HE was already a famous author when he agreed to speak at the Bournemouth Literary Luncheon club, 60 years ago this year.

Dennis Wheatley's occult thriller The Devil Rides Out had made him a top attraction and a big coup for the newly-formed society.

Since then, the society has attracted a host of big names to its luncheon meetings as it travelled through the centuries, culminating in one-time Dr Who, Colin Baker, at its 60th anniversary dinner.

Among the speakers in the early years was Vera Britten, author of Testament of Youth, who lived at Lyndhurst, and historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, the historian who, many years later authenticated the Hitler Diaries that later proved to be a fake.

In 1963 Anthony Wedgewood Benn - later Lord Benn - was a speaker, followed, in the '60s by such figures as writer and parson Stuart Jackman, wartime secret service agent Josephine Butler and politician Violet Bonham Carter, whose father was Lord Asquith, onetime Liberal prime minister.

In the early '70s Edna Healey, wife of Labour cabinet member Denis Healey, made the first of five speeches she was to give to the society in the space of the next 23 years. In 1971, she spoke on the subject of the changing role of women.

The '70s saw several prominent broadcasters attending, including Sheridan Morley, Joan Bakewell and Radio 4's John Timpson who spoke about his "humorous experiences".

Sheridan Morley's subject? He talk was entitled "My Life and other Disasters" and Ms Bakewell's subject was "Don't Believe Everything You See".

Biographer Michael Holroyd, Lady Isabel Barnett (twice), Christopher Booker and Lady Olga Maitland were among the speakers in the late '70s and early '80s that also saw guest speakers including My Music personality Steve Race.

Desert Island Discs deviser and presenter Roy Plomley was a speaker in 1980 (revealing that four of his favourite guests had been Marlene Dietrich, Peter Ustinov, Noel Coward and Madame Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, who had selected seven of her own recordings).

During that decade, the society attracted such names as Jane Ewart-Biggs (widow of the assassinated British ambassador to Dublin), columnist Linda Lee-Potter, Gyles Brandreth, the BBC's John Simpson and romantic novelist Mary Burchell.

In 1985 comedian Kenneth Williams told the society of how Bournemouth had been a regular holiday haunt of his family, particularly staying at the Sandringham Hotel at Boscombe.

That year, author Margaret Drabble was another guest speaker.

The following year the society could boast another coup as prime minister Margaret Thatcher's daughter Carol arrived to speak about her book about the golden tennis couple John Lloyd and his then wife Chris.

As the society approached the '90s, Richard Burton's widow Sally was engaged to speak, who told members about how exciting it was living with the famous actor.

In 1991, star of Young Winston and All Creatures Great and Small, Simon Ward was among the speakers with TV presenter Ludovic Kennedy one of the guests the following year, who told of his father's court martial in the First World War that he considered unjust.

Actor Simon Williams spoke to members in 1993 and, three years later, another actor, Mark Burgess who played Brookside's Gordon Collins, launched the golden anniversary season.

Now, after another decade that has seen speakers such as antiques specialist David Battie, TV newsreader Richard Whitmore and Roy Castle's widow Fiona Castle entertaining members, the society is looking forward to another successful decade ahead.