History of EGONS

Although EGONS was officially formed in 1966, the antecedents of the club go back to 1960 when Jeff Hague, a teacher at Highdale Secondary School, Clevedon, began to take his 11 to 15 year old pupils on introductory caving trips to Burrington Coombe.  There were also walking and scrambling trips organised by the school to North Wales and the Lake District.  Over a period of some five years, Jeff Hague, assisted by various teachers and with transport supplied by parents, continued to organise occasional caving and weekend away trips, although by this time a number of the pupils had left school but were still joining in.

In late November 1965 a Sunday caving trip to Burrington was organised.  Present on this trip were some of the regulars Guy Saxon, Mike Trow, John Penny, Paul Hillman, Colin Pym, Lynette Author and AN Other.  Jeff Hague organised the trip and also present was a guest of Jeff’s, John Harris.  After descending Goatchurch Cave in the morning and prior to negotiating Sidcot Swallet Cave, lunch was taken sitting on the manhole cover just upstream from the entrances of the two caves.  It was during this lunch break that the discussion got around to the need for a proper club and it was agreed that a formal meeting should be held to formulate the requirements and inaugurate an adventure-type club.

The foundation meeting was held on 24 February 1966 in the library of Clevedon Secondary School, where the dozen people present decided to go ahead and organise a properly constituted club.  The first item was to appoint a committee and this was agreed as follows :

Chairman :
Jeff Hague
IC Transport :
John Penny
Secretary :
Guy Saxon
Tackle Warden : Colin Pym
Treasurer : Mike Trow Committee members :- John Harris, Chris Bayliss

The next item of business at this inaugural meeting was the selection of a name for the club.  A number of suggestions were put forward, most of them containing some of the constituent words of what is now the club’s name.  It was Jeff Hague who put those words into the order that is now used The Exploration Group of North Somerset (EGONS), which was unanimously adopted.  It was further agreed at this meeting that a constitution would be prepared for approval at the club’s first Annual General Meeting, which was held later that year on Friday 30 September 1966.

At the first AGM the original committee was formally elected and the explorer and television personality, John Earle was appointed President of the club.  Two Vice Presidents were appointed, Bill Body, Headmaster of Clevedon Secondary School; and Frank Collinson, the Area Youth Organiser.  By the time of this first AGM there were some 47 members.  Caving, climbing and walking were the main activities of the club at this time and in November 1966 canoeing was introduced to the club’s activities.

For six years the club operated successfully with a varied programme and regular away trips to all parts of the UK and included also, two continental trips to Dinant in Belgium.  Membership fluctuated between 30 and 60 members and the club’s then regular Thursday evening venue, which had originally been in Clevedon and Portishead, settled in Nailsea for a long period.

At the seventh AGM at Nailsea in September 1972 the climbers split from the group and formed the Avon Mountaineering Club (AMC).

From 1972 up to the early 1980’s, the fortunes of EGONS were variable with membership fluctuating between 20 and 40, culminating in a move to a Bristol Thursday night venue in October 1977.  The reason for this move to Bristol was to ease travelling problems for the majority of members who lived in Bristol and also in the hope of attracting younger members to the club.

During the mid 1980’s the club diminished to a handful of members and the club’s activities were effectively suspended.  About six members who were also friends continued to meet in the Miner’s Rest each Thursday and an Extraordinary General Meeting was held to decide whether the club should be formally wound up and its assets disposed of.  Fortunately, it was decided to mount a recruitment drive for new members and EGONS once again regained a larger membership of around 50.  Following this revival the 1990’s saw foreign trips to the Ecrin Alps, Majorca and Eire and the affiliation of the club to the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) on 14 January 1994.

Today the club continues to thrive with a membership of between 80 and 100 members and an emphasis on walking, hill-walking, mountaineering and occasional other outdoor activities, such as cycling, mountain biking, climbing, caving, horse riding and canoeing.

John Harris is now an honorary member of the club and in April 2010 he sent the group this message:

At last.  Unless I’ve missed it on previous programmes, a caving trip for EGONS.  Thank you Tricia.

It brings back memories of my first caving trip: the one where the idea for the club was mooted in November 1965.  At the time I was a climber but my climbing partner, Ken Burton, had gone off to work in Germany and the only other climbers around were UBMC members who didn’t seem to want non-university climbers like me as partners.  At the time I was helping out at the Portishead Youth Centre where the youngsters did not seem interested in outside activities.  Frank Collinson the Area Youth Organiser introduced me to Jeff Hague who was running a school youth club in Clevedon with some outside activities and when I discovered that caving was one of the the main ‘outside activities’ I immediately volunteered and suggested that I would be happy to take them climbing (crafty way to get partners!).  So off to Burrington combe and into Goatchurch, down the ‘chute’ and then into the ‘drainpipe’, a frightening experience at 180 feet underground but I did enjoy it and continued caving for many years.

Of the seven committee members elected at the 1966 foundation meeting, two I have lost touch with: John Penny & Colin Pym.  I believe Jeff Hague lives locally and plays in a skiffle group.  Guy Saxon became a climbing instructor at the O.B. Mountain School in the Lake District and is now retired after a climbing accident.  Mike Trow lives in South Africa (where, we tried to climb Table Mountain but we were turned back by the monkeys and used the cable car instead!).  Chris Bayliss lives in Dorset and visited Boston some years ago where I met him for Dinner at the ‘Cheers’ restaurant.  As for me I live in Boston and manage to walk a couple of miles a day.  Over the last 45 years the vast majority of my friends have been members of EGONS and for that I consider myself lucky.  No caving (spelunking) here because of bats ‘white snout’ disease and the last time I went climbing I was told to beware of the rattlesnakes, so go walking instead.  Do have a good time on April 23rd.

All the best John W. Harris