Author Archives: harrogatecyclegroup

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.