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Secretary’s report for 18th January 2022

Canon Roger Dedman was today’s Speaker and treated the 28 members present to a seemingly unending catalogue of communication products and services provided by the Post Office during the past 100 years.

Back in the 1900’s postal services very much depended on the railways for moving mail around the country. There are lots of stories and pictures of Travelling Post Office trains collecting and distributing letters. All immortalised by WH Auden in his poem “Night Mail”. Telegrams were also popular as the Post Office linked up with the National Telephone Company to transmit messages.

The First World War precipitated moves to improve the speed of delivery for letters between families in the UK and Troops stationed abroad. It was eventually possible to post a letter in the morning and have it delivered to a loved one on a European battlefield the following day. After the 1st World war Airmail was gradually introduced to carry mail relatively short distances by air and it was this mail that financed the flights. By the mid-1930’s the advent of the Dakota DC3 enabled passengers to be carried and scheduled services were introduced to carry mail with more reliability.

Post Offices were established in every UK city, town and village and enabled them to expand the services they offered. Through the ages, they have facilitated driving licences, road tax licences, dog licences, radio and TV licences, banking services, savings, travel money, family allowances, pensions, broadcasting, electronic communications, etc etc

To keep pace with these developments, in 1957, the Post Office introduced machinery to sort mail by reading phosphorous lines on first and second class stamps. In addition, special stamps were introduced to commemorate occasions such as Christmas and the World Cup. This attracted stamp collectors to buy up the new editions without using the postal service and provide a lucrative cash addition to the service.

Post Codes had first been assigned to geographical segments of London in 1856. They were next expanded to include major UK cities and, in the 1950s, further expanded to allocate a postcode for every location in the UK. After extensive trials in Norwich, the postcode system was put in place in 1964. Apart from defining every house location, it is now the basis of other systems such as route planning, town planning, insurance premiums, marketing etc.

The Post Office Ltd, as it is known in its current form, came into existence in 2001. Ten years later the Postal Services Act 2011 led to the Post Office Ltd divesting the Royal Mail Group which became a public limited company. Royal Mail became the company that delivers parcels and letters – the provider of the universal postal service. The Post Office became the nationwide network of branches offering a range of postal, Government and financial services.

Internet services are presently having a significant impact on both these entities. The Post Office has lost much of its business issuing licences, pensions, allowances and banking to direct transactions made through the web. It has had to downsize.

Royal Mail has seen a decrease in letters and circulars counter-balanced by a large increase in parcel and courier services helped by the pandemic. The business also operates in the United States and looks to be in better shape.

New Member Bernard Higgins made his debut with a vote of thanks to Roger for a fascinating insight into the development and inner workings of one of our National Institutions.

Next week see the return of Prof. Martin Curzon to engage us with “Sugar, Honey and all things nice”


Secretary’s Report for 11th January 2022

The meeting was opened by Chairman Peter Wilson who thanked all those who had donated to the Christmas Charity collection for SHARE AFRICA. The final total collected was £435 which, with Gift Aid added, will increase to well over £500.

This week’s meeting featured our own David Siddans who gave a well-structured and illustrated talk about the unfolding story of the American Revolution from 1730 onwards to 1783. He described the 18th century as a new age of enlightenment with people inspired by philosophers, thinkers and highly revolutionary ideas of the time.

Throughout the 18th Century there was intense rivalry between France and Britain, who were global powers, eager to extend their influence in North America. Both countries entered into treaties with native Indian tribes to advance their cause and to increase the lands they controlled.

In 1754 British forces led by George Washington attacked a French detachment near the Ohio River killing around 50 soldiers and brought about what was called the French and Indian War. The War ended after 7 years in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris and provided Great Britain with enormous territorial gains in North America with the French losing almost all their territory and Britain controlling all the Continent to the East of the Mississippi.

The period of 20 years from 1763 saw the build-up to the American Revolution. George lll and his Government were financially strapped by the cost of the 7-year War. To help pay the expenses involved in governing the American colonies, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which initiated taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. This policy was strongly resented by the colonists who believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to “no taxation without representation”. In addition, the Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to import tea from China without paying full taxes and therefore able to undercut other importers.

In Boston, the Sons of Liberty strongly opposed the taxes in the Townshend Act as a violation of their rights and, in 1773 protesters, some disguised as American Indians, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company. The demonstrators boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into the Boston Harbour. The British Government responded harshly applying Acts which, among other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed down Boston’s commerce.

The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War started near Boston in 1775. Open warfare erupted with confrontations between British regulars and local Patriots at Lexington and Concord. The Patriots joined forces with the newly formed Continental Army under George Washington and drove the British back into Boston where they were put under siege until they withdrew by sea towards New York.

In the summer of 1776 the retreating British captured New York City with its strategic harbour. Subsequently, the Royal Navy blockaded ports and captured other cities for brief periods as the war moved south. However, in late 1777 France entered the war as an ally of the Patriots and the combined forces finally captured the Cornwallis troops at Yorktown effectively ending the war. The Treaty of Paris of September 1783 marked the end and the new nation’s complete withdrawal from the British Empire. Subsequently, about 80,000 Loyalists migrated back to Britain, Nova Scotia and other British colonies.

Having gained their Independence the Americans soon adopted a Constitution, rejecting monarchy and aristocracy, and establishing a Federal Republic with an elected Executive, a National Judiciary, a Congress representing the States and The House of Representatives for the population.

In offering a vote of thanks, Peter Belton commended David Siddans for his fascinating historical timeline of the movement to American Independence which had kept his audience keenly engaged throughout.

Next week, on the 18th January Canon Roger Deadman will speak on “Aspects of the Post Office from 1900 onwards”


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.


Secretary’s Report 23rd November 2021

Architect and Author Richard Newman entertained the audience with reminiscences of his life back in 1974 when he was promoted from design work on Devonport Submarine Base to job hunting for his Practice in Qatar. Moving with his young family was always going to be a challenge but when coupled with bureaucracy and Arab customs it provided plenty of room for the humorous anecdotes which scattered his address.

Getting legal is always a priority for Expats on arrival in a new territory. Qatar was no exception and accompanied by Daniel his “Mr Fixit”, it started with a cursory but successful examination of Richard’s knowledge of the rules of the road followed by a visit to the licensing department. Not the driving licence as expected but, as in all Muslim States, for a liquor licence which allows “kaffirs” (non-believers in Islam) to purchase a designated amount of alcohol each month strictly for family consumption. In Richard’s case, his first month’s pick-up was 12 cases of lager, 6 bottles of gin, 6 bottles of whisky and 2 bottles of liqueur. This was probably just enough to face the daily rigours of life in the Gulf.

The second expat priority is to find a decent house in a good neighbourhood – not that simple when fresh in town. Richard decided to allow Daniel to do the necessary and followed his choice of a brand new house in a new development. Unfortunately, the utilities had not reached the chosen house but once again Daniel had a solution. At night he extended the sand markers for the services trench up to and inside the property and by the next week the Contractor had finished the water and electric installation quite oblivious of the trick.

Fortuitously for Richard, his arrival coincided with a design challenge for the Qatar Naval Base. He was able to charm the Director of Public Works with his knowledge gained from working on Devonport and he had his first commission almost before he had settled in. On the back of this award his Company decided to beef up their presence and it was then Richard’s turn to play the old hand and introduce the newbies to life in the Gulf.

A recurring theme of the mornings talk was sand which is an all-prevailing nuisance in Qatar but, in closing, Richard waxed lyrical about his enduring memories of climbing up to sit on the front face of a sand dune to watch the sunset. Magical !!

Reported by : RICHARD WRIGHT

Secretary’s Report 16th November 2021

It was a full house time today at the Forum as Members and their wives turned out to listen to Harry Satlova and his historical tour of Harrogate.

Chairman Peter Wilson opened the proceedings by posing a frequent question to which Harry might have the answer – “Where’s the Beach?” Harry was unable to give a definitive answer but did offer the suggestion that visitors may be misled by signs for the “Pier Head” to say nothing of street signs for that posh cul-de-sac – Beech Grove.

Back to Harry’s history lesson. York and surrounding areas were first settled by the Romans from the 1st to 4th centuries and later by the Vikings who arrived here from the 8th century using the Humber and Ouse to reinforce both their presence and trade. Harrogate must have been on their agenda because a cache of 700 Viking coins and jewellery was discovered in 2007 just a few of miles out of town. Known as the Harrogate Horde it was the most important find in England for 150 years

Moving on a few centuries we come to William Slingsby who, around 1570, first began investigating the many local springs and checking them for their curative properties. Some 200 years later, by 1777 4 springs ( 3 sulphur and 1 iron) had been captured into wellheads where they were dispensed for body wash and consumption. Following the success of the Belgium and French Spa Towns, entrepreneurs arrived in Harrogate and offered visitors assembly rooms where musical recitals, dances and lectures took place together with the enjoyment of the surrounding gardens and the beneficial effects of springwaters.

From 1830 to 50 there was a demand in Low Harrogate for buildings for bathhouses. Structures like The Crown and The Swan Inn were converted from farms and to keep up with the sophisticated treatments offered on the Continent the Royal Baths was constructed and opened in1871. It was followed in the 1890s by larger new-build hotels like The Majestic, The Cairn and The Grand supplemented by the expansion of the Swan and The Crown into fully-fledged Spa Hotels and attracting more than 250,000 visitors a year.

With a decline in the demand for spa treatments and an increased need for entertainment, local entrepreneurs led by engineering inventor Samson Fox commissioned the building of a theatre come assembly hall. The building designed by Frank Matcham constructed on the site of the former Cheltenham Pump Room was named The Kursaal and opened in 1903. Patriotically. at the end of World War 1, it was renamed The Royal Hall.

Harry’s tour continued for us past the Mercer Gallery into the Valley Gardens and through the Collonade on the Westside. This was once covered with a glazed roof and used as a walkway up to the Grand Hotel (Windsor House) and the Royal Baths Hospital. Both are now redeveloped into Offices, apartments and housing. Hopefully, the potential of the Collonade, sadly in some disrepair, will be recognised and upgraded to a useful civic amenity.

Harry opened the meeting up to audience participation which enabled an interesting exchange of views and reminisces. Starting with the Second World War, when Harrogate first became a hub for Government and Defence personnel who took over most of the Hydros. There was also a mention of an evacuation plan to move the Royal Family to Newby Hall and Winston Churchill to Grove House. This plan was abandoned when a single plane dropped bombs on the Majestic Hotel.

After 20 minutes of discussion, Michael Williams rose to thank Harry for a fascinating morning which was seconded by hearty applause from an appreciative audience.

Next Tuesday author Richard Needham will recount his adventurous times in the Gulf some 40 years ago when we will find out about “A cockroach on my shoulder”