Members enjoyed a most entertaining morning of reminiscences and sports talk when David Oxley, former Secretary – General and Chief Executive of the Rugby League, spoke fluently for an hour which seemed to pass in ten minutes.
He brought to life the old characters of the northern professional game and remembered fondly his association with the legendary commentator, Eddie Waring.
Rugby League’s professional history began in 1893 when the Northern clubs broke away from the Rugby Union which until the 1990s would not accept official payment of players.
David grew up in Hull where Rugby League is the dominant sport, a feature which it has in common with Papua New Guinea which he visited on tours of Australasia. He was Headmaster of the Duke of York’s Military Academy in Dover before joining the Rugby League. During his time in office he saw his beloved Hull Kingston Rovers win the Challenge Cup and entertained the Queen Mother as guest of honour at another Cup Final.
Richard Brooks, a dedicated sports fanatic, gave the vote of thanks and drew attention to the sad decline of the Great Britain national side which has not beaten Australia in a RL series since 1972.
A Tea Party
This week our Vice-Chairman, Bill Blades, completed his tea and coffee duties (In the kitchen) by 10.25 and then told us the story of a rather different “Tea Party”. During the hot summer of 1911, Harrogate was at the height of its reputation as a resort for royalty and aristocracy from the whole of Europe.
A brown plaque on Cathcart House on West Park records a tea party attended by two former Empresses, the ex-King of Portugal, the sister of George V and the Russian Grand Duchess who later founded convalescent homes in Harrogate for soldiers in World War One. Our speaker skilfully sketched the personalities of the participants and wondered at their enthusiasm for staying at the modest Cathcart House when they were used to grand palaces.
Bill Blades was at pains to show that the period before the First World War was not in every respect a “golden sunset”. Although the Suffragettes had called a truce, problems of immigration and terrorism were prominent in the newspapers, there were many strikes and 20% of the population of York lived below the poverty line. These problems contrasted jarringly with the elegant world of the Queen Alexandra sandwich (tongue and egg) at Cathcart House.
Derek Clarkson gave the vote of thanks and drew attention to the amount of detail which had been researched by Bill Blades for his talk.
Harrogate Homeless Project
The speaker for Valentine’s Day was Mr. Brian Turner, a retired banker who has been Chairman of the Harrogate Homeless Project for three years.
In 1989 Rev. Gordon Lister became very concerned about the squatters on the Adelphi site on Cold Bath Road and raised £1500 from his congregation at Wesley Chapel to relieve the situation. Churches Together later took over the work and eventually in March 1991 the Harrogate Homeless Project was registered as a charity supported by workers of all religions and non.
Harrogate people then as today were shocked to realise that homelessness can be a problem even in our more affluent towns. Nos. 7 and 8 Bower Street were established as a base for clients, not all of whom are or were drop-outs, men of the road or drug addicts.
Brian became Chairman three years ago during a period of change. Bower Street has been modernised at the cost of £ half million and single bedrooms have been introduced at the behest of government. No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises but the guidelines have been slightly relaxed. A person would not now be denied access merely because of alcohol on the breath. The renovated premises were opened by Andrew Jones MP in October 2010. The charity also has a day centre at Wesley Chapel House and has received a special grant during the worst winter weather for the STARS project (Shelter to Assist Rough Sleepers).
Mr.Turner’s talk provoked a dozen questions from the members who had all enjoyed a sober, clear outline of the charities work from its Chairman, who confessed to several sleepless nights himself before the projects were completed.
Ken Selkirk, a stalwart of Wesley Chapel where it all started, gave an informed and appreciative vote of thanks.
Kaiser Bill’s Black and White Spotted Pigs
This week Eric Forster, the veteran master storyteller, visited the Forum for the sixth time and once again held his audience spellbound with his talk “Kaiser Bill’s Black and White Spotted Pigs”.
Mr. Forster’s chosen special interest is World War One or “The Great War “ as he prefers to call it.
On 4th August 1914 when war broke out on a hot Bank Holiday Tuesday, the Yorkshire Belle was busy at Bridlington ferrying trippers to Flamborough Head and back. Meanwhile in New York and Montevideo respectively British liner the CARMANIA and a German liner the CAP TRAFALGAR were preparing to return to home waters, one to Liverpool, one to Hamburg.
Each was requisitioned for the war effort for naval duties and eventually they met in mid-Atlantic, each disguised in enemy livery. On board the German vessel was a party of opera singers complete with orchestra and the Reich’s chief vet with the two pigs of the title. The pigs had been taken to the Argentine to persuade that beef-producing country of the advantages of pork production for the German market ………….
Alas, at the speaker’s request, I cannot report further on the story of Kaiser Bill’s Black and White Pigs as it may spoil the rest of the story for other groups. Needless to say, in true Eric Forster style, the story reached a very satisfying conclusion.
After questions Keith Wadd proposed the vote of thanks.
Some talks are already being booked for next season. Particularly welcome are talks from our own members. Please let John Taylor, the Programme Secretary, know if you would like to give EITHER a full talk OR a short talk for a members morning. Vince Naylor will talk on India on 27th November 2012.
Another large attendance of 35 enjoyed a presentation entitled “This England” by Ripon’s professional photographer, Whitfield Benson. He was introduced by our Chairman Roy Howard, himself no mean photographer.
Striking images of birds and butterflies, field patterns and fiery Yorkshire sunsets were complemented by more familiar pictures of Ripon Cathedral, Norfolk windmills and Marcher Castles.
Mr. Benson informed questioners that he converted to digital seven years ago as film was no longer acceptable to press agencies. To make a reasonable living, he has to cover weddings but finds that these social occasions contrast pleasantly with quiet days in the Dales taking photographs sitting patiently in solitude.
As residents of Harrogate district we recognised immediately Pateley Bridge High Street and Knaresborough Waterside but we were intrigued by stone sculptures on a house in Pateley, one a map of Antarctica, one depicting a wild goose. Apparently they were put up by the grandson of Robert Falcon Scott, who is, of course, therefore the son of naturalist Sir Peter Scott. This is just one of the quirky pieces of information that we learn as members of the forum.
Gordon Richardson gave a suitable vote of thanks to a fine photographer and inadvertently revealed that he, Gordon, is at least ten years older than we had realised!