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Magical appointments

By the late 1920s, Jasper Maskelyne was fast becoming respected by his peers on his own merit and not just because of the magical dynasty he represented. This esteem led him to be offered prestigious roles with several magic societies.

“I am always ready to meet a brother magician, of whatever colour, class or creed,”

Jasper Maskelyne, White Magic (1936)

He became Honorary President of the Aberdeen Magical Society in 1928 and the first president of the Wessex Magical Association in 1932.

Soon after the Hull Magicians’ Circle was founded in 1933, Jasper Maskelyne became its Honorary President too. In appreciation for his appointment, Jasper presented the club with a silver wand. This was an annual award for the magician demonstrating the most originality during a competition held at the society’s annual dinner. The award is still competed for today.

Advert for Hull Magicians' Circle

When the Wolverhampton Circle of Magicians was formed in November 1947, Jasper accepted an Honorary Vice President position there.

Logos for the Aberdeen Magical Society, Wolverhampton Circle of Magicians and the Associated Wizards of the South

He also became Honorary Vice President of Associated Wizards of the South and Vice President of the British chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, known as Ring No. 25.

Programme for the first annual convention of British Ring 25 of The International Brotherhood of Magicians

Besides these appointments, Jasper supported the wider entertainment and variety theatre industry. He was a member of both the Grand Order of Water Rats and the Variety Artistes’ Federation (incorporated into Equity in 1967), serving on their executive committees in the late 1940s.

Oddly, though, Jasper was only loosely involved with The Magic Circle, the most prestigious magic society in the world.

Alongside the opening of St. George’s Hall, 1905 was notable in the history of magic for the creation of The Magic Circle. On a summer’s day, twenty-three amateur and professional magicians gathered together at London’s Pinoli’s Restaurant with the intention of forming a magic club.

The result was the founding of The Magic Circle, an organisation dedicated to promoting and advancing the art of magic. The first official meeting was held at The Green Man public house in Soho, The first president of the club was David Devant, by then the greatest British magician of his era.

In 1906, the society launched its own in-house magazine. Called The Magic Circular, it was edited by Nevil Maskelyne (Jasper's father). Still flourishing today, it is the longest running magic club periodical in the world. Both John Nevil Maskelyne (Jasper's paternal grandfather) and Nevil were members of the fledgling society. They provided a room above the stage of St. George’s Hall for the weekly meeting and allowed use of the venue for The Magic Circle’s annual ‘seance’ (show). John Nevil was also instrumental in founding founded the society’s Occult Committee in 1914. Its remit was to ‘investigate claims to supernatural power and to expose fraud.’

David Devant served as President for the society’s first year, before handing over the reins to Nevil Maskelyne. Nevil ran it until his death in 1924. He was succeeded by Clive Maskelyne (Jasper's brother) for four years, until Clive’s own untimely death in 1928, aged 34.

At this point, 26-year-old Jasper, the leading light of St. George’s Hall, might have expected to take on the role. Instead, Herbert J. Collings (who also performed as Col Ling Soo) served as President. He held the post until 1931 and then again from 1954-1958, proving to be a popular appointee.

Jasper didn’t join the club until 28 February 1939, possibly keeping away because he was aggrieved that he wasn’t offered the presidency. Even though he eventually joined The Magic Circle, Jasper didn’t stay for long. World War Two intervened and he let his membership lapse in June 1940.

Herbert J. Collings (aka Col Ling Soo)

Meanwhile, Herbert J. Collings had become President of the I.B.M.'s British Ring No. 25. In September 1947 he led a delegation to watch Jasper's show Hey Presto! (Third Edition) at the end of a seven-week run in London's West End. After the evening show on 19 September, he presented Jasper with honorary lifetime membership of the I.B.M. The honour bestowed on Jasper by his peers recognised and valued his contribution as Britain’s leading magician of the age.

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