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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.

Songs and Laughter Part 3

On the 4th of April the Forum’s members gathered for its last regular meeting of the season.

Vice Chairman Duncan Verity has a large collection of video presentations which he occasionally presents for the members’ entertainment. For this meeting he produced a selection titled Songs and Laughter Part 3 (members had already seen Parts 1 and 2).

The video featured popular music from the 1950s to the present day from such diverse singers as Vera Lyn and Elvis Presley.

The laughter was provided by Frank Carson, Tommy Cooper and Les Dawson.

Chairman Mike Earle thanked Duncan for brightening a miserable rainy morning.

After the AGM on the 11th of April the Forum goes into its spring/summer break, its next meeting will be on the 12th of September.

The Shetland and Orkney Islands

On the 28th of March the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Tony Burkitt who entertained the members with a talk titled Shetland and Orkney Islands.

He described two holidays he enjoyed in the said islands supported by his excellent photographs.  The islands are unique in that they have more in common with Norway than they have with either England or Scotland.

The first holiday was to Shetland where his first stop was at the town of Scallaway where a celebration was taking place commemorating the town’s role as the base for the Shetland ‘bus’, an arrangement during World War II for accepting escapees from occupied Norway.

The rest of his time was spent visiting the many prehistoric sites, bird-watching and finding unusual wild flowers.

The second holiday was to Orkney which is equally well-provided with prehistoric sites.  When on the island of Hoy he met a group of climbers attempting to climb the Old Man of Hoy.  As a result he obtained some remarkable pictures taken by the climbers during their ascent.

Orkney is the site of the World War I sea anchorage Scapa Flow where the ship HMS Hampshire sank with great loss of life including General Kitchener who was on his way to a meeting in Russia.

After an open discussion Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks for a fascinating talk.

Thoughts on Leadership

The scheduled guest speaker for the Forum’s meeting on the 14th of March became unavailable at short notice so one of the Forum’s members Ivor Thomas stepped into the breech.

Ivor spent most of his career as an educator, firstly in the RAF and then in the civilian sector.  He entertained the members with a talk titled Some Thoughts on Leadership starting with World War One when the troops were famously described as lions led by donkeys.

It was realised by the powers that be that trained leadership was necessary but by the Second World War little had changed and in 1942 Winston Churchill sacked 2,000 commanders.

Training courses in the UK were started by the armed forces and Ivor discussed the different approaches to leadership, for instance is leadership by consensus or assertiveness preferable.  The Forum members joined in with the discussion mainly restricting their examples to the world of home and international politics.

After a long discussion Mike Earle brought the meeting to a close, thanking Ivor for providing such an interesting talk at short notice.

Great Moments in Sport

The Forum meeting arranged to take place on the 28th of February was cancelled due to the heavy snow; on the 7th of March arrangements returned to normal when the Forum welcomed an old friend John Clithero as guest speaker.

John’s talk was titled Great Moments in Sport and featured a trip down memory lane for Forum members as John described key moments in sport and reminded them of sporting heroes of the last forty years.

The first moment was the so-called Botham’s Test Match when, in 1981 at Headingley Cricket Ground, Ian Botham engineered a victory over Australia from a seemingly impossible position.  John had witnessed this special moment in his role as a commentator with Radio Leeds.

He was also present when Darren Gough achieved the only hat-trick in the 20th century by an English bowler against Australia.

Other moments were featured from football, rugby, golf and horse racing before members were reminded of sportsmen and women whose exploits have gained them fame and honours.

The last sportsperson featured was the one John regarded as the greatest of all, the boxer Muhammed Ali.

Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to John for an excellent presentation.

Falklands Most Daring Raid

51 members attended the forum’s meeting held on the 21st of February to enjoy a presentation by Vice Chairman Duncan Verity.

Duncan has a large collection of video features, many of them dealing with subjects connected to aircraft.  This time his chosen feature was called Falklands Most Daring Raid and dealt with an attack on the airstrip at Port Stanley by an RAF Vulcan bomber during the Argentine occupation which Duncan described as the most daring bombing raid since the Dam Busters.

The aim of the raid was to deny the Argentine air force the use of the air strip for an attack on the British invasion fleet.  The raid was complicated by the fact that the nearest base from which the raid could be launched was Ascension Island, over 8,000 miles away, way beyond the range of the Vulcan without refuelling.

Also the Vulcan bombers were on the verge of being scrapped due to obsolescence and were missing various vital parts.  The solution to the refuelling problem and the progress of the raid were well described in the video and the successful and safe outcome was not certain till the very end.

Mike Earle thanked Duncan for an excellent presentation.

Macmillan Cancer Support

On the 7th 0f February the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Matthew Jameson, a fund-raising manager with Macmillan Cancer Support.  His organisation was established in 1911 when Douglas MacMillan was left £10 in his father’s will to set up a charity to support cancer sufferers having himself died of the disease.  The purpose of the charity is to support everyone diagnosed with cancer and also their family and friends.  This support can take the form of financial help but also advice and comfort to sufferers.  Macmillan nurses are normally recruited from the NHS and work within hospitals but are totally funded by the charity.  The charity also acts as a pressure group to change attitudes or procedures when necessary, one example being to try and withdraw parking charges for patients making regular visits to hospitals.  Matthew gave us a number of case studies of situations where the Macmillan charity has been of assistance. The annual budget of MacMillan is very large as they run an information centre in most large hospitals and fully provide the salaries of all their nurses.  Matthew related a number of the ways in which funds are raised, the best known being the Macmillan coffee mornings, in 2015 these numbered 380,000 in the UK raising £25million.  Matthew himself raised a large sum when he undertook a sky-dive.  The local MacMillan Support organiser is David Bailey, a Forum member, who informed us how we could get involved in the fund raising.  Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks and members contributed to a collection as they left the meeting.

Iconic Cars from the 1950s to the Present Day

On the 14th of February 53 members turned up for the Forum’s morning meeting, the highest number for the current season despite the biting cold.

The guest speaker for the meeting was Graham Read, a Formula One correspondent and motoring writer who has spoken to the Forum on a number of previous occasions.

His subject this time was Iconic Cars from the 1950s to the Present Day.  Graham showed a succession of brilliant slides of cars from the various decades, some of the cars being very expensive and some affordable.

He started with a Morris Minor, a type of car which most of the Forum members admitted to have driven.  Next came the Citroen 2CV which Graham told us is involved in races although not as exciting as Formula One.

Among the cars from the 1980s was the DeLorean and Graham reminded us of its controversial manufacture in Belfast and the problems which led to the collapse of the company.

At the end of his presentation Graham introduced us to a number of ultra-expensive limited editions by such manufacturers as Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin and including the most expensive example, a Bugatti costing over £2million.

After Forum members had reminisced about their early cars Mike Earle thanked Graham for a fascinating presentation.

The Story of James Herriot

On a cold and icy Wednesday morning on the 17th of January 40 members braved the weather to hear the Forum’s guest speaker John Gilleghan MBE.

John was entertaining us for the fifth time; this time his subject was The Story of James Herriot, the vet from Thirsk whose real name was James Alfred Wight who had adopted his nom- de-plume for his very successful series of books about the life of a Yorkshire Dales vet.

All the main characters in the books were based on real people but were given fictitious names and the setting for the stories, the town of Darrowby was loosely based on Thirsk.

John has personally researched the lives of Alfred Wight and his family and obtained copies of many of their photographs which he shared with us in the form of a slide show with musical accompaniment.

The books were adapted for two films and a very successful television series of 91 episodes and details of these featured in John’s presentation.

John also introduced us to the James Herriot Museum in Thirsk which has recently re-opened after refurbishment.

Mike Earle thanked John Gilleghan for a very entertaining talk which brightened up a miserable day.

Dam Yangtze

The Forum resumed its regular Wednesday morning meetings on the 10th of January after the Christmas break with a talk by guest speaker Geoff Queen from Kettlewell.

Geoff titled his talk Dam Yangtze, a play on words to describe two visits he and his wife made to the Chinese Yangtze River at the time when a giant dam was being constructed which changed the geography of the area in many ways.

He started with a list of statistics about China including its population (1.25 billion) which is one fifth the population of the world.  One city has a population of 30 million whilst a settlement of 4 million is regarded as a town.

The Yangtze is the third longest river in the world and the dam was built at a location called the Three Gorges, regarded as particularly beautiful, and involved the displacement of over a million people.

Geoff illustrated his talk with a slide show.  Unfortunately the weather had not been kind to him although that and the polluted atmosphere highlighted the devastation caused by the dam to the existing towns and cities.

Geoff also visited the Great Wall, Beijing and the terra-cotta soldiers at Xian and at the end of his talk he invited those forum members who had visited China to share their impressions.

Mike Earle thanked Geoff Queen for his informative talk.

Geoff donates his speaker’s fees to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Christmas Humour

On the 6th of December the Forum gathered at the Church Centre for the last meeting of 2017.

The guest speaker was David Calverley who had travelled from Huddersfield to provide some Christmas Humour to brighten up a bleak winter’s morning.

For nearly an hour David regaled us with a selection of jokes, humorous tales and monologues, many delivered in a broad Yorkshire dialect.   Chairman Mike Earle proposed the vote of thanks for a most amusing presentation.

The Forum’s Christmas lunch for members and their guests is arranged for Wednesday the 13th of December at the Bridge Inn, Walshford when additional entertainment is promised as well as a delicious meal.

Regular meetings will resume on the 10th of January 2018.