Monthly Archives: November 2015


The meeting was opened by Acting Chairman Dave Essam who welcomed a record audience for an all male meeting of forty-four attracted, according to him, by his presence in the Chair!! A number of apologies were offered.

A reminder that next week ( December 1st ) is the last opportunity to book for the Christmas lunch although John Taylor advises that we are very close to capacity (70/72 ).

The large audience may have had more to do with the popularity of our evergreen member and regular Speaker His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson treating the assembly in his normal erudite and engaging way to ” More Curiosities”!! As usual a large area of different subjects were covered but his language skills saw a seamless transition from one topic to another. He mentioned Famous Yorkshiremen namely Percy Shaw ( Cats’ Eyes Inventor ), Mr Atkinson ( Nipper Mousetrap ) and Charles Laughton Oscar-winning Actor and Director whose family ran a hotel in Scarborough. Derek’s fascination with large numbers came to the fore–HS2 train now costing £60billion!! ; a devoted filmgoer has seen the Sound of Music no less than 942 times ( presumably where the saying ” a glutton for punishment” comes from) . He also touched upon nostalgia referring to Errol Flynn’s 1938 ” The Adventures of Robin Hood” and the tremendous impact of Olivier’s Henry V which he saw as a schoolboy at Leeds Odeon in 1944. Later in his career as a Recorder at Huddersfield Derek  appeared in full robes and wig at the opening of Scammonden Dam where nearby is the farm where the M62 bifurcates; rumoured that the farm was saved possibly by the determination of an Englishman to defend his home but the truth being the area around the farm was geologically unsound for building a road. Questions at the end revealed that Dave Hill had sold curtains to Percy Shaw from his Halifax shop.

On behalf of an appreciative Membership the Vote of Thanks was given by Malcolm Wood who also mentioned the warm regard for ” The Judge” not only in the Forum but throughout the town.








Chairman Neil Ramshaw welcomed a good attendance to the first Open Meeting of the season including eight lady guests who we were particularly pleased to see. In addition it was good to introduce Peter Wood as a new member to the Forum’s numbers. Eight apologies had been offered prior to the meeting.

A reminder of the Christmas lunch on December 15th was given with menu’s and payments to John Taylor by December 1st.

Today’s Speaker making her debut at our Forum was Mrs Jenny Stacey , a Speaker-Finder for U3a and member of Otley Ladies Forum, whose seasonally appropriate topic was ” Noel Nostalgia”. This proved to be an entertaining and informative look at Victorian Christmases’ from 1840’s onwards,  a time of great social change. Much of the impetus to Christmas innovations and changes was provided by the Royal couple Victoria and Albert who with nine children wanted to add some sparkle to that time of year. The Victorian festive season started at Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas) and Jenny shared with us the tradition of “Stir Up Sunday” on the fifth Sunday before Christmas and relating to the Christmas pudding. We also learnt about the influence of Charles Dickens on Christmas from his articles and books; the activities of Christmas Eve including collecting greenery from outside to decorate the house and the tradition of the Yule Log.

The introduction of Christmas trees attributed to Prince Albert was mentioned who significantly saw their introduction from outside to an indoor tree and the homemade decorations of wood, glass, candles and a fairy atop used to decorate. The significance and background to holly and poinsettia’s at Christmas was covered and a charming tale of how the robin got its red breast was shared with the audience. The origin of Christmas cards was discussed, their initial high expense and perhaps more surprisingly the fact that no Christian images were used on early ones. Jenny shared the secret of the contents of Victorian stockings, homemade presents  and touched upon other Christmas activities such as parlour games and pantomimes which grew quickly in popularity. The talk was supported by some evocative slides from the period and we finished imbued with much new knowledge of the background and traditions of the Festive season and a number of questions demonstrated the interest aroused.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Michael Cochrane on behalf of the forty-one attendees and guests.




The sixth meeting of the 39th season started at 10.30a.m with a welcome to visitor Les Parkes who at the end of the meeting became a new member!! The Chairman advised thar six apologies had been offered.

A reminder of Christmas lunch and the need for bookings and payments to John Taylor by the first of December was given. In his capacity as Secretary Neil Ramshaw advised that he had a stock of spare membership cards which members could make use of if they were aware of any potential new members amongst their acquaintances. A letter had been received from St Michael’s Hospice thanking the Forum for its formal donation of £50…in addition individual donations at that meeting contributed a further £68-50 so a fine overall effort from our generous little band!!  Tony Bills had left a black case at the meeting two weeks previously but it did not appear to have been picked up by anyone.

Today saw a popular and returning Speaker in Mr Terry Frazier whose topic “All Quiet On The Western Front” was most appropriate for the time of year. Terry and his wife had been on a Battlefield’s Tour in Belgium and France and he shared his experiences with us. Starting with a brief overview of the causes of the First World War and how the protagonists lined up against each other he then focussed on the Western Front somewhere in excess of 400 miles  which stretched from Belgium through France and to the Swiss border but his concentration was largely on the 80 miles or so that involved British troops. Through 1915/1917 it was the scene of several major offensives but the line remained essentially the same for most of the war. German Forces were in the main positioned on high ground with British and Allied Forces lower down with certain disadvantages emanating from those downside positions. Trench warfare developed and the construction of such fortifications was discussed and shown including their zig zag orientation. Place names that have passed into history were brought to life including Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme with the sheer scale of casualties on both sides being difficult to comprehend and understand. The adverse weather notably unusually heavy rainfall and awful battlefield conditions experienced by troops was also salutary especially as the “Home Before Christmas” war expanded into a long drawn out and attritional series of battles over a number of years. Terry’s talk was illustrated by an excellent slide show which showed comparisons of war sites and places both in their original war-time setting with great evidence of the damage caused against contemporary photographs of the same sites and places and the recovery that has been achieved. Perhaps the most moving sight was the number and scale of War Graves in these locations together with the listings of Unrecovered bodies numbering in the hundreds of thousands and poignantly how well-kept and peaceful they appear now against the backdrop of the carnage from the war period. Questions at the end and comments indicated the interest, involvement and engagement from the morning’s proceedings.

The Vote of Thanks on behalf of the 39 attendees was given by John Corby.




Chairman Neil Ramshaw opened the meeting advising that seven apologies had been received. Details of the Christmas lunch had been provided by John Taylor with a request that bookings and payments be back to him by Tuesday December 1st. A “Vote of Thanks” person is still required for Tuesday November 17th and the Chairman would appreciate a volunteer coming forward.

Today saw the now annual and increasingly popular Members’ Morning with five Forum members giving a short discourse on a topic of their choosing.

First up was Lou Cosentine who talked about being an “American in Britain”. He talked about having been in the U.K. for fifteen years, his second generation immigrant background and his mid west and Chicago heritage. Lou gave a flavour of the melting pot background to the U.S.A. and its impact on their geographical and world view of politics and social issues with some comparison with the Canadian perspective.

Our second Speaker was Gordon Richardson who spoke of his time in ” R.A.F. Service 1946″. Being stationed under S.E. Asian Command  and in India he shared the serious concerns of R.A.F. servicemen who became agitated over the tardiness of demobilization particularly in comparison to the Army and Navy. Failure of the hierarchy to deal with these concerns led to strikes or withdrawal of labour and a knock on impact on Indian forces at the time independence ambitions were at their height. Changes of senior personnel eventually resolved the issues with 100,000 men demobilized in the spring of 1946 and the process completed in 1947. The seriousness of the action should be considered against the background of it being a capital offence.

The Forum’s Registrar Derek Simpson then took the floor to share some “Railway Memories”. He recalled his time at Gisburn when he found himself the only person available to remedy a lighting problem further down the track which involved him placing a lamp but having to climb 100 feet up a viaduct and a signal which cured his fear of heights!! He informed us about his godfather Rabbit Dick with his poacher sideline alongside his railway employment which resulted in the provision of rabbits and pheasants. Mention was made of a Polish Railway employee with a musical bent who entertained in Morecambe and involved Derek and his sister getting a late, unofficial train home; we also heard about the missing Stationmaster who spent regular time at the Bank buying and selling stocks and shares. Derek told us about his “voluntary ” jobs running the refreshment carriage on holiday trains; his time at Lake Windermere and his missed opportunity of employment in San Francisco!!

The fourth talk was provided by Ian Blyth  who shared some of his experiences as a “Merchant Navy Cadet”. These anecdotes  were prefaced with comments about the poor conditions of the Fleet and the lack of progress and change from the 30’s , 40’s and 50’s which was also exemplified in the management style of some of the Officers he encountered.Examples included Engineering Officers who barely spent anytime in the engineering deck and Ship’s Captains who over indulged and could not be roused to make course direction orders!! Ian also advised of a trip with his wife onboard when during the night she, with a nursing background, was asked to confirm a steward had died. The corpse was then put into frozen storage at too low a temperature which eventually delayed the autopsy on shore!!

The final Speaker Grahame Devonport took as his topic “Forensics” from his background as a forensic scientist . He advised that the first forensic laboratory opened in 1934 in Hendon, London with further locations being added too including Wakefield which eventually moved to Harrogate and Newcastle. These two locations eventually joined up in Wetherby but due to Treasury cut backs the service was privatised and is no longer in the public sector. Early days had seen analysis of blood, semen, instruments, footmarks etc from scenes of crime and improvements were made such as full blood grouping, comparison of handwriting and the significant breakthrough from the discovery of D.N.A. Grahame shared an amusing story that demonstrated the relevance of time and location being pertinent to what is said !! and he also shared a visual foil with the audience.

A number of questions were asked at the conclusion of the talks and the Chairman thanked all the participants for their excellent , entertaining and informative contributions to the morning.Thirty eight attendees benefited from the morning’s programme.