“I will compress the story as far as may be done.”
On 11 October 1991, the Belfast Telegraph carried a small notice about Alex Kane and his love of the Sherlock Holmes stories. He was a member of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and he was hoping to make contact with other members who lived in Northern Ireland or, failing that, to meet other people who read and enjoyed Holmes.
From such a small acorn did The Crew of the S.S. May Day grow. We began with about twenty people expressing an interest in forming a local society and Alex and Oscar Ross met and organized the first meeting. The S.S. May Day subsequently set sail on Saturday evening 29 February 1992. Our name comes from the reference in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, the only tale in the Sherlock Holmes Canon to mention “Belfast” or indeed “the north of Ireland.” Oddly enough, we never ever considered what we would call ourselves had Belfast not been mentioned!
Taking inspiration from the Canonical tale and not least the backdrop provided by Belfast, a port endowed with a rich maritime history, it soon became apparent that “a whiff of the sea was perceptible in our investigation.” Our meetings quickly became known as sailings, with items of business on the agenda being described as ports of call.
Our primary problem as a Holmesian group is that we are over here, a place that Holmes (as far as we know at present) never actually visited. We don’t have the luxury of being able to roam around London, get lost on Dartmoor, recreate railway journeys, choose between Oxford and Cambridge, locate the real 221b or identify most of the places mentioned in the assorted adventures. That said, we have managed to occupy and entertain ourselves for two decades.