Monthly Archives: January 2015


Chairman Michael Cochrane opened the meeting by welcoming back John Knell and advising that three apologies had been offered. Roy Smith Treasurer informed the meeting that a projector had now been purchased and the possibility of a grant would be pursued although Forum funds were in good order regarding its cost. David Essam took a few seconds to ask for a last three volunteers to complete this season’s “Vote of Thanks” roster.

Today’s Speaker Mr Douglas Webb is the stepson of our longstanding member Malcolm Wood. Born in Malaya he grew up in Harrogate and following an abortive spell as a M. & S. trainee refocused his career aims and aged 19 trained as a nurse in Cornwall. He has worked in a number of locations and his talk topic was “This is My House” . Having completed his Nursing qualification at Truro in 1988 he wrote to the Shetland Islands council and secured his first posting there. On arrival he was advised of his need for “breeks” and then spent an enjoyable year in a truly classless Society working in casualty/theatres and being involved in the Air Ambulance Service which flew between the Islands and Aberdeen. His next move was of short duration in Yeovil involved in operating theatre work which made use of a tent!! The following four years were back in Truro with involvement in trauma theatres and spinal injury cases.. A position in Hastings followed working for B.U.P.A. where he was tasked to build a hospital from inception.After working in the private sector a period in London followed where he made his move into charitable organisations. At the age of 37 he moved back to Cornwall to take up the position of Chief Executive Cornwall Care an organisation caring for older people with 16 care homes and day care facilities amongst a variety of services offered. This organisation although a charity relies on selling its services for its income and continuance receiving no donated income and the importance of a “long line approach”, quality training and supportive relationships was stressed. The Golden Circle of “What, How, Why ” methodologies were explained and Douglas involved Forum Members in some group work to stimulate the direction of the discussion. Perceptive queries were raised at the conclusion of the talk and much food for thought was left for those in the audience.

The Vote of Thanks was given by a proud Malcolm Wood on behalf of the 43 attendees.



Today’s meeting was an Open Meeting and also the “Ray Coggan Memorial Meeting ” to which Chairman Michael Cochrane welcomed Forum Members and guests. A prospective new member Alan Ridley was introduced and four apologies had been offered. The Chairman was particularly pleased to see Mrs Phyllis Coggan in the audience and paid a fulsome tribute to Ray Coggan given his importance to the Forum over an eighteen year period 1989–2007 and the range of roles he covered, particularly being remembered as a long serving Secretary. Given his lay interest as a magistrate and matters relating to law and order today’s Speaker was particularly appropriate.

Ms Veronica Bird a distinguished and retired Prison Governor spoke to the gathering with her talk titled “From Prison to the Palace”. This highly entertaining lecture covered her joining the Prison Service as a penniless/ homeless individual ostensibly for 2 years but found herself 35 years later still in the service!! Her start in this occupation coincided with Myra Hindley’s imprisonment and her retirement took place around the time of that person’s death. Along the way we were informed about the changes to the service e.g. women could only work in women’s prisons at the start of her career; women prisoners were wearing uniforms in her early days. Places of employment included H.M Prison Buckley Hall, Armley and Brockhall in the Midlands. She spoke of some of the characters encountered including Charles Bronson; a murderous millionairess who took under her wing deprived 17-year-old twins and advised us how she came to be nicknamed  “The Bum-Biting Officer”! During her time in service a visit to Russia took place and there was a graphic explanation of the difference in prison conditions between the two countries and the type of prison work used as part of that regime. The Manchester prison riots of 25 years ago were commented upon, the sad reality of some prisoners happier and more comfortable being inside and the difficulties and arrangements for pregnant prisoners and their babies. Over the years Veronica met many different Home Secretaries, characters such as Dickie Bird and Michael Parkinson and Royalty particularly Princess Anne. She also visited Downing Street and Buckingham Palace on a number of occasions . At the end of her career Veronica was awarded the O.B.E. in recognition of her work in the prison system.

The talk was well received by an entertained and interested audience with a number of pertinent questions following. The Vote of Thanks was given by Roy Smith himself a former Prison Governor and who had provide modelling assistance during the session which might have been a crime in itself!! There were 37 members and 6 guests in attendance.



The meeting opened with Chairman Michael Cochrane back in the chair. He welcomed new member Graham Smith to the Forum and advised of two apologies. A letter of thanks and appreciation had been received from a Tanzanian student Miriam in respect of the Forum’s £100 charitable Christmas donation which would be used to fund her examination expenses.

John Taylor advised the gathering of the sad news of Alan Norton’s death at the age of 83 and spent a few minutes paying tribute to his determination and tenacity despite his disabilities and remarked on the importance membership of the Forum had been to Alan in his later years. He confirmed the details of the Memorial Service at St. Mark’s Church Leeds Road on January 19th at 11 a.m. which he would be attending and which was open to all members who knew Alan and would like to attend.

Today’s Speaker was Mr Alan Pitchfork, a member of Knaresborough Men’s Forum who was giving his first talk to the Forum. His topic “11V.C’s Before Breakfast” would not be about Rorke’s Drift famously popularised in the film Zulu but rather a lesser known but equally gallant World War 1 naval engagement known as the Zeebrugge Raid from April 1918. Alan’s interest in this battle had been stirred by a naval brooch of his grandfather who had served on one of the ships involved H.M.S. Vindictive (but not at the time of this battle) and also on visiting Ostend himself at the turn of this century when he spotted the H.M.S. Vindictive bows situated as a memorial with a plaque commemorating the raid. Time quickly passed as Alan informed and entertained an entranced audience with the background build up to this event which focussed on the enormous loss of British Merchant Shipping by German U Boats and the need for plans to reduce and limit this loss.Facts were shared involving some of the characters involved particularly at high levels in the Admiralty as well as the tremendous detail that went into the planning and logistics required. He advised us of the multitude of ships, ferries and personnel involved including Royal Marines and gave out the key moments of the actual raid itself with all the attendant damage and loss of life. Whilst the raid, whose purpose was to block the Belgian port of Bruges–Zeebrugge and also Ostend, was only partially successful the three pen pictures given out of the 11 V.C’s awarded demonstrated the extraordinary courage and devotion to service of those involved.

Questions asked following the end of the talk demonstrated the Member’s engagement with the topic and the Vote of Thanks was given by Neil Ramshaw on behalf of the 41 attendees.



It is with sadness that I have to advise you of the passing of Alan Norton a staunch member of the Forum for 20 years despite disabilities he suffered. Alan had not been able to attend Forum for just over a year following a fall prior to our  2013 Christmas lunch which he was due to attend and his latter time has been spent in Belmont Nursing Home.

His memorial service will take place on Monday January 19th venue St. Mark’s Church Leeds Road at 11a.m followed by refreshments and an invitation has been extended by Jane Norton to all members who wish to attend as the Forum was important to Alan in his later years.

John Taylor will speak at tomorrow’s meeting of the Forum about Alan and our sincere condolences are sent to his family.


Secretary’s Report

Acting Chairman Neil Ramshaw welcomed members to the meeting and wished them all a Happy New Year. A new member David Siddons was welcomed and three apologies had been received. From the £300 raised at the Christmas lunch for charity, acknowledgements and thanks had been received in writing from the Harrogate Homeless Project and Solar Aid. A similar response was in transit from the other charity who would be using their donation towards examination expenses for impoverished students in Tanzania. John Taylor took the floor to advise that provisionally Christmas lunch 2015 had been booked for the 15th December.He then asked members to consider a proposal to purchase a digital projector which would assist speakers who do not have their own equipment, cost likely to be under £200 and with possible grant provision. Further investigation would take place before coming back to members but Treasurer Roy Smith confirmed funds were available to purchase. A query from the audience regarding installing an electrical socket in the hall floor was picked up by Mike South to check out feasibility and costs.

The first speaker of the New Year was Frank Ellis our longest-serving attending member of over 21 years and who has given many talks to the Forum over the years. Today’s topic was “A Sailor’s Farewell to his Horse” and this was a look at the career and show business act of Billy Bennett. Self styled “Almost A Gentleman” with a dishevelled appearance, walrus moustache and red-spotted handkerchief accompaniment his comedy act included jokes and more notably monologues such as “The Bookmaker’s Daughter” and “The Road To Mandalay”. Born 1887 in Glasgow the son of a show business  act his own career was interrupted by World War 1 and in 1919 a precarious appearance at the Theatre Royal Dublin wearing a British Soldiers Uniform passed by due to his humour and irreverence. In 1930 he adapted his act for radio appearing with James Carew and Albert Whelan.His most famous monologue was the title of this talk and “The Green Tie on the Little Yellow Dog” and Billy Bennett left this life in 1942.

The Vote of Thanks was given by John Corby on behalf of the 34 attendees.

David Essam asked for support in filling his rota for the “Vote of Thanks” slots …and to therefore help achieve one of his New Year resolutions !!