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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.

From Trackways to Motorways

On the 5th of December the Forum met for its last meeting of 2018 in the St James Church Centre.

The guest speaker was Tony Morris whose talk was titled From Trackways to Motorways (via a few potholes).

Tony traced the history of the highways and byways of England from prehistoric times to the present day.  After the early animal tracks and ridgeways the Roman invaders then established a network of 600 miles of quality roads which were seriously neglected in medieval times.

In 1663 Turnpike Trusts were established which resulted in new roads being built, although the resulting tolls were unpopular and the roads were not well maintained.  In the early 1900s a new system of roads was started to accommodate the motor car.

Between 1945 and 1958 the number of motor vehicles increased from 2.5 million to 8 million resulting in the modern motorway system being established which now extends to 2,000 miles.

Tony then turned to the controversial subject of potholes and how they should be repaired.  Finally, he dealt with another controversy – speed limits and their enforcement.

Duncan Verity proposed a vote of thanks for an interesting talk.

The Forum’s Christmas lunch is arranged for the 12th of December at the Bridge Inn Walshford when entertainment will be provided by the Daytones vocal group.

Meetings will be resumed on the 9th of January.

Records Banned by the BBC

On the 28th 0f November the Forum’s guest speaker was David Sibbald whose talk had the intriguing title of Records Banned by the BBC.

In earlier days it was the BBC’s practise to ban records for a variety of reasons. The reasons can be classified under the headings of suggestive lyrics, unacceptable religious references, lyrics which may damage morale in wartime and references to commercial products.

Also a less obvious reason was the use of melodies by classical composers which involved the banning of instrumental records by bands such as the Glen Miller Band. This was due to the BBC’s Head of Music in the 1940s being the composer Sir Arthur Bliss who believed that classical music should not be used for profit.

David illustrated his talk with short extracts of the records involved starting with Henry Hall’s Radio Times (a commercial publication).

In the USA there was no such restrictions but eventually it was realised that the BBC’s rules were affecting record sales and there are many instances of English versions of songs being produced with slight changes to the American words.

Some of Cole Porter’s songs were, however, beyond redemption.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked David Sibbald for an entertaining and amusing talk.

Travels with the United Nations

On the 21st of November the Forum welcomed Brian Taylor to speak about Travels with the United Nations.

After a career with West Yorkshire Police where he was Head of the Drugs Squad he joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as Chief of the Anti-Trafficking Section.  He summarised the history of the United Nations from its foundation in 1945 with 50 member states to the present day with 193 members employing 44,000 people.

The section in which he was employed is based in Vienna and investigates drug and human trafficking as well as money laundering and terrorism.   His role involved travelling all around the world and he described a selection of the exotic and disturbed places which he had visited.

The two most disturbed places were Iraq and Afghanistan, at the latter he visited a UN facility which was bombed shortly afterwards with considerable loss of life to its staff.

He also visited Bosnia and witnessed the extensive damage to Sarajevo and the dreadful poverty of its inhabitants.  He visited the “Stan” states in Central Asia where the UN set up an organisation similar to Europol to enable exchange of police information.

A lively question and answer session followed which Chairman Mike Earle had to curtail to allow members to go home.  Mike thanked Brian Taylor for a fascinating talk about his very interesting life.

The Changing Face of Newspapers

On the 14th 0f November the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Jane McKeown, a former journalist.

Jane had chosen The Changing Face of Newspapers as her subject and began by informing the members that she would be dealing with the serious topic of freedom of speech where the UK rated as 60th best in the world.

The first instance of a journalist being criticised by Parliament for revealing unpleasant truths was in 1760 when John Wilks of the North Briton revealed that the words of George II were being altered by Parliament.

Jane then gave us a summary of how journalism has changed along with the improvements in communication, the changes in printing technology and the introduction of the world wide web. Jane then detailed the problems to the modern journalist caused by political interference and other difficulties the press is experiencing in simply surviving.

After members had joined in the discussion Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Jane McKeown for a fascinating and intriguing talk and complimented her on her passionate delivery.

The Munich Air Crash

The Forum’s Deputy Chairman Duncan Verity has an impressive collection of video documentaries, mainly connected with aviation.

At the meeting on the 24th of October he introduced a video titled “The Munich Air Crash” which referred to the serious incident on the 6th of February 1958 which involved the famous Manchester United football team known as the Busby Babes.

The team was returning from Belgrade where they had been playing in the European Champions Cup when their flight called into Munich to refuel.  In wintery weather conditions the plane, a British European Airways chartered flight, failed in its attempt to take off and crashed into a farmhouse at the end of the runway.  23 of the 44 people on board suffered fatal injuries.

The blame for the crash was firmly placed on the pilot Captain James Thain by the German investigators and the video examined the justice of this verdict.  Eventually the enquiry was re-opened and the cause was finally placed on the failure of the airport staff to clear slush from the runway although Captain Thain never piloted another flight.

The 48 Forum members present were rather subdued by this tragic story.

Wetherby U3A

On the 31st of October the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Leslie Newnham, one of the founders of Wetherby U3A.

She started with a brief history of the organisation which is based on one of the same name started in Toulouse, France.  This was witnessed by three English friends who thought that, with some changes it would work well in this country.

Where the French version involved professionals lecturing to retired members the British variation involves only the retired volunteers.

Leslie had been a U3A member before moving into the Wetherby area where she found that the nearest branch was in Harrogate.  Having met Mary Bentham the two ladies established the Wetherby branch which now has around 1,300 members.  It supports 106 groups whose activities cover a wide variety of subjects including cycling, walking, singing, playing the ukulele and folk dancing.

Many members of the Forum are also members of U3A but this did not deter them from taking part in a lively discussion and those not already members showed a great deal of interest.

Chairman Mike Earle thanked Leslie for a very helpful presentation.

You and Your Mattress

For the Forum’s meeting held on the 7th of November the guest speaker was a retired nurse Denise Adlard.  Her talk was titled You and Your Mattress and started with a description and the history of that basic item of domestic life.

The name comes from an Arabic word meaning something thrown down, mattresses being brought into the western world by returning crusaders.  Denise described the various types of mattresses developed over the years and her difficulties encountered when trying to buy a replacement, a process recommended doing every eight years.

The subject of the talk then turned to sleeping and Forum members were invited to reveal their sleeping habits such as the length of a night’s sleep, single or double bed and the need for a daytime nap.

Denise stressed the need for plenty of sleep and compared man’s sleep pattern with that of other creatures.  She ended her talk with the well-known saying – sleep tight and mind the bugs don’t bite – which refers to the design of old bedding and has no connection to insects found in beds.

Deputy Chairman Duncan Verity thanked Denise for an informative and amusing talk.

The Wars of the Roses – a Tale of Two Halves

On the 17th of October the Forum welcomed Gillian Waters who entertained members with a talk titled The Wars of the Roses (a Tale of Two Halves). Gillian teaches at York University and has also worked at the Leeds Armouries.

The first point she made was that the War of the Roses was nothing to do with the rivalry between the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire but was caused by the competition between two dynasties for power. These dynasties were headed by two sons of King Edward III, the Dukes of Lancaster and York. The war started in 1455 with the Battle of St. Albans and finished in 1485 but in these 30 years there were only 428 days of campaigning and many parts of the country were not touched by the civil war. Gillian described how battles were fought in medieval times, each side employing the same (English) tactics resulting in stalemate, illustrating her talk with pictures of medieval warfare.

Eventually the two sides met at Towton where occurred the bloodiest battle to ever take place on British soil, it being one of the only two British battles to last more than four hours.

Richard III (a Yorkist) took the throne in 1483 and Gillian mentioned the famous case of the Princes in the Tower whose murder, she believes, was not caused by Richard but by Margaret of York who had ambitions for her son Henry Tudor who eventually invaded Wales and defeated (and killed) Richard at Bosworth Field bringing the War of the Roses to a close.

Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks for an excellent talk.

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.