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The presence of ghosts is an important factor in the tourist industry of York and the most haunted building is alleged to be the Treasurer’s House.
The Forum’s guest speaker on the 4th of March was Glennis Whyte, a volunteer with the National Trust at the Treasurer’s House, whose subject was Ghostly Tales of Treasurer’s House. She assured members that she had an open mind as to the truth of her stories.
She began by relating the history of the house which had been owned by many people before being bought by Frank Green, a wealthy industrialist from Wakefield.
In 1930 he gave the property to the National Trust with certain restrictions on its use. Breaches of these conditions seemed to have been followed by unexplained occurrences such as movement of furniture and items witnessed by members of the staff and visitors.
Many people have reported seeing figures on the stairs who disappeared without reason. One particular instance involves a lady who invites children to sit on a chair, this figure only appears to children.
Finally Glennis mentioned the most famous ghosts when a young worker in the cellar witnessed a troop of Roman legionnaires marching by. This vision has been reported by other witnesses. Members joined in a discussion on the existence of ghosts, some being more sceptical than others.
Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Glennis for a fascinating talk.
The Forum occasionally organises a meeting where the speaker is a well-known personality and the members invite guests to join them to enjoy the entertainment.
On the 28th of February the speaker was Amanda Owen the Yorkshire Shepherdess.
99 members and guests filled the Church Centre and were not disappointed by Amanda’s superb presentation. Her talk was illustrated by pictures of her farm at Ravenseat in Swaledale taken by herself or one of her children.
Amanda described how her life progressed from living in Huddersfield to marrying Clive, a sheep farmer in Swaledale and producing a family of nine children. Her ambition in life had always been work in the countryside after reading James Heriot’s book If Only They Could Talk and she was working in the Lake District on any farm work she could obtain when Clive asked her to help with a problem with one of his sheep.
Ravenseat Farm is high up in the hills and is half-way along the coast-to-coast walk. Catering for the passing walkers produces a useful supplementary income because an estimated 16,000 walkers pass each year.
Amanda appears regularly on television and has written a number of books about life on a sheep farm, all of which have featured in the Sunday Times Best-Sellers list.
Amanda invited questions from the audience which resulted in an interesting discussion about the effects of global warming and mistakes made in draining the moorland.
Forum Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks and Amanda signed copies of her books for the audience.
On the 19th of February the Forum’s guest speaker was Gillian Waterswho had spoken previously on topics of medieval history.
On this occasion her subject was Richard the Third, Hero or Tyrant.
At the outset Gillian admitted that she quite liked her subject and she started by destroying some preconceptions about him. Modern opinion is based on Shakespeare’s play which is based on Tudor propaganda (Gillian’s description).
This portrays him as an evil monster with many physical deformities. Although he suffered from curvature of the spine, in other respects his appearance was unremarkable. Gillian detailed the complicated history of the fifteenth century when the houses of Lancaster and York vied for the position of King of England until Richard, supported mainly by landowners and troops from the North of England, became Richard the Third. This included the murder of the two young prices in the Tower of London although there is little proof that Richard was responsible for this. In 1485 Henry Tudor landed in Wales and marched into England at the head of his army.
Henry had no justifiable claim to be King being only distantly related to the royal line, but he defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth, slaying Richard on the battlefield. Richard’s body was carried to Leicester where it was buried in an obscure churchyard and laid undiscovered until recently uncovered under a carpark.
After questions from Forum members Chairman Mike Earle proposed a vote of thanks to Gillian Waters for a most interesting talk.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 6th of November fifty members of the Forum attended the weekly meeting to meet the guest speaker Veronica Bird MBE. Veronica spent her working life in the Prison Service reaching the rank of Governor, being the first female to be Governor of a male prison.
Her talk was titled Notorious Prisoners in which she described some of the more notable prisoners of modern times, many of whom she had met in her professional capacity. She began with some of the most famous female murderers beginning with Myra Hindley who she met at Holloway.
Veronica described Hindley as manipulative; she fell in love with a prison officer who helped her to organise her escape. This was successful but, on recapture, the officer received a six-year prison sentence.
Mary Bell murdered two little boys when she was ten years old and was in the prison system for many years. She was eventually released under an assumed name, a very rare practice.
Charlie Bronson was described as Britain’s most dangerous man and Ian Huntly, the Soham child killer, has applied to be allowed to change sex.
Veronica then described Britain’s worst miscarriage of justice in which Stefan Kiszko was imprisoned for sixteen years for murder although forensic evidence proved he could not possibly have committed the crime.
Veronica also included Harold Shipman and the Price Sisters (notorious IRA bombers) in her list of notorious prisoners.
The most unusual prisoner she encountered was Gary Powers, the spy-plane pilot who she met when visiting a Moscow prison.
Forum members asked many questions at the end of the talk before time pressure forced Chairman Mike Earle to close the meeting.