The meeting was opened by Chairman Peter Staples who noted two apologies had been offered prior to the meeting.

Today’s Speaker was Honorary Life Member and Programme Secretary John Taylor whose talk topic was “Forty Years On” noting that our Forum was in its 40th/Ruby season. John spent the next hour giving a potted history of Harlow Men’s Forum,  its characters, and to provide context, some events from 1977 and some brief interludes from his own personal life throughout that period, including his involvement with the Forum from 2002.

Forty years ago in Harrogate the Reverend Goy Minister of Harlow Hill Methodist Church was planning the foundation of this group for retired men. At that time a youthful John Taylor in Mansfield was contemplating a career change from teaching to a position on the Public Examination Board which would see him relocate to the Otley Road in Harrogate.

“Forty Years On” was also a famous school song used by Harrow, Manchester Grammar School and many others in the Commonwealth and wider world. The 1977 Radio Times was 25p.(now £4-50), house prices much lower and it was also the 950th anniversary of the coronation of William the Conqueror in Westminster Abbey.

“Forty” seems to find particular resonance in religion with examples such as forty days and nights in the wilderness; forty days from Resurrection to Ascension; the forty days of the Old Testament Flood and Mohammed being forty years old when he received his Islamic Revelations. Ali Baba had forty thieves and Zirconium has an atomic number of forty!

Forty years are also a Ruby Anniversary which the Forum is currently celebrating ; a ruby is one of the four most precious stones and some other pertinent ruby facts were shared

1977 was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee; Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister; Jimmy Carter was U.S. President; Geoffrey Boycott scored his 100th “100” in a test match at Headingley; Virginia Wade won Wimbledon and ” Mull Of Kintyre/ Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” were popular tunes from the year.

Harlow Men’s Forum was one of the last to form in Harrogate behind Harrogate (1951), Woodlands (1960), Knaresborough (1970) and Bilton (1972). The driving force behind our Forum was the Reverend Leslie Goy supported in the early days by Edgar Scholey and Councillor Thackray. The first meeting was 20th September 1977 with Councillor Harold Hitchens talking about The People of The Pyrenees–we are now on our 1047th meeting!!

Our longest-serving members were Reg Jackson (36 years) and Ron Righton (30 years). Leading characters in the early years were the aforesaid Edgar Scholey and Speakers such as Major Frank Williams and Stuart Tate. Ray Coggan arrived in 1988 and was an immense force in the Forum in all capacities.

Presidents of the Forum have been Ministers from the Harlow Methodist Church and have included the Reverend’s ‘ Gordon Lister, Ron Dale, Shaun Swithenbank, Mark Godfrey through to current incumbent Christine Gillespie respectively.

Our pattern of meetings has changed little from inception although Returning Speakers, Members’ Mornings and Open Meetings are now regular features.

John’s miscellany covered more of his move to Harrogate, his continuing career and retirement and subsequent involvement with the Forum. He paid tribute to the contribution made by specific individuals over the years but saved his most fulsome praise for all the members who contribute to the strength and personability of this Forum. He shared some of the varied talk topics enjoyed over the years and also some of the special Ruby events occurring during this season. At the end of a well constructed, informative and entertaining journey from 1977 to date, questions and comments were made by the audience who had obviously appreciated the mornings procedures.

The Vote Of Thanks on behalf of the 40 attendees ( how appropriate!!) was given by longest-serving Forum Member Frank Ellis.

The next Meeting is an Open Meeting to which all, and in particular ladies, are most welcome–Tuesday February 14th 10 a.m. for 1030 a.m.



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