Monthly Archives: December 2021

Christmas Lunch: 21st December 2021

Despite a few Covid related withdrawals, there was an attendance of 42 members and friends who joined together to celebrate the past year and the onset of Christmas. Ascot House once again provided an excellent luncheon with plenty of choice – all delivered with their usual impeccable service.

The gathering commenced with a quiet reflection for the 9 members who had sadly passed away during the previous 2 years and followed with the Grace said by Forum President Moses John.

During the meal, it was announced that the Committee had granted Life Membership to Neil Ramshaw in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the Forum as Secretary from 2012, as our Speaker Finder from 2019 and for his annual forays into our lectures. All these efforts were warmly applauded by an appreciative audience who were happy to see Neil back and looking in good shape after his recent illnesses.

The Christmas Charity Collection this year was for Share Africa Zambia whose operations had been described to us in an inspiring talk by the Charity’s founder and Forum member, Jim McPhail. The amount collected was well over £300 which will increase later with donations pledged by some absentees and, finally, be enhanced by 25% with Gift Aid.

Malcolm Wood offered his two-pennyworth with a story about a motorist and the police where “caught and short” was the gist of the story line. The Master of Ceremonies, Richard Wright, described how he had attended reunion lunches for the past 50 years. Over the decades, the demands of the participants had moved on from “Waitresses in mini-skirts please” to “I will need wheelchair access and disabled toilets” He moved on to offer a grateful vote of thanks to Roger and Lindsay Bancroft for taking on our Christmas Event and navigating it through some of these obstacles into a very successful party.


Secretary’s Report: 14th December 2021

Dr. Judy Blezzard arrived for a light-hearted examination of the origins of Christmas Carols. Armed with a Teddy Bear called Ted and some packets of an undisclosed powder, she began to open up on some alternate Carols.

“While Shepherds watched their flocks by night” sung to “Ilkla Moor Baht at” proved a popular starter for the Harlow Old Men’s Glee Club. And Ted soon joined the proceedings from the floor when we “all see Ted on the ground”

Quite a few carols emanated from 15th-century songs which, like wassail songs, had a work rhythm to them. Over the years, these ancient pagan songs progressed into ritual dances. This was another barely disguised cue for several members to get up and demonstrate their agility. Thus followed a double helping of the Hokey Cokey from the Harlow Strictly Dancers, lustily accompanied by the Glee Club.

Next for an explanation was “ Good King Wenceslas” written in 1853 by John Mason Neale. Its origin was a carol from the 14th century which explained the effect of Spring on the mating season. The music was retained but the new storyline celebrated the long tradition of giving to Charity on the Feast of St Stephen – Boxing Day

Silent Night originated in Austria about 1880 and is usually performed as a slow lullaby. However, Judy showed that, by giving proper respect to its roots, it is best performed to the meter of a Viennese waltz. So the show went on with several more Carols explained and skillfully rendered by Judy on the piano.

In the end, it was time for prize giving and the selection of the five best contributors. Each was presented with a packet of the aforementioned powder with instructions to add it to a glass of Gluhwein (Mulled wine). Hopefully, the results will not be too explosive.

Neil Ramshaw thanked Judy for her relaxed and informative tutoring which hit all the right notes to set us in the mood for Christmas Festivities. Members finally left for home, some whistling to King Wenceslas and others shaking it all about to the H….. C……!

Next Tuesday, 21st December it’s time for the Annual Christmas Lunch at Ascot House. Members and their guests are encouraged to take a lateral flow test before arrival and have a mask available to wear as necessary. The event timing is a 12-noon assembly for a 12.30 start.


Passing of Vincent Naylor

I am sorry to advise of the death of Vincent Naylor who had been a member of the Forum since 2010. Vincent was a former ICI employee and a committed Catholic who spent time in retirement to help people out of poverty and into work or education. He was a long-term supporter of the St Vincent de Paul Centre in Leeds, Christian Aid and St Robert’s Church in Harrogate.

Vincent spoke to the Forum in November 2012 about his Impressions of India where he had done voluntary service and on two other occasions, he spoke on Members Mornings about Zambia and the Philippines.  All his talks were well prepared and detailed. He showed a lively interest at every meeting and could be guaranteed to ask a relevant question of our speakers.

Vincent was 78 and had been diagnosed with lymphoma some 20 years ago. With modern treatment, his health problems were controlled and he was able to lead a reasonably normal life with occasional hospital visits. Throughout everything, he maintained his friendly and cheerful disposition which will be remembered yet sadly missed by us all.

Our sincere condolences are extended to his family on their sad loss.

The funeral will be held at St Robert’s Church on 30th December 2021 at 11.30am.


Secretary’s Report : 7th December 2021

It was welcome back to retired teacher Alun Pugh who has been a regular speaker at the Forum since 2013. Today’s lesson was about the history of Roundhay Park assisted by extracts from An Illustrated History of Roundhay Park by Stephen Burt

Beginning back in Doomsday times the area existed as Round Hay and was a deer hunting park for the de Lacy family of Pontefract Castle. It was enclosed with a long perimeter ditch and an inner mound topped with a palisade fence to keep the deer inside and poachers out. At the end of the 18th century, the owner was a Lord Stourton who, in 1803, sold it jointly to Samuel Elam and Stephen Nicholson who divided the land.

Elam was an entrepreneur who began developing his land to the south with elegant Georgian housing meanwhile selling off parcels of land to sustain losses on some of his other risky ventures. Eventually, he was declared bankrupt and Nicholson was able to buy up and extend his land holdings.

Nicholson’s ideas for Roundhay were always leaning towards a country estate with lakes, ponds, and follies. He hired Architect John Clarke to come up with a master plan together with the crowning glory of a Mansion House overlooking the Estate. Located opposite the main entrance to the house was the Upper Lake which was fed by a stream of crystal clear water. At the eastern end of the lake were dramatic waterfalls and several pools, crossed by a single arched rustic bridge.

The upper lake would have been the main lake, but for the fortunate acquisition of a tongue of former Elam land, which gave Thomas Nicholson ownership of the only part of Great Heads Beck not in his possession. This enabled him to construct the most spectacular feature of the park – Waterloo Lake.

The valley bottom was deepened and widened by workmen before work could start on the construction of the main dam. Records state that the main dam was constructed by unemployed soldiers who had just returned from the Napoleonic Wars and that it took two years to construct at a cost of around £15,000. Named after the famous British victory at Waterloo, it covered thirty-three acres, with an average depth of around sixty feet.

Thomas Nicholson died in 1821 without offspring and left the bulk of his fortune to his business partner and half-brother Stephen who was tasked with continuing the Park’s development. As a lasting memory to his brother Stephen commissioned Thomas Taylor to design and build St John’s Anglican Church which was consecrated in 1826 and contains several family wall plaques plus the vaults where the Nicholsons are buried.

In 1858, his nephew William Nicholson Nicholson inherited the land on the death of his uncle and, in 1871, Roundhay Park was put up for sale.

In 1872, Leeds City Council purchased Roundhay’s parkland by auction for £139,000, opening it as a public park for the ‘well-being of the citizens of Leeds’. Leeds architect George Corson won a competition for landscaping the Park whilst parts of the estate were sold as building plots of around an acre to offset the purchase and development costs to the Council.

Although 100,000 people supposedly attended the opening ceremony in 1872 by Prince Arthur, few city dwellers could easily access the park. Neither were there any facilities such as shelters, toilets, and seating to accommodate day visitors.

In 1894 a public electric tram began running quarterly-hour services, leading to a sudden burst of popularity. Followed shortly after by boating on the lake, a sports arena and cycling track, and even a steamboat, the Mary Gordon, on the lower lake. So that is basically the Roundhay Park we can now enjoy.

In thanking Alun for his detailed history of the development of the Park as we know it, Mike South admitted that he had yet to pay the Park a visit. However, he was very much encouraged to go, armed with the knowledge gained from today’s engrossing lesson.

Next week it’s an open meeting for wives and friends to join in some Christmas Carols with Dr Judy Blezzard. She is a renowned promoter of all things musical in the Aire Valley and is looking forward to getting us in the mood for the upcoming festivities.


Speaker cancellation 4th January 2022

Catherine Robertshaw from NatWest Bank is unable to speak to us live about “Friends against Scams”. The Banks Covid protocols preclude face-to-face encounters. Being close to the New Year, we will take an extended break until 11th January when David Siddans will speak about “The American War of Independence”

Secretary’s Report for 30th November

Today’s topical speaker was John Butterwick who came with his “bible” THE QUICK AND EASY GUIDE TO CHOOSING WINE WITH FOOD by Kathryn McWhirter and Charles Metcalfe. Thus armed, he was able to give lots of pointers to choosing the right wines for our Christmas Day Celebrations and only leave us with the daunting task of putting the turkey in the oven at the correct time.

Beginning with champagne, John suggested we keep an eye out for unfamiliar names selling cheaper than the main champagne houses. These are likely to come from smaller producers unable to supply the volumes demanded by major supermarkets. Just check that the label contains the words Champagne plus Grand Cru or Premier Cru and you could be on to a bargain!

His recommendations for good value supermarket champagnes include the Co-op’s Les Pionniers NV, Asda’s Henri Cachet Brut and Waitrose’s Chandon Brut NV . All under £20

Cheaper alternates to the main champagne labels are found in the sparkling wines listed as Cremant These are made using the double fermentation champagne process but with grapes grown in the locality. One example is the popular Cremant de Jura by Aldi.

John moved on to matching wine with Christmas food beginning with smoked salmon for which he suggested a Californian Chardonnay or a Blanc de Blanc or a Chablis Premier Cru

Following up with the turkey main course, John was set on an Australian shiraz named Atkins Farm from the Barossa Valley which should be available at Waitrose. If not a Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra District or maybe some more of the Chablis Premier Cru for those preferring white wine.

Recommendations for the cheese course depend very much on the strength of the cheese. With a Blue Stilton John prefers Tawny Port (Aldi), with Wensleydale a German Riesling, with Brie and Camembert a Chianti Classico or a Spanish Tempranillo.

Finally, with Christmas cake and mince pies, John recommended a 12-year old Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry. And so to bed – but not before a question from the floor to which John was unable to offer any recommendation. “What is the best mattress for postprandial recovery?”

So thanks to John Butterwick’s informative and inspiring talk many of us will be hairing off down Otley Road to find that elusive bottle of Atkins Farm at Waitrose. Not easy – I’ve been there already.