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Concorde: Up in Flames

Mr Duncan Verity: Concorde: Up in Flames

First meeting of the new season chaired by Mike Cochrane.
Tribute to 3 time Chairman and life member Roy Howard (d. 2/6/18) by John Taylor.
Outline of new banking arrangements and short financial update by Roy Smith. Audited accounts to follow.

Duncan verity from Wetherby MF gave a competent presentation; but a horrendous one. Duncan introduced a National Geographic DVD about the fatal crash of an Air France Concorde airliner on take-off at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2001, which killed all 109 passengers and 4 people on the ground. Firstly we were shown a dramatic reconstruction of the moments before the crash from the point of view of the devastated traffic controller, who first noticed flames coming from the aircraft. Then we followed in detail the twists and turns of the Air France investigation during which all Concordes were grounded. There were 3 major clues – a ruptured tyre, a shattered fuel tank and a mysterious strip of metal. It transpired that the metal strip came off an American DC10 which had left a few minutes before Concorde. Tests showed that the Concorde fuel tank had shattered from the inside out on contact with the strip. Concorde flights were resumed but were abandoned in November 2003. The cost running “the beautiful white Supersonic bird” had become uneconomic.

Mr Verety explained, however, that many experts consider that some additional issues were not addressed. For example the 6 tons of extra weight which Concorde was carrying above its recommended load. These and other questions led to some interesting comments from members. Mike Cochrane gave the vote of thanks and recalled a visit to Filton in the 1960s when he saw Concorde being built.


We had a substitutes bench today: the Deputy Chairman was Richard and the speaker was Geoff Queen.
The Deputy Chairman welcomed the ladies to this open meeting and advised that three apologies had been received.
The programmed speaker Tim Fee was unable to attend. Geoff Queen was thanked for substituting at short notice.

Geoff displayed pictures from the UK and the Isle of Man. He tested the members of the forum’s knowledge with a photographic quiz.

The slides started with ones of pictures from Yorkshire and became more difficult as the talk progressed.
The pictures covered landscapes, castles and churches from different areas of the British Isles.
The Forum members were on form it was a whitewash!

Some questions were asked and Geoff said his favourite Cathedral was Hereford.

The vote of thanks was given by Tom Snelling. The proceeds of the talk today were in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Richard Wright took the chair and welcomed 31 members and 9 ladies to the meeting. He explained how grateful we were to our old friend Geoff Queen for stepping in when Tim Fee was unable to attend. Geoff has raised over £11000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital through his talks and in total we gave him around £85 after today’s meeting as fee plus generous donations from our members.

Unusually Geoff’s talk was close to home and in the form of a quiz to see how many well-known places in Great Britain we could recognise. On nearly every occasion we won the contest with Tony Bills being exceptionally knowledgeable (even remembering the gaelic name of a mountain in Glencoe). Starting with Knaresborough railway bridge we were taken through familiar Yorkshire landmarks from Bolton Abbey to Whitby Harbour, then processed around the country to some of Geoff’s favourite places from Liverpool where he enjoyed the Scouse humour when working there to Worcester where he had combined his love of cricket with his love of Cathedral music on the same day. One of his favourite images was Barmouth railway bridge with the Welsh peaks including Cader Idris behind. Altogether we recognised over 40 places and finished our journey seasonally with the crocuses on Harrogate Stray.

We also enjoyed two splendid anecdotes. Richard told us about the horticulturist who was nearly arrested for terrorist offences and Geoff told us how the cricket writer Neville Cardus treated his wedding as a small interlude in a slow day’s batting by Lancashire at Old Trafford.

Report 13th February 2018

FORUM 13 FEB The Chairman welcomed 39 members to the meeting and announced the sad news of the death of Roland Moor, a friend of Roy Howard and George Wells and a former member of the Forum. Our speaker Chris Helme from Brighouse is a former police officer but his subject was “Other People’s Rubbish”. He alluded in an amusing introduction to the way that men hoard bits of plugs, wires and pieces of wood in their sheds in the mistaken belief that they will be useful one day. Women hoard buttons in the same way. He collects items that other people would throw away – old 78s and EPs, tapes, council minute books and newspapers for significant dates that reveal bits of local history such as a proposal to name a local street after Elvis that would otherwise be forgotten. Chris is a keen local historian and wrote a column for the local press for 30 years on the nostalgia theme, drawing his material from his collection saved from the skip or bought for a few pence. To show that he is not a stick in the mud, he told us that he has run a class helping older people to use mobile phones. Many of us had to admit that we mostly keep our phones switched off – typical apparently! Chris could have talked for hours but we had to call proceedings to a halt at 11.50!

Report 6th Feb

FORUM MEETING 6 FEBRUARY 2018 The Chairman welcomed a good number of members on a snowy day. He mentioned the 100th Anniversary of women over 30 gaining the vote and the 66th Anniversary of the Queen’s Accession. He then told a good joke involving the Queen Mother and Fokker Aircraft. 4 Forum members had attended Ray Snowden’s funeral which had been a celebration of his life and Malcolm Wood showed a photograph of Ray in typical form at Ascot House enjoying a knickerbocker glory. The popular Alun Pugh returned “to augment my pension” with his Illustrated History of Leeds. In an hour he showed us some of the familiar buildings still standing from the city’s past including the Minster,St. John’s Church, Kirkstall Abbey, the waterfront warehouses now apartments, Temple Newsam (founded by the Knight’s Templar) and the Egyptian-style mill. Other important landmarks in the city’s history have long since gone, such as Leeds Manor House, the Moot Hall in the middle of Briggate and the Coloured Cloth Hall for the textile trade which made Leeds important. In general much more has survived south of the main railway line than north of it. Until 1700 Leeds was insignificant in comparison with York but the Aire and Calder Navigation, the coming of steam power developed in the city by Matthew Murray and the railways led to rapid growth but also massive pollution. Charles Dickens called Leeds “the nastiest place I know”. The grand Town Hall of the 1850s opened by Queen Victoria showed anew civic pride and Roundhay Park was bought for the city to give the working population somewhere to relax and exercise. Alun finished his talk around 1905 with the building of Kirkgate Market, the shopping arcades and the opening of City Square. Malcolm Wood, himself a Leeds “loiner”, origin of the phrase unknown even to our speaker, gave the vote of thanks to our speaker on behalf of 38 members who showed by their applause how much they had enjoyed the talk.

The Work of Barnes Wallis

The chairman His Honour Judge Clarkson opened the meeting. 42 members attended plus one guest. There were 7 apologies. Malcolm said a few words in memory of Ray Snowdon and there was a minutes silence in his memory.

The chairman welcomed the speaker Peter Rix. His talk was entitled: Airships to Astro-physics: The Work of Barnes Wallis. When we think of Barnes Wallis he is inevitably linked with inventions which greatly contributed to the Allied victory in World War 2 in particular the bouncing bombs.

The main thrust of Peter’s talk was to illustrate that Barnes Wallis was a ‘genius of our time’, an aircraft designer and engineer who made a contribution that hastened the end of World War 2 and much more.

He was born in Ripley Derbyshire in 1887. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital school, however, he did not wish to study Classics and became an apprentice at Thames Engineering at Blackheath. When work became slack he left home and went to J Samuel White’s shipyard at Cowes in 1908. He trained as a marine draughtsman and engineer. His work included building torpedo boats, destroyers, and learning about diesel engines.

In April 1913 he was chief assistant to H B Pratt of Vickers. Wallis turned his mind from the restless sea to the almost unconquered mysteries of the air. He designed Britain’s second rigid airship, the R.9, for the Navy.

Wallis was a key member of the team that built the private enterprise airship the R100. This airship was 709 feet in length with a diameter of 133 feet. Its Maximum speed: 80 m.p.h. carrying capacity: 100 passengers. It was as big as an Atlantic liner, yet only weighed 150 tons.

The R. 100 escaped the disastrous fate that overtook the R. 101, but her life was all too brief. Supreme effort had gone into design and construction and her successful double Atlantic flight to Montreal and back to Cardington seemed to argur well for her future. But she was put into the Cardington shed to allow the Government-built R. 101 to attempt her flight to India. The official bungling and her terrible end virtually killed the airship in Britain. The R. 100 never flew again. In 1931 she was handed over to the breakers for £450.

Barnes Wallis’s life was not only centred around aeronautics and aerial warfare; he participated in the development of radio telescopy and nuclear submarines, he pioneered work in the de-icing of trawlers, and he gave much time and money to educational advancement and to charity. Above all, he was a devoted family man who believed in many of the steadfast Victorian ideals.

He made a wood-carving of his wife Molly. This illustrated he was a very good artist as well as a brilliant engineer.

References: Barnes Wallis by John B Rabbets and R.100 July 5th 1928 M.F. Wallis.

I Did it for Kicks

The Chairman said that he was sorry that Mrs Coggan was unable to attend the Memorial Meeting and sent his good wishes to her on behalf of the Forum. John Taylor will write to Mrs Coggan.
In 1886 John Tiller watched the precision of guardsmen on military exercise and decided to extend the principle to female dance when he founded the Tiller School of Dance in Manchester. The girls were to be ladies, not chorus girls of ill-repute and their nails were regularly inspected as symbols of general cleanliness.
When our speaker Pam Harcourt joined the Tiller Girls as a teenager in 1951, the troupe was run by the strict Miss Doris and Miss Barbara, following the death of the founder and his wife. Pay was parsimonious and 24 girls were given 1 bottle of sherry between them to celebrate the New Year. Pam appeared in pantomime with Albert Modley, did several seasons in Blackpool and at the Victoria Palace with the Crazy Gang and her group co-starred on Shirley Bassey’s first appearance. She became Head Girl and danced on ITV’s Opening Night in 1955 and later on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.  The Tillers were on ITV, the Toppers, their great rivals, on BBC TV.
The talk was made more interesting because Pam showed that life in show business is often far from glamorous. In 1952 the girls had to struggle back in London smogs to digs in Brixton. Arriving in towns on tour on Sundays led to evenings watching old films in seedy cinemas and lodgings in Llandudno and Liverpool were pretty primitive. The dancers in their white ankle socks often shivered on stage although they were allowed tights eventually. Nevertheless as kicking Tillers they considered themselves superior to “pantomime” Tillers.
A reunion in 1987 led to a revival of the 60s Tillers and Pam still appeared occasionally until a few years ago. At the end she showed that she could still do a high kick.  After several questions from an enthralled audience, Peter Belton gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the forty attending members and six guests.

Ron Beardmore

Ron Beardmore, a member from the 90s who left when Ray Coggan retired in 2007, has died at the age of 93.  He gave a talk in 2003 on the railways around Harrogate and was one of the eight members who at one time lived at Harlow Grange Park.

Registrar Denis Smith

We congratulate our former Registrar Denis Smith who has just celebrated his 90th birthday. John Taylor gave him a card on behalf of the Forum. Denis is well and living in the BUPA care home on Ripon Road. 

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.

Secretary’s Report

33 members attended for a talk by the Forum’s own Derek Clarkson whose experience as a judge always gives his contributions particular interest and authority.

He told us first about Jane Austen’s aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot, a well to do lady who was accused in 1799 of stealing white lace from a draper’s shop in Bath. To us such a case might appear a small matter in relative terms but at that time the penalty if convicted was death by hanging or 14 years transportation to Australia. Aunt Jane was imprisoned for 7 months before her case came for trial. Although she was found not guilty, rumours circulated afterwards that she might have been a kleptomaniac. The story served to illustrate the savage penal code around 1800 when 150 offences carried the death penalty. The story also reminded Derek of the sad case of the TV personality Lady Barnett who was convicted of shop-lifting in 1980. Four days later after the newspapers had given the case wide publicity she committed suicide.

Judge Clarkson went on to tell us the story of the Gartside murder case in 1947. As a Sixth-former at Pudsey Grammar School, he had attended part of the trial and it may have influenced him to go into the law as a career. Then to lighten the mood we heard some amusing anecdotes about criminals who were not very successful in their chosen profession.

Finally during questions Derek gave us an eloquent defence of the jury system. Richard Brooks gave the vote of thanks and suggested that Derek talk to us sometime about his work obtaining compensation for injured miners.

At the beginning of the meeting the Chairman announced that the invitations for the Christmas lunch would be available on 8 November.