Last month, at the annual general meeting of The Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL), Patrick Maselis was elected as the society’s first overseas president.
The election, which took place June 22, recognizes The RPSL’s membership of more than 2,250 philatelists includes people from all over the world; in fact, more than half of all RPSL members reside outside the United Kingdom.
Patrick, who was born and still currently resides in Belgium, is a fourth-generation philatelist whose collecting interests include the Medallion issue of Belgium; Belgium Congo and Ruanda-Urundi; and the postal history of Lado Enclave, New Zealand and New York. He’s the chief executive officer of the Maselis Group, which is active worldwide in cereals and breakfast cereals.
Not only is Maselis the first non-U.K. resident to lead the society, but he’s also the first non-English native speaker to serve as president.
Maselis’ first speech as president of The RPSL can been seen below.
Dear Fellows and members, dear guests,
First of all, I will like to thank Frank Walton, who has been an outstanding president of our society. Thank you, Frank; I will try to follow in your footsteps, but it won’t be easy. I also have a present for you. Because of the heat wave, I could not bring chocolate this time, but the present I will give you is one you were be asking for for months: the photo album of the President’s Dinner.
Second, I would like to thank my wife Siska because during the last four years, according to her, I have been more often in London than at home.
Third, thank you so much all of you, Fellows and members, for giving me this unique opportunity to lead the greatest philatelic society in the world for the coming two years. Fortunately, and unlike Mr. Trump, I do not have to make the society great again, because it is already great.
Although I don’t like the word historic, so I will call today “a very special day.” I am elected, so I won the elections in a country where over the last three years no one won an election; neither Theresa May, nor Jeremy Corbyn nor David Cameron succeeded in winning an election. Furthermore, it is a very special day because you elected the first non-U.K. resident and the first non-English native speaker to lead the society. Fortunately, I know that this decision was absolutely not controversial, and that none of you ever doubted about the wisdom of this decision. After all, the society has now far more members overseas than in the U.K.
Dear friends, there are a few things you need to know about me. First of all, I have never ever actively nor passively pursued the presidency of the Royal. It was never on my mind, I never dreamt of it and I never had nightmares about it. On the contrary, the day Brian Trotter asked me to consider being invited to become the vice-president I was totally surprised. It was absolutely unexpected. So, the only thing you can blame me for is that I said yes. And so, from today on you will have to live with a Belgian president. I think this new situation will have three advantages:
- first, more chocolate and less pies in the year to come with the exception of course of chocolate pies;
- second, more beer; and
- third, even more friendship from the Belgians.
Belgians love the U.K. because the U.K. is the only neighbouring country that never occupied or colonized brave little Belgium. Although in the 19th and early 20th century colonization was not unheard of in Britain, you never looked at Belgium. Therefore, when people ask me to describe the extent of the British Empire at its apogee, I tell them that, as a rule of thumb, it is basically the whole world minus Belgium.
Are there any disadvantages to having a Belgian president, or is this a rhetorical question? Well there might be a few problems…
First, Brussels. Although I’m Flemish and the Flemish people in general dislike Brussels as much as many of you, I have to admit that I will always come to the Royal on the train from Brussels. But every cloud has a silver lining, for those who wish I can bring with me in winter fresh Brussels sprouts.
Second, the language. You will have to live with my Belgian accent. But after having coped with Frank Walton’s accent from the Far North of England, I think you will survive mine too. And for those who fear that the Thursday meetings will be in French or German, don’t worry I do intend to hold still some English meetings in between.
Third, the humour. British humour is the best in the world. You will have to miss it for two years because Belgians are little and brave, but have no sense of humour at all.
And to end a few words about my programme.
First, this society is a 100 per cent British institution. All overseas members love it because it is so British. I would call it a unique capacity of preserving traditions while embracing the latest technologies and developments. No other nation can do that. I will do my utmost best to keep this society as British as can be.
Regarding the meetings I will invite more overseas members and preferably groups instead of individual exhibitors or speakers.
And finally, philately is the hobby of everyone and should therefore be affordable for everyone. I will be the strongest opponent to raise membership fees too much. I want to keep everyone on board, and hope that the society will keep growing the way it did.
Thank you very much.
For more information about The RPSL, visit rpsl.org.uk.