Our Probus Christmas Lunch was held on Wednesday 19th December.
A great time was had by members and their guests. A few photos from the event can be found in our Gallery.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting 5th December 2018
Our Chairman, Ray Morris spoke to us about “The Mount Washington Cog Railway – ‘The Railway to the Moon’” which he illustrated with wonderful pictures and video clips.
New Hampshire in the USA, known as the Granite State, is the size of Wales but with only one third of the population. It is home to the Presidential Range of mountains which contains 15 peaks, four of which are over 4000 feet. Tallest of these, at 6,288 feet, is Mount Washington which has spectacular views, is home to 63 species of arctic plants and arguably the worst weather in the world. In 1932 a weather observatory was built on the summit. In July 1944 the Bretton Woods Conference to set up post World War II financial arrangements was held at the nearby Mount Washington Hotel. The native Abenaki people regarded the summit of the mountain an being the dwelling place of the gods, but in 1642 it was climbed for the first time by Darby Field to demonstrate that this was not the case. In the mid-19th Century two hotels were built on the summit. In 1869 tourism in the area was further enhanced by the opening of the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
After briefly reviewing some early railway developments, Ray introduced us to the engineering genius Sylvester Marsh, known as “Crazy” Marsh. Marsh had got lost on the summit in 1847 and in 1858 obtained a charter to build a railway to the summit, though the authorities said that “he might as well build a railway to the moon”. He first built a clockwork model to test the pushing power required. In 1866 he ran a demonstration on a 600 ft test track and on 3rd July 1869 “Old Peppersass”, with a vertical boiler, was the first locomotive to climb Mount Washington. The railway has a toothed rail track with a cog wheel on the locomotive. The track rises 3719 feet in 3¼ miles with an average gradient of 25% and a maximum of 37.41%. It is the second steepest in the world after the Swiss Pilatus narrow gauge railway. Even the old Canadian railway at Kicking Horse pass only had a 4.5% gradient and needed four engines. The entire length of the Mount Washington track is on trestles.
Men working on the track invented slide boards, fitting over the cog rack, to enable themselves, their tools, and even their dogs, to get home as quickly as possible at knocking off time. The average descent took between 10 and 15 minutes but the record was 2 minutes and 45 seconds – a speed of 60 mph! It was banned in 1906 after a fatal accident.
Early locomotives had vertical boilers but by 1908 they all had horizontal boilers. Until 1910 they were all fired by wood. A train consists of a locomotive pushing an uncoupled single passenger car capable of taking 70 people. The ascent takes approximately 65 minutes at 3mph while the descent takes 40 minutes at 4.5mph. 2008 saw the introduction of the first biodiesel locomotive. In the 1940s switches and sidings were introduced to allow trains to pass. Originally these were manually operated, but are now powered by batteries which are recharged by solar panels. In 1983 restoration of the locomotives and the aging track system began and by 1994 a new base station had been built. The cog railway is a national Historic Engineering Landmark. Ray finally showed us a fine video clip of the entire journey up the mountain showing windy and low visibility conditions on the summit.
After a lively question session the vote of thanks was given by Don William.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting 21st November
Our Speaker was Elizabeth Siberry talking about “More Crickhowell Characters”: one lawyer and antiquarian, three artists and one very courageous woman.speaker,
Abraham Kirkman was a lawyer who pursued his career in London but was a keen fisherman and a notable antiquarian and man of letters corresponding with well-known men of the time including Charles Dickens. He spent his holidays in Crickhowell during the 1820s and 30s. In the 1840s he spent his holidays with his antiquarian friend Sir Samuel Meyrick who lived at Goodrich Court in Herefordshire. On one occasion Kirkman is said to have walked from Goodrich to Crickhowell and stayed at the Bear. After Meyrick’s death in 1849 Kirkman bought the Neuadd at Llangorse which he enlarged. He died in 1866 and there is a memorial to him in Llangorse church.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries a number of artists came to the area. Thomas Hofland who in 1848 wrote and illustrated a delightful book entitled “A British Angling Manual”, came regularly to fish on the Usk and took lodgings in Crickhowell, claiming that “there is no more delightful town.” and that the Usk is “everything a trout or salmon fisher could desire”.
Alexander Frederick Rolfe was a painter who, born in London in 1814, moved to Swansea in the 1840s but in 1845 came to Crickhowell under the patronage of Sir Joseph Bailey. He was one of a family of four fishing artists. Elizabeth showed us examples of his charming paintings and engravings of local scenes.
Born in 1791, John Frederick Tennant was inspired by the beauty of the Usk valley. He lived with his family in Llangattock Place where he was visited by a group of artist friends. He became a church warden of St Catwg’s Church in the 1860s. Elizabeth read some graphic descriptions of his work. When he died in 1872 it was said that “he never said an unkind word.”
William Malaphant, 1862 – 1932, was born in Brynmawr but emigrated with his family to Pennsylvania, On his father’s death the family returned to London where he was apprenticed to an engraver and later attended the Westminster School of Art. He became an illustrator and also exhibited at the Royal Academy, including a painting called “Salmon leaping a Welsh Brook”. He was a regular visitor to Llanbedr and is buried in Llanbedr churchyard.
Joan Cole-Hamilton, born in 1917, was the only daughter of the Rector of Llangattock. In 1938 she joined the Foreign Office as a shorthand typist and in 1939 was posted to Oslo where she became part of a small MI6 team. The team withdrew north relaying messages to London in the face of the Nazi advance protected by four Norwegian soldiers. They were evacuated on 30th April 1940. She was awarded an MBE in the 1941 New Years Honours. She then worked for the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, and attended the famous Casablanca, Moscow and Dumbarton Oakes conferences with him. Returning from the San Francisco Conference on International Organisation on 4 July 1945, the Liberator aircraft in which she was travelling disappeared over the Atlantic and was never found. Her brother David also died in the naval battle of Circe in 1942.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting 7th November 2018
The Chairman introduced Dr. Naylor Firth who was to speak on New Zealand.
New Zealand, is known as “the Land of the Long White Cloud”, a phenomena that could be seen in many of the photos.
The population of approx. 4.4 million, a little more than that of Wales which is of similar land mass, is made up totally of immigrants. 600,000 Maoiris, who initially arrived in the 1300 hundreds from Indonesia and the Far East and those from Europe and elsewhere, who started arriving after Able Tazman, 1642, and James Cook, 1769. The first administrative site, or Capitol, was established in 1840 and named after the Earl of Aukland. The vessel in which the party arrived was a 3 mast barque, “The Anna Watson”, originally built at Brockweir, on the River Wye. The many places named after prominent historical British people hark back to the original european settlers.
New Zealand is positioned on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and has many volcanoes, particularly on the North Island. Earthquakes and tremors are numerous and most buildings are made of timer to withstand the many shocks experienced.
Indigenous flora and fauna are unique having developed in total isolation, Flax being an example, however, many foreign plants have been bought in, and in some cases, taken over. Lupins and nasturtiums, both foreign, stretch for miles, but so does gorse, a less popular import.
There were no indigenous mammals and all the birds were flightless, of which there were 115 species, 40% are now extinct. Those animal imports that have done most damage are possums, rats and mice. Of course, the largest group of imported animals are sheep, 32million of them!
Many railways were closed about the same time as those in Britain, only one passenger line exists down the length of each island and freight routes are at a minimum. Many lines were closed completely but several “Heritage Railways” have restarted for tourism. The ferry crossing between the two islands looks quite straight forward on the map but can be very rough!
The first Bungy Jump took place at Queens Town in 1987!
Overall impressions were, the country is dominated by sheep and rugby, if you’re Welsh, you are welcome above all other, and B & B’s are made of timber, single storey, and very welcoming.
After an lively question session the vote of thanks was given by Don Williams
A long and varied question time ensued with the Vote of Thanks by Geoff Williams.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting 17th October 2018
Our speaker, Richard Walker, spoke on: “The Role of the Police in an age of “Fluid Modernity”.”
We live in an age of change in which the greatest fear of the people is crime. Thus policing policy and methods continually have to respond to change. The steady rise in annual crime rates, from half a million in the 1950s to over six million in 2003 has worried successive governments. The increase in crime goes hand in hand with an increase in government power which in turn impacts on individuals’ freedom. The cost of justice increases correspondingly.
Modern society is constantly overthrowing tradition, culture and the nature of relationships. “Self-identity has moved from being a pilgrimage in search of meaning to tourism seeking experience.” We are a more selfish consumer society. This has consequences for the police who have to operate with the consent of the people. Richard then explained how he had experienced these changes during his career as a police officer: Describing the days of ‘beat policing’, the improvement in communications, the access to computerised information and the DNA databases. He described the problems of policing riot situations which spread following the St Paul’s Bristol riots in 1980. Following this, the |Scarman Report of 1984 emphasised the social context of policing.
Turning to the impact of the internet on policing, with particular reference to child pornography, Richard explained the huge implications of investigating an exploding number of potential offences, including the danger of social injustices such as the removal of children from parents and the risk of suicides in cases which might turn out to be innocent. At the same time historic cases would continue to emerge.
Past events such as the Hillsborough Disaster still haunted the police and diverted resources. But when thinking about the future of society, the power of policing should be a prime consideration. Reviewing this, Richard outlined the increase in violent crime including, knife crime, domestic violence, and sex offences. He put the level of terrorist offences into context, comparing present rates with those of the Northern Ireland era.. He underlined the extent to which surveillance impacted our lives and predicted increased use of personal surveillance devices such as body cameras and dash cams. Finally he discussed police leadership, commenting on the need for diversity and the need to retain grass roots connection with the people.
Aspirations for police Chiefs and Crime Commissioners are: to extol public and civic values, to reduce crime by concentrating on social issues, to protect the vulnerable, to police by consent and to maintain democratic accountability. Challenges for the future will be terrorism, violence, sexual offences, human trafficking, cyber-crime, drugs, alcohol, fraud and a range of social issues. Reviewing factors affecting the morale of the police, Richard said that financial challenges will remain and police officers will continue to experience social stress.
Following a number of questions, Graham Blackburn gave the Vote of Thanks.
The Autumn outing on 3rd October was to the Cider Museum in Hereford.
Eighteen members and wives enjoyed a pleasant visit to the Hereford Cider Museum in October. The cider museum was formed in 1973 to preserve the History of cider making. It is housed in the original factory building where Henry Percival Bulmer first started making cider. He, along with his brother Edward Frederick, created the largest cider making factory in the world. Sadly, the family business was sold to a multinational in the ‘70s.
However, the museum houses a collection of cider making memorabilia that tells the story of the development of commercial cider making. After, meeting in their café for morning coffee, we had a very interesting conducted of the museum by a very knowledgeable lady. Her presentation covered the history of cider from early beginning, the apples, the establishment of the Bulmer’s business, its expansion and how it built its market.
At the end if which, we were able to taste some samples of craft ciders that are still made by small producers in the area.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting. On 18th July 2018
The Chairman introduced the speaker, Ruth Richardson, writer, historian and archaeologist who spoke to us about Blanche Parry Confidante of Elizabeth I.
Starting with a faded copy of a portrait of Blanche Parry, Ruth explained that Blanche was stunning in her youth but never married and never had children. She was a role model for Elizabeth I and died in 1590 aged 82. Her sculpted memorial in Bacton church shows her together with Elizabeth I and includes the inscription “As a maid she served a maiden queen”.
Ruth explained the complexity of Welsh genealogy due to the changing of names between generations, nevertheless managing to trace Blanche Parry’s ancestry, revealing important connections with Abergavenny and Raglan castles and Dore Abbey. Her father Henry Miles was Lord of Brecon, Sheriff of Hereford and Steward of Dore Abbey. But the key person in her life was her aunt, Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy who took young Blanche to the Court with her when she became guardian to King Henry VIII’s children and both women were to have a great influence on all of them. Blanche was one of the three lady supporters allowed to Elizabeth when she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. She was to remain at her side for 56 years. Blanche was with Elizabeth at Hampton Court when she received news her accession and was at Elizabeth’s coronation. As chief gentlewoman of Elizabeth’s Privy chamber she had a key role when Elizabeth made royal progresses round the country. As a trusted confidante she was afforded great responsibilities including charge of the Queen’s jewels and, for a time, the Great Seal of England.
Although she never returned to Wales Blanche had property round Llangorse Lake and tried to establish an estate there for her nephew. It is possible that she was bilingual, and likely that she paid for the printing of the Morgan Bible, the first translation of the Bible into Welsh. Ruth finished with an account of the Bacton Cloth. Once one of Elizabeth’s ceremonial dresses and later altered to serve as an altar cloth at Bacton Church. It is the only one of Elizabeth’s dresses – out of more than 1000 –and the only example of ancient appliqued embroidery in the world to survive. Ruth spent some time exploring the symbolism of some of the quaint figures in the embroidery. The cloth is now at Hampton Court being restored and will be the focal point of a Tudor Exhibition there.
After a period of questions, the vote of thanks was given by Roger
The usual meeting on 20th June was replaced by an outing to Y Senedd and Cardiff Bay.
Ten members and five guests departed in several cars from Crickhowell Car Park at 0930.
After arrival in overcast and drizzly conditions, with limited visibility over Cardiff Bay, the party entered the Senedd Building through strict security screening. We were met by our guide, Richard, who briefed on the history of the surrounding area and the architectural concepts behind the Senedd building, stressing the use of natural, and where possible Welsh materials and the various ways in which the building was made eco-friendly. Members agreed that while the interior features are good, the external appearance of the building is unimpressive. Moving to the visitor’s gallery of the Assembly Chamber, our guide described the parliamentary procedures which apply in the Assembly.
After a break for coffee, the group were welcomed by Kirsty Williams, AM for Brecon and Radnor and Minister for Education, who discussed her priorities for education in Wales enthusiastically with members of the group.
After lunch at the Norwegian Church, the weather cleared to a bright sunny afternoon and the party embarked on a water bus tour of the bay and the lower reaches of the River Taf. The trip provided an excellent view of many iconic features of Cardiff Bay and the city and the commentator outlined the history of Cardiff as a port, stressing the environmental improvements that the barrage and the creation of the Bay had brought about.
We disembarked for the return journey home at approximately 4.00p.m. and all agreed that it had been a very enjoyable day out and thanked David Gooding for organising it.
Some photos from the outing can be found in our Gallery.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting. On 6th June 2018
Our speaker was Penny Platts on the Secrets of “Hereford Cathedral”.
Hereford Cathedral’s origins are secular rather than monastic, thus avoiding the most severe ravages of the dissolution of the Monasteries. It was first built in AD676 by Bishop Putta and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is also associated with Ethelred, King of the Angles, saint and martyr, who was beheaded by order of King Offa in AD 793 and buried in the cathedral where his shrine became a focus of cult, and money raised from pilgrimage enabled the cathedral to be enlarged in 950AD. However after Leofric and his Welsh allies attacked the city in 1055, the cathedral had to be rebuilt.
The cathedral reflects every style of British church architecture from Norman to the modern day. On Easter Monday 1786 the West end of the cathedral fell down. The spire was then removed from above the tower to prevent further collapse. Penny used many fine photographs to illustrate the wide variety of architectural and historical features in the cathedral ranging from the Norman arches of the nave, the immense west window, and the early Norman limestone font to the modern memorial window to the SAS and the half gilded stainless steel corona over the modern altar. The organ loft is embellished with the woodpecker, trademark of the Bulmer Cider Company at whose expense the organ was restored. We were given a tour of the many images of Mary in the cathedral ranging from the frontal for the High Altar to the window in the Lady Chapel.
The Lady Chapel which originally housed the chained library, contains the tombs and effigies of a number of bishops and their chantries, endowed so that masses could be said for their souls. Here also are King Stephen’s chair, supposedly dating from 1138, as well as many historically interesting artefacts, each with their own fascinating anecdote In the great South window we saw glass by the famous glass designer and maker C. E. Kempe. In the Norman blind arcade there are tapestries designed by John Piper from 1976.
Moving outside the cathedral, we were shown a comic stone portrait of the organist at the east end, while at the west end there is a stone image of Dean Croft denouncing Cromwell’s sacrilege from the pulpit. Passing through St John’s walk and the Vicars Choral Cloisters [c 1474] to the Close we were shown the foundations of the Chapter House, the “weeping window” with poppies flowing out of it and a statue of Sir Edward Elgar with his bicycle. Finally, an adjacent building houses the Mappa Mundi and the Chain Library containing 1444 volumes and many manuscripts including a 1217 version of Magna Carta and the oldest Gospel Book made in a scriptorium in Wales.
Following a short period of questions the vote of thanks was given by David Hutton.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting. On 16th May 2018
The first of our two speakers was David Gooding who spoke about “Bridges I have Known”.
David was introduced to narrow boats by his youngest daughter some 25 years ago and when retirement loomed he decided that he wanted a boat of his own. The experience of hiring various boats enabled him to decide what he wanted. His boat was built in 2005, he then spent the winter fitting it out and it entered the water in 2006. His first real trip was from Lechlade, where the Cotswold canal joins the Thames at the furthest point at which the Thames is navigable.
In 2009 he became more adventurous, travelling from Birmingham to the Severn Bridges via Worcester and the Gloucester and Sharpness ship canal. Because this canal was built so that sailing ships could get to Gloucester the only bridges across it are swing bridges. Sharpness is still a commercial dock and David described with dramatic pictures how large boats are manoeuvred into the narrow docks. David’s purpose was to get to the Kennet and Avon Canal via Bristol. The Route between Sharpness and the open sea is hazardous because of the sandbanks in the Severn estuary and it is necessary to employ a commercial pilot. Needing to keep ahead of impending bad weather, they passed under the Severn Bridges at about 12 knots aided by the ebbing tide. Having safely reached Portishead, with a tidal range of 17 metres, they had to negotiate a very deep lock, known as the “Washing Machine”. Here the weather changed and they had to wait several days. As movement in the Bristol area – as in the Thames – is carefully controlled, the use of radio is necessary. Finally, after passing under the M5 bridge, the Clifton suspension Bridge and the Bristol swing bridges they reached the Bristol Floating harbour with its many historic sights.
In 2010 they took a trip down the Thames with their grandchildren, and then travelling through Regents Park, Paddington and Limehouse on the Grand Union Canal to Tower Bridge. David described the heavy traffic on the Thames as he spent time avoiding the large tourist boats and the heavy barges, but was able to show his grandchildren many iconic sights such as Tower Bridge, The London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. Unwittingly they got too close to the Houses of Parliament and were ushered away by a police launch.
The following year, 2011, they did a repeat performance, except that this time they went down the Thames past the Millennium Dome and through the Thames Barrier to see the Queen Elizabeth II bridge over the M25. To get through the Thames Barrier you have to call up the authorities by radio, who then allocate you a route through the barrier.
Finally, in 2017, the grand children being older, David described another adventurous journey from Bristol to Sharpness. They rode the tide down the Avon under the M5 bridge, but thick fog meant that David had to navigate to the Portishead Marina by GPS. The pilot joined them the following day to navigate up the Severn but the fog was so thick that he had to make the journey fully on instruments.
The whole talk was illustrated with dramatic and evocative pictures, and was followed by a short but enthusiastic question and answer session.
Our second speaker was Don Williams, speaking on “My Life in the NHS”.
Born in Rhymney, Don attended Cardiff High School for boys, but as a school leaver in 1946 finding a job was not easy. After working for a short time in a market garden and then in a solicitor’s office, Don became a clerk in the Welsh National Memorial Association at the Temple of Peace in Cathay’s Park, Cardiff., which was the beginning of a 43 years continuous service in health administration. The Welsh National Memorial Association was the Welsh Memorial to King Edward VII, concerned to combat tuberculosis and largely funded by Lord Davies of Llandinam.
Starting as a modest messenger, collecting sputum samples by bicycle, and, when the bike broke down, in a hand cart borrowed from the Welsh Office, prone to getting caught in tram lines. He particularly enjoyed delivering bottles to the chest clinic in Cathedral Road on account of the two charming sisters who worked there. In 1948 Don was allocated to the Central Registry as an Assistant Committee Clerk. On one occasion, taking minutes at a meeting he was asked to read back a complicated technical report from a medical consultant of which he hadn’t understood a word. Mercifully the chairman came to his rescue, repeated it word for word and wrote it out for him afterwards.
The National Health Service came into being on 5th July 1948 and, influenced by those more senior to him, Don came to have a broad understanding of the NHS structure as a whole. He was encouraged to take the professional exams of the Institute of Hospital Administration and when a Chief Committee Clerk was taken ill, Don was asked to cover for him which involved a huge workload. One day, he was reprimanded by Sir Frederick Alban, Chairman of the Wales Hospital Board, for whistling in the corridor, only to discover that Sir Frederick was Chairman of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club and that they shared a love of Cricket.
Next, a happy three year period in the Architects’ Department in North Cardiff and at the same time professional courses in Swansea, all served to broaden his experience of the NHS. This was followed by a move to the Establishment Department where he learned to grade people, something that sometimes gave rise to confrontation with the Trades Unions and issues over correspondence in the Welsh language.
Don was soon involved in the strategic planning for hospitals as centres of excellence, and particularly concerned with the provision of maternity facilities. He found having an area of responsibility of his own very fulfilling. When the Welsh Hospital Board was replaced by eight new District Health authorities Don came to the Powys authority with its headquarters at Bronllys. Looking for a new home in the area, the chance to play Cricket at Crickhowell clinched it! He spent 16 years with the Powys authority – underfunded, understaffed, an amalgam of three different committees each with different working systems, with difficulty recruiting people, with no District General Hospital and problems with cross-border provision of specialities. They were challenging years.
Following a second short question and answer session, Wally Elliott proposed a vote of thanks to both speakers.
The Meeting on 2nd May 2018 was the club’s AGM and Members Lunch.
The following is a extract from the Minutes of our recent meeting. On 18th April 2018
Our Speaker was Anthony Seys Llewellyn and his talk was entitled “The Inns of Court”.
There are 4 Inns of Court, namely Grays Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple & Lincoln’s Inn, and every barrister is called to the bar at one of these Inns. In addition to the chambers, each Inn has a Hall, where members eat & receive lectures, a Library holding common law reports & law reports from across the world and a Chapel.
Anthony was called to the bar at Grays Inn after passing the necessary examinations & a residency in chambers. He outlined the ceremony involved & showed his certificate as an “Utter (outer) barrister” of the “Honourable Society of Grays Inn”. Letters of appointment (from the Queen) as a judge or recorder are received in a red leather pouch with a formal seal on the letters.
In the 15th Century London had a population of 60/70,000 people and it was a very dangerous place. Grays Inn was built between 1556 & 1560 and the entry was through a very narrow passage off High Holborn, which was easy to secure. Each of the Inns of Court has a substantial enclosure, with chambers and gardens and similar narrow access for safety.
The naming of the Inner and Middle Temple is derived from the Knights Templar, which was founded in 1129 as a chivalrous order to protect pilgrims going to Jerusalem. A 12th C Templar church was built on the site and other buildings established, but when the order was abolished, lawyers moved into the buildings. Middle Temple was built between 1562 & 1580.
The gardens of the Inns of Court are open to the public each day from 12 – 2:30pm
All the Inns are grouped around the Royal Courts of Justice which were built in 1875 & opened by Queen Victoria. There are currently approximately 100 High Court judges, 600 Circuit judges & 7/800 District judges and approximately 12000 independent barristers, not including those serving in government departments such as Customs & Excise, CPS etc.
Anthony illustrated his talk throughout with many excellent photographs of each of the Inns.
Following a very varied Q&A session, Ted Hicks gave the Vote of Thanks.