Dick­ens groups di­vided but united in hol­i­day cheer

One of­fi­cer says split was a ques­tion of style

The Times-Tribune - - Weather / Nation - BY COREY KILGANNON

NEW YORK — “Mar­ley was dead: to be­gin with. There is no doubt what­ever about that,” said John Galazin, quot­ing not only the open­ing lines of Charles Dick­ens’ “A Christ­mas Carol” — which, of course, these are — but also a book­store clerk who blurted out those lines when Mr. Galazin asked re­cently for a copy of the book.

Mr. Galazin, pres­i­dent of the Dick­ens Fel­low­ship of New York, was ad­dress­ing its mem­bers at their an­nual hol­i­day party on a re­cent Satur­day, and mak­ing the point that Dick­ens is alive and well in New York City.

That point was am­pli­fied the very next day when the Friends of Dick­ens New York met for a hol­i­day party in a bar in Mid­town Manhattan.

“You have the best and bright­est here — these are great minds,” said Kevin Quinn, a mem­ber who showed up at the Friends’ party dressed in a Vic­to­ri­an­era tuxedo and top hat.

Leave it to New York City to have not one but two Dick­ens so­ci­eties. Af­ter an un­pleas­ant split more than 20 years ago, the two sim­i­lar groups have been op­er­at­ing in close par­al­lel with no re­uni­fi­ca­tion in sight.

Both groups are chap­ters of the world­wide Dick­ens Fel­low­ship, founded in 1902 in Lon­don, and both try to keep Dick­ens’ mem­ory alive by dis­cussing his work at monthly meet­ings held — sep­a­rately, of course — at the same li­brary branch on East 23rd Street.

Both groups keep Christ­mas with a tra­di­tional hol­i­day party, of­ten on the same week­end, as hap­pened this year. The Fel­low­ship group made its mer­ri­ment in the com­mu­nity room of an Up­per East Side high-rise, while the Friends group gath­ered in­side McGee’s Pub on West 55th Street.

“This is the splin­ter group, the Protes­tants, as it were,” Mr. Quinn said while greet­ing mem­bers at McGee’s.

What ex­actly caused the split grows fuzzier ev­ery year among mem­bers. Some re­called dif­fer­ences over dam­age done to a rented film version of “Oliver Twist.” Oth­ers pointed to dif­fer­ences in how meet­ings were con­ducted. Still oth­ers pointed to humbug be­tween group lead­ers.

Mike J. Quinn, 87, the pres­i­dent of the Friends group, said he had se­ceded from the Fel­low­ship group in 1993, and had helped start the Friends group, af­ter a dis­agree­ment.

“With­out go­ing too deeply into it, I was of­fended by some of the things the guys in charge were say­ing and do­ing,” said Mr. Quinn, a for­mer Fran­cis­can friar and re­tired New York state pa­role of­fi­cer.

Some 15 years ago, the two groups met to dis­cuss unit­ing, but the Friends group ul­ti­mately voted to re­main sep­a­rate.

“There’s no bad blood be­tween our two groups at this point,” Mr. Quinn said. “We get along on a num­ber of is­sues, and we had a pic­nic to­gether in Cen­tral Park last sum­mer.” Still, they pre­fer to go their own ways.

Kevin Quinn — no re­la­tion to Mike Quinn — said the split was “more a philo­soph­i­cal dif­fer­ence about how to con­duct meet­ings, a ques­tion of style, rather than any smok­ing gun.”

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