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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.

Formula 1 British Champions

On the 13th of February the Forum welcomed Graham Read as guest speaker.

Graham is a motoring writer and Formula 1 correspondent who has entertained Forum members a number of times speaking on motoring topics.

This time his subject was Formula 1 British Champions.

There have been nine World Formula 1 champions from Britain but Graham also included a tenth name Stirling Moss who won 16 grand prix races but never the world championship, one year failing by one point. The list began with Mike Hawthorn who won in 1958 and ended with Lewis Hamilton, the current champion. Graham gave us the life and career history of each champion.

One champion John Surtees had also been a motor cycle champion and Graham included in his presentation a video of part of the Isle of Man TT from a bike-mounted camera travelling at full speed around the circuit.

At the end of his talk Graham gave us a list of three young British drivers, any of which could be a future world champion.

Members then questioned Graham about various aspects of the motor racing scene before Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks enthusiastically supported by Forum members.

Sammy Cahn

Before the meeting on the 6th of February the Forum’s speaker finder John Spinner discovered that the scheduled speaker would not be available. At short notice he arranged for an old friend of the Forum Stuart Atkins to speak and his chosen subject was the songwriter Sammy Cahn.

Stuart has a special relationship with the work of his subject having, in 1991 written a show called There Goes That Song Again featuring Sammy Cahn’s songs which ran at the Leeds Civic Theatre before going on tour throughout Britain.

Cahn was a lyricist who worked with many partners but mainly Jules Styne and James van Heusen. Frank Sinatra recorded 87 songs written by Cahn and Stuart played a number of these as well as performances by Barbra Streisand, Nat King Cole and other equally talented singers.

With four different partners he wrote 26 songs nominated for Oscars including four which received the award. Stuart had telephone discussions with Sammy Cahn when writing his show and arranged to meet him on his next visit to Britain, but he died before this could happen.

Mike Earle thanked Stuart for a morning of nostalgia.

A Question of Sport

The Forum’s meeting on the 30th of January began with the members standing in silent tribute to the late Fred Bingham, until recently a regular Forum attender.

The guest speaker was John Clithero who was visiting for the fourth time to talk about the television programme A Question of Sport.  John’s presentation required audience participation to test its sporting knowledge by identifying the pictures of the various sportsmen and women shown and Forum members joined in with gusto.

A Question of Sport began in 1968 when its presenter was David Vine and its two team captains were Cliff Morgan the Welsh rugby international and Henry Cooper the heavyweight boxer.

The first guests were footballers George Best and Tom Finney, England cricket captain Raymond Illingworth and international athlete Lilian Board. There have been over 650 programmes but only three presenters, David Vine, David Coleman and Sue Barker.

Team captains were changed regularly until 2008 when Matthew Dawson and Philip Tufnell were introduced and remain captains to this day.

The most frequent guest has been Steve Davis who has made more than 20 appearances.

John finished his presentation with a picture board quiz and his version of What Happened Next?

Forum Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks for a splendid morning’s entertainment.

Classic Pop and Humour videos

The Forum’s Deputy Chairman Duncan Verity has assembled a large collection of entertaining videos with which he occasionally entertains the Forum’s members.

For the Forum’s second meeting of 2019 on the16th of January he put together a selection which he titled Classic Pop and Humour.  Starting with the Three Tenors singing O Sole Mio, for the next hour we enjoyed the music of many of our favourite singers and comedy from the Two Ronnies and a rare non-singing duet featuring Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra before the final item, a quirky comedy band featuring two trombones whose slides were operated by the bare feet of a third person.

Chairman Mike Earle complimented Duncan in putting together a presentation with something for everyone which had brightened up a dull day.

The Forum continues to attract an average attendance of around fifty but the size of the venue at the Church Centre means that more members could easily be accommodated and would be made very welcome.



Wheatfields Hospice

On the 23rd of January the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Charlene Graham, a fundraiser from the Sue Ryder organisation whose particular interest is the Wheatfields Hospice in Headingley.     

Charlene began by relating the history of the building which was established in 1859 as a family home called Wheatfield Lodge. During and after the Second World War it housed various government and military organisations until it became a hospice in 1978 under the wing of the Sue Ryder organisation.  Charlene described the various building projects which have brought the building into its present form although not without some setbacks. In 1996 the building was damaged by a flood caused by a burst water main whose repair cost £100,000 which was raised by a charity appeal. This appeal also enabled a new therapy unit to be constructed.     

Charlene went on to describe the work of the hospice which houses 18 in-patients, and also provides day care, for people over the age of 80 who are referred by their GP or the local hospital.  

Forum members then asked questions about the work of the hospice before Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks.

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.