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Wetherby Mens Forum

The Forum’s meeting on the 2nd of December 2015 was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of Carol Verity, the wife of Duncan our Speaker Finder.

The guest speaker for the meeting was Susie Hart MBE, the Director of Craft Aid International who shared the title of National Woman of the Year with the singer Annie Lennox.  Susie who trained as a textile artist related the story of her career which started when she and her husband Andy, a vet by trade, volunteered for relief work abroad and were posted to the town of Iringa in Tanzania.  Whilst Andy taught trainee pastors basic veterinary skills, Susie identified a need for work to be provided for people with disabilities.

Starting with three deaf men in a small room with a sack of elephant dung making paper the project grew to a purpose built unit employing 120 people with various disabilities involved in producing a variety of craft products.   The project was called Neema Crafts and included a café which won the Daily Telegraph award for the best British restaurant abroad, staffed entirely by profoundly deaf people.  The whole project has altered the attitude of the local people to the disabled from rejection to respect.  A physiotherapy unit was added and this now treats approximately 400 children.  Susie has returned to the UK living in Harrogate where she established Craft Aid International which runs weekly sessions for adults with disabilities and supports similar projects in the developing world.

Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks describing Susie as a remarkable woman.

The Forum Christmas lunch is arranged  for the 9th of December at the Bridge, Walshford and its next meeting will be on the 6th of January.

Australia and New Zealand by Thumb

On the 27th of November Angela Beaumont travelled from Driffield to talk to the Forum about travelling around Australia and New Zealand by Thumb.

The talk described a visit around the two Southern Hemisphere countries she and a friend enjoyed in 1980 illustrated by a stunning selection of photographs. In the main they travelled around by hitch-hiking although other methods were employed when necessary. They landed in Australia in Perth in Western Australia where they took part-time jobs whilst hitch-hiking around the state.

They then caught the Indian Pacific Railway which took three days to take them to Sydney. There they found work to finance the rest of their tour, Angela working as a secretary for the telephone company STC. After viewing the many attractions of the area they hitch-hiked to northern Queensland where they joined a bus tour into the Outback.

This tour lasted many weeks taking in the Northern Territory and travelling through the centre of the country to South Australia. They then moved back to Sydney (having spent a year in Australia) from where they took a flight to New Zealand.

From the warmth of Australia they were surprised by how cold New Zealand felt. They toured the North Island before catching a ferry to the South Island. Whilst there they took a flight in a light aircraft over the snow-covered mountains before spending a month working on a remote farm.

They then returned to the North Island before moving on to Fiji which is the subject of another talk.

Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Angela Beaumont for a fascinating talk which was enthusiastically supported by the members.

Notorious Prisoners

On the 6th of November fifty members of the Forum attended the weekly meeting to meet the guest speaker Veronica Bird MBE. Veronica spent her working life in the Prison Service reaching the rank of Governor, being the first female to be Governor of a male prison.

Her talk was titled Notorious Prisoners in which she described some of the more notable prisoners of modern times, many of whom she had met in her professional capacity. She began with some of the most famous female murderers beginning with Myra Hindley who she met at Holloway.

Veronica described Hindley as manipulative; she fell in love with a prison officer who helped her to organise her escape. This was successful but, on recapture, the officer received a six-year prison sentence.

Mary Bell murdered two little boys when she was ten years old and was in the prison system for many years. She was eventually released under an assumed name, a very rare practice.

Charlie Bronson was described as Britain’s most dangerous man and Ian Huntly, the Soham child killer, has applied to be allowed to change sex.

Veronica then described Britain’s worst miscarriage of justice in which Stefan Kiszko was imprisoned for sixteen years for murder although forensic evidence proved he could not possibly have committed the crime.

Veronica also included Harold Shipman and the Price Sisters (notorious IRA bombers) in her list of notorious prisoners.

The most unusual prisoner she encountered was Gary Powers, the spy-plane pilot who she met when visiting a Moscow prison.

Forum members asked many questions at the end of the talk before time pressure forced Chairman Mike Earle to close the meeting.

The Golden Age of Radio Comedy

On the 30th of October 48 members attended the Forum meeting in the church centre, the largest number for the current season.

The guest speaker was Geoff Twentyman from Bradford whose subject was The Golden Age of Radio Comedy. This trip down memory lane described the development of comedy programmes from the early days of radio in the 1920s to the 1960s with Geoff concentrating on five of his favourites from the period 1945 to 1960. Each description included pictures of the stars and an audio recording of an excerpt from the show.

The first programme was Take It from Here which featured Jimmy Edwards, Joy Nicholls and Dick Bentley although Joy, a singer and comedienne, was soon replaced by Alma Cogan and June Whitfield.

The second programme was Educating Archie which featured Peter Brough and his ventriloquists dummy Archie Andrews. Brough’s skill as a ventriloquist was best featured on radio.

The third programme was The Goon Show. The original programme starred Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers although Bentine dropped out after the first series. We then moved on to Hancock’s Half Hour which featured Tony Hancock and some equally famous co-stars such as Sid James and Kenneth Williams.

The final programme was the Al Read Show which was a one man show featuring Al Read in many domestic situations.

Forum Vice Chairman Duncan proposed a vote of thanks to Geoff Twentyman for a highly entertaining presentation.

West Yorkshire Police Economic Crime Unit

On the 23rd of October the Forum welcomed as guest speaker Kay Bainbridge who works as a police civilian with West Yorkshire Police Economic Crime Unit in Wakefield.

Kay’s job title is Victim Care and Prevention Officer and her talk was on Fraud Prevention. She described her role in fraud prevention and the operation of Action Fraud, a national reporting system operated by the City of London Police.

Forum members were asked how many of them had been the victims of computer fraud and a number admitted to this. Kay then analysed the methods of computer fraudsters and cold-calling telephone fraudsters. She advised members on ways to recognise fraudulent e-mails and the situations where victims are likely to lose considerable amounts of money.

Kay also detailed how members should recognise and deal with cold-callers. The best advice was – Ring Off!! Another modern fraud is Money Mules when victims are tempted into money laundering by the promise of large amounts of money being put into their accounts although the victims are mostly young people and they may suffer serious legal consequences.

A lively discussion followed until Forum Vice-Chairman Duncan Verity was forced to close the meeting by proposing a vote of thanks to Kay Bainbridge and her helper Liz Dixon.

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.