Monthly Archives: October 2011

Report 25th October 2011


Iceland – Land of Ice and Fire

Mrs. Angela Henson’s talk attracted a large audience, the biggest at a male-only meeting for at least 10 years.  On her fifth visit to the Forum, she spoke on ‘Iceland: land of ice and fire’, having visited Europe’s most isolated country in 1980, 1984 and 1998.  Once again her slides were excellent and her knowledge prodigious.  As usual she spoke fluently and without notes.

Taking her theme from her previous talk about the volcanoes of Sicily, Mrs. Henson explained the geology behind the “ring of fire” and pointed out that Iceland’s 65 volcanoes sit astride the Mid-Atlantic ridge as Europe and North America slide slowly apart. 

Iceland also has spectacular geysers, amazing waterfalls and a unique flora,   It is the only site in Europe where icebergs can be seen on a lake.  Icelanders rely on electricity as there is no coal, oil or gas and for several centuries no wood.  Sheep destroyed the trees over centuries but birch plantations have now been established.

Members warmly applauded Mrs.Henson’s description of a fascinating and unusual land, its terrain having been chosen in the 1960s for moon landing training by U.S. astronauts.  The landscape was suitably barren and deserted for a lunar simulation. 

Only 250,000 people live in the country, most of them in Reykjavik, the capital.

John Taylor   



Report 18th October 2011

Members’ Morning

Once again the Members’ Morning (Short talks by our own members) proved very successful.  Ken Roberts, one of our most senior members, who was conscripted into the mines as a Bevin Boy spoke about his typical day in the pit at Frickley Colliery in early 1945.  He spoke vividly about the price of coal – every miner could expect to be injured every four years.

 Vince Naylor asked us questions about Zambia, and we were surprised how much we knew.  He had been there for several months in this green, peaceful but sparsely   populated land.  The copper industry there virtually collapsed in the 1970s but political stability has returned and free elections, unusual for Africa, have led to changes in government.  Zambia is landlocked and has borders with 8 other countries, the most in the world.

Our hardworking registrar Derek Simpson reminisced about his first job on the railways at Gisburn station near Clitheroe in the days when even village stations had half a dozen staff.  We enjoyed his anecdotes about racehorses arriving at the wrong destination and the station cat which travelled to Fort William and Truro!

John Taylor spoke about dialect expert and broadcaster Stanley Ellis who died in Harrogate.  He regretted that he had never spoken at the forum.  Ellis collected 88 words for “left handed” from many dialects and was consulted during the “Ripper” enquiry when he located “Wearside Jack” within two streets of his eventual arrest.

Roy Smith told us that he was over 50 before he took up cycling seriously as a hobby.  He reminded us of the amazing achievements of the late Beryl Burton who lived in Harrogate – she had averaged 23mph on one occasion in a 12 hour time trial and had beaten all the men.  Roy attends the Tour de France each year and is looking forward to watching the road races and time trials at the 2012 Olympics from the roadside.

Derek Clarkson gave the vote of thanks and spoke movingly of “the price of coal” and the need for some national memorial for those who died in industrial accidents.  He said that he learned something new every week at the forum and was once again impressed by the breadth of knowledge and interests of forum members.

John Taylor    

Report 11th October 2011

Spain beyond the Costas

43 members and guests, the largest audience in recent years, gathered to hear the wit and wisdom of Derry Brabbs and to see his stunning photographs of the varied Spanish landscape and buildings.  Particularly memorable were the images of the Moorish heritage in Southern Spain, the windmills of La- Mancha and the city of Segovia in the twilight. 

Derry observed that there was almost an overabundance of great buildings in Segovia – a fine cathedral, a grand fortress and a Roman aqueduct. 

We finished in the Picos d’ Europe mountains of the north, together with some slides of the pilgrim route to Compostelle.

Derry told us that he is now beginning to experiment with digital photography, although he still feels that traditional methods yield superior results. 

All in all a very special morning to celebrate the 35th season of the Forum!

Mike South gave the vote of thanks and warned future speakers with slides that Derry Brabbs had set a very high standard to follow.

John Taylor


Report 4th October 2011

A Police Career

 Michael Baxter QPM has had a long and distinguished career as a police officer stretching back for more than 38 years.  Born in 1949 he spent most of his early life living in Whitley Bay with his grandmother where he became very interested in the Army Cadet Force.  Early jobs included working in a clothing factory and later in the Civil Service. 

Feeling that he was suited to a more interesting and adventurous career he applied to join the police force in Leeds and became a 20 year-old police constable.  During his first 6 weeks after passing the police driving test and becoming a qualified driver, he managed to write-off the Chief Inspector’s car by crashing it into a tree and rolling it completely over.

After transferring to the CID he became involved with the investigation of and later arrests of such high profile cases as Donald Neilson, known as the Black Panther and most famously the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

In a long and meritorious career he became Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside and later Chief Constable of Cumbria.  In retirement Mr.Baxter  is the CEO at the Police Treatment Centre and the Secretary to the St. George’s Police Trust.

George Mountford