOCC despite increasing health problems of his own.  These included two abdominal operations and a knee joint replacement and when yet another operation became necessary in the summer of 1992, he decided to resign as Treasurer.  He was appointed as the first President at the 1992 AGM and he had recovered sufficiently to be able to attend some autumn rallies that year.  Sadly though, even Alex’s tremendous willpower could not overcome the final illness that commenced in December 1992 and he died peacefully at St Giles’s Hospice, Whittington on January 24th 1993 but not before he had asked that friends from the PLOCC and elsewhere be invited to come if they were able to that day so that he could say goodbye.  

Few clubs can have had such a rocky start or have been so fortunate in having a member who served it so devotedly.  The Templeton Trophy was instituted, (see below) firstly to remember Bobbie and then to continue to keep alive the memory of them both.  Alex will never be forgotten by all those who knew and worked with him through those early years. By the 1990’s the committee had gained in confidence and knowledge, recruiting had been very successful and a membership figure of over 200 member families was reported at the 1992 AGM.  Avondale Coachcraft gradually changed the marketing of the two ranges to emphasise the Avondale brand and eventually dropped the Perle and Leda names altogether.  This led to the club having to change its name twice, firstly to The Avondale Perle Leda Owners Caravan Club and then to ‘The All Avondale Owners Caravan Club’.  The last name reflected what had always been the policy on recruitment – that any owner of an Avondale Coachcraft product was eligible to join. Another name change took place in 2008 when Avondale Coachcraft ceased manufacturing. The membership decided to keep the initials but drop the name and became the AAOCC and decided to take into membership owners of any brand of motorhome or caravan.

The AAOCC is now in its 27th year, long may it continue into the future with the same spirit that has kept it going through thick and thin to the present time.

Anne Barrow
November 2011

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