The Bromeliad Society of Australia Incorporated.
Affiliated with The Bromeliad Society International(U.S.A.)

Bromeliad Society of Australia Inc., P.O.Box 340, RYDE, NSW, 2112

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Article 09/04 : A brief history of the BSA, presented by Ken Woods.

The Bromeliad Society of Australia is celebrating 40 years of club activities this year.
As part of the Birthday Celebrations Ken Woods was asked to explore and document our history. Ken’s thorough search of the Library collection of past B.S.A. Journals, and other sources, was presented to Members at a recent meeting and is reprinted below.

The following is an extract from a paper called “The Early Days” presented by Bill Morris at the 1983 National Conference held in Sydney. “The inaugural meeting took place at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Duncan at Terry Hills in l962, 36 people attended and a decision was made to form a Society. The Australian Society was formed in l963, the first general meeting was held on 6th. July at the Y.M.C.A. in Pitt Street, Sydney and attracted 45 members.”
Mr. Jack Martin was elected President, the Secretary was Mrs. C. Phillips, the Treasurer was Mr. Phillips and the Editor was Mr. R. Agnew.

The Charter of our affiliation with the Bromeliad Society International is dated 6th. April, 1963, and is on display for those who wish to view it.

In the early days meetings were held at member’s homes on a rotational basis, the early publications were in the form of Newsletters. The first issue of Bromeletter was published in 1969 and the first public display of Bromeliads was held at the Royal Agricultural Society’s Easter Show in the same year. This was also the year Grace Goode joined the Society.

These are the only accurate details from this early period I could find until 1969-1970 when the first issue of Bromeletter was printed.

The surviving members of the Foundation Meeting, as far as I am aware, are Bill McCann and Bill Morris.

Olwen Ferris became President in 1969 , and in l971 she also became Editor, a position she held until l988. In l973 Olwen moved to the Queensland Gold Coast but continued as Editor.

With the publisher being in Sydney communications became a problem and Barry Williams accepted the position of assistant Editor. In effect he did most of the editorial work. Barry became Editor in l988 when Olwen retired due to ill health, and he continued in this position until l997 when he also retired due to ill health. Felicity Begg filled the position for the next 2 years, and in 2000 Eugene Morris, our current Editor took over.

Up until 1980 all the Presidents were ladies and those who followed Olwen in sequence were Edna Ellison, Olive Wills and Ann Johnston (later Ann Boon).

In 1980 Keith Ryde was elected president, others who have filled this position in the order of sequence were Wayne Jeffery, Ruby Ryde, Bill Morris, Ken Woods, who has filled this position on 3 occasions, Gordon Stott, Barris Liptrott, Ron Farrugia, Mark Grubski and Richard Cornale who is our current president.

Early Secretaries were Mrs. H. Shepherd and Miss. H. Sinclair who each served one term.

In l970 Doreen Johnston became Secretary/Treasurer and held this position until l980. From then it became a Secretary only position. The first secretary, Ann Johnston (later Ann Boon), was followed by Marcia Whibley, Joan Norden, Gwen Oldfield, the late Edna Middleton, Val Deroc, Lynn Sheens, Dick Collins, Elaine Jones, Diane Cornale and Debbie Kruger who is our present Secretary.

Mrs. Doreen Johnston was the first Treasurer and held this position until l983, Debbie Martin served l term in l984, the late Mrs. Valerie Hillman from l985 to l99l, Mrs. Joan Jordon served l term in l992, when Mr. Andy Stalens, our current Treasurer took over.

We thank all the people who have held various positions on the committee over the many years and appreciate their untiring efforts. Each and every position is vital to the smooth running of our Society.

From 1980 our meetings were held at the Ryde School of Horticulture until 1984 when the Department decided Security Guards were necessary for weekend meetings. As we could not afford the high cost we moved to the Ermington Community Centre until 1987 when Parramatta Council raised the fees there to an unreasonable level, so in 1988 we moved to our present venue.

Our Society became incorporated in l987.

The Bromeliad Societies affiliated with our Society are:-


There have been 3 major achievements by our Society. The first in l983 when we hosted the 2nd. National Conference at the New Crest Hotel in Kings Cross.

Then in l991 the 6th. National Conference was held in conjunction with the Central Coast & Hunter District Societies at The Shore Inn at Lane Cove.

However the major achievement which put our Society on the World Stage was the Publication in 1988 of our Book “Growing Bromeliads”. This coincided with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Society. It was the first book of its kind since the 1970’s, and the first of its kind outside the USA and European Countries.

Glowing reports were received in l989 in the American Cryptanthus Journal on the chapter written on cryptanthus by the late Val Hillman. Other acknowledgements by Tom Lineham Editor BSI Journal and Herb Plever of the USA were published in the B.S.I. Journal.

The book was compiled by l3 members of the Society each writing on the genera of Bromeliads in which they specialised. It was written in simple terms for the novice growers to understand. The book was probably the first on Bromeliads not compiled by Botanists or academics.

Much credit for the success of the book must go to the late Barry Williams and his wife Joan who edited the book and worked with the publishers Kangaroo Press. This was a time consuming task to which they devoted 12 months of their lives.

Royalties received from the publication of our book since 1994 to the present are in the vicinity of $10,000. The total number of books sold is not available.

A second edition was printed in 1990. The book is still selling well and as recently as this year 250 copies were sent to the USA.

In 1990 there was also a modified reprint of the book in the United Kingdom dealing with their local growing conditions.

Finally, but most importantly, those members who have been awarded Life Membership should be acknowledged they are:-

OLWEN FERRIS, who is now in her 80’s and living in a retirement village on the Queensland Gold Coast . Olwen is a long and active member of the Society , she started and ran the Seed Bank for many years, it still operates today. Olwen is a member of The Board of Trustees of the Bromeliad Society International. She could be considered the matriarch of our Society.

GRACE GOODE, the other senior Bromeliad legend still lives in her home at Alexandra Headland. Grace has been a long and active member of the Society who still attends Conferences. Grace is also a member of The Board of Trustees of the Bromeliad Society International. Best known for the vast number of hybrids she created which are known worldwide.

DOREEN JOHNSTON, resides in the Northern Suburbs. Doreen devoted over 10 years to the duties of Secretary/Treasurer of the Society.

HELEN SHEPHERD, lives in Sydney. Helen was responsible for the publication and distribution of the early Newsletters as well as being an active member in the early days of the Society.

BILL MORRIS, has retired and lives in Medowie. Bill has more credentials than any other member of the Society, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Bromeliad Society International and is an accredited Bromeliad Judge. Bill presented the first paper at the 1983 National Conference in Sydney titled “ The Early Days”. In addition he has submitted many articles to Bromeletter and been guest speaker on many occasions and is the Hybridiser of many fine bromeliads.

JOAN WILLIAMS, is no longer active due to ill health. Joan was Assistant Editor to Barry from 1988 to 1998 and helped with the editing of our book, she also wrote many articles for Bromeletter. Joan was also the Membership Secretary until she retired.

MARJORY McNAMARA. Who lives on the Central Coast and has been and still is a very active member of the Society. She was the instigator of our popular “Show & Tell” segment, which is still the focal point of our meetings. Marjory has produced articles for Bromeletter as well as being guest speaker on many occasions. Marjory presented a paper at the 1991 National Conference in Sydney titled “Don’t cry for me Argentina”.

RUBY RYDE, is a long time and very active member of the Society. She has served as President, presented many interesting and knowledgeable talks to the members and written articles of interest for Bromeletter. Ruby is dedicated to collecting and preserving the species. Ruby also presented a paper at the 1991 National Conference titled “The many and varied genera of South East Brazil.”

KEITH RYDE, is still very active in the Society. He has served as President and is our long serving Honorary Auditor he is also our Publicity Officer. Keith does a lot of the organisational work for Society events.

On behalf of the Society we thank all these members for their untiring efforts and contributions to the Society and the sharing of their love of Bromeliads with us all.

The Society continues to grow and evolve and the input of each and every member is vital to the ongoing success of our work with Bromeliads and their survival.

I have researched this to the best of my ability. If anyone is able to complete any missing details please forward them, in writing, to the Secretary so a fuller history of the Society is obtained for the records.

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Updated 12/01/05