Our Probus Christmas Lunch was held on Wednesday 15th December in the Bear Hotel.
Twenty three members and their partner’s attended as several members did not feel that it was “too early” to let their guard down. However, those attending enjoyed a excellent meal.
Minutes of the meeting held on 1st December 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Anne Hayward .
Introducing her well-illustrated talk about her pilgrimage from her home in Gilwern to St Albans and back, Ann Hayward explained that she was a keen long-distance walker, enthusiastic light weight camper and had been on a long-distance pilgrimage for the last 7 years. Her story would include the influence of Covid on her arrangements, the environment and the natural world, a variety of artwork, and repeated reminders of links to Rome, and interesting diversions along the way. Her walks were pilgrimages of prayer and spirituality, attending divine service where possible. This year Covid had delayed her departure from just after Easter till mid-June.
In the early stages of her walk to Gloucester via Monmouth and the Forest of Dean, she encountered artwork along the canal at Llanwenarth, more art at the footbridge over the Monnow, a 12th Century St George and the Dragon at Ruardean, and the contrast between Norman architecture and modern stained glass at Balley, near Gloucester. Continuing through the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire to Hertfordshire, the highlights of her journey included the Roman Villa at Chedworth, early representation of Amazonian Indians at Burford and a medieval “Doom” at South Leigh, near Witney.
Reaching St Albans after two weeks walking, she described the magnificent cathedral and told the story of St Alban, shrouded in myth and legend. The cathedral is a hotchpot of architectural styles and contains the shrine of St Alban, a focus for pilgrimage and largely reconstructed in 20th Century. Ann’s return journey, interrupted by a quick return home for her Covid booster jab, took a circuitous route through London, Ascot, Reading, Malmsbury, the Old Severn Bridge, Penhow, Pontypool and finally home. Along the way, Ann described and illustrated, many wonderful examples of art and architecture, nature and natural beauty, moments of historical interest and more links to Rome. Her ‘home straight’ was along the line of the Old Blaenavon railway and meadows of purple orchis.
After answering extensive questions, the Vote of Thanks was given by Bernard Illman and the meeting closed at 12.10.
Minutes of the meeting held on 17th November 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, John Rodger.
After retiring as Gwent County Planning Officer, John Rodger was tasked with getting the Blaenavon area onto the World Heritage list. In doing so he became involved in a wider project to get European Industrial Heritage recognised as a significant attraction for tourism, encouraging historic industrial sites to identify links and work together to create a network of European Routes of Industrial Heritage. At the same time developing their educational potential and fostering community pride.
Using some dramatic pictures, John showed how these sites, spreading across Europe, had developed with the large-scale production of iron and steel during the Industrial Revolution. Emphasising the great influence that industry in the South Wales valleys had played on the wider European industrial scene from the 1820s onwards, John described the key personalities and places involved and showed how they had played a leading role in this process. This covered 200 years of history, or seven generations, which made a vast difference to the planet.
Turning to the way former industrial sites had been adapted to promote tourism, John told us that Germany had led the way with its development of the Ruhr. The investment had been huge, but the Ruhr now attracted more than 10 million visitors a year and the community now celebrate its past with a great annual festival, setting the pattern for other developments, including our own. Blaenavon, a remarkable example of a 19th Century landscape, with its Big Pit and the Ironworks, also features educational facilities and outdoor pursuits and enjoys the landscape of the National Park. What was once grey is now green. Blaenavon links in with the Regional Route Structure which includes tourist attractions. ranging from Newport Transporter Bridge in the East to Swansea Waterfront Museum in the West, and including Cyfarthfa Castle, the Rhondda Heritage Park, Aberdulais Falls and the Fourteen Locks. Returning to Europe, John described the continuing expansion of the European Route of Industrial Heritage which now includes more than 2500 sites, supported by websites and educational resources. He particularly extolled the quality of the Berlin Technical Museum. Finally, he described the ongoing twinning initiatives between sites, and the establishment of themed tourist routes following particular cultural or historical interests.
After an enthusiastic question time, the vote of thanks was given by Ted Hicks and the meeting closed at exactly midday.
Minutes of the meeting held on 3rd November 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Tim Evans.
Tim Evans and his wife went to South Africa in November 2018, a good time to view game at the end of winter and before the grass starts to grow, which conceals the animals. They opted to fly to their camp, “Lower Sabi”, and hire an ordinary car to do their sight seeing rather than pay for high end organised trips in specialist vehicles. He thought they were very lucky in the quantity of game they saw, “as abundant as the sheep and cattle you see at every turn in Wales”. Gates of the camp opened at 6am and closed at 6pm to keep people in and animals out! Main roads were metalled but all others were gravel and could be very corrugated.
He then gave a detailed description of the photographic equipment he was using, the upshot of which was that he could get close enough not to have to use a large lens, which weighed 16 lbs.
His first photos were of Buffalo showing detail of the large bony area between their horns and of the Red Billed Oxpecker bird that cleans up ticks for them. There followed photos of a Termite mound, a Steppes Buzzard, baboons and an African Civet cat, not often seen. There were Nile crocodiles, Duiker antelope and Elephants galore sheltering from the sun. The Genet was very difficult to see and consequently not often photographed. The Giraffe is a beautiful animal and has such a long tongue it can clean it’s own ears, it cannot swim and only needs abut 30 minutes sleep a day. Several shots of Hippos followed, with close ups of their mouths and some taken at night, on organised trips, when they are out of the water and grazing. The flash light did not worry them. Several very good shots followed of a Leopard in a tree and then a male and female Kudu, and several Lions.
Then followed photos of several birds starting with an Eagle owl, a Lilac Breasted Roller, a Purple Roller, a Hornbill, a Helmeted Guinea Fowl, a Blackwinged Stilt, a Ground Hornbill, an Ostrich a yellow Billed Stork, an African Fish Eagle, a White backed Vulture, a Blacksmith Lapwing and an Egyptian Goose.
Tim finished with a few more animals, Rhino, Wildebeest, Wild dogs, Zebra and then the inside of the small airport lounge.
We then had a quick tour of Hermanus and Cape Town.
There were a few questions and several personal experiences recounted.
The Vote of Thanks was given by the Chairman. The meeting closed at 10.58am.
Minutes of the meeting held on 20th October 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Dr Naylor Firth,
Dr Naylor Firth opened his lavishly illustrated talk on “Geology and Scenery” by saying that the Earth’s landscape, which for us is infinitely varied, is determined by its atmosphere and its geology. These are constantly changing and, considering that the planet is 4.7 bn years old, our life experience of it equates to only.4 of a second. Describing the construction of the planet, with its hot liquid mass and thin solid crust, Naylor showed how the many different forms of volcanic action, and the varying melting points of magma, create the geology which underlies the richly varied features of our global scenery, as well as the spectacular activity of volcanic eruptions and geothermal energy.
The earth’s surface is constantly being rearranged. The magma contains convection currents which cause lines of weakness in the surface. Notably, one surrounds the whole of the Pacific Ocean, while another goes up the middle of the Atlantic. These break the surface and pull it apart causing earthquakes and faults. In contrast, collisions between plates build mountains, shaping the landscape by tilting, bending, folding, or breaking it.
Landscape is not only being constantly created, it is also continuously being torn down or eroded by gravity, the atmosphere, glacial and water activity. Coastlines are shaped and reshaped by a combination of geological structure and erosion, creating headlands, rock bridges, stacks, and longshore drift. Water and wind combine to carve out features from hoodoos to the spectacular sand dunes of Namibia.
Geology not only accounts for the landscapes and scenery we enjoy today. It reveals the shape of the planet, what grew on it and what creatures inhabited it, millions of years ago. It is a geologist’s mantra that “The present is the key to the past”.
Dr Firth’s lecture provoked many enthusiastic questions and conversations. The vote of thanks was given by Les Bevan and the meeting closed at 11.51.
Minutes of the meeting held on 6th September 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members back again to the “The Bear Hotel” in Crickhowell after many meeting on Zoom. He then welcomed our speaker, Roger Foster.
Roger fosters talk,”Life and Times in the Gwent Police”, started with snippets from his 13 weeks Basic Training at Cwmbran and moved onto his first posting at the “Pill”, Newport.
Being a depressed area, most of the crime was burglary and drunkenness, the perpetrators usually landing up in the cells fora few days, except one who was forgotten handcuffed to a “Pillar”, (the Police communications telephone box), in sub zero temperatures, and another who was left in a cell next to somebody practising on the Bagpipes, this poor fellow thought he had been sent to Hell! It was not uncommon to have a recently released miscreants throw a brick through a window to get back “inside” to his mates and 3 good meals a day, especially at Christmas. A favourite beat was around the Brewery where each night the two constables on duty would go inside to do a “security check” and had a pint of beer each.
More serious occurrences where, a drunk on scaffolding threatening to throw himself off, a body in a Turkey Freezer, a Blackwood Cannabis Club and the case of an old man who could not get his Hearing Aid because his dead wife was lying on it, where he had just dispatched her with a cooking pot! Roger had also been involved with the Aberfan Disaster and the great Train Robbery.
Rogees feels that current law favours the criminals and is stacked against the Police, particularly the Police and Criminal Act of 1984 and the abolition of the Vehicle License Disc have made policing more difficult. Cannabis is now a multi million business and 10% of the population take drugs.
The talk was interspaced with anecdotes and humour and raised several questions at the end. Chris Openshaw made the Vote of thanks and the meeting ended at 11.24am.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 15th September 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Steve Tonkin
Opening his talk on “Time and Calendars”, Steve Tonkin posed the question “What is Time”? We do not measure time. From earliest times attempts to measure time have been based on measuring things which are proxies for time such as the movement of the sun and shadow. He described the various historical ways in which attempts had been made to measure days, months, and years. The fact that nothing fits exactly exercised timekeepers and calendar makers for millennia. A seven-day week fits neither months nor years. He described how the Babylonians attempted do divide both day and night into twelve hours and how the Romans devised a water clock to mark the passage of hours.
Calendars first became necessary for agricultural and religious purposes. The earliest calendars, originating in Egypt, were lunar, and the Islamic calendar still is. The Roman calendar, said to have been devised by Romulus and developed by Numa Pompilius, ran well short of the solar year, and needed constant insertions to keep religious festivals and other activities in their proper seasons. In order to end the resulting confusion, Julius Caesar introduced the solar Julian Calendar in 46BC. This became the standard calendar for centuries despite some inherent “drift”. In 1474, Pope Sixtus IV invited the German mathematician and astrologer, Regiomontanus, to devise a calendar to fix the situation but died before anything could be done. It was finally introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, but not introduced in Britain until 1752 when 11 days were lost from the calendar, moving the start of each year to 1st January, and causing further confusion over lost wages and rental payments due on Ladies’ Day. However, the fiscal year continued to run from the beginning of April.
Steve went on to explain that many calculation problems remain in all these systems for measuring time. The coming of the railway, in particular, required more consistent and accurate timekeeping. There are other possible systems which meet specific needs. Because the earth’s orbit round the sun is elliptical astronomers need a system which takes account of this as well as the tilt of the earth and its inherent “wobble”. They therefore use a system of Universal Time which takes account of these factors.
Turning to Relative Time, first articulated by Galileo, and later developed by Einstein, Steve used the example of the apparent movement of stationary and moving trains, to point out that while we measure the passage of time by the movement of astronomical bodies, movement can only be detected by the movement of one body relative to another. He developed this theme to describe the need to use Relative Time in launching and controlling GPS and other satellites. Furthermore, astronomical science has, indeed, proved Einstein’s contention that aging does depend on the distance of a journey in space. Finally, Steve told us that the Quantum Theory raises the question as to whether time and space are actually illusions. Once again, he posed the question: “What is time?” adding “Are we any closer to knowing what time is” the answer is “no”. He closed with a number of literary quotes, ending with a graffiti which read: “Time is just one darned thing after another”.
After a lively question time, the vote of thanks was given by Chris Openshaw and the meeting closed at 11.41.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 1st September 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Paul Littlewood
Paul Littlewood started his talk, entitled “Standing Up for Trees” with a brief history of the Woodland Trust. Founded by Kenneth Walking in 1972 in Southwest England, it is now the largest woodland charity in UK with woodland totalling 22,500 hectares, all open to the public. He explained the ecological and environmental importance of trees, as well as their contribution to human well-being. He underlined the importance of ancient woodland – as opposed to conifers planted for harvesting – for preserving biodiversity. With only13% of UK being covered by trees and only 2% being ancient woodland, UK performs badly compared with other European countries. Paul described in detail how climate change, pests and diseases, infrastructure projects, development, and agriculture, all threaten UK’s woodland.
The Woodland Trust’s mission is to make UK rich in native woodland trees by planting, protecting, and restoring woodland. At present they manage 1000 woodland sites and have planted 30 million trees. Using a promotion video, Paul described their exciting Northern Forest Partnership project, aimed at planting 50 million trees from coast to coast across Northern England. He then showed us how the Great Knott Wood project uses horse logging techniques to remove conifers in order to allow the restoration of ancient woodland.
Finally, he encouraged us to visit our own local woodland sites and to support the Woodland Trust either by donating, volunteering to help maintain local woods, or by becoming an observer to report woodland under threat and to record ancient trees.
His talk stimulated many questions. The vote of thanks was given by Sandy Waring and the meeting closed at 11.35.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 18th August 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Tim Viggars (who was also supported by Sian Chudleigh).
Our speaker, Tim Viggars, is a Community banker with NatWest and his subject was “Fraud & Scam Awareness”.
Covid 19 has changed the way we do many things and the same is true for scammers. Fraud is now more likely than any other crime in the UK. Anyone can be scammed with 53% of victims over 55. Only 5% of scams are reported, mainly because of embarrassment, and it’s estimated that there was £1.2B of losses in 2019, with £5B lost to the economy.
Scams are run by organised crime groups and they work by collecting snippets of information so that they can build up an overall picture of the victim. Every piece of information is like a piece in a jigsaw. This information is then sold on to other criminal groups. They work by befriending victims & building trust before they try to get money from you. Scams can be by phone, online, by post or on the doorstep.
Types of scams include impersonation, investment scams and romance scams and Tim explained in detail how these different scams are perpetrated.
Tim explained some simple steps to help protect against scammers. These include:
- Always be suspicious. If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a scam
- Don’t engage in a dialogue with the scammer
- Never open a link in a text message or suspicious email
- Banks never ask you for PINs or passwords & never ask you to move money
- Scam calls may ask you to call back. DON’T. Call a friend – it gives you breathing space, then call your bank using a different phone
- If you suspect a scam text, forward it to your phone provider on 7726 (all networks)
- If you suspect you’ve been scammed, call your bank first before the police. It’s a race to stop the money transfer
- Forward any suspect emails to Action Fraud (Police web site) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Look at the detail of the email address for mistakes and spelling errors in the text
- Get independent financial advice, check the FCA web site
- Check/register with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)
- Never let anyone have remote access to you computer – they can’t tell if there’s a fault
Tim’s final advice was STOP / CHALLENGE / PROTECT.
His talk provoked many enthusiastic questions. The vote of thanks was given by Roger White and the meeting closed at 11.35.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 4th August 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Dr Richard Sharpe.
Dr Richard Sharpe introduced his talk “Hops, Drugs and Beer” with statistics showing the huge scale of the industry worldwide, the total value of which is £615Bn. The leading company, ABInbev, which has had a policy of aggressive acquisition, now produces about 30% of the world’s beer. He then reviewed the world’s major brewers in terms of the annual volume they produce and the percentage of the world’s output it represents. Production in UK is much reduced, though microbrewing is beginning to flourish. Historically beer has been regulated by taxation. Consequently, action by the Mergers and Monopolies Commission has killed off many British pubs.
Beer has been identified as being used as early as 9500BC in Eastern Turkey and 3500 BC in Western Iran. It was used in religious observance, and payment for labour, as well as socially. After reviewing news issues in which beer featured, such as the Drink Driving campaigns, Richard turned to beer featured in art. William Hogarth, painted “Gin Lane” to show the dissolute state of London in the mid-eighteenth Century. After lobbying parliament with the assistance of his friend Henry Fielding, limits were put on the sale of Gin following which, in 1751, Hogarth then painted a much more respectable “Beer Street”.
Richard then gave us a fascinating account of the whole brewing process from barley to bottle or barrel, illustrating each stage with chemical, biological and – in the case of hops – botanical detail. While barley is the main ingredient for converting carbohydrates to alcohol, hops are used entirely to provide flavour. Only the female hop can be used. The only other plant in the same botanical order as the hop plant is the cannabis plant, but hops are not psychoactive. Hops can only be grown between 35º and 55º in both hemispheres and Richard described the main growing area in USA, Australia, and New Zealand.
Finally, summarising his talk, Richard reiterated the scale of the industry and its domination by large companies. He stressed that brewing was an entirely natural process without additions and welcomed the renaissance of micro-breweries in UK.
His talk provoked a great many enthusiastic questions. The vote of thanks was given by Ray Morris and the meeting closed at 11.57.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 21st July 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Doctor Roderick Ashton.
Dr Roderick Ashton started his talk on “The Medical State of World Leaders” by saying that most British Statesmen have either drunk to much or womanised too much. Most have some medical characteristics which are invariably either played down or covered up. They may have no effect, spur people to better things or make them do badly. History turns on the slightest medical event.
Citing a great many examples throughout, Dr Ashton told us how depression, being bi-polar, having diabetes and other illnesses and personality disorders could affect decision making and thus the course of history. Bi-polar people suffered high and low swings. When low they tended to be slow, cautious and depressive, but when high they could be brilliant. Examples included Winston Churchill and Florence Nightingale. Contrasting Theresa May with Diane Abbott he showed how diabetes carefully treated need have no effect but left untreated affects brain functions and thus leadership potential.
Turning to specific high-profile examples, Dr Ashton showed how Henry VIII suffered a personality change after a jousting accident, How at Waterloo Napoleon’s haemorrhoids were being treated with laudanum which slowed his decision making, how the fact that J. F. Kennedy’s osteoporosis and the need to wear a body brace contributed to his death, and other fascinating examples.
Finally, he turned to audience participation, projecting a collage of faces of famous alcoholics, and asked us to identify them. Members scored full marks. Asked to nominate candidates for review, we learned that Trump was surprisingly healthy for his age but suffered from extreme narcissism , while Vladimir Putin showed all the signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, finding it difficult to form meaningful relationships, being unable to look people in the eye, appearing disrespectful, and ruthless.
After enthusiastic and probing questions, the vote of thanks was given by Mike Johnson and the meeting closed at 11.50.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 7th July June 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Peter Covey-Crump
The Chairman confirmed that the possibility of us getting back to regular meetings at the Bear in September was dependent on forthcoming Welsh Government decisions.
Peter Covey-Crump introduced his well-illustrated talk entitled “How to make a fortune in the Eighteenth Century” by giving the details of the sale of the contents of the London house of the recently deceased Anselm Beaumont in 1776, revealing the man’s very considerable wealth. Born in London in 1714, Beaumont was the son of an apothecary of modest circumstances, and he also trained and practiced as an apothecary until in 1752 he became a free merchant authorised by the East India Company to trade in India. Basing himself at Calcutta and using his own capital he imported Mediterranean red coral beads which he sold to the Indians. As a result of his “honourable conduct” in the Indian Mutiny he was appointed a Factor of the East India Company and by 1759 had become a senior merchant, provincial military storekeeper and superintendent of the mint.
Using an unique archive of Anselm Beaumont’s letters, the speaker illustrated the important level at which he now operated and the wide variety of concurrent enterprises in which he was involved. These ranged from the responsibility for fortifying the East India Company’s fort at Midnapur to trading salt from the coastal salt pans into the interior, exporting opium to China, corresponding about diamonds and pearls, sending Indian textiles to Europe, and even trading in wines, rice, and spices. In 1762 he became ill and in 1764 decided to return to Britain, arriving in June 1765. Having bought an estate in Cheshire and a house in London he travelled widely in Europe in the early 70s. He travelled with Clive of India to collect paintings for Clive’s house at Claremont. He himself collected antique sculptures in Rome some of which are now in the British Museum and in the Hermitage in St Petersburg. On his death in 1776 his will disposed of some £10,000,000 in today’s money.
After a lively question and answer session, the vote of thanks was given by Morgan Llewellyn and the meeting closed at 11.45.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 23rd June 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Roger James.
Roger James then spoke to us about “The Morgans of Tredegar House”. The earliest recorded member of the family, Llewelyn ap Morgan, 1350 – 1448, was a supporter of Owen Glyndwr, but lost his land when Owen was defeated by Henry IV. It was restored to his descendent Sir John ap Morgan by Henry VII as a reward for his support at the Battle of Bosworth. Sir John built a Tudor mansion on the site, a wing of which still survives.
In the 17th Century William Morgan married an heiress and between 1665 and 1672 built the current mansion in the Restoration style, of which few such examples survive. Another 17th Century member of the family, Henry Morgan, served as an admiral under Cromwell but subsequently became a privateer or pirate.
In the 18th century the magnificent stables were added, together with the parterre gardens, the iron gates, and the oak avenue to the church at Bassaleg, where members of the Morgan family are buried. In 1790/91 the lake was dug out by hand.
The 19th century and the Industrial Revolution saw the Morgan family’s fortunes prosper. In 1792 Sir Charles Gould, inherited the estates through his wife and changed his name to Morgan. He owned almost all of developed Newport and vast swathes of mineral rich land. He and his successors exploited this successfully and were regarded as kindly and generous landowners.
Sadly, in Victorian and Edwardian times things began to go wrong. Charles Rodney Morgan was refused permission to marry a catholic went off the rails and died young. Captain Godfrey Morgan, survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, first Viscount Tredegar, was a successful and generous man, but never married. He built the lodge gates and redesigned some of the interior. His heir, Courtney Morgan was a spendthrift and libertine and wasted much of the family fortune. His successor, Evan Morgan, another eccentric spendthrift, and promiscuous homosexual wasted what was left and at his death in 1949 left Tredegar House in a very poor state. The last Lord Tredegar, John Morgan, could not contend with the mess he inherited, and the estate was sold first to a religious order and then to Newport Council who in 2012 entered into an agreement with the National Trust, who open it to the public.
After a period of questions, the vote of thanks was given by Mel Leyshon and the meeting closed at 11.38.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 2nd June 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker, Chris Dingley from the Co-Op Estate Planning Section.
Our speaker, Chris Dingley, explained that he is a director of the Co-Op Estate Planning Section. Not dealing with bricks and mortar, but rather giving advice to clients on how to avoid common pitfalls that occur in the administration of people’s estates after their death and in the implementation of their wills. He would speak to us about this under the headings of “Tax, Care, and Toy Boys.” The latter referring to the possible consequences of a widow remarrying after the testator’s death and the wealth he had worked all his life for passing out of the family. He outlined the need for wills to be drawn up with absolute clarity and framed so as to minimise the inheritance tax liability. He explained the advantages and advisability of putting one’s home into a trust so that it could not be sold to pay for care. He emphasised the importance of making sure that you are covered by Power of Attorney so that you are covered in the event of ill health or failing mental capacity. Finally, he recommended investing in an ISA at 7% p.a. to cover funeral expenses but warned of the need to ensure that it was guaranteed against the event of the funeral director going bust.
Summing up, Chris said that before making a will ensure: That you make the best arrangements for your spouse while avoiding pitfalls. Ensure that beneficiaries with special needs are adequately catered for. Ensure your wills allow you to help friends or charities you care about. Ensure that they give you peace of mind.
After an enthusiastic question period, the vote of thanks was given by Anthony Seys-Llewellyn and the meeting closed at 11.42.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 19th May 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker Jonathan Newman, a social anthropologist who will talk to us on: “Three Routes of Exploration: An Anthropological Guide to Everywhere.”
Jonathan Newman introduced his talk by saying that it would be a mixture of philosophy and travel, examining how we see ourselves and other people in varying situations and places. Our circumstances influence our perspective on who and where we are. All changes in circumstance, including travel, exposure to other cultures, and even the experience of lockdown, change the way we see ourselves and the way others see us. Because we are closely connected to our surroundings, our relationships with other people and cultures are constantly adjusting.
Anthropology explores the views of both the observer and those observed, each drawing conclusions from their own standpoint. Jonathan outlined three routes for this exploration. Firstly perspectives: observing the differences and the similarities in what he described as the “stories”, such as culture, customs, events, economy, agriculture, and religion of those encountered. Secondly: connections: Jonathan described how our human bodies affect our individual perceptions and that these perceptions change with age, ability, or disability. As sensory beings, we connect with the world not just through the traditional five senses but also through our sense of balance, time, even foreboding or friendship. He outlined how we connect with the material world through materials from different sources combining to become artefacts which inform the user as to how the article should be handled. Finally, he outlined how we connect with other species. Thirdly, turning to locations, Jonathan described how a visit to Columbia had allowed him to explore important issues from quite different perspectives. However, it is not necessary to go abroad to study such issues, museums, universities, even railway stations and waste disposal sites are locations with much to offer.
Finally, Jonathan said there are vast areas needing anthropological study, including conceptual areas such as freedom, responsibility, economy, and inevitability. Providing these areas are explored via the routes of perspective, connections, and locations, we can “go anywhere”.
After some lively questions, the vote of thanks was given by Mel Leyshon and the meeting closed at 11.38
The Zoom meeting held on 5th May 2021. was our AGM.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 21st April 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and then welcomed and introduced our speaker, Brian Scovell who would give us a talk entitled “Prime Ministers, Royalty, famous and infamous Footballers and Cricketers.”.
Using headlines and pictures from his collection of press-cuttings, Brian Scovell, gave us a personal insight into the many celebrity people whom he had met and written about in a long career as a sports journalist. He started with his memories of Prince Philip, whom he met as a member of the MCC XL(40) Club. He then continued, in a leisurely and somewhat sardonic gossip-column style, to tell us of his encounters with, and opinions of, football club owners, managers and players, including Roman Abramovich, Jose Mourinho, Alf Ramsden, Gary Southgate, Bobby Robson, Jack Charlton, George Best, David Beckham and many others. His cricketing anecdotes revealed the secrets of Ian Botham, his admiration for Lord Learie Constantine and all that he did for race relations, and the skill of Gary Sobers. His personal contacts with Prime Ministers included Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron. He concluded with mention of Boris Johnson and his shared opposition to the disaster of the European Super League proposal.
After a short period of questions, the vote of thanks was given by Wally Elliott and the meeting closed at 12.04.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 7th April 2021. There were 11 members present and 4 apologies.
The Chairman welcomed members and introduced our guest speaker, Howard Nichols who would give us a talk entitled “A Lifeboat on the Road”.
Howard Nichols joined the NHS as a paramedic and in due course became an instructor in the subject. On retiring from the NHS, he was head-hunted by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (the RNLI) to build and run training courses in paramedic skills for selected lifeboat crews. Separate courses were required for crews of big all-weather boats and those of smaller, open, in-shore boats. He was to run these courses from a specially equipped articulated truck and take it to all RNLI stations in the UK and Northern Ireland. However, the truck would not be ready for a year and in the meantime, in addition to writing and developing the courses, he had to get experience of training to be a life-boatsman in all types of RNLI boats.
Using his own impressive photographs, Howard first gave us an insight into the work of a lifeboat crew in all weathers and then took us with him in his specially equipped truck on an extensive tour of the lifeboat stations around the coasts of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland with entertaining anecdotes of his encounters at most places. Each circuit took three years to complete, the first two covered the United Kingdom coastline and the third that of the Island of Ireland. Howard did this single-handed for fifteen years.
He concluded his talk with a review of the development of boats, equipment, and methods used during his time with the RNLI.
After a period of questions, the vote of thanks was given by David Gooding and the meeting closed at 11.50.
The following is a report on our Zoom meeting held on 3rd March 2021
David Harris was in the chair tp welcomed our speaker Jim Holmes to speak to us on “Humanitarian Vision, Documenting the Developing World”.
Jim Holmes introduced himself as a documentary photographer, working with organisations like Oxfam, Save the Children, United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organisations, to document their intervention in disasters and emergencies of many kinds. Illustrating his talk with wonderfully striking photographs, he demonstrated how pictures involving people, particularly children, showed how the bond of humanity shines through in even the direst circumstances; and how pictures need a metaphor to provide a sense of what might have been. Normality returns after a disaster, but iconic images reveal to the world the pain that communities have suffered.
Jim then unfolded, with dramatic pictures, stories of several events and campaigns in South East Asia including the 2004 Tsunami in Sumatra which killed nearly 300, 000 people, A campaign to bring literacy to disenfranchised people in Bangladesh, work for Save the Children in Myanmar and for Oxfam in Cambodia. We were shown the clearance of unexploded ordnance in Laos and a range of projects to deal with the provision of clean water, the prevention of Malaria and work to bring communities out of poverty.
Asked about the effect that covering these tragic events and witnessing many horrific scenes had on himself, Jim told us that he felt protected by the knowledge that all the work he was documenting contributed to the common good.
After a wide-ranging discussion period, the vote of thanks was given by Richard Crole-Rees and the meeting closed at 11.47.
Minutes of the Zoom meeting held on 17th February 2021.
The Chairman welcomed members and our speaker Dr Naylor Firth who had come to talk to us about “The Severn Crossing from 47AD to 1966.”
Dr Naylor Firth opened his talk by describing how, after crossing the English Channel, the Romans and the Normans had no difficulty crossing the Severn Estuary. With the aid of excellent Power Point illustrations, he descried the topographical and often hazardous tidal conditions of the Estuary, as well as the particular characteristics of the old and new passages. He related the experiences of a number of famous people over the course of the centuries, including Charles I, whose pursuers were drowned as he escaped across the Severn, Daniel Defoe and John Wesley. Ferries were then sail powered and transported both people and animals.
The advent of mail coach postal service, and the fact that use of the ferry shortened the distance to London, became a determining factor in the success of the Old Passage, with posting inns at both Beachley and Aust. By the 1820s, the advent of steam power led to the introduction of steam driven ferries and Naylor showed us pictures of how the generations of ferries developed. By 1838 the iron-built Worcester provide an hourly service at reasonable rates on the Old Passage and the New passage was no longer competing effectively. At the same time, the steam power of the developing railways provided a faster transport service for everything that the ferries carried. Both Baldwyn Rogers and Brunel proposed bridges to replace the ferries although neither of them materialised. In 1872 a tunnel was proposed, and it was opened in 1886. There was now little work for a ferry.
However, the invention of the combustion engine in 1885 led to the arrival of the motor car. And the enterprise of Enoch Williams, an architect from Swansea who had served as a Royal Engineer in World War I, gave the ferry a new lease of life. Naylor then traced the story of the car ferry with excellent pictures of its boats and the splendid characters who captained and crewed them. So successful was it that long queues of waiting cars became the norm. In April 1957 The Queen and Prince Philip crossed from Aust to Beachley where they were royally received. In December 1962 the decision was taken to build the first Severn Bridge, and it was opened on 18 December 1966. This spelt the end for the ferry and in 1967 the company was wound up and the boats laid up. Now handsome bridges cross the estuary where the two ferries had once plied their trade,
After a lively discussion, the vote of thanks was given by Bernard Illman and the meeting closed at 1156.
The following is a report on our Zoom meeting held on 3rd Febuary 2021
The chairman welcomed our speaker David Mitchell to speak to us on “The Life and Times of Geoffrey Chaucer”.
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in about 1343 and died about 1400. His life spanned difficult times during the reigns of Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV and included the Black Death and the Peasant’s Revolt. His father, John, was a vintner, served Edward III in his Scottish Campaign, and became a butler at the Court. In 1348 the family, including Geoffrey, aged 7, moved to Southampton to avoid the Black Death, which caused immense economic and social change in the country and led to the Peasant’s Revolt. Returning to London they lived close to the docks, thus exposed to hearing many Languages. He went to school, possibly St Pauls, and learned Latin. In 1357, aged 13, he was sent to train as valetus to Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster, where he trained in the skills of a gentleman. In 1559/60 he served with her husband, Lionel Duke of Clarence’s army in France and was captured at the siege of Reims. Edward III paid the equivalent of £5,800 to get him released. In 1363, on the death of the Countess of Ulster he transferred to the service of Queen Philippa and became a career diplomat and civil servant.
In 1366 Geoffrey married Philippa de Roet, whose sister, Katherine Swinford, was later to become the third wife of John of Gaunt. However, his duties meant that Chaucer travelled frequently between England, France, and Italy, often on sensitive missions. Despite this, their son Thomas , first of probably four children, was born the following year. On these journeys he met many interesting people, possibly including Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, all of whose work was to influence his own writings. His writing had to be done in his spare time. He had already excelled as a writer and translator and 1368 he translated the Romance of the Rose. David detailed many of Chaucer’s diplomatic missions, including, in 1372 mission to Genoa to establish an English port, to enhance trade with Italy, going on to Florence to negotiate with the Bari banking family. Soon after his return he wrote both the “House of Fame” and “The Parliament of Fowls”, both fantasies of dream sequences.
In 1374 Chaucer became Controller for Wool and Customs at the Port of London, which meant more work as a civil servant and less at court, although he continued to have important diplomatic missions to France and Italy over the next few years. In 1380 he was given the lease on Aldgate and lived in a flat over the gate. The same year he was involved in a scandal, probably a sting, with a girl called Cicely Champagne but was acquitted. In 1381 the Peasants Revolt took place, a protest against taxes raised as a result of economic decline after the Black Death. The mob surged through Aldgate, though it is not known whether the Chaucer family were at home. In 1385 he became a JP. The following year he was replaced as Controller of Customs. Between 1386 and 1390 he was involved in a long lawsuit over the use of heraldic devices, one of the witnesses for which was Owain Glyndwr. Chaucer was well versed in the law, and it is said that he trained at the Inns of Court. In July 1389 he became Clerk of the King’s Works, with responsibility for the maintenance of royal property at home and oversees. – a project manager on a vast scale.
Turning to Chaucer’s literary career, David described how his contemporary English writers, John Gower and William Langland, the Italians, Dante Alighieri Boccaccio and Petrarch, and the French Chronicler Jean Froissart, had all contributed to, or influenced, Chaucer’s writing. In 1384 Chaucer wrote Troilus and Cressida, based on Boccaccio’s “Il Filostrate”. In 1385 he wrote the “Legend of the Good Women” . In1386 he started the Canterbury Tales which he continued until his death. Harry Bailey was a real person, and the Tabard was a real inn in Southwark. David went on to demonstrate how many of the wonderful characters drawn in the Canterbury Tales are based on people or professions he encountered during his career and on his travels. His Treatise on the Astrolabe, a superb piece of technical writing was written for his son Lewis. In later life he became Deputy Forester for North Petherton in Somerset. In 1399 Richard II died in Pontefract Castle and Henry IV became king. Henry doubled Chaucer’s pension and granted him a lease on a residence in the Close at Westminster Abbey. Chaucer died the following year and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
After a period for questions, the vote of thanks was given by Graham Blackburn and the meeting ended at 1158.
The following is a report on our Zoom meeting held on 20th January 2021
The chairman welcomed our spearker Jane McIlquham a custodian of Raglan Castle.
Jane McIlquham began by speaking on the origins of Raglan Castle Castle. There is speculation that there was motte and bailey castle built by William Fitz Osborn.(Earl of Hereford) on the site of the Great Tower prior to the Norman Conquest. The castle is built of red sandstone from the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley. The moat is filled from a local stream and needs to be cleared of vegetation every few years. There is a Sally Port giving access to the moat. The gun-loops in the gatehouse, many of which are false, are some of the oldest in Britain. One contains a monk’s tombstone which can be dated by his hair style. Above the window there are several coats of arms, one showing a bascule bridge. The castle entrance had two bascule bridges, a\ wide one for carts and a narrow one for people. Dr John Kenyon, author of the castle guide, believes that the small carving beside one window is probably a musician and that the high quality of the carving at the top of the window, suggests that it was done by a cathedral mason, possibly from Wells.
The large Oriel window opens onto the room where the family were when it was surrendered in 1646 during the civil war. Its condition was deteriorating when CADW, unusually, on account of their normal policy of allowing buildings to weather naturally, agreed to its repair.
The castle is situated close to former Roman roads between Blestium (Monmouth) and Burrium (Usk), on high ground and with a brook nearby. The name Raglan means ‘ high bank’. The land was granted to Walter Bloet in 1172 by Richard de Clare (Known as Strongbow), Lord of Chepstow. Walter built a manor house which remained with the Bloets for several hundred years. In 1432 Elizabeth Bloet, widow, formerly of the Berkeley family, married William ap Thomas, also known as the Blue Knight of Gwent. He started the castle construction as a statement of power and wealth. Elizabeth died 10 years later, and William remarried to Gwladys Gam, widow of Roger Vaughan and daughter of Dafydd Gam. William and Gwladys’ son William took the surname Herbert, granted by Edward IV, as William had served in the King’s household, as also had Warwick.
Henry Tudor lived at Raglan for a while, as did Henry Pursey, both in William Herbert’s custody. William became the first Welsh peer as Earl of Pembroke in 1468, for the capture of Harlech Castle. He is often described as the most influential Welshman of the time. After the Battle of Edgecote in 1469 William, being the Yorkist commander, was executed on Warwick’s orders. His daughter Elizabeth inherited the castle and married Charles Somerset, who gained the title of Earl of Worcester in 1514. A set of carved panels made around 1520, formerly in the castle but then lost, were recently recovered by CADW. The Earls of Worcester remained at Raglan until the Civil War when the Castle was partly destroyed as the Somersets had been on the Royalist side. The Somerset family did recover their lands after Charles II came to the throne.
The effigies of the 2nd Earl of Worcester and his wife Elizabeth are on their tomb in St Mary’s Church in Chepstow. Elizabeth became a close friend of Ann Boleyn partly because both had lost a child. However, her brother was a Jesuit and against Ann. He started rumours of Ann’s affairs and these got to Cromwell’s ears. William Brereton married Elizabeth Brown’s sister and was one of several accused of having affairs with Ann Boleyn. He, like Ann was beheaded. Elizabeth did finally have a child but only after Ann’s death.
Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquis of Worcester, invented the water commanding engine, powered by steam. Just before the siege of 1646 some “ruffians” (possibly Roundhead soldiers) searched the castle for hidden arms and were scared off when a servant told them that “the lions are loose”, because the engine made a sound like a lion’s roar.
After a question and answer session, the vote of thanks was given by David Robinson and the meeting closed at 11.58 a.m.
The following is a report on our Zoom meeting held on 6th January 2021
The chairman welcomed members and Malcolm Meadows, a former menber in Crickhowell, was to speak today.
Malcolm introduced Marc Chagall [1887 – 1985] as having a fascinating life story. His multi-facetted personality made it difficult to characterise his artistic style. He was born into a Jewish family at Vitebsk in Belarus. Aged 13 he enrolled at a High School. There was no art instruction but, following the example of a fellow pupil he started copying images from books and decided to become an artist. He enrolled on a course at a small drawing school in the town but after a few months decided that the conventional style of portrait painting didn’t suit him. In 1906 he moved to St Petersburg where he studied with the support from the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of Arts. On a visit home to Vitebsk, he met Bella Rosenfeld and they fell in love. In 1906 he moved to Paris where he was overwhelmed by both the art and the atmosphere of freedom. He set up a studio and joined the artistic Avant Garde. He met Guillaume Apollinaire, forefather of surrealism, who reacted immediately to Chagall’s work and his use of bright semi-naturalistic colours. Malcolm then showed us examples of his work between 1910 and 1914 full of symbolism, Jewish motifs, and floating ethereal figures. In 1914 he made his international debut, exhibiting at a fashionable gallery in Berlin. After its success, he continued to Vitebsk where he married Bella. In 1915 he began exhibiting in Moscow and in 1916 in St Petersburg, becoming one of Russia’s best known Avant Garde artists. Though at first approving of the 1917 Revolution he and Bella lived in straightened circumstances. He was appointed a commissar for art and worked both as a stage designer and teaching art to children. In 1923 Chagall left Russia for good. We were then shown a selection of his work between 1914 and 1923.
Returning to France via Berlin, Chagall found himself famous despite his own poverty and started again as a designer and print maker. He travelled widely outside France, gathering inspiration, including to Israel. He was commissioned to illustrate the Bible and produced a set of coloured lithographs. Among many examples, we were shown “Jeremiah receiving the gift of prophesy”, as well as a series of Chagall’s works between 1923 and 1941. World War II France was too dangerous for the Chagalls, and they escaped to USA, arriving in New York in 1941. Here he designed costumes and stage sets for ballet, including Massine’s “Aleko” set to Tchaikovsky’s music, and Stavisky’s “Firebird”. In 1944 Bella died and after a year of mourning, he married a younger woman, Virginia Haggard. Malcolm then reviewed several of Chagall’s works created in America. Chagall returned to France in 1948, but four years later Virginia left him, and he married Valentina Brodsky, a Jewish émigré. He moved to the south of France and, filled with new energy, he experimented in pottery, sculpture and stained glass for synagogues and churches. In 1963 he painted the ceiling of the Paris Opera depicting scenes from the most famous operas, and later huge paintings for the New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1964 he designed the stained-glass window, “Peace” as a memorial to the UN’s second Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld. A special gem is the set of 12 stained glass windows at All Saints Church, Tudeley, in Kent commissioned by her parents as a memorial to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid. Malcolm then showed us a final selection of Chagall’s work, illustrating Picasso’s claim that “Marc Chagall is the only artist who understands what colour really is”.
Finally, after showing us Chagall’s Grand Cross of the Legion d’Honeur and other decorations, Malcolm concluded with Chagall’s statement that: “In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life: the colour of love”.
After many questions, the vote of thanks was given by Les Bevan and the meeting closed at 1205.