Our 2019 Probus Christmas Lunch was held in the Bear Hotel as usual on Wednesday 18th December.
An excellent meal was provided by the Bear for members and their guests. However, I am sorry to report that numbers were down on previous years as a number of members are either in poor health or are no longer with us. We think of them.
The following is a report on our meeting 4th December2019
Our Chairman welcomed Roger James who was to speak to us on “The Battle of Britain”.
Roger James began his talk by reminding us of the origins of World War II, He desribed Hitler’s “Lebensraum” policy and how in 1939 the Molotov – Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact allowed the German invasion of Poland leading to Britain’s entry into the war and the German army’s invasion of France and the low countries. After the evacuation of Dunkerque, described in Roger’s earlier lecture to us, Hitler’s was convinced that Britain would sue for peace, but Churchill was made of sterner stuff, forcing Hitler to plan the conquest of Britain. The first phase of this plan was the neutralisation of the RAF by the destruction of its airfields and aircraft factories. The heroic British defence of these key installations between 10th July and 31st October 1940 became known as the Battle of Britain.
At the strategic level the key antagonists in the battle were Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, C in C Fighter Command and Herman Göring Head of the Luftwaffe. Dowding had equipped his command with single pilot mono-planes, and had commissioned a system which led to the invention of radar and the establishment of an efficient early warning system. Göring was a World War I fighter ace, a dedicated Nazi who had been wounded in the Bavarian Putsch in 1920. At the tactical level the main opponents were Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, commanding 11 Group and responsible for the air defence of London and South East England, and Feldmarschall Albert Kesselring commanding Luftwaffe 2 equipped with many types of aircraft. At operational level the battle was fought between brave men like Sqn Ldr Douglas Bader and Major Adolf Galland.
The two key British aircraft were the Supermarine Spitfire designed by Reginald Mitchell, powered with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine and armed with four 600 round .303 machine guns and the Hawker Hurricane designed by Sydney Cam. Their main opposing aircraft was the BF 109E, designed by Willy Messerschmidt and powered by Daimler Benz DB 605 engines. The BF 109 had heavier armament than the spitfire but they were less manoeuvrable than the British planes. As their role was to escort and protect the German Heinkel HE 111 bombers their tactical options were more limited. Most of the fighting took place between 12,000 and 20,000 feet. The faster spitfires engaged the BF 109s enabling the hurricanes to attack the bombers.
In theory the relative strengths of the two opposing air forces was in Germany’s favour. The RAF had a total of 649 fighter aircraft compared with Kesselring’s 844 fighters and 2704 war planes altogether. However, the British had the advantages of range, an early warning system and the support of the Observer Corps. Although by August 1940 the Germans were assembling invasion barges, their chances of success were small. By the key months of August and September 1940 Britain was building and repairing more aircraft than Germany and their rate of attrition over the enemy was greatest. On 20th August 1940 Churchill made his famous broadcast “Never in the field of human conflict…”
Hitler had forbidden attacks on London but an aircraft lost in the fog dropped its bombs on London by mistake. Churchill ordered a reprisal attack on Berlin which led Hitler to change his strategy and the Blitz began, relieving the pressure on airfields though not on Londoners. Roger concluded his talk with a review of many impressive memorials erected to commemorate those who took part in the Battle of Britain.
After enthusiastic questions, the vote of thanks was given by Eric Godding and the meeting closed at 1205.
The following is a report on our meeting 20th November 2019
Our Chairman, Ray Morris welcomed David Jeremiah who was to give us a talk entitled “A Walk in the Wood”.
David Jeremiah had intended to have a career in the mines, but through the intervention of a lecturer, became a teacher. He started a business in woodworking but moved on to the world of Drugs and Terrorism. However, having always been interested in the Environment he started to see trees from a different perspective.
His first photograph was a view from his home, looking over what had been an apple orchard, with now one remaining tree, and on over Crickhowell towards the escarpment where he pointed out a variety of trees such as American Oak, Wellingtonia and on the escarpment only, Rowen Ash. Although Britain is the most deforested country in Europe we still have a greater variety of trees. We should do more to manage our environment, plant more trees rather than try to save old ones, Oak, for instance, is at it’s best at 200years old, by 500 years it is only good for firewood.
His second photograph was of Defynnog Church Yard Yew, which is said to be 5300 years old, the next of an ancient walkway on the Blorenge with an aged Beech tree, part of an ancient beech woodland. We next saw the remains of the leaning Poplar, that finally fell into the Usk River last winter, the inside being quite rotten. Poplars propagate by seed or suckers and as the nearest male tree is at Nantyffin, the row that stood on the river bank, all female, must have grown from suckers. They like the damp, grow quickly and split easily, so were used for arrows and, later, matches.
The Church owned large swathes of woodland which was planted to be available when rebuilding or maintenance was required, it showed off it’s wealth through it’s beautifully crafted pews, roofs and Rood Screens, illustrated by several more photos. The Church also imported Columbian Pine for straight roof beams.
The Sequoia that grows on the side of the canal, also shown, has downward sloping branches to allow the snow to slide off. The seeds only germinate after being burnt.
David also showed us a portable saw mill he uses to cut timber from large bulks. Some of the bulks have metal embedded in them such as nails and musket balls, which can damage the machinery. Bulks were previously cut in saw pits by two men, one on top and one below, giving us the terms “top dog” and “under dog”. Hedgerows were also a source of wood, Alder for pegs and clogs and Elder for pop guns, the later popularised to enhance the calling of being a soldier and to improve recruiting for the Army.
He then gave us some staggering figures concerning the building of the “Victory”, of which there were 10 similar built. They took 6000 trees, the decks were made of Ash, the sides made of Elm, the spars of Douglas Fir. (Coffins were also made of Elm). They weighed 3555t each, had 100 guns and were manned by 850 men each. Cartwheels were made of Ash for the rim, Oak for the spokes and Elm for the hub. Longbows were made of Ash, and short bows of Yew. A later machine of war, built from wood, was the Mosquito aircraft. They were built in two halves, of a sandwich of Larch and Birch with a Balsa wood filling. Three women could lift half the fuselage they were so light.
David wound up his “walk” by suggesting that anyone really interested in wood should spend a leisurely afternoon at “Gliffaes” among the trees that have been collected there over many years.
He ended by saying that the trees in Britain were in desperate need of proper husbandry.
There were many questions, the vote of thanks was given by Sandy Waring and the meeting closed at 12.05 pm.
The following is a report on our meeting 6th November 2019
The Chairman welcomed Wally Elliott who was to speak to us on “Hidden Treasure”.
Wally Elliott introduced his collection of fascinating artefacts, discovered in over 55 years of metal detecting, by saying that following his hobby out in the countryside and coming home with the rewards of his search gave him a sense of well-being. He showed us his two detectors and described the mechanism of the larger detector in detail. Scanning the soil with it he is able to detect the presence of a buried object through the imbalance of sounds in his headphones. His experience enables him to interpret the signals as indicating the presence of ferrous or non-ferrous metals. Once an object has been located he excavates a section of soil with his trowel and then verifies the presence of the object with a smaller detector which he demonstrated on the secretary’s metal knee!
Wally showed us the oldest item he had found which was a bronze age palstave axe from about 1000 BC. On the advice of the Cardiff Museum he had made a handle for it and demonstrated for us how the handle fitted to the palstave head. He then showed us over a hundred pictures of articles that he had found in a wide range of locations. Items from Roman times included a tankard handle, a spring loaded brooch of a dolphin leaping over a bar, and a body scraper or “strigil”. Coins in Wally’s collection included a Henry VI groat minted in Calais in 1427, a George III cartwheel two penny coin from 1790, two gold half sovereigns of 1878 showing both the young and old Queen Victoria, a collection of silver three penny pieces or “joeys”, a collection of silver sixpences and many other coins from Charles II to the present day. Many of Wally’s finds were personal items such as brooches, shoe, knee or belt buckles, rings, or buttons, and even lead weights to stop ladies skirts blowing up! Many of these were in silver, enamelled, or with interesting connections such as a Scottish silver cloak pin in the form of a dirk dated 1205; or the early nineteenth century button lost by a railwayman on the Brecon – Merthyr Railway; and a silver thimble from the 1851 Great Exhibition found near Llangorse lake.
We were shown a large number of military items including a flintlock cocking handle, c1780, and other weapons parts, various munitions both ancient and modern including musket balls dating from Cromwell’s siege of Raglan Castle and several regimental cap badges. Most interesting of the badges was an oval brass badge of the West Brecon Local Militia dating from before 1805.
Many other fascinating items related to horses: such as horse shoes and metal parts of harness and a Roman stirrup. Other items were of a religious nature – an incense burner, a badge with the Star of David and one declaring “Suffer Little Children”. Domestic items from a nutcracker to a boot scraper as well as many others of a general nature were included in Wally’s enthralling review of his collection.
The vote of thanks was given by David Robinson and the meeting closed at 12.10.
The following is a report on our meeting 16th October 2019
Ray Morris welcomed Dr Naylor Firth who was to speak to us on “Namibia”.
Naylor Firth started by sketching out key geographical and historical facts about Namibia with the aid of a set of postage stamps. With a population of 2 million, Namibia lies astride the tropic of Capricorn. 90% of the country is desert: mostly sand, but also brown scrubland. Occasional sparse trees indicate the existence of subterranean water. The annual rainfall is 23mm compared with Britain’s average of 850mm. First explored by the Portuguese, the Dutch later set up mission stations and in 1884 Adolf Lüderitz established a small coastal town in Southern Namibia and the following year it became part of the German Empire. Taken over by South Africa in 1915, it became South West Africa in 1922 and gained independence as Namibia in 1990. However, many ancient pictures of animals scratched on rocks indicate prehistoric populations. Today there are about 10 indigenous tribes each with their own idiosyncratic languages.
The country’s embryonic tourist industry is rapidly developing with high standards and friendly people. Dr Firth described a tour that he had made with knowledgeable local guides. Starting off through arid scrubland desert we saw pictures of weaver bird’s nests, oryx, cactus in flower, and well camouflaged leopard, cheetah, lynx and caracal. After staying at the tourist encampment at Sossusvlei Lodge the group moved west into the sand desert travelling in open Land Rover type “buses”. We were shown many pictures illustrating the “wonderful artistic randomness” of sand dunes, some with knife edge ridges and others with strange depressions. The need for water was emphasised, particularly as one member of the group had died of dehydration after climbing the highest of the dunes. The desert had a strange “permanent silence”. At this point Dr Firth took a flight East to West over the sand desert to the coast showing us spectacular aerial views of the dunes. On the coast we saw a large colony of seals attracted to the area by the by the harvest of fish brought by the Benguela current. Back on terra firma we continued to Solitaire, to be shown an old Morris 8, embedded in the sand, and the remarkable plant, welwitschia mirabilis, believed to be over 1000 years old.
This leg of the journey revealed signs of Namibia’s immense mineral resources: uranium, diamonds, copper, gold, lead, tin, zinc and vanadium. An uranium mine, owned by China produces 8 – 9 % of the world’s uranium. An offshore drilling rig sucks up diamonds and erosional products washed into the sea. Dr Firth showed us examples of crystals in the Swakopmund museum before proceeding to Walvis Bay, home to large fishing fleets, mostly Russian, and an abundance of marine bird life, such as pelicans.
A further specialist expedition revealed desert life in its minutest detail: beetles lizards, geckos, chameleons, scorpions and snakes, including an encounter with a venomous “sidewinder”. A visit to a salt pan introduced us to zebras, ostrich, oryx, impala, buffalo, lions and giraffes. Finally, arriving at the capital Windhoek in the central highlands we saw pictures of city life in Namibia and the colourful costumes of its inhabitants. Returning home to a green world was a “bit of a shock” after the constant brown of Namibia.
After an enthusiastic question time, the vote of thanks was given by David Gooding and the meeting closed at 11.50.
The following is a report on our meeting 2nd October 2019
Ray Morris welcomed the speaker, Roger James who was to speak to us on “Dunkirk”.
Speaking to us about the evacuation of Dunkirk between 27th May and 4th June 1940, Roger James started by focussing on Adolf Hitler, described by Churchill as “A maniac of ferocious genius who was consumed by hatred”. Hitler’s main objective was “Lebensraum”, giving Germany space to expand eastwards. The Molotov – Ribbentrop non-aggression pact in the summer of 1939 was designed facilitate this, giving Germany the opportunity to invade Poland, thus bringing Britain and France into the war.
On the 10th May 1940 Hitler’s Army Group A launched its blitzkrieg, outflanking the Maginot Line defences to the north, focussing on the weakest point of French defences at Sedan, causing the French High Command to collapse. The British Army was forced into an orderly retreat down an evacuation route protected by strong points towards Dunkirk, the ideal port for an evacuation,. German Army Group A then swung north to attack the retreating army from the south while Army Group B, advancing through Belgium, contained it from the north and east in an enclave with the port of Dunkirk in the south, Malo Les Bains in the centre and Bray Dunes in the north. The withdrawal into this enclave took ten days.
In the air, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Fighter Command maximised the advantages of their Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft to limit the Luftwaffe’s ability to impede the withdrawal. This was illustrated with excellent maps, pictures and a dramatic film clip. An example of German brutality, particularly the SS, was described in the massacre at Esquelbecq Barn where eighty members of the Royal Warwicks were murdered.
On 26th May, Lord Gort VC MC, commander of the Expeditionary Force, told the War Cabinet that there was no alternative to evacuation. Operation Dynamo was launched under Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey in Dover and Captain Bill Tennant in Dunkirk. 380,000 soldiers were trapped in the enclave. The shallow, shelving beaches posed a problem for larger vessels. Only the 900 yard long East Mole at Dunkirk was suitable for major ships but remained available throughout, kept in trim by the Royal Engineers.. Tennant had just 12 officers and 150 ratings, split into groups to manage separate evacuation sectors. Already, on 14th May, the BBC had launched an appeal to owners of small craft to register. The response had been immediate and overwhelming. About 900 vessels were involved in the evacuation from skiffs to destroyers. The destroyers speed and capacity for large numbers of troops made them specially suitable. Minefields in the channel limited the evacuation to two routes. Only outstanding planning, and initiative – such as the use of lorries to provide improvised jetties, made success possible. By 4th June 338,226 people were evacuated. One percent, 3,500 people, were killed during the evacuation. Only the wounded, attended by volunteer nurses and doctors, and some 40,000 Frenchmen were left behind, together with large numbers of vehicles, ammunition and stores.
After an enthusiastic question time, the vote of thanks was given by Mel Leyshon and the meeting closed at 12.03.
The following is a report on our meeting 18th September 2019
Ray Morris welcomed the speaker, Carolyn Jones and Martyn, her husbund. The subject of her talk was James Edward Webb and the founding of Newport Rugby Club.
Carolyn Jones’s discovery of a memorial card in a box of old photos led her to research the life of her distant relative, James Edward Webb. James was born in 1863 at Broughton Gifford in Wiltshire into a family of weavers. However, the industry was in decline and when James was 8 the family moved to Newport in search of work. The railway had reached there in 1850 and industry was expanding rapidly. The 1871 census shows the family living in Duckpool Road. In 1874, Thomas Phillips, a brewer from Northampton, moved his business to Newport and in September that year held a meeting at the Dock Road Brewery which led to the foundation of the Newport Athletics Club. Originally intended to be a football club, but unable to obtain fixtures they decided to play rugby instead. Their first match on 5th April 1875 against Glamorgan at Cardiff Arms Park was a lively game and a draw despite Newport scoring two tries.. In those days unconverted tries scored no points!
Early games were played on The Marshes where poor ground conditions made play difficult. In 1877 Viscount Tredegar was approached and by May of that year a new ground was ready including facilities for other sports with a gym and a cycle track. The Grand Opening on 24th May 1877 coincided with Queen Victoria’s birthday. James Webb, now 14, was already fascinated by rugby.
The club’s early success was phenomenal, becoming the first ever winners of the South Wales Challenge Cup. In 1879 the first game under flood lights was played between Newport and Cardiff. When the foundation of the WRU in 1881 put the game on a more formal footing, Newport was one of the 11 founding member clubs. By then James Webb was working as a painter and decorator and joined the club in 1884 playing either as full back or as ¾ back. Carolyn then showed us an original film clip of a rugby match of those days.
In 1888 James’s was selected to play for Wales against the “New Zealand Natives” at St Helens, Swansea on 22nd September. Wales won 5 –0. James, “faultless as full back”, scored the goal of the match. This was the first ever New Zealand tour to UK, the first time the haka was seen in UK and the first time they wore all black. James only played once more for Wales, that was against Scotland. Carolyn then showed pictures of contemporary boots, adaptations of working men’s or miner’s boots, and the ball which was larger, heavier and more rounded than those in play today.
Subsequent census returns show that James, now married to Mary, still worked as a painter and decorator and painted the gates and stands for the Newport Athletic Club. They had three children, two sons and a daughter. His two sons followed him into his trade. He died in 1913 aged 50 and is buried at St Woolos in Newport. A staunch member of his club, he had played his part in the development of rugby football.
Question time included some classic rugby memories by members and revealed our considerable enthusiasm for the game. The vote of thanks was given by Noel Price and the meeting ended at 11.45.
The following is a report on our meeting 4th September 2019
Ray Morris welcomed the speaker, Malcolm Meadows, to present his talk on Toulouse Lautrec,
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec was born on 24th November 1864 in Albi, France, to aristocratic parents. A marriage of convenience which did not last long, his father being very forceful and his mother quiet. They were cousins, this possibly being why Henri suffered poor health during his short life. At age 13 he broke his left femur and a year later the right, curtailing further leg growth although his torso continued to grow to adulthood. He grew to only 4ft 8 inches although he was quite thick set, earning him the nick name of “The Coffee Pot” in later years.
He briefly went to study in Nice but his mother secured him a place in a studio in Montmartre under Leon Bonnat and later Fernand Cormon where he completed his studies in 1886. He lived in the area for the next 20 years becoming well known, and accepted by, the writers, actors, artists, dancers and prostitutes of the Bohemian society. He roamed the night spots painting the women he met where he found them, dancing, sleeping, washing, etc., and was linked with Rose le Rouge and Jane Avril, well known dancers of the time.
In 1887 he entered his first Exposition under a pseudonym in Toulouse and then continued to exhibit at the Independent Artists Salon in Paris from 1889 to 1894.
In 1889 he was commissioned to do all the posters for the Moulin Rouge, he had a permanent seat there and they exhibited his paintings. During this time he made several close friends including Emile Bernard, Vincent van Gough and Edouard Vuillard. In a brief visit to London he did several posters and a painting of Oscar Wilde, who he championed, during the lead up to Wilde’s imprisonment.
His prolific work included 737 canvases, 275 water colours, 363 prints and posters, and 5,084 drawings that survive.
Following a collapse from the effects of alcoholism and syphilis in 1899, he was committed to a sanatorium by his family but even then, continued painting, producing 39 Circus portraits, returning to Paris and then doing a tour of France. He died on 9th September 1901 at his family home in Saint Andrew du Bois aged 36.
His mother and his agent opened a museum, to his memory at Albi where he was born, which now houses the largest collection of his paintings.The talk was interspaced with music and many fine examples of Lautrec’s work.
After a brief question time, the meeting closed at 11:58am.
The following is a report on our meeting 21st August 2019
Eric Gooding, who was in the Chair, welcomed the speaker, Ian Andrews, custodian of Tretower Court and Castle.
Ian Andrews, began by explaining the role of CADW [the Welsh word meaning “Keep”] who are responsible for 130 monuments throughout Wales including both Tretower Court and Castle. After Bernard of Neufmarché conquered Brecon in 1093 he parcelled out land to his followers and the Tretower area was given to one Picard who built a motte and wooden castle commanding the way up the valley. This was replaced by about 1150 by his son Roger Picard with a stone shell keep round a courtyard and a well. Using many excellent photographs Ian explained first how the existing outside walls, with arrow slits, chimneybreasts, windows and putlock holes reveal the original positions of the solar, the great hall, and other features. Inside, more pictures showed us the kitchen, bread oven, storage rooms and cellars. In 1233 Tretower Castle was attacked by Richard Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and severely damaged. It was repaired by another Roger Picard who enhanced it – and his social status – by building a three story round tower over the well in the courtyard, integrating it with the original shell keep, and connecting the upper floor with the outer curtain by a wooden bridge.
In the mid-15th Century a courtyard house, Tretower Court was built nearby in two stages by Roger Vaughan who supported the Yorkist side in the Wars of the Roses. He fought at the battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471 and a great feast was prepared for his return to Tretower, but he was killed on the way home. Tretower Court was lived in until 1935 when an appeal by the Brecknock Society and the Pilgrim’s Trust raised £990 to buy most of the property.
Ian then took us on a pictorial tour of the Court which is now presented so as to recreate its mid-15th Century history and atmosphere. After visiting the gardens and orchards, planted to reflect their horticultural history, we saw the kitchen, as it was in 1471, with bronze pots and brown South Wales Malvern pottery. We saw how, by recreating an original wall with three doors, the original pantry, buttery and servery had been identified together with the ewery for storing liquids and the napery for storing linen. The main dining room has been laid out as it might have been for the feast prepared for Sir Roger Vaughan’s return. Ian pointed out that there were no knives because everyone carried their own. Describing contemporary bread making he revealed the origins of the terms “upper crust” and “trencherman”. We heard that left-overs were offered first to the servants and then to the poor. He then conducted us round the Long Range often used for films, and the West Range, with its closed in balcony, used for weddings. From the courtyard we saw that some features in the façade of the West Range were of the same date as Tredegar House in Newport; and that the sunken cellar probably originally housed a cider press. Passing through the gate house, where the soft Bath sandstone has weathered badly in contrast to the harder local stone, we learned that a larger gate house had originally straddled what is now the road, and connected the Court with buildings on the other side. Finally, Ian showed us pictures of how parts of the Court had been used as locations for well-known films.
After an enthusiastic question time, the meeting closed at 11.55.
The following is a report on our meeting 7th August 2019
Ray Morris welcomed the speaker, Martyn Jones, a freelance motoring journalist, spoke to us on the subject of “Davrian to Darian”,
This was the story of the development of a specialist Welsh car. The man behind it was Adrian Evans who, when he saw the Hillman Imp, was inspired by it and realised the potential of its rear mounted, all aluminium engine with its overhead camshaft, weighing only 100Kg and based on the Coventry Climax. Martyn then described, and illustrated with pictures, a whole range of stylish and sporty specialist cars inspired by the Hillman Imp including among others the 1964 Zimp from the Italian design studio Zogato; the 1965 TVR Tina, a re-packaging of the Imp into a luxury sports coupé; the Voodoo, a very low sports model similar to that which starred in the “Clockwork Orange” the ‘Bond bug’; the space-age car that John Pertwee personally had made for “Dr Who”, and even the Bloor Knox road sweeper!
The story took a new direction when Adrian Evans, a keen amateur racer brought up in Mid-Wales, but living in Grove Park in London decided to build his own fibreglass ‘special’ in his front room. It had a Hillman Imp engine which he moved to the front and had revolutionary pop up headlights. He called it the Davrian. When completed, he and friends could only get it out of his front room by turning it on its side. In 1967 Adrian established Davrian Developments Ltd in Clapham and started making customer cars which sold for £275 – £350. Light and nimble, the Davrian became a huge success in the racing world. Martyn then illustrated with pictures and anecdotes the various stages and models through which the Davrian progressed.
When the GLC put a Compulsory Purchase Order on the Clapham site Adrian decided to move to Wales. He set up first in a disused creamery near Lampeter, then in a friends garage at Strata Florida and finally the Welsh Rural Development Agency provided a unit in Lampeter for the production of the Davrian Mk 8. Sadly, there were still insufficient funds available and plans for an Imp-based family saloon took up too much of the remaining financial resources. In 1983/84 Adrian went broke and retired to other ventures. He died in 1992. He kept on his manager Tim Duffee to service obligations to outstanding customers. Tim saw that there was still potential and, acknowledging his debt to Adrian, kept going and created a new firm; – Darrian. He built the T90 GTR with a 2.5 Litre, four cylinder, all aluminium engine which became a most successful rally car and now retails at £100,000. With links to Swansea University, designed and built in Wales using local people, and rallied round the world, this more potent sibling of the Davrian is a symbolic Welsh success story. You can still purchase a new Darrian if your pockets are deep enough!
The talk was followed by a lively discussion revealing the very considerable technical expertise held by members. The meeting closed at 11.45.
The following is a report on our meeting 17th July 2019
David Harris, deputising for the Chairman, welcome our speaker Chloe Masefield who is to speak about Natural Weigh, an important local business.
Chloe Masefield explained that she and her husband Robin had both worked in organisations associated with the environment. Both were frustrated by the negative impact of human activity on the environment, particularly plastic in every water sample, and, as country lovers, appalled by litter, especially plastic. Visiting Totnes in Devon they we impressed by the first Zero Waste shop and decided that they would do the same. They decided on Crickhowell because there was no supermarket and they liked the High Street, the ethos of the other businesses and the character of the community.
Confronting the issue of plastic, Chloe pointed out that it is difficult for consumers not to contribute to the problem. Whereas in the 1950s there was almost no plastic in the average shopping experience, now it is almost impossible to find a shop without plastic. 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s.Today two million single use plastic bags are distributed every minute. Much plastic waste ends up in the sea and if this is not curbed plastic pollution will outweigh fish in the sea by 2050.
Chloe then described the materials and processes used in the manufacture of plastic. Plastic is excellent in many ways. It is durable, mouldable, and flexible. It is useful in the construction industry, in clothing and in electrical components and wiring. The problem is its disposal. In theory all plastic is recyclable. In practice this is difficult because each type of plastic requires a different recycling process. Many items are made from a number of different types of plastic. Much ends up in landfill leading to toxic chemicals leaching into the environment. Space for landfill is a real problem with only 8 years’ worth of landfill space left in UK. Incineration reduces the volume but the ash is toxic. Plastic takes 100 years to break down in the environment, but even then it only breaks down into smaller particles which continue to contaminate.
Posing the question: What do you do instead? Chloe pointed out the difficulty of finding alternatives for many areas such as electrics. The obvious area to address first is food packaging. Chloe described three possible “economies”; A “linear economy” in which plastic is used and discarded which is clearly counter productive, a “recycling economy” in which as much plastic as possible is recycled but still eventually ends up as waste, or a “circular economy” in which all plastic items are designed for re-use. It is the latter which her shop, Natural Weigh, seeks to promote, offering customers a chance to shop without waste. Opened in March 2018, customers bring their own containers for products such as washing up liquid, cleaning products, baking products and dry foods, and bring the same containers back when they need refilling. Stocks of these items for the shop come in large drums which are continually reused and refilled. The shop stocks locally grown produce where possible and supports a number of independent businesses in Wales, ensuring that suppliers have the same environmental ethos. They focus on avoiding landfill waste. They are powered by renewable energy. Chloe closed by telling us that when Natural Weigh opened last year they were one of only five such shops in UK. There are now over 200.
The talk generated a lively discussion. The meeting closed at 11.41.
The following is a report on our meeting 3rd July 2019
Because of a misunderstanding about speakers the club unexpectedly found itself without one. Our Chairman(Ray Morris) nobly stepped into the breach and spoke to us about Norway
Turning to his trip with the Hurtigruten ferry, Ray described how the company had been founded in 1893 sailing only from Trondheim to Hammerfest, increasing in 1898 to three weekly departures from Bergen. They navigated the tortuous passage through the islands and fjords with only two charts, a compass and a clock. Today the fleet and range has expanded with modern ships departing daily from Bergen to Kirkenes and back, the return journey taking 12 days. The modern fleet includes three expedition ships taking adventurers to Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica. Hybrid ships are now coming into service.
Ray then illustrated the whole trip with a day by day account of places visited. The day after leaving the Hanseatic town of Bergen with its medieval streets, the boat reached Aalesund, burnt down in 1904 and rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. Next day they reached the ancient Viking capital of Trondheim, also a site of medieval pilgrimage with its impressive gothic cathedral. On Norway’s national day, 17 May, we saw colourful pictures of folk in national costume at Ørnes, visited the world’s most powerful maelstrom at Saltstrammer and arrived at the Lofoten Islands. Proceeding past the point where the Tirpitz was sunk, we reached Tromso, the gateway to the Arctic, entered the land of the midnight sun and visited the spectacular Arctic Cathedral with its fantastic acoustics. At Honnigsvag we met the Sami people, nomadic keepers of reindeer, with their distinctive headdress, and took a trip to North Cape, named by a British sailor in 1553. The northerly journey ended at Kirkenes, raised to the ground by the Germans in 1944, and now dependent on Russian trade, being only 10 Km from the Russian frontier,.
On the return journey we stopped at several places not seen on the journey north. At Vardo we saw the most northerly tree, as well as its impressive fortress and the golf balls of the active Early Warning System radar. At Raftsundet we saw its beautiful bridges and entered the narrow Trollfjord. At Torghatten we saw the hole– 66 feet high and 115 feet wide – through a sheer rock cliff, said to have been caused by an arrow fired by a good Troll to rescue a maiden from the clutches of a bad Troll! We travelled the Atlantic Road connecting islands with eight spectacular bridges
Finally, Ray showed us a series of contrasting slides showing the scenic differences between summer and winter and including pictures of the Northern Lights and the ceremony of Crossing the Arctic Circle.
The meeting closed at 11.59, after some lively discussion.
The following is a report on our meeting 5th June 2019
Ray Morris welcomed Ruth Richardson, who gave us a talk on “Fiels Names”
Ruth Richardson introduced her talk by illustrating how field names tell us much about the history and nature of their particular location. At Tewkesbury, where the Abbey sits above land prone to flooding, the adjacent land is known as “Flood Meadow”, while, close by, a field leading down to the river, where the Battle of Tewkesbury was fought in the Wars of the Roses is known to this day as “Bloody Meadow”. In Shropshire an aeroplane crash site which is unsafe for animals due to contamination by fuel and metals is still known as “Aeroplane Field”. Runnymede, where Magna Carta was signed, takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon words meaning “meadow of regular meetings”. This tradition goes back at least to biblical times as exemplified in St Matthew’s Gospel in which the “Potter’s Field” was bought with the thirty pieces of silver for use as a burial ground for foreigners and became known as “Blood Acre.” Sometimes mysterious places became linked with legendary figures, as in Stonehenge’s association with Merlin and Caerleon with King Arthur’s Table.
Field names can be of assistance in archaeological research and the Herefordshire Survey project, in which Ruth played a lead role, was designed to facilitate this. In 1836 the Tythe Commutation Act was instituted to regularise the tythes or taxes paid by land holders to support the clergy. These required maps which showed each field with its registered number, its name, sometimes the farmer’s name, its exact size, the use to which it was put and the tax due from it. These maps formed the basis for the project’s work. Ruth showed pictures of the Survey’s booklets and maps produced for each parish. Wales has almost all parish surveys on line.
Ruth then described three case studies where the use of Field Names and maps had enabled successful research. The first was her own search for Newcourt House, the birth place of Blanche Parry, where the lost footings of the original house had been identified, together with the layout of lawns and a deer park, with the use of a 1822 estate map and the field names it contained. Next she told us of the discovery and layout of the Roman encampment of Kenchester at Madley near Hereford, discovered through the shape of fields adjoining a Roman Road, together with aerial photographs and field names such as “Street Field”, “Walls Field” and “Towns End Field”. Finally, Ruth told of a field in Snowdonia called “Mynach Ysbyty” or “Hospital Field” where ailing cattle had been grazed and found to recover to full health and strength with increased milk yield. It was subsequently found to contain no less than 250 herbs, many with medicinal properties. On a lighter note Ruth told of fields called “America” because they were a long way from the farmhouse. Concluding, Ruth said that field names can contain important messages for farmers about the land they own or can reflect messages from the past.
After a lively question time, the meeting closed at 11.55.
The following is a report on our meeting 15th May 2019
Ray Morris welcomed Andy William, who gave us a talk on “The NHS in England”
Andy Williams said that he had worked in the NHS at board level in both England and Wales. He saw the story of the NHS in three phases or “ages”. The NHS began in the late 40s in an era of post war determination to forge a Welfare State with the ambition to remove the tyranny of poverty often induced through poor health. It was born with a vison of providing the greatest good to the greatest number concentrating on those with the greatest need. It was hospital orientated, managed by hospital boards, and was hyper efficient with large hospital wards to meet the needs of large numbers. In 1974 its remit was broadened and hospital boards were replaced by Area Health Authorities, promoting health rather than reacting to ill health, and incorporating local government resources and including doctors and district nurses.
In the 1980s the Griffiths report identified the need to move from a committee structure in which no one was in charge to a concept of management which reflected personal accountability for providing health care. This led to the second “age” in which the NHS was seen as a consumer product with consumers’ rights. It became an internal market in which departments competed for resources. The implications of this were not really understood. Hospitalisation became a consumer orientated experience reflected in the large number of single rooms replacing large wards. There was a surge of complaints leading to litigation. Nevertheless it remains surprisingly efficient, with a smaller per capita spend than many other countries, but struggles to meet consumer expectations.
In the Blair years the major focus was on individual’s rights with an emphasis on setting targets to be met, such as waiting times. Wales diverged from the English NHS ten years ago The internal market didn’t really work and was abandoned in Wales which has a closer relationship between people and politicians. Wales demanded a less consumer orientated system and Health Boards responsible for large, often rural, areas were introduced. In contrast England uses its market concept to address weaknesses but its policy of outsourcing its needs, projects and facilities has failed and it is likely that the English model will become closer to the Welsh pattern. At the moment the all-consuming concentration on Brexit hampers any progress.
The NHS, Andy believes, is now ready to move into its third “age”; an age in which the individual is responsible for his or her own health and welfare and in which the NHS is a partner in the project. Andy has trialled certain aspects of this with some success in the Black Country. The future should be one in which people help themselves; it should be more self-service, less paternalistic and more risk tolerant. The emphasis changing from “rights” to “responsibilities”. The need for change is underlined by the immense economic and social changes which have taken place since the NHS was set up. In 1948 the NHS cost 4% of GDP. It now costs 10%. The age structure of the population has changed radically. The range and scale of available treatments has changed and the demand increases exponentially. Less people want to work in the NHS today. The time is right for revolution along the lines that Andy envisages for its “Third Age”. Andy concluded by saying that, surprisingly, he believes that change will be driven – and demanded – by environmental concerns because of the effect that the NHS has on the carbon footprint.
Fascinated by the talk, members enjoyed a lengthy and meaningful discussion. The meeting closed at 11.59.
The meeting on the 1st May 2019 was our AGM and Members Lunch.
After a very productive AGM where the new committee for the coming year was elected, member adjourned to the bar of the Bear Hotel before enjoyed an excellent two course lunch.
The following is a report on our meeting 17th April 2019
David Harris acted as Chairman as Ray Morris, who would talk on Station X at Bletchley Park.
Introducing the background to British code breaking and the establishment of Station X at Bletchley Park, Ray told us that after World War I a government Communications and Cipher School (GC &CS) was established, but the emphasis was on diplomatic rather than military communications. Germany on the other hand invested heavily in secure military communications, in which the development of the Enigma machine, played a key role. The Poles were the first to break the Enigma machine and in July 1939 gave a replica of the machine to UK. Their achievements were vital to codebreaking at Bletchley Park. In 1938 Sir Hugh Sinclair, Head of MI6, frustrated by interdepartmental infighting, purchased Bletchley park for £7500 of his own money and moved GC&CS into it. His team were an eccentric bunch recruited largely from universities and personal contacts. The first codebreakers arrived in August 1939 amid a flurry of building activity, among them Denniston, Turing, Welchman and Knox,.
Key activities were receiving coded radio messages sent in from intercept, or “Y” stations positioned throughout UK and overseas, breaking the daily enigma settings, decoding the messages, radio traffic analysis, and distributing intelligence to military commanders. Y stations monitored all enemy military, railway and diplomatic radio traffic. In June 1941 all Bletchley Park decodes were classified as Ultra or “Most Secret”. To preserve security no Enigma information was acted on unless it could be corroborated by other sources. Traffic Analysis, identifying call-signs, radio frequencies and volume of radio traffic enabled maps of radio nets to be made and thus the location of troop concentrations to be worked out. Close coordination of traffic analysis helped break Enigma settings.
Ray then described the key elements of the Enigma machine showing pictures of the wheels and a simplified wiring diagram and gave a brief history of its development. The choice of wheels, the wheel order, the ring setting and the plug board comprised the key which was changed daily. The system provided an almost infinite number of possible daily settings creating a huge challenge for Bletchley Park. It took the genius of Alan Turing to work out the design of a machine, the Bombe, to overcome this. He obtained funding of £100,000 and the first machine, built in three months, was delivered on 1st March 1940. By the end of the war there were 211 bombes in UK and 121 in USA working 24/7 with a high degree of reliability. Turning to other codebreaking initiatives Ray described how Hitler and his generals used a more complicated enciphering system called Lorenz. Bill Tutte worked out the theoretical structure of that machine and through reverse engineering built a replica called the Tunny which enabled these messages to be decoded. In 1943 the GPO developed the first prototype programmable valve-based computer, Colossus, which could process 5,000 characters a second.
Constantly fighting for sufficient resources Station X relied heavily on the personal support of Winston Churchill who described it as “the goose that lays the golden egg and doesn’t cackle. In the Battle of Britain decoded information gave details of planned air raids. In the Atlantic traffic analysis located U boat packs. In the Balkans the planned attack on Crete was detected. In the North African campaign Montgomery had Rommel’s complete fighting strength and battle plans. During the invasion of Europe nearly all the German dispositions were known. Their work was, however, sometimes met with scepticism and distrust. Montgomery ignored warnings about enemy strengths which led to the failure of Operation Market Garden. But it was estimated that Bletchley Park codebreaking shortened the war by as much as two years.
Finally, Ray described the lively social life enjoyed by those working at Bletchley Park. Sadly, after the war some of the key personnel, notably Turing, did not fare well. However their inspirational work forged strong post-war relationships with Allied and Commonwealth intelligence communities which still endure.
After a lively question session the meeting closed at 11.59
The following is a report on our meeting 3rd April 2019
David Harris welcomed back Robin Williams, who would talk on William Burgess “Billy” the Victorian Architect.
Born in London in 1827, he was a man with a mission, an eccentric architect with a medieval dream of romanticism and chivalry, Christian justice and piety which was to pervade his designs. He was influenced by the romantic poets and Pre-Raphaelite painters of his age, many sharing his dream of Gothic glory; a world in which gothic stood for purity while classicism was pagan. David outlined the way in which the original 13th Century dream had been shattered by a series of historical phases starting with Wycliffe’s revivalism and ending with the Industrial Revolution. Victorians were faced with various conflicting ideologies and philosophies, but Burges’ dream was upheld by the Tractarians and the Oxford Movement championed by Newman, Pusey and Keble. It was seen as a bold project to bring an Anglo-Catholic god to the working classes.
Burges’ father was an engineer who worked for the Marques of Bute on the Bute Docks in Cardiff. Aged fourteen, Burgess met the distinguished architects Pugin and Edward Blore and other architects who worked on Bute’s gothic projects. He was to train under Edward Blore and Digby Wyatt. David then showed pictures of a wide range of buildings, both ecclesiastical and lay, by the leading gothic architects of the age including Henry Clutton’s Battle Abbey, Digby Wyatt’s Paddington station, and Gilbert Scott’s St Pancras Hotel. He pointed out that there had been earlier gothic architectural revivals, notably Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill. But king of Victorian “Gothicism” was Augustus Pugin who designed many high church buildings and designed the interiors of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Burges was particularly influenced by Pugin’s church of St Giles, Cheadle.
Burges travelled widely and skimmed elements of other styles that he saw into his own architectural pot, drawing buildings and taking measurements of them. David then showed us many examples of Burgess drawings and a photograph of his claustrophobic and over the top office. This led to the question “what was he like?” He was a short, stocky man, he was short-sighted, camp, smoked, drank and probably used opium. He was a member of the Ecclesiological Society which aimed to put Anglicanism on a proper gothic course. He was a Freemason, and a member of the Athenium. We were then shown pictures of many of his buildings including Gayhurst Priory, All Saints Fleet, St Fin Barre’s Anglican Cathedral in Cork, St Mary’s Studely Royal and many others. He failed to win several prestigious projects, including the Law Courts, because his designs were too expensive. His best known and most extravagant buildings were Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch, both for the Marquis of Bute. We saw pictures of many of the architectural details and decoration of both places including much of the furniture which Burges also designed, all emphasising his obsession with Medieval pageantry and chivalry. Trinkets and vases designed by him also revealed his sense of fun. His own home, Tower House in Kensington, echoed these themes and the final picture, of his own bedroom, was completely over the top! He died in 1881 and is buried in West Norwood cemetery.
After a period for questions the vote of thanks was given by Roger Tod.
The following is a report on our meeting 20th March 2019
Wally Elliott welcomed David Mitchel, who spoke to us on “Braithwaite Limited – 100 Years of Engineering”.
Robin Williams told us that on becoming Finance Director of Braithwaite Ltd in 1981 the firm cleared out a room to create an office for him. The room contained the company’s entire history recorded in photographs which would form the basis of his talk.
The firm of Braithwaite and Kirk was founded in West Bromwich in 1884. And produced the ironwork for the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Straits. In 1900 Albert Braithwaite was joined by Jim Humphreys and a very effective partnership was formed. Steelwork was exported worldwide, particularly to India, for construction projects such as railway bridges. In 1910 a patent was taken out for pressed steel tanks that could be assembled by unskilled labour and were despatched with complete assembly kits. All their products were test assembled before being despatched overseas. The First World War led to contracts including those for trench covers and linings and gun carriages, but production needed to be close to a deep water port so in 1915 much of the firm moved to Newport. Robin illustrated this with a large number of contemporary photographs of the firm’s wide-ranging products and of the Newport site, including many taken from the top of the transporter bridge. Surprising products ranged from canal barges – 19 of which still survive – to piers in seaside resorts and all iron houses.
Robin’s pictures then took us to India where the company’s first contract was to supply the water pipeline connecting Bombay to the Tansa reservoir. We saw pictures of many railway bridges, and railway rolling stock – including antique looking brake vans. Most spectacular were pictures of the Kanga River bridge with a 260 foot span over a 300 feet deep gorge which was said to have been completed in 6 weeks.
Robin then turned to pictures of a large number of steel framed buildings under construction, mostly between the wars, including cinemas, London underground stations, power stations, bus stations, coaling hoists and electric transmission towers. [pylons] These included prestigious buildings such as the Riorden Smith Institute in Cardiff and a ring beam round the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
In the Second World War, the order book was dominated by Ministry of Supply contracts for the war effort.. These included the development of the Baily Bridges, the hulls for Humber armoured cars, and the flexible bridge links for the Mulberry Harbours.
After World War Two the firm continued to prosper until the 1970s. Its last really big contracts were the Frigate Dock at Devonport and the Bombay Floating Dock, transported via the Suez Canal in three sections of 8000 tons each. The West Bromwich plant closed in 1979. Braithwaite’s was a delightful company, but too gentlemanly for its own good. It looked after its staff well providing many social facilities. Vulnerable to hostile takeovers it went through various challenges, but still exists as part of the Rowecord Group.
After an enthusiastic question session, the vote of thanks was given by Eric Godding.
The following is a report on our meeting 6th March 2019
The Chairman welcomed Michael Marden, who spoke to us on “The role of a hospital chaplain”.
Michael Marsden introduced his talk by describing how he had come to hospital chaplaincy when he was one of only two full-time hospital chaplains in Wales. Since its inception in 1948 the NHS Constitution has required that every hospital should have an Anglican, RC and Free Church chaplain. At first most chaplains were part time; now over a third are full time. Reflecting cultural change, the ecumenical nature of hospital chaplaincy has expanded to become multi-faith. In some areas the lead chaplains may even be Muslims or Rabbis.
The scope of a hospital Chaplain’s ministry is threefold. It is primarily to patients, and to be effective the chaplain must understand what it is like to be a patient. The prospect of hospitalisation, and the various stages leading to admission all create and intensify feelings of anxiety. For a chaplain to minister effectively in these circumstances he must be able to “share the journey”, coming alongside the patient. He must be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (St Paul). This involves being able to think on your feet and is emotionally draining. Secondly his ministry is to family and friends. Hospital situations often effects family as much, if not more than, the patient. The chaplain’s door must always be open for relatives. The third strand of the chaplain’s ministry is to the hospital staff themselves, who have their own pressures and anxieties. They are there long enough for the chaplain to develop the sort of relationships that he might have with parishioners in a parish. Michael has a weekly drop in for staff enabling them to “Chill Out in the Chapel”.
Turning to the qualities required of the hospital chaplain, Michael started with the three “L”s. First to be a good “Listener”. It is important to ask open ended questions that will encourage people to open up. People must feel that you are giving them your whole time. Second, a chaplain must develop the skill of “Looking”. Faces reveal a patient’s moods and emotions. Eye contact is essential. Photographs on a bedside locker can reveal a great deal and give clues on suitable topics of conversation. Thirdly, chaplains must never stop learning; learning from their mistakes about things they must avoid doing or saying. These were followed by the three “A”s: Approachability, getting to know people and establish relationships in a very limited time. Adaptability: Faced with a wide range of medical situations, you can’t be squeamish. You can’t show discomfort in the face of unpalatable sights or smells. You have to be there for people of faith – or no faith – in all circumstances. People of no faith often want the chaplain in moments of crisis. There can be no prejudices. Thirdly, a “Ministry of Absence”: knowing when not to appear: Someone in agony may not want you around.
Michael then described the “tools” available to a hospital chaplain. Visiting which is essential but not as easy as it sounds and can be emotionally draining. Prayer: Chaplains must be prepared to pray with those who want it but sensitivity is required about prayer in public spaces. Scripture can be a great help, particularly as death approaches when favourite passages can be a comfort. Michael then talked about sacramental ministry ranging from bedside communion and communion services in the hospital chapel to the less familiar sacrament of anointing which is not merely used for last rites. Finally, Michael spoke about the importance of “touching”. Despite the sensitivity about the political correctness of toughing, there are moments in ministry when touching is the only thing you can do. Holding a hand shows that you are there and that you care. Sometimes a hug is effective when words just won’t work.. Touching in a blessing or when anointing can mean a lot to a patient.
After questions, the vote of thanks was given by Anthony Seys Llewelly.
The following is a report on our meeting 20th February 2019
David Harris welcomed back Penny Platts
Penny Platts began her talk entitled “Iran Unveiled” by pointing out that Iran lies at a cross roads of trade routes and cultures. Numerous countries surround its land border. It is not an Arabic country, and Iranians are insulted if so described. The inhabitants speak Persian also called Farsi. Historically it was one of the world’s oldest civilisations. The present Islamic Republic of Iran was founded by Ayatollah Khomeini after the down fall of the last Shah in 1979. Penny then outlined the tenets of the Islamic Faith, explaining the Five Pillars of Islam, its Sunni and Shia divisions, its relationship with other religions and Iran’s moderate attitude to the burka.
Using a wonderful series of photographs and video clips she took us on a tour of the country. Starting in Teheran we visited the Golestan Palace, a world heritage site started in the 16th Century, but much of its architecture dating from 19th Century. We saw its marble throne, the Karim Khani Nook, and the Mirror Hall. We visited the Museum of Anti-American Art, the former American Embassy occupied by students in 1979, now a tourist attraction including the “Fake News Office”. At the National Museum of Arts we saw many beautiful articles made of Khatam, an ancient Persian method of inlay. Finally, we saw the fabulous treasury of National Jewels including crowns, the Sea of Light diamond and a globe made from 51,000 precious stones.
Moving on from Teheran across desert country, Penny stopped for lunch at Kashan, an oasis village specialising in the production of rose oil. Here she illustrated a mouth-watering selection of Persian foods before visiting a Paradise Garden, with its four sections divided by water courses. At Abyaneh, a mud brick village, we saw a Zoroastrian Fire Temple, and an ancient fortress, as well as colourful pictures of local people. At the village of Na’th we visited a mosque dating from 1100 AD with beautifully tiled Mihrab and a Minbar or pulpit dating from 1300 AD. Moving on to Yazd, visited by Marco Polo in 1272, we saw two examples of ancient technology: an irrigation system from 1000BC which accessed water from an aquifer and a badgir, a wind catching tower which provides simple air conditioning. Here we also visited a 1500-year-old fire temple, the Towers of Silence where corpses were left for vultures, as well as an ice house and a tree allegedly planted by Japheth son of Noah. Moving on via Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330BC, but still with many impressive monuments, we arrived at Shiraz. Here we saw the Quran Gate, the Pink Mosque, the tomb of Hafez the poet, a bath house and the faces of many happy people.
The country onward to Isfahan illustrated the fact that only 30% of the country is suitable for cultivation but only 12% is used through lack of irrigation. Principle crops are cereals, saffron and pistachios. At Isfahan we went to the Shah Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and the Chehel Sotoun Palace of forty columns, as well as watching the manufacture of fine carpets. Finally, we returned to Teheran through the desert and finished with a video of the many people Penny and John had met on their travels.
After a short question time, the vote of thanks was given by Mel Leyshon.
The following is a report on our meeting 6th February 2019
The Chairman welcomed back Malcolm Meadows, who spoke to us on “Art and Music of the Mediterranean”.
Inspired by the diversity of art and music of the Mediterranean, the talk covered work by Spanish and French artists who pushed the boundaries of traditional art between 1860s and 1970s.
Malcolm started with Joan Miró, a Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramicist, from Barcelona who used simple shapes and bright colours to reflect the harmonious relationship between man and nature. He moved to Paris in 1920 but spent summers in Barcelona. His painting “The Farm”, now in Washington, was the high point of his realist work before he turned to surrealism. We watched a further selection of his work to the background of music from Massenet’s ballet suite “El Cid”.
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881, son of a professor of painting. The family moved to Barcelona in 1895 and the young Pablo, showing exceptional talent, entered the School of Fine Art aged 13. Early work such as “The First Communion” and portraits of both his parents, showed his exceptionally skilful drawing techniques and use of colour and light. His work developed through his successive Blue, Rose, African, Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism periods. We saw examples of his work from the Blue Period (1901 – 1904) while listening to Joachim Rodrigo’s “Fantasia for a Gentleman” for guitar and Orchestra. He died in 1973 aged 91 having produced over 50,000 works. A most versatile genius whose impact was immense.
Henri Matisse started to paint in 1889, aged 30, during a period of convalescence. The intense colour of his works earned it the title ‘fauve’ – wild beast! In May 1905, poor and lacking in artistic confidence he went to Collioure to join André Derain and everything changed. They painted frenetically together and showed their resulting work at a salon in Paris that autumn. Fauvism was born. Guitar music played by Manitas de Plata accompanied a selection of Fauve paintings by Matisse and Derain of scenes around Collioure. Matisse moved to the Riviera where his colours became even stronger. After 1930 he turned to oversimplifying his subjects. After surgery in 1941 he produced collages using cut out shapes. He died in 1954.
For Vincent Van Gogh yellow was the colour of happiness. He was most proud of his paintings of sunflowers. Persuaded by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh went to Arles in Feb 1888 and painted some 300 paintings there, developing his bold style and working – and quarrelling – with Gaugin. We viewed a wide selection of Van Gogh’s works while listening to the music of Bizet. In May 1890 Van Gogh moved to Anvers sur Oise to be nearer his brother Theo in Paris. Mental illness led to his tragic suicide in July 1890.
In spring 1888 Claude Monet went south to Antibes and his early works there show some similarities to that of Vincent Van Gogh. He made a number of excursions to the Mediterranean including a journey with Renoir from Marseilles to Genoa. His final trip was to Venice in 1908 where he painted over 30 works. We saw a selection of these while listening to Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” Renoir settled in the Côte d’ Azur and in 1908 bought a farm, Les Collettes, at Cagnes sur Mer. Here, although increasingly disabled, he continued to paint until his death in December 1919. A final gallery of his work was viewed to the music of Faure.
After questions, the vote of thanks was given by Mike Johnson who described it as a “master class”.
The following is a report on our meeting 16th January 2019
Richard Davies titled his talk “John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, The Battle of Blenheim and beyond”.
He began by explaining the background to the War of the Spanish Succession, outlining the division of Europe between the Catholic powers of France and Spain and the Protestant powers including Britain, The Dutch and the German states who formed the Grand Alliance. The war aim was to occupy the Spanish Netherlands, lying to the North of France, and so prevent France under Louis XIV putting a puppet monarch on the throne of Spain and thus extending French influence in Europe.
The key personalities involved were Louis XIV of France, the sun King, Queen Anne, who relied on others for emotional support, especially from her close confidante Sarah Churchill. Sydney Earl of Godolphin, First Lord of the treasury, who was able to payroll the war effort. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, a brilliant leader, strategist and logistician, and favourite of the Queen. His wife, Sarah who was highly intelligent but with a fierce temper. Finally, Winston Churchill, a cousin of the 9th Duke of Marlborough, who wrote the definitive biography of his illustrious forebear.
Churchill’s success in commanding a diverse multinational army was based on clear orders, good discipline, efficient logistics and accounting, and regular receipt of pay. The Dutch Army created difficulties as it needed the permission of the States General to do anything. Hitherto military doctrine had been based on conducting static sieges of cities but Churchill wanted decisive open battles. Knowing that the Dutch priority was the Netherlands, the French attacked vulnerable areas elsewhere, threatening the Holy Roman Empire on the Danube. In 1704, Churchill, well informed by spies, stole the initiative from the French and, avoiding the Dutch veto, marched to the Danube. The French could not ignore the “red caterpillar” of the allied army marching across Europe and was forced to follow in parallel.
On 12 August 1704 the French army, camping at Hochstadt, woke to find themselves faced by the entire allied army across the Nebel river, a tributary of the Danube, north of the village of Blenheim. Using slides showing the topography and the battle dispositions of both armies, Richard described how Churchill pinned down the French with heavy fighting on the flanks at Blenheim in the south, Lutzingen in the north, and at Obergau in the centre. Meanwhile engineers were able to bridge the River Nebel allowing his main force to cross the river where least expected. After a fierce engagement, at about 5.30 the French centre collapsed and a route ensued. The French commander, Marshal Tallard was captured. Winston Churchill was to write: “Blenheim … changed the political axis of the world.” French ambitions were blunted and a new international respect for Britain was born.
Immediately after the Battle Churchill despatched Colonel Park with a letter to his wife Sarah announcing the victory. She immediately passed it on to the Queen. Park was handsomely rewarded. The war dragged on for a further nine years with major battles at Ramillies , Oudenarde  and Malplaquet , ending with the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Louis XIV’s grandson was eventually to become King of Spain. Sarah’s relationship with Queen Anne gradually deteriorated and the Duke of Marlborough’s role diminished. He retired to Blenheim Palace, a gift from the nation, where he died in 1722.
After an enthusiastic question session, the vote of thanks was given by David Hutton
The following is a report on our meeting 2nd January 2019
Introducing the meeting, Wally Elliott said that nine people would present a piece of music, saying something about it and explaining why it was particularly memorable to them.
Wally said that the music of J. S Bach, not “Dai bach”, had impressed Eric Templeton who brought the structure of Bach’s music into his own music for the harmonica which he jazzed up in “Mr Bach goes to Town.”. On this CD it was played by the famous harmonica player Larry Adler. Wally concluded that he was amazed that music of such quality could be played on an instrument you can put in your top pocket.
David Harris had chosen a CD of Handel’s Water Music played by the English Baroque Orchestra conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. He and his wife had chosen this extract from the water Music for his wife to walk down the aisle to at their wedding, played on the organ by his father – in – law. Quite independently his daughter had chosen the same music for her wedding.
Mike Johnson had recently seen an advertisement for a “Temperance Seven” concert at the Borough Theatre in Abergavenny. The Temperance Seven had played at the “Christmas Hop” when Mike was at college in London embarking on a memorable and happy couple of years. He presented a vinyl recording of The Temperance Seven playing “Pasadena”.
Graham Blackburn told us of an unforgettable holiday with his teenage family to Wharfdale and Holme Firth during which they met the caste of “Last of the Summer wine”. But even more memorable were the long car journeys with Toni Basil’s “Hey Micky” being played interminably. This was then played to us by Graham on his iPad.
Eric Godding recalled his student and rugby playing days when he had played in the same team as Dai Morris. Morris was also the rugby idol of Max Boyce, then at the peak of his popularity. Eric then played us a CD track of “Hymns and Arias” from the 1973 recording “Live in Treorchy.”
Bernard Illman told us that his family’s musical background was classical, which was also the general flavour of the Broadcasting Corporation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The only access to pop music was the pirate radio station “Radio Club of Mozambique”. However, aged 18 he moved to Bulawayo with access to cinemas, watched “Rock Around the Clock” and played the tea chest base in a skiffle group. Remembering those days he played us a piano and trumpet duet,” St James’ Infirmary” from the Dutch Swing College band.
Ray Morris took us back to the 1960s – the decade of both Kennedy’s assassination and the first moon landing. More importantly it was the decade in which he went to university, graduated, started work and got married. For him the upbeat 1960s are reflected in his vinyl of the Seekers “Come the Day” which includes the line “A time to live without doubt or fear” A thought very relevant today.
Chris penshaw described his early days in Barnstable where the highlights of his teenage social life were the Gaumont Pathé Cinema and De Vito’s ice-cream parlour until its dullness was shattered by Elvis Presley’s music. Whereupon he shattered the Probus peace with “You Ain’t Nothing but A Hound Dog” on vinyl. Commenting afterwards that Elvis did so much for the English language!
Finally, Les Bevan told us how he and his family toured the Southern States of USA including a visit to New Orleans. Attending a concert where you could pay to have requests played, Les chose “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” which captured the atmosphere of the venue. He then treated us to an unfamiliar rendering of the song on his vinyl of it by George Lewis and Kit Thomas Ragtime band.
The meeting concluded with Wally summed up, thanking his contributors for all the thought and trouble they had put into its preparation. He observed that their stories contributed to us all knowing one another rather better.