Category Archives: Talks

The Great Sale of Wetherby

On the 12th of February the Forum welcomed Victor Hawkins from Wetherby Historical Trust.

His talk was titled The Great Sale of Wetherby and described the occasion in 1824 when all property in our town was auctioned by its owner the Duke of Devonshire to obtain funds to settle gambling debts (it is believed).

Victor started by listing the various owners from the town’s establishment in Anglo-Saxon times to the time of the sale. He circulated a copy of the sale documents, pointing out the fanciful descriptions contained.

He went through a few of the prices paid for various properties, the most expensive being a package of the two corn mills at 8,100 guineas and the cheapest being Bishopgate, a large slum tenement building on the site of the present day Bridgefoot Gardens, at 410 guineas.

The whole sale raised 198,476 guineas for the Duke, estimated to be worth £73 million by modern standards. Victor fielded many questions from Forum members particularly about who the purchasers were. Some were tenants of the properties many of whom were declared bankrupt the following year.

Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks, enthusiastically supported by the members.

The Actor, Singer, Medics and a Solicitor

On the 5th of February the Forum welcomed its guest speaker Lesley Newnham, a local resident who has always been interested in her area, particularly the city of Leeds.

One place of interest has been Beckett Street Cemetery which was under threat from building development until given protected status after protests by local activists. Lesley’s exploration of the cemetery revealed many graves of celebrities and she has researched into the lives of a number of them, some of whom she featured in her talk titled The Actor, Singer, Medics and a Solicitor.

The actor was John Langford Pritchard who was a celebrated actor in the mid-nineteenth century both locally and nationally and whose most notable achievement was the introduction of Shakespeare’s plays into Scotland.

The singer was Joshua Cawthra who sang and led choirs in cathedrals around the country but was best known for the choir which he led in Leeds Parish Church.

The medics were the Price family led by William Price, a former naval surgeon who left the navy to become a leading surgeon in Leeds. In 1831he was a member of a team of local medics who set up the Leeds Medical School. He was followed by two of his sons, Henry William Price and William Nicholson Price who became apothecaries, a highly lucrative profession which established the power of the Price family.

Finally the solicitor was John Hope Shaw, three times Lord Mayor of Leeds who was instrumental in the establishment of Leeds Town Hall.

After questions from members about the Town Hall and Victorian cemeteries Forum chairman Mike Earle thanked Lesley Newnham for a well-researched talk

New Challenges UK 1964-1997

For the Forum’s meeting on the 22nd of January the guest speaker was David Davies.

In a very varied career David had, among other things,served in the Army, worked as an engineer and as a manager for RollsRoyce and lectured in business management.

His talk was titled New Challenges UK 1964-1997 and was a comprehensive political history of the UK between the years mentioned.

His talk began with the death of Winston Churchill which he classed as the closure of a chapter of British history. We then entered the era of Wilson Labour and Heath Conservative governments which included industrial unrest resulting in the three-day week, the Grosvenor Square riots against American involvement in Vietnam and produced notable celebrities such as Germaine Greer and Arthur Scargill.

David included his analysis of the performance of British industry with respect to labour relations and management performance. After Callaghan had a short spell as Prime Minister, in 1979 we entered the Margaret Thatcher era which lasted till 1990 and included problems with the car manufacturer British Leyland and a number of violent incidents connected with terrorism.

Particularly well-remembered is the Falklands war.

David’s last subject was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the various personalities involved.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked David Davies for a fascinating talk and complimented him on delivering it without notes.

Inside China

On the 29th of January 49 Forum members gathered at the Church Centre to welcome the guest speaker Jane McKeown whose talk was titled Inside China.

Her daughter is a fluent Mandarin speaker who was a volunteer with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and worked as an English teacher in the city of Xian. Jane spent a month staying with her daughter in her teacher’s accommodation in the Xian university and in her talk described the life of the students who were in general from an under-privileged background but saw the learning of English as the key to advancement enabling them to gain permission to leave China.

She visited and stayed at the homes of her students which often involved travelling long distances on local buses in very basic conditions. Jane highlighted the differences between the modern perception of life in China as modern and sophisticated and the simple life enjoyed by the majority of the largely rural population which she witnessed.

She also stressed the difference in outlook of the Chinese to the Western world where the Chinese regard their country as “the tummy button of the world”.

All organisations are expected to be led by Chinese nationals which gives problems for Christians and Muslims.

Forum members took part in a lively question and answer session before Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Jane McKeown for a most interesting talk.

Some British Sporting Heroes of Mine

The Forum re-assembled on the 8th of January after its Christmas break.

The first guest speaker for the new session was Neil Ramshaw who is the Secretary of the Harlow Forum and brought New Year’s greetings from his members. Neil’s talk was titled Some British Sporting Heroes of Mine in which he described the life and achievements of sportsmen whose careers he had followed.

His surprising first choice was Jackie Pallo, a professional wrestler who featured in ITV’s Saturday afternoon programmes during the seventies and eighties which Neil watched with his father.

He followed with Christopher Brasher, an athlete most famous for acting as a pace-maker for Roger Bannister’s first four-minute mile and for co-founding the London Marathon.

Although not a great fan of motorsport Neil featured John Surtees in his list because he was the only person to be world champion on both two and four wheels.

Neil followed with Roger Utley from Rugby Union, the runner Brendan Foster, Ray Reardon from snooker and Henry Cooper the celebrated boxer, before time forced him to finish.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Neil for a trip down memory lane.

Australia and New Zealand by Thumb

On the 27th of November Angela Beaumont travelled from Driffield to talk to the Forum about travelling around Australia and New Zealand by Thumb.

The talk described a visit around the two Southern Hemisphere countries she and a friend enjoyed in 1980 illustrated by a stunning selection of photographs. In the main they travelled around by hitch-hiking although other methods were employed when necessary. They landed in Australia in Perth in Western Australia where they took part-time jobs whilst hitch-hiking around the state.

They then caught the Indian Pacific Railway which took three days to take them to Sydney. There they found work to finance the rest of their tour, Angela working as a secretary for the telephone company STC. After viewing the many attractions of the area they hitch-hiked to northern Queensland where they joined a bus tour into the Outback.

This tour lasted many weeks taking in the Northern Territory and travelling through the centre of the country to South Australia. They then moved back to Sydney (having spent a year in Australia) from where they took a flight to New Zealand.

From the warmth of Australia they were surprised by how cold New Zealand felt. They toured the North Island before catching a ferry to the South Island. Whilst there they took a flight in a light aircraft over the snow-covered mountains before spending a month working on a remote farm.

They then returned to the North Island before moving on to Fiji which is the subject of another talk.

Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Angela Beaumont for a fascinating talk which was enthusiastically supported by the members.

The Golden Age of Radio Comedy

On the 30th of October 48 members attended the Forum meeting in the church centre, the largest number for the current season.

The guest speaker was Geoff Twentyman from Bradford whose subject was The Golden Age of Radio Comedy. This trip down memory lane described the development of comedy programmes from the early days of radio in the 1920s to the 1960s with Geoff concentrating on five of his favourites from the period 1945 to 1960. Each description included pictures of the stars and an audio recording of an excerpt from the show.

The first programme was Take It from Here which featured Jimmy Edwards, Joy Nicholls and Dick Bentley although Joy, a singer and comedienne, was soon replaced by Alma Cogan and June Whitfield.

The second programme was Educating Archie which featured Peter Brough and his ventriloquists dummy Archie Andrews. Brough’s skill as a ventriloquist was best featured on radio.

The third programme was The Goon Show. The original programme starred Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers although Bentine dropped out after the first series. We then moved on to Hancock’s Half Hour which featured Tony Hancock and some equally famous co-stars such as Sid James and Kenneth Williams.

The final programme was the Al Read Show which was a one man show featuring Al Read in many domestic situations.

Forum Vice Chairman Duncan proposed a vote of thanks to Geoff Twentyman for a highly entertaining presentation.

West Yorkshire Police Economic Crime Unit

On the 23rd of October the Forum welcomed as guest speaker Kay Bainbridge who works as a police civilian with West Yorkshire Police Economic Crime Unit in Wakefield.

Kay’s job title is Victim Care and Prevention Officer and her talk was on Fraud Prevention. She described her role in fraud prevention and the operation of Action Fraud, a national reporting system operated by the City of London Police.

Forum members were asked how many of them had been the victims of computer fraud and a number admitted to this. Kay then analysed the methods of computer fraudsters and cold-calling telephone fraudsters. She advised members on ways to recognise fraudulent e-mails and the situations where victims are likely to lose considerable amounts of money.

Kay also detailed how members should recognise and deal with cold-callers. The best advice was – Ring Off!! Another modern fraud is Money Mules when victims are tempted into money laundering by the promise of large amounts of money being put into their accounts although the victims are mostly young people and they may suffer serious legal consequences.

A lively discussion followed until Forum Vice-Chairman Duncan Verity was forced to close the meeting by proposing a vote of thanks to Kay Bainbridge and her helper Liz Dixon.

Famous for 12 Minutes

On the 9th of October the Forum welcomed Malcolm Johnson as guest speaker. His talk was titled “Famous for 12 Minutes? (A reality TV experience)”.

The title was based on a famous Andy Warhol quotation – everyone is famous for 15 minutes, the difference in time being explained by reality TV being interrupted by commercial breaks.

Malcolm, a 65-year-old retired teacher, did not drive a car, the family driving duties being carried out by his wife. During a party at which he drank a few beers he accepted a challenge to compete in a TV reality programme called Undriveables in which non-drivers were taught to drive and took their test in a very short time.

Of the 12,000 applicants 12 were accepted including Malcolm. Being an ex-teacher Malcolm passed the theory examination with ease and he then signed a contract with the production company. The conditions attached were far-reaching and strict but the participants were paid only £1.

Malcolm showed a recording of the show which was shown on ITV between two episodes of Coronation Street. The driver training around the streets of Liverpool included many mistakes and Malcolm did not expect to pass his test but he did, the only one of the twelve participants to do so. This was proved by the fact that he had driven himself to the meeting.

Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Malcolm Johnson for a most entertaining morning.

The Great Train Robbery

The Forum’s Vice Chairman Duncan Verity has a large collection of video presentations with which he occasionally entertains members as an alternative to employing a guest speaker.

For the meeting on the 2nd of October he selected a feature titled The Great Train Robbery which dealt with the famous occasion on the 8th of August 1963 when £2.6 million in used banknotes was stolen from a secure railway carriage on the West Coast main line in Buckinghamshire.

The video was unusual in that it featured a commentary by Bruce Reynolds who was the leader of the gang of robbers and had planned the enterprise. The robbery went according to plan except that one of the robbers seriously assaulted the train driver.

The gang returned to their hideout, a nearby farmhouse, before sharing out the cash and dispersing. Reynolds had arranged for the farmhouse to be burnt down but this didn’t happen which left much evidence which enabled the police to arrest all the gang except for Reynolds who escaped to Mexico along with his family.

However, when funds ran short, he returned to England to continue his criminal career and he was arrested by the police.

After members added their reminiscences Forum Chairman Mike Earle thanked Duncan for providing excellent entertainment for the meeting.