Forum Meeting Tuesday 27th November Vincent Naylor, Impressions of India
Forum member Vincent Naylor made four visits to India between 1986 and 2006 as a representative of the St. Vincent de Paul charity and observed how the country modernised during this period. After outlining briefly India’s rich history from early civilisations to the British Raj, Vincent showed us many of the iconic sites of the country from the Taj Mahal to the Gateway to India monument. The most fascinating scenes however were those of everyday life from the fruit markets (there are 30 varieties of banana) to the temple elephants and the bullock carts. Travelling on Indian railways appeared to be at times a frightening experience, relieved by the warm hospitality of the people. Vincent would go back to India tomorrow if he had the opportunity. The excellent talk prompted a variety of questions about the future of this young country where a high proportion of the population is under 25.
Frank Flaherty’s talk Tales of an Irish Innkeeper was stuffed full of Irish anecdotes which only an Irishman from County Tipperary could tell. Frank then went on to describe his career in hotel management including a brief spell at the Cairn in Harrogate in the 1970s. He made his name however as manager of the Majestic from 1980 to 2001 when his head chef was David, who now runs Ascot House Hotel, well-known to all Forum members. More amusing anecdotes followed with tales of Frank’s encounters with Howard Keel, David Essex,Rocco Forte and the Thatchers.During questions Frank said that the Harrogate hotel scene was clouded at present because of the recession and the failure of the Council Staff to keep big conferences in Harrogate. In his day he had turned the Majestic from a failing hotel ridden with corruption to a hotel making a profit of over £3 million.
Frank was loudly applauded at the end by yet another large attendance.
44 members and friends (the largest ever attendance at an Open Meeting) gathered for the Ray Coggan Memorial Lecture. Our Chairman Bill Blades welcomed Mrs. Coggan to the meeting and introduced our “taciturn” speaker His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson, a stalwart supporter of the Forum. Derek reminisced about his career in the law and said that his interest had begun as a Sixth-Former visiting Bow Street Magistrates Court in 1946. He outlined some of the changes which had taken place in his time – the abolition of capital punishment in 1965, the introduction of majority verdicts on juries, the welcome increase of women in the law and the increasing role currently of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Judge strongly defended jury trial despite its imperfections.
During the second half of the talk laughter repeatedly rang round the room as Derek regaled us with a stream of judicial anecdotes which he delivered with impeccable timing. He told us for example about the witness who promised “to tell the truth, the whole truth and anything but the truth”. We shall also remember the Judge and the feather-plucker. It was a vintage performance on a very special morning as the subject was appropriate as Ray Coggan had himself served with distinction as a lay magistrate. Mrs. Coggan greeted Judge Clarkson warmly after the meeting and thanked him for his tribute to Ray.
Report on Angela Henson’s talk
As usual Angela Henson attracted a large attendance to the Forum for another for her detailed, well-illustrated travel talks. In “Malta: small island, big history” she traced the tiny country’s history through its occupation by an unknown prehistoric people, Carthage, Rome, the Moors and the Christian kingdoms. In 1530 the island was given to the Knights of St.John who occupied it until 1798. In 1800 Nelson took the island for the British from Napoleon who took away all the treasure. Angela showed us some excelllent slides of rich church interiors and the fortifications around Valletta. Malta was awarded the George Cross for the valour of its people in World War Two when in two months it suffered more bombing than London in the Blitz because of its strategic importance in the Mediterranean. The talk concluded with some slides of the smaller island of Gozo, quieter than its busy neighbour. Malta is now an independent state within the EU and Commonwealth. During questions it became clear that several members had visited the island, including Ken Selkirk who had been in Malta during the Suez crisis on army service.