Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson Q.C. opened the meeting promptly at 1030 a.m. and advised of twelve apologies.

Under “Initial Notices” Secretary Neil Ramshaw gave notice of the 2018 April 24th A.G.M. and asked for members to consider taking office/helping with the small tasks needed to make the Forum operate efficiently and successfully— in particular 2nd Vice Chairman candidates needed and Catering assistance welcome!!

John Taylor Programme Secretary updated members on the late Gordon Richardson’s funeral last week and also regarding Ken Roberts who has been absent for some time and now in a Care Home off the Knaresborough Road— a long-standing member and former Bevin Boy !!

Today’s talk saw the return of Mr Malcolm Neesam, noted Harrogate Historian, whose subject would be “Harrogate in the 20th Century”. For the next hour the attentive audience were entertained with an excellent recounting, supported by a complementary slide show, of Harrogate’s development both good and bad throughout the last century. Harrogate’s progress was enhanced by its reputation as a premier Spa Town and further consolidated with the arrival of the Railway.

In 1900 Harrogate’s population stood at 26,583 increasing by 2001 to 71,594. Before the Great War Harrogate was a genteel community attractive to the aristocracy and the well to do–very much upmarket in terms of its appeal. This would dramatically change both after the First World War and accelerate again after the Second World War. Significant building took place prior to the First World War—1900 Harrogate Opera House; Majestic Hotel with one gold leaf dome!! In 1902 the Grand Hotel opened on Cornwall Road with eight gold leaf domes!!; 1903 Kursaal opened and other developments also took place—all funded from within Harrogate itself.

Following World War One the Council had three priorities to action with housing improvements urgently required leading initially to the developement of the St. Andrews Estate in the 1920’s and then others. Secondly suitable commemoration of the War Dead was required which eventually saw the Cenotaph commissioned and thirdly responding to as report by Professor Smithells on Spa Facilities, initiated in 1918, with plans for pavement canopies and the training of Bath Attendants being progressed.

We were shown Valley Gardens improvements, even though part of the Stray, and Malcolm described what was between the wars the big business of Harrogate Spa Water. 1930 saw new Council Offices in Crescent Gardens and the Council publicised an”Up Market” image of the town. Council interference with the properties of the Stray led to the formation of the Stray Defence Association in 1933 and an outbreak of internecine strife thar was eventually won by the Association and the removal of the offending flower beds and shrubs from the said Stray.

The Second World War saw slum clearances put on hold; billeting taking place on a large-scale in the town; bombing in 1940 and following the war’s end the further acceleration of change with Conference Halls, Bus and Railway Stations replaced (not for the better!); start of the International Festival in 1966; refurbishment of the Royal Hall and other changes/ developments up to the end of the century.

Whilst not a lot of time for questions it was apparent that the morning’s proceedings had been much appreciated and well received by members.

The Vote of Thanks on behalf of thirty-nine attendees was given by Richard Brooks.





The meeting was opened at 1030 a.m. by Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson Q.C. He advised that six apologies had been received and reminded members of the arrangements for Gordon Richardson’s funeral this Thursday at 340 p.m.

A reminder was also given to members that the talk on March 20th by our own Terry Byrne would be entitled ” A South African Journey” and not as titled in the Club Membership Card.

Before introducing the day’s Speaker,  Chairman Derek shared an anecdote about the perils of memory recall as one advances in age illustrated by an incident involving Sir Thomas Beecham and Royalty which was well received by the assembled audience.

Today saw the return of Mr Michael Duncombe who previously told us of his experiences as part of the Saxon’s music trio in his youth and today’s talk “Thanks for the Memories” would take us back to his days of growing up and early adulthood,  sharing his remembered recollections from some of the many people he had met and who had left an indelible impression on him.

Growing up in Whiston Rotherham he attended Whiston Infant and Junior School and told us about his teachers, headmistress and games played such as Marbles, Hopscotch, Conkers and Whip “N” Top. The girls games he remembered were Skipping and Hand Stands. (which the boys enjoyed watching!!)  Teachers with names such as Miss Lines, Mrs Winspear and Miss Royal were recalled; singing Auld Lang Syne (with variations!) and Monitors for every thing were brought to mind including the Ink Monitor with a blue arm and the Ball Monitors who recovered balls from the school roof in an era before the advent of Health and Safety taking effect. Michael was the School Money Monitor taking a bus ride into Rotherham each week to bank dinner monies and any other miscellaneous amounts something that would no doubt be severely frowned upon in these so-called enlightened times.

At secondary school his memories centred on his drama and football teachers (P.T.), his exam for technical school which saw him opt for Engineering rather than Agriculture, Commerce or Building.

Leaving school he took a job in B.T. Communications following a familiar family pattern but then made a major career direction change early in his married life by retraining at a National College in Leicester for Youth Leadership, a career path he subsequently followed. Again we heard some interesting and amusing tales of his experiences in this field involving individuals decried as reprobates but who displayed some remarkable skills (guitar playing) or whose ambitions were affected/limited by coming from a difficult or violent background and upbringing.

The morning concluded with audience questions and reminisces and it was evident that Michael’s memories had elicited recognition and familiarity amongst many members of their own earlier lives.

The Vote of Thanks, on behalf of the thirty-nine attendees, was given by the ever youthful Mike South who claimed not to recall the early scholastic memories!!



Funeral Arrangements—Gordon Richardson

Gordon’s funeral will take place at Stonefall Crematorium on Thursday March 8th at 340 p.m. and afterwards at the Traveller’s Rest.

Member’s who knew Gordon are welcome to attend.




Vice Chairman Michael Cochrane opened the meeting advising that five apologies had been received. He then took a few minutes to pay tribute to recently passed member Gordon Richardson highlighting his time in the Forces and on the Railways with his move late in life to Harrogate to be nearer his daughter. His funeral will be at Stonefall Crematorium on Thursday March 8th at 340 p.m. and afterwards at the Traveller’s Rest.

Today’s Speaker was our very own Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson who would share with us “Still More Curiosities”. He started with a definition of the word “curiosity” but his anecdotes would focus on where curiosity led people and the consequences.

The first story concerned Kenneth Barlow and his recent second wife Elizabeth. In May 1957 Kenneth Barlow apparently discovered his wife unconscious in the bath, tried to revive her and called his own Doctor. The Doctor had concerns about the unexpected death, having an awareness that a first wife had also died at a young age, and called the police and requested a pathologist and a Dr. David Price subsequently attended. The husband’s story about his wife’s death started to unravel due to suspicions about his attempted resuscitation with water in the cavity of her arm and it being rare for a healthy 32-year-old woman to drown in a domestic bath–also, whilst not unusual as Kenneth was a nurse, a couple of used syringes were found in the kitchen. Dr. Price’s post-mortem noted widely dilated pupils in the deceased, noted she was two months pregnant, and took blood samples for analysis for poison. Further detailed investigation on the body revealed two injection sites and were able to ascertain insulin in the body although she was not diabetic.

Kenneth Barlow was eventually charged with murder (which he denied), tried at Leeds Assizes in December 1957, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment being released after 26 years in 1984.

The next Curiosity led to the discovery of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe who in May 1981 was tried for thirteen murders, seven attempted murders, found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. His reign of terror in West Yorkshire was carried out over five years and led to a massive investigation carried out from Millgarth Police Station Leeds under the control of Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield. The investigation made little initial progress and was gravely hampered by the disgraceful actions of “Wearside Jack” with hoax letters and an audio tape which wrong-footed enquiries and was given too much credence by the officer in charge.

However on 2nd January 1981 in Sheffield Sgt. Bob Ring accompanied by a probationary officer found Sutcliffe and a sex worker in a car, in suspicious circumstances, and took him in for questioning (not as a Ripper suspect at this stage) but subsequently found Sutcliffe trying to dispose of a hammer and knives which led to a confession. According to Ring it was “old-fashioned coppering!!”

The Weardside hoaxer eventually faced justice in 2006 due to D.N.A. matches and John Humble received an eight year stretch.

Derek concluded his morning’s talk with the tale of the Halifax “Slasher” from 1938 which created mass hysteria in the area with the attacks on females subsequently found to be false and shared some information about Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address ,very short and more prepared than legend has it, and interestingly preceded by a long-winded oratory from Edward Everett that took over two hours.

A number of questions were answered at the end and the Vote Of Thanks was given by John Taylor on behalf of the thirty-four attendees.




I am sorry to have to advise of the death of Gordon Richardson last Sunday just a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday. Gordon was a Forum member of 7 years standing and on two occasions he contributed his memories of his time in the Services to Members’ Mornings.

He moved to Harrogate from Mirfield in West Yorkshire after the death of his wife to be nearer his daughter and until the last couple of months was remarkably fit and looked ten years younger than he was. Gordon was good company in the “League of Gentlemen” who meet in Tilly Peppers after Forum meetings and he will be missed.

Any funeral details will be posted here when advised.




Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson Q.C. opened the meeting promptly advising that four apologies had been received. Sadly, he also reported the passing of member Gordon Richardson last Sunday following a short period of illness.

Today saw what has become a regular annual fixture in the Forum’s season namely “Members’ Morning” where five members would take centre stage to entertain and inform fellow members on a topic of their choosing.

First up was our longest-serving member of over twenty years Frank Ellis who shared some memories of the great variety comedian Al Read starting with how a 1952 incident changed his life as a sausage maker in his father’s business–it involved a domestic story about Albert Wilkinson , a decorator, and eventually led to appearances on B.B.C. Variety Bandbox. Other “Read” sketches were delivered too and well received by the audience.

Next to take the floor was a more recent member Gordon Percy whose topic was about his career as a Diamond Prospector in Sierra Leone following his graduation with a degree in geology from 1962. Ostensibly taking this overseas role for a couple of years he spent sixteen years between 1962 and 1978 moving progressively to more senior positions within the company. He advised that his initial employment owed something to his prowess as a Otley Rugby Union player!! The work he was involved in was varied and interesting underpinned by an excellent social and sporting  life style. Gordon detailed the geographical make up of the country that led to Diamond Prospecting and told us about the investigative work and analysis that took place to determine prime locations for mining and detailed some of the early 1960’s procedures used in the afore said mining.

Our third Speaker was Brian Gallagher, a new member to the Forum this season,who talked about his military posting to Borneo in the early 1960’s and in particular to Labuan. This period coincided with hostilities emanating from Indonesia under President Sukarno and a number of incursions from rebels that were dealt with by amongst others the Gurkhas. By the mid 1960’s and with a change in the Indonesian regime peaceful relations were established in this part of the world.

Taking fourth spot in our lexicon of Speakers was John Corby, a member of five seasons, and a member of Harrogate Rotary Club who helped establish over forty years ago a Charity Housing Association “Harrogate Flower Fund Homes” which set out to provide housing (flats) for elderly people in reduced circumstances. Funds for this project were by donations from monies diverted away from funeral flowers and wreaths. The first units opened in 1981 at Jennyfield and were added to in 1992/2011 with further flats in Starbeck and the Association now owns twenty-seven units.

Last but not least saw Alan Barker, another new member this season, bring proceedings to an entertaining finish causing much merriment in the audience with his original three verses  “A Bridge To Far”; one about his mother in law and a final one “Sat Nav” which focussed on the ever-loving advice he receives from his good lady!!

All in all a splendid morning enjoyed by the thirty-five attendees who really appreciated their fellow members efforts.



Report 13th February 2018

FORUM 13 FEB The Chairman welcomed 39 members to the meeting and announced the sad news of the death of Roland Moor, a friend of Roy Howard and George Wells and a former member of the Forum. Our speaker Chris Helme from Brighouse is a former police officer but his subject was “Other People’s Rubbish”. He alluded in an amusing introduction to the way that men hoard bits of plugs, wires and pieces of wood in their sheds in the mistaken belief that they will be useful one day. Women hoard buttons in the same way. He collects items that other people would throw away – old 78s and EPs, tapes, council minute books and newspapers for significant dates that reveal bits of local history such as a proposal to name a local street after Elvis that would otherwise be forgotten. Chris is a keen local historian and wrote a column for the local press for 30 years on the nostalgia theme, drawing his material from his collection saved from the skip or bought for a few pence. To show that he is not a stick in the mud, he told us that he has run a class helping older people to use mobile phones. Many of us had to admit that we mostly keep our phones switched off – typical apparently! Chris could have talked for hours but we had to call proceedings to a halt at 11.50!

Report 6th Feb

FORUM MEETING 6 FEBRUARY 2018 The Chairman welcomed a good number of members on a snowy day. He mentioned the 100th Anniversary of women over 30 gaining the vote and the 66th Anniversary of the Queen’s Accession. He then told a good joke involving the Queen Mother and Fokker Aircraft. 4 Forum members had attended Ray Snowden’s funeral which had been a celebration of his life and Malcolm Wood showed a photograph of Ray in typical form at Ascot House enjoying a knickerbocker glory. The popular Alun Pugh returned “to augment my pension” with his Illustrated History of Leeds. In an hour he showed us some of the familiar buildings still standing from the city’s past including the Minster,St. John’s Church, Kirkstall Abbey, the waterfront warehouses now apartments, Temple Newsam (founded by the Knight’s Templar) and the Egyptian-style mill. Other important landmarks in the city’s history have long since gone, such as Leeds Manor House, the Moot Hall in the middle of Briggate and the Coloured Cloth Hall for the textile trade which made Leeds important. In general much more has survived south of the main railway line than north of it. Until 1700 Leeds was insignificant in comparison with York but the Aire and Calder Navigation, the coming of steam power developed in the city by Matthew Murray and the railways led to rapid growth but also massive pollution. Charles Dickens called Leeds “the nastiest place I know”. The grand Town Hall of the 1850s opened by Queen Victoria showed anew civic pride and Roundhay Park was bought for the city to give the working population somewhere to relax and exercise. Alun finished his talk around 1905 with the building of Kirkgate Market, the shopping arcades and the opening of City Square. Malcolm Wood, himself a Leeds “loiner”, origin of the phrase unknown even to our speaker, gave the vote of thanks to our speaker on behalf of 38 members who showed by their applause how much they had enjoyed the talk.


Chairman His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson Q.C. opened the second Open Meeting of the season and welcomed the lady guests in attendance. He advised that nine apologies had been received.

Under ” Initial Notices” the Chairman confirmed Ray Snowden’s funeral arrangements which would be on Thursday February 1st at 11.15 a.m. in the Wesley Chapel followed by a private cremation.

Today, as well as an Open Meeting, was President’s Morning and the Reverend Christine Gillespie was given a warm welcome.

Reverend Christine’s talk focussed on a short visit she had made to Sierra Leone in 2011 in an official representative capacity to celebrate the bicentenary anniversary of the Methodist Church involvement in that country. The Methodist Church in Sierra Leone had its roots in groups of freed slaves who arrived from 1792 from England and Nova Scotia (1,190) and indeed the capital of Sierra Leone is Freetown. The group started to organise into a church but had to appeal for help from Britain. This resulted in the sending of the first Wesleyan missionary in 1811, the Reverend George Warren with three others, and it was this event and their support that were being celebrated.

Although only in the country a short time the Reverend Christine gave us a flavour of the country and in particular the capital Freetown, it being a poor country, hot and humid with a need to drink plenty of liquid and with water being sold in plastic bags!! The Sierra Leone civil war was mentioned and related to her visit to the Freetown Peace Museum. The University was also visited and this was the site of the last battle in the civil war which was interestingly ended by a certain Tony Blair sending in troops and he is a highly regarded person in this country. Limited sightseeing opportunities were afforded but visits along the coast were made and the sight of young children at work breaking rocks on a mountainside gave pause for thought.

The Reverend Christine shared these highlights of her trip:

— a conversation with the night-watchman at the Maroon Church.

— the official celebration dinner for the bicentenary and observing an american auction.

— leading communion and the outstanding singing of the church choir and congregation.

The talk concluded with a number of questions and answers.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Frank Ellis on behalf of the thirty-five member attendees and the six lady guests.



The Work of Barnes Wallis

The chairman His Honour Judge Clarkson opened the meeting. 42 members attended plus one guest. There were 7 apologies. Malcolm said a few words in memory of Ray Snowdon and there was a minutes silence in his memory.

The chairman welcomed the speaker Peter Rix. His talk was entitled: Airships to Astro-physics: The Work of Barnes Wallis. When we think of Barnes Wallis he is inevitably linked with inventions which greatly contributed to the Allied victory in World War 2 in particular the bouncing bombs.

The main thrust of Peter’s talk was to illustrate that Barnes Wallis was a ‘genius of our time’, an aircraft designer and engineer who made a contribution that hastened the end of World War 2 and much more.

He was born in Ripley Derbyshire in 1887. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital school, however, he did not wish to study Classics and became an apprentice at Thames Engineering at Blackheath. When work became slack he left home and went to J Samuel White’s shipyard at Cowes in 1908. He trained as a marine draughtsman and engineer. His work included building torpedo boats, destroyers, and learning about diesel engines.

In April 1913 he was chief assistant to H B Pratt of Vickers. Wallis turned his mind from the restless sea to the almost unconquered mysteries of the air. He designed Britain’s second rigid airship, the R.9, for the Navy.

Wallis was a key member of the team that built the private enterprise airship the R100. This airship was 709 feet in length with a diameter of 133 feet. Its Maximum speed: 80 m.p.h. carrying capacity: 100 passengers. It was as big as an Atlantic liner, yet only weighed 150 tons.

The R. 100 escaped the disastrous fate that overtook the R. 101, but her life was all too brief. Supreme effort had gone into design and construction and her successful double Atlantic flight to Montreal and back to Cardington seemed to argur well for her future. But she was put into the Cardington shed to allow the Government-built R. 101 to attempt her flight to India. The official bungling and her terrible end virtually killed the airship in Britain. The R. 100 never flew again. In 1931 she was handed over to the breakers for £450.

Barnes Wallis’s life was not only centred around aeronautics and aerial warfare; he participated in the development of radio telescopy and nuclear submarines, he pioneered work in the de-icing of trawlers, and he gave much time and money to educational advancement and to charity. Above all, he was a devoted family man who believed in many of the steadfast Victorian ideals.

He made a wood-carving of his wife Molly. This illustrated he was a very good artist as well as a brilliant engineer.

References: Barnes Wallis by John B Rabbets and R.100 July 5th 1928 M.F. Wallis.