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Welcome to Wetherby’s Mens Forum. You can learn about our organisation from the menu choices shown above while reports will appear below in chronological order, newest first. You can filter these articles by using the Category dropdown menu on the right.


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.

In Grandmother’s Footsteps

On the 10th of October the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Alan Hemsworth who had travelled from Settle.  Alan entertained the members with a talk about the Yorkshire dialect which he titled In Grandmother’s Footsteps.

He was brought up in Pudsey and, as a boy, was a regular visitor to his grandmother’s house which was a typical terrace house – two up and two down with an outside “privy”.

From his grandmother he learnt a great number of Yorkshire words and phrases which he passed on to the Forum members and explained the source of the words from the original Anglo-Saxon and compared them with words in modern German and Danish.

Although England abounds with local accents actual dialects are dying out, only being of interest to academics.   Alan has accumulated many poems written in the Yorkshire dialect and he finished his talk with a selection delivered in true Yorkshire.

Chairman Mike Earle thanked Alan Hemsworth for a most entertaining talk.

Forum Deputy Chairman Duncan Verity has arranged an evening event for Sunday the 14th of October in the form of a buffet meal and film show for Forum members and their guests.  This takes place at Wetherby Golf Club when the film featured is The Glen Miller Story.


Keeley Donovan

The Forum’s Speaker Finder John Spinner was a school teacher in Grimsby during his working life.  At the meeting on the 3rd of October he introduced one of his former pupils, Keeley Donovan, the BBC Look North television presenter.  Keeley began her television career at the age of 14 at a local channel in Grimsby and her presentation gave the Forum a light-hearted insight into her career so far.  She began her BBC career as a local reporter operating around Hull before being transferred to Leeds.

The BBC had begun a policy of presenting weather forecasts using reporters rather than meteorologists and Keeley was appointed in this role.  Since then she has expanded her career into general reporting and has appeared in national programmes such as Breaking Britain and Countryfile Diary. 

She illustrated her talk with short video clips taken from some of her appearances.  Currently Keeley is presenting Inside Out, a current affairs programme dealing with local issues, and she revealed to the Forum some of its coming items. 

A lively question and answer session followed which unfortunately had to be cut short so Keeley could keep a filming appointment in Sheffield. 

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Keeley for an entertaining talk. Her speaker’s fee will be donated to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.   

Yorkshire History Makers

On the 19th of September the Forum welcomed its guest speaker John Hargreaves from Halifax.  John is a retired teacher and a writer who has provided a number of entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies.  

The dictionary had been lacking in entries from the north and John has provided items to correct this deficit, a selection of which formed the basis of his talk titled Yorkshire History Makers.  

The first famous Yorkshireman was Wilfred Pickles, a native of Halifax who was a radio personality during WW2 and the years immediately after. He is best remembered for his radio programme Have a Go which was the first to feature ordinary people in a relaxed setting and was the first to give cash prizes (a big £3).  In later years Pickles became a character actor featuring in films and TV shows.

The next famous figure was Judge James Pickles, Wilfred’s nephew. In his youth he was rebellious and anti-authoritarian but obtained legal qualifications and eventually became a circuit judge. He became notorious for some controversial sentencing and left the law to become a playwright and novelist.  

Harry Corbett was the third person featured. Over many years he presented a children’s TV programme featuring a bear glove puppet called Sooty which he had bought in Blackpool for 7/6d.

The last person featured was Jane Tomlinson who, although suffering from cancer herself, raised large sums of money for cancer charities. Although she had shown no interest in sport at school most of her exploits involved sporting achievement.  

Forum Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to John Hargreaves for a most interesting talk.

The Geology of the North Yorks Moors

On the 12th of September the Forum members gathered for the first meeting of the new season.  The Forum meets at the Wetherby Church Centre every Wednesday morning from September to March (with a short break in December) and new members are always made welcome.  

The guest speaker for the first meeting was Roger Osborne from Pickering whose chosen subject was The Geology of the North Yorks Moors. This area is regarded by geologists as being of special significance due to the surface being formed of three layers of Jurassic rock.  

Over the last 100 million years the rocks have been tilted by the action of movement of the earth’s crust exposing the ends of these layers. This has resulted in such features as Sutton Bank and The Hole of Horcum.

Roger described why a large aquifer has developed under the Vale of Pickering which provides the bulk of the drinking water for the surrounding area and  explains why the proposal to frack in the area is so controversial.

Glacial erosion by various Ice Ages has also had the effect of changing the direction of the local rivers and deepening their valleys.

After a lively question and answer session the Forum’s Deputy Chairman Duncan Verity proposed a vote of thanks to Roger Osborne for a most interesting presentation.

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.