The first meeting of 2019 was opened promptly by Chairman Michael Cochrane at 1030 a.m. who advised of five apologies.
In an extremely sad start to the New Year members were advised of the death of our Registrar Derek Simpson. He had been admitted to hospital with pneumonia and passed away yesterday. Treasurer Roy Smith took a few minutes to remember and pay tribute to him.
A letter had been received from our outgoing President Reverend Christine Gillespie which thanked the Forum for her invite to the Christmas Lunch and stated how she had enjoyed her involvement with the Group which had now ended due to her location move.
Congratulations were also proffered to member Bill McNicol who will be ninety-five on Saturday!!
Today saw a popular returning Speaker Mr David Davies whose topic was “The Big Winter Freeze 1947”. The year 1947 proved to be a difficult one for the incumbent Labour Government who had been elected after the end of the war in 1945 with a large 150 seat majority. Events in 1947 would have an enormous negative impact on the Government’s standing with issues to contend with including a Sterling Crisis (country basically broke!!); a Food Crisis; a Housing Crisis and a Fuel Crisis even before an exacerbation of the situation brought on by the Winter Freeze.
At the end of the war Lend Lease with the U.S.A. finished and this led to food and equipment shortages made worse by the U.K.’s responsibility for feeding the defeated Germany. As a consequence rationing was increased with Bread Rationing introduced in 1946; in 1947 Meat Rationing, Bacon Rationing and in 1948 Cheese Rationing amounts were all reduced. Potato Rationing was also introduced in 1947. Horseflesh and Whale meat were amongst items consumed by the Public. The more serious implications of the Food Crisis were averted by the introduction of the Marshall Plan in 1948.
The Housing Crisis was a result of bomb damage to thousands of properties from the war further aggravated by blast damage which reduced the effectiveness of heat retention to doors and windows. The Government introduced a prefab building programme to address the issues but at best this could only be a longer term solution.
In 1947 Coal provided 93% of the country’s fuel needs but issues in the Industry, even with nationalisation on the horizon, relating to Owners, Managers, Workers and a lack of strategic vision would prove crippling not helped by the incompetence of the Minister for Fuel and Power Emmanuel Shinwell.
On January 23rd 1947 the Winter Big Freeze began with two months of almost continuous snow and ice, sub-zero temperatures followed by some weeks of immense flooding and considerable damage. All the Nation’s infrastructure was badly impacted or ground to a halt and increased the aforementioned Food, Housing and Fuel Crises to emergency/critical levels.
There was a 18% increase in mortality for the January–March 1947 period as opposed to the same period in 1946 overall. All these problems impacted on the Public’s perspective and increased the unpopularity of the governing Labour Party.
Questions and comments were raised at the conclusion of the highly informative and interesting talk and the Vote of Thanks was given by John Taylor on behalf of the thirty-six attendees.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY