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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.

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.

Our Lives–Our Times 1945–64

On the 27th of March the Forum welcomed as guest speaker David Davies whose talk was titled Our Lives–Our Times 1945–64.

Illustrated by an interesting selection of photographs, the talk covered politics and life in general in the UK for the period mentioned in the title.

David commenced with the conferences at the end of WW11 when the participants changed due to death and the British general election, the only constant being Joseph Stalin.  This resulted in the Soviet domination of Central Europe for many years afterwards.

At this time the UK was virtually bankrupt, rationing continuing till 1954 and bomb damage remaining into the late 1950s.  In 1947 there, was freezing weather which resulted in 25,000 deaths. Smog was a regular occurrence, in 1952 it resulted in 4,000 deaths in London and in 1953 North Sea flooding caused many casualties.

David mentioned celebrities from the period and some notable events such as the Coronation, the breaking of the sound barrier and the ascent of Everest.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked David Davies for a very interesting and informative talk.

James Heriot

On the 13th of March the Forum held its annual open meeting when members may invite guests to enjoy the guest speaker.

This year the featured speaker was Jim Wight, the son of James Heriot who wrote the books detailing his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales. Heriot’s real name was Alfred Wight and his vet’s practice was situated in Thirsk and Jim explained that his father changed his name and location to try and preserve his anonymity.

However, he sold over 100 million copies of his books and Thirsk’s James Heriot Museum has become a major tourist destination, particularly for American visitors.

Jim followed his father to become a vet in Thirsk and his talk featured a number of amusing stories involving his dealings with the local farming community.

One of the main characters in the James Heriot books was his business partner Siegfried Farnon, whose name was actually Donald Sinclair, and Jim ended his talk with a few tales about this unique person.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Jim Wight for a highly entertaining morning and Forum members and their guests joined in enthusiastic applause.

Jim Wight donates all his speaker’s fees to charity.


On the 6th of March the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Tony Burkitt whose chosen subject was Ireland.  

Tony’s interests are archaeology, architecture, history, wild flowers and walking, each of which was covered as we enjoyed a travelogue around southern Ireland starting and finishing in Dublin and visiting tourist hot-spots such as Kerry, Connemara, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher.  

He illustrated his talk with a series of slides which showed the wild rugged Irish landscape and its wide variety of ancient Celtic and early Christian sites.

Whilst in Ireland Tony attempted to climb each of the 12 peaks which rise above 3,000 feet but he failed due to inclement weather and access problems.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Tony for an enjoyable talk.  

Forum members look forward to the meeting scheduled for the 13th of March when we welcome Jim Wight, the vet son of TV vet James Heriot, who is to talk about his father. This is an open meeting when members invite guests to share the meeting.

The Yorkshire Dales – a Resident’s View

For the Forum’s meeting on the 27th of February 57 members attended, the largest turn-out for the current season.

The guest speaker was Geoff Queen who had travelled from his home in Kettlewell in Wharfedale. The title of his talk was The Yorkshire Dales – a Resident’s View in which he concentrated on his home village and the immediate neighbourhood.

He listed the advantages and disadvantages in living in such an idyllic setting.

The main advantages are the scenery, the peace and quiet, the community life and care for the elderly; the disadvantages are the weather (twice as much rain falls here as falls on Leeds), the poor transport facilities and the midges.

The village has 150 dwellings although half of these are holiday homes which are empty for long periods resulting in a resident population of only 140.

Geoff then showed a series of slides showing the area in summer and winter conditions and also the two main events of the year, the Scarecrow Festival and the Plastic Duck Race.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Geoff whose speaker’s fee will be donated to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

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.