The Red and the White Rose Aquarists

MS for Practical Fishkeeping by Dr David Ford, Aquarian Advisory Service

News item

The Red and the White Rose Aquarists

Geography and history has shaped the social behaviour of people in the 'United Kingdom' since time began - and that applies to aquarists too. The Federations of aquatic societies include USA (Union of Scottish Aquarists) and FSAS (Federation of Scottish Aquarists Societies) who are quite distinct in rules and regulations from the National Societies, AofA (Association of Aquarists - English societies) or FBAS (Federation of British Aquatic Societies). Northern aquarists separated from the British federations via the FNAS (Federation of Northern Aquarium Societies) but (of course) the Yorkshire clubs wanted independence and formed the YAAS (Yorkshire Association of Aquarist Societies).
This created a division bounded by the Pennines with the FNAS being mainly Lancashire Clubs and to the East of those mountains, the Yorkshire clubs - the Red Rose and the White Rose rivalry lives on, long after the Wars of the Roses ended.
Back in 1952, the year of the Festival of Britain, the FNAS launched an annual Fish Show which, over the years, developed a supreme award called the Champion of Champions (now divided into two - Tropical and Coldwater). A few years later YAAS launched their YAF (Yorkshire Aquarists Festival) and developed a similar supreme award called the Fish of Fishes (now, like the Red Rose aquarists, divided into two: Fish of the Year and Best Exhibit of the Year).
Past years saw these competing Shows attract many thousands of visitors over the two days of a weekend. They had increasingly complex Tableaux displays by Clubs, dozens of stands by national manufacturers, regional wholesalers and retailers, and several magazines from the world of aquatics.
Each Federation had its own Judges who pointed fish in 1st, 2nd or 3rd classes with certificates and prizes, special awards being given via Trophies and Cups….and fame. Venues included Manchester's Belle Vue and Trafford Park; YAF was staged for many years at the Doncaster Race Course. Supreme award winners appeared in advertising by competing aquatic foods, equipment and accessories manufacturers, hence the fame.
Attendance at these Shows reached 10,000 over two days during the late 20th Century but entrance fees increased over recent years as costs rose, especially renting such large, prestigious venues. The costs of Health & Safety issues and the bureaucracy of showing living animals all contributed to a dramatic drop in Show attendances. The attendance numbers became 100s rather than 1,000s and the Shows are now run by a devoted group of dedicated aquarists - but still Red and White Rose ones…..
This year's Shows were the Yorkshire Federation's YAF (now called the YAAS Show) at the Village Hall of Stockton on the Forest - a small village near York, and the FNAS's BAF at the Working Men's Club in Darwen, a town in Blackburn in Darwen just over the Pennines from West Yorkshire. Both are now one day Open Shows and held on 6th July (YAF) and 24th August (BAF).
Both Shows still had many entries (250 at YAF and 156 at BAF) in some 36 to 40 classes, now with free entrance for visitors to view after the judging. The Yorkshire supreme awards, Fish of the Year and Best Exhibit of the Year were both won by the same fish: an Akysis Catfish Akysis prashadi by Roy Blackburn of Castleford Aquarist Society. Across the Pennines the CofC Tropical was won by a Corydoras Catfish Scleromystax priontos by Bernard O'Neil of Workington Aquarist Society and the CofC Coldwater winner was a Demekin (this is a coloured Moor Goldfish) by Alan White of the Alden Show Team.
So the Northern Aquarists are still active - whether you are a Red or a White Rose, or just a British aquarist, give them your support by visiting their annual Shows in 2009…you will see details in this magazine next year. Note that the Yorkshire Federation will also be celebrating their 50th year too.
Photo 1 (below): YAF's double winner Roy Blackburn collects his awards from Steve Jones President of the YAAS
Photo 2 (below): BAF's Champion of Champions Coldwater the Demekin
Photo 3 (below): BAF's Champion of Champions Tropical Scleromystax priontos

Roy Blackburn of Castleford AS collects two awards at YAF 2008

The Champion of Champion Coldwater 2008 - A Demekin by Alan White
of Alden Show Team

The Champion of Champions Tropical 2008 - A Corydoras Catfish by Bernard O'Neil
of Worthington AS