International Guild of Knot Tyers

Colin Byfleet

Growing up in Harrow, north-west London, I enjoyed an excellently-run Scout group where knotting and lashings were enthusiastically taught and used. We even had a precious copy of Ashley, although I little realised its importance at that time. Distractions followed (girls and exams) and knotting took a back seat. Learning to sail on a gravel-pit lake at St Ives in Cambridge brought them back to fore for a while. More dinghy sailing in the fairly protected waters off Vancouver, whilst at the University of British Columbia, was followed by a few similar forays in the Solent.ColinByfleetLR

Thirty busy years of work, family etc. followed and knotting again disappeared into the background until involvement with the now sadly-defunct Exeter Maritime Museum, via my wife, Jackie, began in the mid-1990s. A visit to the maritime festival Brest 2000 brought us into contact with Ken Yalden and members of the Solent branch at their popular demonstration stand. We joined the Guild very soon thereafter and have enjoyed being members ever since.

Partial retirement in 2003 was followed by several years working in Tallahassee, Florida and we managed only two meetings (Beale Park, UK 2005 and Charleston, SC, USA 2007) until we returned to Devon in summer 2009. 

I was then very foolish and replied to a request in Knotting Matters for a new Supplies Secretary - and was given the job, purely through the lack of competition. At the 2010 meeting in Weston-super-Mare I was cajoled onto the Council and discovered the inner workings of the Guild. The following year, at the meeting in Coventry, I was asked to succeed Dan Machowski as President, an honour for which I was ill-prepared, especially since our long-standing Treasurer and Secretary both finished their time in office at the same meeting. At the end of the formal AGM neither post was filled and I am immensely grateful to Ian Schofield and Margaret Boggs who stepped in to save the day. Ian has held the job ever since and is to retire this May (2017).

I am pleased that the re-organisation into Council of Trustees and Executive Committee, forced upon us by our status as a Registered Charity, and which caused a great deal of heart-searching and discussion, has gone well and now seems to be running smoothly.

Following the Autumn meeting in Sweden in 2010, I became interested in circular mats and their mathematical analysis. I was wheel-chaired around Karlskrona’s cobbles by Knut Buttgereit, as I had a piece of detached cartilage in my knee. Whilst recovering from repair surgery and being rather immobile, I was able to sit and make many of the mats which formed the basis of the articles in Knotting Matters last year.

Following a career as a chemical physicist, my time with the Guild has taken Jackie and me to many really interesting meeting places and, more importantly, put us in contact with very many splendid colleagues. I think the Guild is quite the friendliest organisation I know and I am delighted to have been a small part of it.