Monthly Archives: January 2016


Chairman Neil Ramshaw opened the meeting promptly at 1030 a.m. with seven apologies having been offered.

Alan Pitchfork, a member of Knaresborough Men’s Forum, was a returning Speaker with his topic of “Boy Sailor”. This proved to be a fascinating and interesting one hour interlude recalling his experiences as a voluntary Royal Navy recruit from the early 1960’s into the 1970’s. Originally volunteering at fourteen and a half.(too young!!) Alan left school at fifteen to join up and was assigned to H.M.S. Ganges near Harwich a land based facility for Boys Training in the Royal Navy.The original H.M.S. Ganges was a 19th century (1821) warship which went through various guises before finishing sea based service at the start of the 20th century.

Alan’s early training focussed on discipline and cleanliness particularly associated with their living accommodation (The Mess) with time spent on marking/sewing/ embroidering all his kit, taking part in kit musters and getting involved in sporting and musical activities–in his case hockey and as a drummer in the Ganges band!! Early friendships were formed during training and he shared an amusing anecdote about “Tiny” Thomas who blossomed from five foot nothing (just the minimum height!) to over six feet; losing touch for a number of years as they went their separate ways (postings) but meeting by chance in a bar in Hong Kong. We were told about the Ganges Mast (143 feet high) and the hair-raising requirement of “going over the mast” ; about the officers in charge notably Captain Plaice V.C. ; diving courses and learning Morse Code as part of his training to be a Radio Operator. His first ship after training at Ganges was to be H.M.S. Whirlwind the only surface ship with a periscope! ..and bound for the West Indies as a guardship but this posting was cancelled due to timing issues and he was transferred to H.M.S. Centaur an aircraft carrier with an initial six months in dry dock at Portsmouth and which then joined the Mediterranean Fleet. His second posting was too a brand new frigate H.M.S. Arethusa part of the Far East Fleet and which eventually had a sad demise as a “target ship” in the 1990’s. Alan spent some time in the “Silent Service” (submarines) serving on H.M.S Repulse (Polaris) and shared some of his Submarine Escape Training Tower (SETT) procedures he had to go through. The talk reminded the audience of a time not that long ago when our Royal Navy had scope and influence on a world stage and a number of questions at the end indicated the interest engendered.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Neil Ramshaw on behalf of the thirty-two attendees.




The second Open Meeting of the season was also the ” Ray Coggan Memorial Meeting” in memory of a much respected and missed former stalwart of the Forum over a period of many years and saw an audience of fifty gather which included nine lady guests. Four apologies had been offered prior to the meeting.

John Taylor (Programme Secretary) spent a few minutes reminiscing about Ray Coggan and provided a thumbnail portrait of him as a person and his immense contribution to the activities and running of Harlow Men’s Forum.

Today saw the return of a very popular Speaker Mr Alun Pugh whose topic was ” A Tour of the Leeds –Liverpool Canal”. This proved to be an idiosyncratic presentation backed up with slides and a host of amusing anecdotes from a cycling tour undertaken by him and his friend Martin in the early 2000’s. The making of canals saw the first involvement of Civil Engineers such as James Brindley in the process and canals were in the 18th and early 19th century the main transport system of the day primarily to service industry and transport commodities such as coal. The Leeds– Liverpool canal commenced its building phase in 1770 and was completed in 1816 and was constructed with a propensity to meander around obstacles in its path and with lots of swing bridges put in place.The length of the canal is in the region of 126 miles and with 91 locks on its main route.His slides included scenes from Liverpool City such as the many historic buildings and cathedrals as well as more rural pictures once en route and great amusement was shared by his highlighting of various cycle mishaps and the lycra riding gear worn including padding for comfort!! His journey with us had only progressed from Liverpool to Wigan and up to Chorley before an enjoyable hour had elapsed and the Speaker indicated a need for us to book him for part two at a later date!

Questions and comments were heard at the conclusion of the talk and on behalf of the forty-one members and nine guests John Corby gave the Vote of Thanks.




The meeting opened with five apologies being offered. Chairman Neil Ramshaw gave a membership update on five members and also advised of the return to the U.S.A. of Lou Cosentine but we are hopeful of still seeing him next season. Congratulations and a birthday card were offered to Bill McNicol to recognise his ninety second birthday with an amusing reply and acknowledgement being given back!! A letter of thanks had been received from Harrogate 20th Scout Group in acknowledgement of the £370 collected at our Christmas lunch.

The talk today was ” Costa What” and was given by the Forum’s very own Vice Chairman Dave Essam. This discourse encompassed an eco tour of Costa Rica, cruising the Panama Canal and touching on places in Nicaragua and Zihuatanejo/ Acapulco in Mexico. Dave and his wife had initially taken a cruise on the P & O liner Oceana which transversed the Panama Canal and stops in Costa Rica whetted their appetite for a longer visit which took the form of a seven-day cruise on a Star Clipper and a twelve day Eco Land Tour of the country. His slide show shared some of the great variety of wildlife seen–snakes, frogs,  birds, monkey’s and iguana’s as well as pictures of the capital San Jose and the Arenal Volcano. (one of the world’s most dangerous!) To conclude Dave advised the audience of some amazing facts about Costa Rica e.g. population four million; famed for its coffee, pineapples and bananas; a country with a high life expectancy; highest literacy rate (97%); ten different climates; no army as it was disbanded in 1948 and one hundred and twenty-one volcanic formations. The overriding concept for Costa Rica could be summed in an oft used phrase from there “Pura Vida”. (pure life)

The Vote of Thanks was given by John Taylor on behalf of the thirty nine attendees following some interesting questions from the audience.




The first meeting of 2016 started with the Chairman wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Three apologies had been offered to the meeting.

In “Initial Notices” volunteers were asked to fill vacancies on the ” Vote of Thanks ” rota and additional “Calendar of Meetings” cards were made available for those members requiring them. John Taylor Programme Secretary gave a number of updates. First on behalf of Margaret he thanked members for their felicitous messages before Christmas when she was not well. John then detailed the Forum’s Charitable Christmas Lunch Collections which began in 2007 and have now achieved a cumulative figure of £1450 including a record £370 taken at last month’s lunch for Harrogate 20th Scout Group–a splendid effort from the membership!! He concluded by advising members of the current situations of one member and one former member whom he had encountered since our last meeting.

Today’s Speaker was Mr Roy Beniston , born in Ashby De La Zouch (the middle of England) but latterly a thirty-five year Knaresborough resident!! His talk was on “Building an Aircraft In My Garden Behind Strikes”–Strikes being what is now Lidl in Knaresborough. His topic proved to be a fascinating account and at times mind-boggling trip about his initial interest in flying (too expensive!!) with his interest being further stirred when golfing at the now defunct Crimple Valley  course and seeing “Powered Butterflies”(Microlights) overhead. Steered in the direction of Rufforth Airfield his early flying experience was in microlight aeroplanes and particularly the Mainair Blade Flexwing. This led him to embark on purchasing a Kit aeroplane the Ranssel Coyote II a U.S. light aeroplane which cost, including engine, somewhere in excess of £20,000 and consisted of thousands of parts requiring accurate and sturdy construction. In November 2000 he began to construct the aeroplane in his garage at home in Knaresborough–a project of around one year and which attracted a multitude of comments from neighbours and passers-by. Backed up by a comprehensive slide show and a D.V.D. of the aeroplane in flight the rest of his talk took us through the building process, tools required and  culminating in his flight training and some examples of the flights he has undertaken. The talk was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience with some interesting questions put to the Speaker at its conclusion.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Peter Staples on behalf of the 39 attendees.