Much of the pleasure found in an archive is making connections and understanding histories, but the membership card for the Brighton College Elephant Club (BCEC) has had me flummoxed for weeks.
I first spied this small card among a wealth of materials from the Classical Civilisation Society, the Film Society, the Debating Society, and more. While many of those societies have left behind their minutes, their constitutions, or their rubbings (as the Brass Rubbing Society has) it is the only item that has survived to tell us that the BCEC ever existed. The front has the initials of the club as well as the crest of Brighton College, and its Greek motto ΤΟ Δ’ΕΥ ΝΙΚΑΤΩ, which translates to ‘let right prevail.’ Printed on the inside are the words 'membership card' and then space for the member to fill in his name, the date, and his signature. Membership could either be permanent or temporary.
What is most interesting however is what is printed on the right-hand side. The directive that “An Elephant finding himself a useful citizen must notify the Committee immediately,” followed by the motto in bold of: “ALL ELEPHANTS ARE MY BROTHERS.”
But what was the Elephant Club? A look in the Brightonian magazines of the time shows no record of the club existing, and there is no mention of it that has been found elsewhere in the archive thus far, besides this small membership card. Are you or have you ever been an elephant? Have you been a useful citizen? Is the BCEC like Fight Club in which no record of it must be kept or mention of it uttered? Archives hold many mysteries, but none I find so fascinating as the one about elephants at Brighton College!