Irish Fandom

(1) The Fans of Ireland

This is the ordinary sense and includes all fans living in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

But as long as there is fandom, the most important sense will be:

(2) IF = Walt Willis, James White, Bob Shaw and Others

On August 26, 1947, the teen-aged James White and Walt Willis, who was in his late 20s, met in Belfast, Northern Ireland and discovered that they were both fans who collected the prozines. Soon Willis acquired a typewriter and started writing amateur sf. The following year, he published his first fanzine, Slant, which he produced on a printing press with hand-set type. (James White's first printed words were published in Slant 4 when, in an article critical of E. E. Smith, he inserted "[These opinions of the great Smith are not those of the typesetter, J. White]".)

In time, Irish Fandom attracted other fans, including Bob Shaw, John Berry, George Charters, Madeline Willis, Peggy White, and Sadie Shaw. Irish Fandom was also known as IF, and the Wheels of IF were Willis, White, and Shaw.

The following year, they got in touch with the British Fantasy Library and Willis found an abandoned small printing press, and he and White, began to typeset the first issue of Slant. (Halfway down the first page, they ran out of i's, so White produced his first woodcut.) It took months to typeset Slant, but it didn't get mailed until near the end of 1948 because Willis and White couldn't find the names and addresses of enough people who might like it.

Willis quickly became well-known as a fan writer (his column, "The Harp That Once Or Twice..." in Quandry was very well-received) and fanzine publisher and by 1952, WAW with the Crew in '52, the first fan fund was organized to bring him to Chicon II, the 1952 Worldcon.

1952-53 also saw the beginning of Hyphen and the last issues of Slant, marking a shift from fairly sercon to a more fannish and light sort of fanzine. (Harry Warner comments that "White, Willis and Shaw discovered it was more fun to talk than to publish.") 1952 also saw James White's first professional sale (to Ted Carnell) and during the 50s he (proudly) added the title of "vile pro".

The early 50s were when Bob Shaw and John Berry joined IF, and it also saw British fans such as Chuck Harris and ATom become remote adjuncts (at least). (ATom produced a stream of creative cartoons for Hyphen, and Harris wrote. (One of the more fannish early incidents was a fake feud between White and Harris over the rejection of a story Harris had submitted to Slant (see the Harris-White Feud).

Probably the culminating event of the annus mirabilis of 1952 was the discovery (it had to have pre-existed as a Platonic form) of ghoodminton, the ultimate fannish game which could be played only in the attic of Oblique House, where Walt and Madeline Willis lived.

Scarcely less important was the 1954 publication of The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw.

Irish Fandom built and then retained an almost legendary status in fandom, combining fascinating people, great fan writing, a touch of exoticism, and some remarkable pro careers. From the 50s on, fans from around the world went out of their way to visit Belfast (not otherwise in those days on anyone's list of tourist destinations!) to meet Irish Fandom.

Later noteworthy events included the 1955 wedding of James White with Peggy White, a second fan fund, the Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund to bring Willis back to North America, and the departure from Oblique House in 1965. Their fannish Christmas cards were sent to many fans in North America and Britain.

Besides the Willis fan funds, members of Irish Fandom received real formal recognition: