Monthly Archives: March 2017


Chairman Peter Staples announced the start of the meeting at 1030a.m. advising that four apologies had been received.

In ” Initial Notices” the third call for the A.G.M. on Tuesday April 25th 2017 was made with any “proposals/ officers to elect nominations” to Secretary Neil Ramshaw by Tuesday April 11th 2017. Bookings were still being accepted by Programme Secretary John Taylor for the 40th Anniversary Lunch on Tuesday May 2nd 2017 with again Tuesday April 11th 2017 being the cut off date for orders and payments to be received by him.

Today the Forum was delighted to welcome our President Reverend Christine Gillespie to the annual President’s Morning , the third such occasion where we have enjoyed her company. Her talk today was predicated on the early history of Methodism and Reverend Christine framed her discourse around the following twenty words:

“The early Methodists were a choir formed by John Wesley to sing the hymns of Charles and to live accordingly”

Methodism was originally an insult directed at a small group at Oxford University who gathered together to meet and talk and leading figures included Charles Wesley and George Whitefield and became known as the “Holy Club”. John Wesley joined the group and quickly became recognised as its leader due to his strong organisational skills. He preached, making converts and then organised the groups into “Societies” but still all part of the Anglican Church. He in fact held his own 5a.m. Sunday morning services (Methodist) which allowed people to attend Anglican Communion later. As well as Societies he set up bands(5/10 people) to listen/discuss and support each other and these were open to all classes of people. Wesley’s organising skills went wider with three Circuits established, that he travelled around, he being the Superintendent with Circuit Assistants who became Superintendents as numbers increased.

A National Conference was organised annually which took upon itself a leadership role when   John Wesley died.

George Whitefield set an example of field preaching outdoors which was taken up by the early Methodists who would also look to spread education and formed schools. These travelling preachers had a small library of books with them. John Wesley borrowed and used services in early Methodism such as the Covenant Service and the New Years Eve Night Watch Service. Although always denying he started a new Church and claiming to be a loyal Anglican, Wesley nevertheless ordained Ministers to go to America. (which others in the Anglican Church would not do!!)

Methodism was born in song but with strict instructions as to how hymns were to be sung and those hymns were for personal devotion as well as public singing.

Some Anglican clergy barred Methodists from the traditional Church and communion so Methodists started to hold separate communion. Services had a preponderance to play Charles Wesley hymns (prolific writer of about 6,000 approx) and with a tremendous variety in their construction. Encouraging people to read saw the use of “lined” hymns but as literacy improved these died out. His hymns were about salvation for all, personal faith and funereal style..

The ” Live Accordingly” ethos resulted from John Wesley’s 1738 conversion and in response to the joy that had been given by God bolstered by phrases such as ” Temperance turns Beer into Furniture” encouraging duty, hard work and thrift.

Forum Members had enjoyed a morning of interesting and entertaining social history but with a Religious slant appropriate to the environment and Speaker. A number of pertinent questions and comments from the audience enhanced the proceedings.

The Vote Of Thanks was given by George Thomas on behalf of the thirty-seven attendees.



The meeting was opened by Chairman Peter Staples with two apologies having been received. The Forum were delighted to welcome Keith Acum as a new member.

Secretary Neil Ramshaw gave a second call for the A.G.M. on Tuesday April 25th 2017 and asked for proposals/Officers to elect to be advised to him by Tuesday April 11th 2017. Members were reminded that Programme Secretary John Taylor was taking bookings for the May 2nd Anniversary Lunch with choices and payments to him by Tuesday April 11th 2017.

Today saw the return to the Forum of Mr Alan Pitchfork, a member of Knaresborough Men’s  Forum, whose topic would be “Tales of the Unexpected”. He started by reminding us of the T.V. series from the 1970’s introduced by Roald Dahl and based on short stories which could be unnerving and always had a twist in the tale. In fact Alan started with one from the T.V. series based on an Austrian–Hungary border post in 1889, a snow blizzard and the birth of a much wanted baby boy to one of the border guards and his wife.

Stories then followed on about Butch O’Hare, an American Navy Pilot hero from World War 2 who won the American Medal of Honour, had Chicago International Airport named after him but also had some strange connections to prohibition-era Chicago, the Mob, Al Capone and the Mobster’s Lawyer of choice “Easy” Eddie. Further tales followed including the U534 German submarine sank the day after war ceased in 1945 and was then salvaged nearly fifty years later. We heard some more personal anecdotes that had an element of the peculiar or remarkable coincidence including one about a “Dream” Mike had and a”Billabong”; the strange case of a silver Datsun and its distinctive number plate; neighbourly occurrences from Knaresborough into the wider world and employment in Egypt with links to a squash game in Knaresborough. His penultimate tale was again personal and related to a copy of the book “The Cruel Sea”, its mysterious appearance in his childhood trunk and a deceased connection in their new house. The final story related to an engineer, who in the days prior to mobile communications, answering a ringing phone in a red G.P.O. Box he was walking past and the call being for him!!

Audience Members shared a number of their out of the normal experiences or unlikely coincidences as the morning came to an end.

The Vote Of Thanks on behalf of forty attendees was given by Peter Belton.





Chairman  Peter Staples opened the meeting at 1030a.m. with four apologies having been offered.The Anniversary Lunch Menu’s were out for members to take, with choices and payments to be returned to John Taylor by Tuesday April 11th 2017.

Secretary Neil Ramshaw gave notice of the A.G.M. on Tuesday April 25th 2017 and asked for proposals/prospective Officers elect to be advised to him by April 11th 2017 to allow preparatory work for the meeting to take place.He also advised names were needed to come forward for the Second Vice Chairman and also reserve cover for the Catering Team. Brief mention was also made of an informal approach to Harrogate Lions for Defibrillator Funding but this also needs to be taken forward with the Church if it is to be progressed.

Forum Members were today entertained and engaged by Mr Michael Duncombe from Leeds but originally from near Rotherham who shared his “Musical Memories of the 50’s and 60’s”. His story involved himself and two childhood friends growing up in the mid to late 50’s , joining a Methodist Church Youth Club in their village Whiston, attracted by the presence of girls but being introduced to music! Music was radically changing at this time as evidenced by T.V. Shows such as “Oh Boy!” and “Ready Steady Go” all promoting the “new” music. The three friends decided to pursue the new genre, clubbed together and purchased one guitar and a book “The Guitar Made Easy”. Supported by a kindly Aunt and Uncle (Edie and Philip) the fledglings used Sunday afternoons at the relatives house to hone their developing talent using Uncle’s tape recorder and the additional benefits of Auntie’s sumptuous Sunday teas!! We heard about homemade guitar cases made from blankets and rain coats , how the trio started locally but were invited to audition for the Carol Levis Talent Show at the Sheffield Empire Theatre courtesy of a helping hand from Aunt Edie and being inspired by shop names to adopt the moniker “The Saxons” as their show business name. A 30 second audition saw them make one of the initial main shows and then the Saturday Grand Final with a combination of talent and Aunt Edie’s “rent a crowd” activity! Compere of the Sheffield shows was interestingly a youthful Jackie Collins. The Saxons enjoyed local success and began appearing at Garden Parties, Charity Functions, Hotels, Dance Halls and leading memorably to an appearance at a Girls Remand Home. Following an invite , for a time they were part of the Burrells Concert Party and moved into appearances at Working Men’s Clubs. In the mid 60’s a particular highlight was being asked to perform in the finale of a production (“A God Forsaken Hole”) at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1969 the trio finished their time in entertainment together after 12 years due to domestic moves but stayed in touch as friends and twenty-four years later reformed and went back on the road but sadly and poignantly finished for good in 1997 due to the illness and subsequent passing of one of their number. During the talk tracks were played from the trio’s one C.D. which gave a lovely flavour of their talent and musical taste. These included “Crying in the Rain”; “Scarlet Ribbons”; “Another You”; “Let It Be Me” and “Jimmy Brown”. Whilst never going professional with their musical talents they came across as inspired amateurs.

It was evident from the questions, comments and general enthusiasm shown by the audience that the morning in pop parlance had been a hit delivered by a Speaker whose relaxed, amusing and most affable manner had greatly enlivened proceedings as well as attending with a great story.

The Vote Of Thanks was given by Roger Bancroft on behalf of thirty-six appreciative members.




Todays meeting was held in the main Church premises and was opened on time by Chairman Peter Staples with six apologies having been offered. Members attention was drawn to the launch of a new Harrogate and Knaresborough fund-raising group for the British Heart Foundation with the launch meeting being on Tuesday March 28th at 6p.m. in The White Room which is upstairs in The Pit, The Ginnel, Harrogate HG1 2RB and anyone interested is welcome to attend. Members were also advised that the menu and reply form for the 40th Anniversary Lunch (May 2nd) will be given out next week with a last date for booking being Tuesday April 11th due to the Easter break.

Todays talk was given by Les Parkes, in his second year as a Forum Member, but well-known in the area as he was a Liberal Democrat County Councillor for a number of years and a Governor at Rossett School for 10 years. As Chairman of the Yorkshire and Humber Branch of the  European Movement (origins 1948 under Winston Churchill’s Chairmanship) and a member of the Movement’s National Council his topic of “European Perspective” was highly appropriate but presented in a non-political or partizan manner and which consisted of his own experiences in Europe from a young age, during his National Service and then from his travels during his business career. He shared the information that his father had shaken the hand of Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Motor Show in the 1930’s and that his own education preferences had seen him choose languages (German and French) as opposed to sciences. We were treated to his reminisces about Germany particularly Berlin and the Berlin Wall during the Cold War period and the differences between East Germany and West Germany. During his National Service Les was based in Bergen Hohne (close to Belsen) and apparently missed Elvis Presley by about two months!! The educational priorities of East Germany were mentioned as well as the overweening presence of the Stasi in the everyday life of the country. Anecdotes about Poland, Czechoslovakia,, Yugoslavia and Romania were shared with the latter country having a dreadful reputation from the Ceausescu era and for being a byword for corruption. A number of audience members had also experienced National Service in Germany ,and Berlin in particular, including duty at Spandau prison and these experiences were also shared as well as a number of questions being asked.

The Vote Of Thanks on behalf of the thirty-five attendees was given by Vincent Naylor.



In Pursuit of the Kingdom of Happiness

36 members enjoyed an excellent presentation by Geoff Queen about his visit to one of the world’s most unusual countries, where there are no traffic lights, no plastic bags and no tobacco. This is the land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan, an isolated country the size of Switzerland but with a population no bigger than Leeds. It is a land of three layers – plains, foothills and Himalayas and 75% of the country is forested. Its history is shrouded in myth and legend but Buddhism arrived in the year 746. Prayer wheels and flags abound. We all learned the word DZONG, buildings which are part monastery, part fort and part school, many dating back several hundred years. Dzongs are architecturally very beautiful and we saw their influence even on the airport buildings. The capital Thimphu is smaller than Harrogate. A hereditary monarchy was established as late as 1907 and the first king’s belief that “gross national happiness is more important than gross national product” still applies today under the 5th king Jigme Wangchuck. Tourism is rationed but schools and health care are free for all. This gentle and peaceful people still wear national dress ( skirt and a dressing gown style garment for men) except when off duty.

Geoff’s excellent slides showed this beautiful country at its best, although we shared his disappointment that heavy rains prevented his visiting the most remote Dzong, the Tiger’s Nest. He told us not to visit the country if we did not like chillis as they form a large part of the national diet with buckwheat as rice does not grow at high altitudes. Numerous questions followed before Richard Wright gave the vote of thanks.

Please Note:
Members voted overwhelmingly for a 2 course lunch for the special anniversary meal at Ascot House on 2 May.