Ernest MERCIER, CIGRE President 1933-1948
The full text of the 1946 Paris Opening Session Speech by Ernest MERCIER, CIGRE President 1933-1948 is below. It is worthy in these times to review history…
Our great family of CIGRE endured a Session in 1939 whereby “heavy storm clouds already threatened the world.” [Quotes from 1946 Opening Session by Ernest MERCIER]. “They burst with the implacable fury of a world-wide cataclysm.”
For CIGRE’s 25th Anniversary, delegates called for a great Session in 1946. To the delegates, “you have eloquently answered by easily beating all your previous records, for today there are 950 [delegates] registered, thus showing your impatience to resume those trusting and warm contacts of which you had established the tradition, like the members of a single great family dispersed all over the globe.”
The full text of President MERCIER' s speech:
CONFERENCE INTERNATIONALE DES GRANDS RESEAUX ELECTRIQUES (C. I. G. R. E.) INAUGURAL MEETING
Mr. President, Ladies, Gentlemen, I declare open to-day, June 28th, 1946, at 10.30 a.m., the eleventh ordinary session of the International Conference of the Big High Tension Systems.
At the very beginning of this meeting I wish, on behalf of all of you, to express our very sincere and warm thanks to Mr. Simon, the distinguished President and General Manager of ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE. Under difficult and exceptional circumstances, at a time when it was necessary to ensure continuity between a previous régime, now abolished, and a new régime on the threshold of its enforcement, the Government's confidence was reposed in one of the men, perhaps in the only man, who could assume such a task without appearing unequal to it. It is in the vital, fundamental interest of our country that this transformation should take place with the greatest and indisputable success. Mr. Simon's name represents for us a promise that this will be so. Seven years ago, almost day for day, in this same hall, we opened our tenth Session under the Chairmanship of Mr. Albert Lebrun, President of the Republic. Heavy storm clouds already threatened the world. They burst with the implacable fury of a world-wide cataclysm? the horror of which exceeded everything which imagination could conceive of; and for five long years humanity offered a desperate spectacle of destruction, of murder, of criminal and dishonoring barbarianism. The courage and the heroic sacrifice of innumerable lives, of a still greater number of youthful existences, could not cover up and compensate so much shame. Humanity is rising again, slowly, painfully. The unchaining of fury without measure leaves behind it traces which last long and which give painful evidence of the lowering of the mind and the debasement of character. In this long martyrology we will not attempt to classify the various countries according to some sinister right of precedence. All our countries have suffered, all our countries are materially and morally bruised and shaken on their traditional foundations, even those which were privileged to remain sheltered from direct blows. And now, Gentlemen, it is for us to work together with all our strength, above our troubles, our misery and our mourning, for the rehabilitation of the world and the reconstruction of its ruins by Peace; that Peace which henceforward can be restored durably only by the intimate, close and total union of all the truly peaceful nations. Let us always remember that to-day we are all citizens of the same ideal Motherland of which our countries are merely different provinces.
Your gesture in renewing the lengthy tradition of your Congress takes on an exceptionally important symbolic character. You once again take up the sacred bonds which the war broke but could not destroy: those of confraternal labor, above frontiers, beyond all the hindrances and all the barriers left behind by the tyrannical, bureaucratic organisation of war time. My dear friends of C.I.G.R.E., your colleagues in France extend to you all to-day the most affectionate welcome. Many of you have come from afar off, have undergone fatiguing journeys and put up with innumerable formalities (I have been shown a passport decorated with 82 visas), and you come to a country which has not yet found again all the conveniences and all the abundance of the resources you were accustomed to find there. But at least you will always find it animated by the same inexhaustible feelings for its friends, even and above all those who are furthest away. I must report to you on the successive facts which have led us, step by step, to this resurrection of our Association. As early as June 1945, that is to say, immediately upon the cessation of hostilities, we received the first messages from our faithful colleagues: First of all a telegram from our eminent friend Borquist, General Manager of the Forces Hydrauliques de la Suède; then, other telegrams, next letters, particularly from London and New York, then from Holland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, even from Rumania. We gathered from them such an obvious desire to resume our activities that we did not hesitate to call a meeting of the Council in the middle of November 1945. This meeting, cordial and filled with confidence as in our most prosperous times, but different from its predecessors by the fact that many of its members were still in uniform, terminated on November 16th with the decision to organise the meeting of a Congress during the summer of 1946. In view of the general uncertainty, often cruel, in which we were all then struggling, it might be feared that, on riper experience, this measure would appear to be too optimistic and premature. Gentlemen, you have eloquently answered by easily beating all your previous records, for to-day there are 950 of you Congressmen registered, thus showing your impatience to resume those trusting and warm contacts of which you had established the tradition, like the members of a single great family dispersed all over the globe. You only had four months at your disposal, instead of the six which used to be our rule, and yet, while we were expecting 75 reports, you have produced 110, resulting from a selection made by your National Committees out of a still more abundant harvest. Owing to physical difficulties we were only able to send you 56 reports in French and 40 in English on June 1st, but this was already a veritable "tour de force" both for us and for you, for these documents as a whole represent 6 volumes of 500 pages which had to be set up in English and French in spite of the fact that our Parisian printers, leads had, to a great extent, been seized and confiscated. With their reduced resources, our printers have had to work for you night and day. You will find the complete collection of these reports at the Session Secretariat. I have been wondering, Gentlemen, to what the durable and ever-increasing success of our association is due. Regarding matters in the cold light of the objectivity which my age permits, I think I can say that this success is due essentially to the high type of the men who have devoted themselves to creating and developing our association and to the indisputable talent of the writers of nearly all its reports. In this connection, permit me to recall the memory of our great friends who have passed on:
that of our first and incomparable President, Marcel Ulrich, and of that exceptional friend, Mailloux, one of the most captivating sponsors, and inspirers of our Association,
then, in this chronology of bereavements, the brilliant names of Bellaar Spruyt, of W.B. Woodhouse, of Emile Gevaert, of Semenza, of Eugène Brock, this latter a victim of those atrocities which no word in any self-respecting language can adequately condemn…
and I must further add, alas, the names of Marc Dutoir, of Bruckman, of Jean Fallou, of Edouard Roth and of so many others Bru ckman, of Jean Fallou, of Edouard Roth and of so many others for whom we are still mourning and who have been prematurely taken from us, when we should have been able, all our lives, to marvel at and enjoy their magnificent mastery, arrested in full flight.
These names raise inexhaustible regrets in your hearts, but what wealth they affirm, and how can we be surprised that they have sown the harvests which we see growing and ripening to-day and which bring about the success of C.I.G.R.E. ! Certainly, the actual organisation you selected has been favorable to the development of this success. For, indeed, you have wisely avoided overcrowding our programmes by voluntarily limiting a field of activity which nevertheless still remains a very vast one. You have maintained reasonable frequency in your meetings and permanency in your headquarters, which has enabled us to ensure that continuity without which no effort can be fruitful; Nevertheless, you have given the necessary counter-balance to this permanency by holding your Council Meetings between the successive sessions in the different countries having National Committees; You have ensured the permanency of the direction of your Research Committees. Those are excellent methods, which I advise you to maintain.
It would, however, be especially unjust not to mention, as a singularly efficient element of vitality and progress, the activity and devotion shown by nearly all the principal National Committees in order to interest a wider and wider audience in our work. In this connection, permit me to cite here particularly the National Committees of Sweden, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. For the latter, especially, its President, our charming friend Frederic Attwood, has made a magnificent proselytising effort which has already produced highly remarkable results. To these National Committees and to those which I have not been able to mention, we address our warmest congratulations. I am afraid you may find some imperfections in the physical organisation of our Congress. You will see in them the effect of the difficulties which have arisen out of the war - difficulties which sometimes become absolute impossibilities. You will perhaps think the simple buffets, where you relax from your daily labors for half an hour, somewhat Spartan.You will also note that we have been forced to give up our traditional dinner this year, which, thanks to the French National Committee, brought us all together; for, indeed, not a single restaurant proprietor was prepared to assume such an undertaking, as none of them have yet been able to reconstitute their essential equipment - knives and forks, table cloths, napkins - which were stolen. You will certainly help each other your philosophic good humour, to forget these inadequacies, which have almost brought our friend Tribot-Laspière to despair and suicide. Our Congress counts among its members a large number of young newcomers, who are here for the first time; we welcome them with particular pleasure, but do not dazzle them too much by recollections of a happier past, which will certainly return one day. Since our last Congress a scientific event has occurred of which the immense scope cannot yet be appreciated: a discovery due to research work to which are and will remain attached, names of scientists of many different nations, the discovery of the method of freeing atomic energy. Humanity, as only too often happens alas! to be its terrible destiny, already possesses the means of using it to do the greatest possible harm, and it is to be expected that it will rapidly perfect them. In between whiles, it will certainly also work on turning it to peaceful uses, but this will surely be more difficult and take longer. I expect you will consider it advisable to constitute a special Commission to follow the developments of this vital question. Before closing, I still have a particularly agreeable duty to fulfil. C.I.G.R.E. completes its first quarter of a century, celebrates its 25th birthday this year. On this occasion, your Council has decided to have a few commemorative, medals struck. These medals are not yet actually created. Present-day difficulties have resulted in their arriving too late. We shall forward them to their holders, who will forgive us for merely handing them to-day provisionally empty cases. These medals will be awarded, as too slight a testimony of the gratitude of C.I.G.R.E.,
To those members of the Council who have been in office since the beginning,
To the seniors in office among the Presidents of the National Committees,
To the Chairmen of the Research Committees,
To Mr. MacMahon, who for 25 years past has, among other things, been an incomparable interpreter at our Congresses,
To Mr. Tribot-Laspière, for conf1dent1al reasons which I shall not reveal to you, and
To Mademoiselle Defrance, for similar reasons.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have completed the official task assigned to your President. Please now permit your old friend to add his very cordial personal good wishes and very affectionate welcome.
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