A large gathering enjoyed an excellent Christmas lunch at Ascot House Hotel in Harrogate. 39 members, partners and friends including our President, Rev. Mark Godfrey and the widows of two distinguished members, Mrs. Phyllis Coggan and Mrs. Betty Bratley joined us – sadly Greville Moorhouse could not attend because of continuing ill-health.
Bilton Men’s Forum were holding their lunch at the same time, so the bar and lounge were full of convivial conversation.
After lunch our Chairman, Roy Smith, threatened us with a long talk on mobile phones but instead talked briefly about working as a Prison Governor at this time of year and asked us to think about those that had to work at Christmas. Derek Clarkson then read a slightly risqué poem by Wendy Cope, which he thought might get him expelled in mixed company. Malcolm Wood gave a vote of thanks to the organisers of the event, John and Margaret Taylor.
During the meal a collection was taken to support three charitable causes, which had been chosen by the members at a previous meeting. Members were extraordinarily generous and £111.00 was collected, at least double the previous record on one of these occasions. The money was distributed as follows:
£37.00 to Action for Brazil’s Children Trust – The money was presented to Malcolm Wood , whose son is involved with the Trust.
£37.00 to Derek Jenning’s grandson – The money was presented to Mike South to be passed to Lorna Jennings, widow of Derek, our former Registrar who died in 2008. The cash will help to finance their grandson who is raising money to attend the World Scout Jamboree. He has to finance himself if he is to go.
£37.00 to Jennyruth Workshops at Bridge Hewick. – The money was presented to Derek Clarkson, who is a supporter of this charity near Newby Hall.
George Mountford gave the first Ray Coggan Memorial Lecture. After paying glowing tribute to the late Ray Coggan, who ran this forum single-handedly for eighteen years, and expressing the opinion that, without Ray’s work and dedication, this forum would not now exist, Mountford gave a report on the Royal Institution of London and a short lecture on the subject of Intelligence, artificial (AI) or otherwise.
After recounting the story of “The Turk,” the chess playing android at the court of Empress Maria Theresa in 1769, he went on to point out that in 1997 Garry Kasparof, the then reining World Chess Champion, was beaten by Deep Blue, a New York computer.
After question time, the summing-up question was as follows: Is it possible for a machine (computer) to think?
The decision was inconclusive.
Councillor Cliff Trotter gave an interesting and entertaining talk about his year as Mayor of Harrogate in 2007 – 2008. He thoroughly enjoyed the work which goes on 7 days a week, 4 functions a day.
Highlights included Europe in Bloom at Ripon Cathedral and Prince Charles’ visit to the restored Royal Hall.
Councillor Trotter used to live in Beckwith Road in our community. Within a day of becoming Mayor, he spoke in the morning to 2500 ladies – visiting Soroptimists – in the afternoon to 200 businessmen and in the evening to 300 men at a sporting dinner.
He completed the coast to coast route on a bicycle during his year of office, for charity. He was the first Mayor, he said, to open the Council Chamber and Mayor’s Parlour to organisations such as Harlow Men’s Forum, and that tradition has been continued subsequently.
He enjoyed every crowded day and gave up all his time to the Mayoralty but his wife was exhausted at the end of it, as she had to run her own business.
After the talk, Councillor Trotter answered questions from members about the many growing problems of local government.