Category Archives: Talks

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.   

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.