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Famous for 12 Minutes

On the 9th of October the Forum welcomed Malcolm Johnson as guest speaker. His talk was titled “Famous for 12 Minutes? (A reality TV experience)”.

The title was based on a famous Andy Warhol quotation – everyone is famous for 15 minutes, the difference in time being explained by reality TV being interrupted by commercial breaks.

Malcolm, a 65-year-old retired teacher, did not drive a car, the family driving duties being carried out by his wife. During a party at which he drank a few beers he accepted a challenge to compete in a TV reality programme called Undriveables in which non-drivers were taught to drive and took their test in a very short time.

Of the 12,000 applicants 12 were accepted including Malcolm. Being an ex-teacher Malcolm passed the theory examination with ease and he then signed a contract with the production company. The conditions attached were far-reaching and strict but the participants were paid only £1.

Malcolm showed a recording of the show which was shown on ITV between two episodes of Coronation Street. The driver training around the streets of Liverpool included many mistakes and Malcolm did not expect to pass his test but he did, the only one of the twelve participants to do so. This was proved by the fact that he had driven himself to the meeting.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Malcolm Johnson for a most entertaining morning.

The Great Train Robbery

The Forum’s Vice Chairman Duncan Verity has a large collection of video presentations with which he occasionally entertains members as an alternative to employing a guest speaker.

For the meeting on the 2nd of October he selected a feature titled The Great Train Robbery which dealt with the famous occasion on the 8th of August 1963 when £2.6 million in used banknotes was stolen from a secure railway carriage on the West Coast main line in Buckinghamshire.

The video was unusual in that it featured a commentary by Bruce Reynolds who was the leader of the gang of robbers and had planned the enterprise. The robbery went according to plan except that one of the robbers seriously assaulted the train driver.

The gang returned to their hideout, a nearby farmhouse, before sharing out the cash and dispersing. Reynolds had arranged for the farmhouse to be burnt down but this didn’t happen which left much evidence which enabled the police to arrest all the gang except for Reynolds who escaped to Mexico along with his family.

However, when funds ran short, he returned to England to continue his criminal career and he was arrested by the police.

After members added their reminiscences Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Duncan for providing excellent entertainment for the meeting.

Trip Down Memory Lane

On the 25th of September 40 members attended at the Church Centre.

The guest speaker was Keith Barber from Morley who gave a presentation titled Trip Down Memory Lane illustrated by an interesting selection of slides.

Keith described his childhood in Leeds in the area around Tetley’s brewery which he described as very happy even though there was not much money around.

He was born at the start of the second World War and described life playing in bombed-out buildings and enduring gas mask training at school. He reminded members about the street corner grocers in Leeds and the variety of playground games enjoyed by children of that era.

We were reminded about the strictures of rationing which was not fully abandoned until 1954. Keith described the VE Day celebrations in his neighbourhood.

He then moved on to the early days of his marriage when home entertainment consisted of listening to the radio in front of an open fire until they acquired a second-hand television. Programmes started at five o’clock and finished with the national anthem at half past ten with a mid-evening break for an intermission.

Keith’s talk was enjoyed by members as it awoke many memories.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Keith Barber for a most amusing presentation.

Comedy of the Good Old Days

On the 18th of September the Forum held its second meeting of the new season.

The speaker was Trevor Moody who travelled from Huddersfield to entertain the members with a video presentation titled Comedy of the Good Old Days.

This featured 13 extracts from comedy performances from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s which Trevor described as the golden age of comedy. The oldest performance was George Formby singing When I’m Cleaning Windows in 1940. This was followed by many famous names such as Morecambe and Wise, Benny Hill, Dave Allan and Larry Grayson and extracts from situation comedies such as Dad’s Army,Some Mothers Do Have’em and Carry On Camping.

The most recent extract was a very old Spike Milligan receiving an award shortly before his death.

The Forum’s Deputy Chairman Duncan Verity proposed a Vote of Thanks to Trevor Moody for an entertaining presentation.

Annual General Meeting

On the 10th of April the Forum held its Annual General Meeting in the Church Rooms.

The first meeting of the Forum was held in the Town Hall on the 10th of April 1969 so the meeting was held on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Forum.

At the end of the meeting members moved into the Scout Headquarters next door where a celebratory buffet lunch had been laid out.

The guests-of-honour were the Mayor and Mayoress of Wetherby, Councillor and Mrs Moss. Forum Chairman Mike Earle welcomed the guests and related a brief history of the Forum.

Councillor Moss responded and reminded members of the good work done by many helpers over the years.

The Forum will next meet after its summer recess, the meeting is scheduled for the 11th of September.

New Zealand Panorama

At the start of the Forum’s meeting on the 3rd of April members stood in silent memory of Jim Wilkie, a long-standing member who died recently at the age of 95.

The guest speaker was John Gilleghan, a regular visitor appearing for the sixth time. John’s talk was titled New Zealand Panorama and described a tour of the country he undertook in 2004.

He began with a short history of New Zealand which was discovered by the Dutchman Abel Tasman (900 years after being settled by the Maoris) who named it Staten Island, believing it to be a single island. It was renamed New Zealand by the Dutch government who never actually claimed the territory which was claimed for Britain by Captain James Cook.

John illustrated his talk with some brilliant photographs backed by the occasional piece of music. He started his tour in Christchurch, his pictures showing the appeal of the city before the devastation caused by the earthquake in 2011. He then enjoyed a circular tour of the South Island calling at many small settlements and landing by helicopter near the summit of Mount Cook, the highest mountain in the country.

His tour then took the ferry to the North Island visiting Wellington and Rotorua before reaching its end at Auckland from where John flew home. Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to John Gilleghan for a fascinating talk.

Our Lives–Our Times 1945–64

On the 27th of March the Forum welcomed as guest speaker David Davies whose talk was titled Our Lives–Our Times 1945–64.

Illustrated by an interesting selection of photographs, the talk covered politics and life in general in the UK for the period mentioned in the title.

David commenced with the conferences at the end of WW11 when the participants changed due to death and the British general election, the only constant being Joseph Stalin.  This resulted in the Soviet domination of Central Europe for many years afterwards.

At this time the UK was virtually bankrupt, rationing continuing till 1954 and bomb damage remaining into the late 1950s.  In 1947 there, was freezing weather which resulted in 25,000 deaths. Smog was a regular occurrence, in 1952 it resulted in 4,000 deaths in London and in 1953 North Sea flooding caused many casualties.

David mentioned celebrities from the period and some notable events such as the Coronation, the breaking of the sound barrier and the ascent of Everest.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked David Davies for a very interesting and informative talk.

James Heriot

On the 13th of March the Forum held its annual open meeting when members may invite guests to enjoy the guest speaker.

This year the featured speaker was Jim Wight, the son of James Heriot who wrote the books detailing his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales. Heriot’s real name was Alfred Wight and his vet’s practice was situated in Thirsk and Jim explained that his father changed his name and location to try and preserve his anonymity.

However, he sold over 100 million copies of his books and Thirsk’s James Heriot Museum has become a major tourist destination, particularly for American visitors.

Jim followed his father to become a vet in Thirsk and his talk featured a number of amusing stories involving his dealings with the local farming community.

One of the main characters in the James Heriot books was his business partner Siegfried Farnon, whose name was actually Donald Sinclair, and Jim ended his talk with a few tales about this unique person.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Jim Wight for a highly entertaining morning and Forum members and their guests joined in enthusiastic applause.

Jim Wight donates all his speaker’s fees to charity.


On the 6th of March the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Tony Burkitt whose chosen subject was Ireland.  

Tony’s interests are archaeology, architecture, history, wild flowers and walking, each of which was covered as we enjoyed a travelogue around southern Ireland starting and finishing in Dublin and visiting tourist hot-spots such as Kerry, Connemara, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher.  

He illustrated his talk with a series of slides which showed the wild rugged Irish landscape and its wide variety of ancient Celtic and early Christian sites.

Whilst in Ireland Tony attempted to climb each of the 12 peaks which rise above 3,000 feet but he failed due to inclement weather and access problems.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Tony for an enjoyable talk.  

Forum members look forward to the meeting scheduled for the 13th of March when we welcome Jim Wight, the vet son of TV vet James Heriot, who is to talk about his father. This is an open meeting when members invite guests to share the meeting.

The Yorkshire Dales – a Resident’s View

For the Forum’s meeting on the 27th of February 57 members attended, the largest turn-out for the current season.

The guest speaker was Geoff Queen who had travelled from his home in Kettlewell in Wharfedale. The title of his talk was The Yorkshire Dales – a Resident’s View in which he concentrated on his home village and the immediate neighbourhood.

He listed the advantages and disadvantages in living in such an idyllic setting.

The main advantages are the scenery, the peace and quiet, the community life and care for the elderly; the disadvantages are the weather (twice as much rain falls here as falls on Leeds), the poor transport facilities and the midges.

The village has 150 dwellings although half of these are holiday homes which are empty for long periods resulting in a resident population of only 140.

Geoff then showed a series of slides showing the area in summer and winter conditions and also the two main events of the year, the Scarecrow Festival and the Plastic Duck Race.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Geoff whose speaker’s fee will be donated to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.