Apr 2018 – Mar 2019
Peter Berry is keen photographer with a long standing interest in railways, particularly the steam powered variety, and he came to Painswick Probus recently to talk about his trip into sub-zero China. Peter has travelled the world with an international group of like-minded enthusiasts photographing railways and this trip was one they undertook in 1998 to China. Sub-zero China because it was winter when they visited Inner Mongolia and the Gobi desert when temperatures are typically around -20 C. It was a conscious decision to go at that time as the snow covered terrain and the blue skies make a dramatic backdrop to the steam trains and the cold emphasises the engine exhaust.
The trip started with a few days in Beijing where they were given a guide and a translator, ostensibly to ensure their safety but in reality to ensure they did not photograph what they shouldn’t. They then travelled west on an overnight sleeper with a cosy 60 bunks per carriage. Peter’s neighbour in second class was a Chinese farmer and his goat, third class apparently had a somewhat larger population of goats! Toilet facilities were a hole in the carriage floor which required a certain degree of courage and athleticism on a moving train in sub-zero temperatures.
The railways of interest were the steam trains transporting coal from open cast mines to nearby power stations along tracks which would wind their way through the dramatic snow covered valleys and over impressive viaducts. Peter also took many photographs of the local people and he was clearly impressed how they could survive in such a hostile place with so few creature comforts and still be so cheerful.
The trip was obviously a physical and culinary challenge for Peter and his friends but they were pleased to have made a record of the last working steam railway as shortly afterwards the engines were replaced by diesel locomotives.
James Clifford – Entrepreneur
Rose Hewlett returned to Probus to present another of her interesting talks on local history with particular relevance to the Severn Vale. This time it was about James Clifford (1534-1613) who held estates at Frampton Court and Fretherne and became the owner of coal mines in Brosley on the Severn Gorge (now Ironbridge) in Shropshire.
The Clifford family had long had association with Frampton going back to the Norman conquest and their estate was centred on Frampton manor but they also held land in Fretherne nearby and other areas of Gloucestershire. However there were disputes about the legality of these acquisitions and by the time James inherited from his father in 1558 the estate was centred on Fretherne with some land in Frampton.
This was the year of the accession of Elizabeth I and James became an officer in the Queen’s household where he would have made a number of important contacts. Like many he had an ambition that the Queen would visit his estate and he spent money on a house at Fretherne for this purpose, but to no avail.
Through his court contacts he became friendly with the Fox family who owned an estate in Brosley and through marriage to the daughter Dorothy he acquired an interest in the coal mines there. These lay between the village and the river Severn and the coal was accessed through drifts or ‘adits’ dug into the coal seams from the banks of the gorge. The coal was then taken down the steep sides of the gorge to be transported by boat down the Severn. The problem was that Brosley was a small village and the mines needed lots of labour. James expanded the mines by encouraging people into the area with the promise of land for dwellings if you could erect a chimney and a hearth in a day. This brought in immigrant labour much to the concern of the locals although it is not certain where the labour originated, much was probably from James’ estate around Frampton.
Transporting the coal down the gorge was very dangerous with pack horses or horse drawn wagons and so a wooden rail system was developed. This was certainly in operation by 1605 making it one of the first rail systems in Britain if not the first. A very fine model of the gorge with the mines, rail tracks and river port is in the Ironbridge Museum.
James died in 1613 at the age of 79 leaving his estate to his daughter Mary. He is probably buried in Frampton although his grave has never been located. He was a man of substance but also an extravagant one and the Bosley mines had to be sold off to support the upkeep of the Gloucestershire estate. Nevertheless his development of the Bosley coal mines was a significant factor in the subsequent start of the Industrial Revolution in that region in the 1700’s.
Atkyns of Gloucestershire
Wednesday 20th February saw Alan Pilbeam come to talk about Robert Atkyns the first county historian of Gloucestershire, or more accurately, about his work the “Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire”. Published in 1712 shortly after his death it is an impressive tome containing a unique record of the county as it was at the time. Although not an easy read it is a mine of information which Alan has used in his publication “Gloucestershire 300 Years Ago” to celebrate the tri-centenary of Atkyns work.
Atkyns was born in 1647, the son of Sir Robert Atkyns, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House of Lords and he himself held many important posts and was knighted by Charles II in 1663. The family owned many properties in Gloucestershire including the family seat in Sapperton where Sir Robert’s impressive tomb is in the local church.
Atkyn’s book contains a parish by parish description with locations being relative to local market towns. However the system of measurement was not as precise as we know today, Painswick being located 2 miles north of Stroud and also 2 miles north of Bisley. One of the most interesting features of the book is the engravings by Jan Kip, a Dutch engraver who specialised in bird’s eye views of grand houses and gardens. Alan showed a number of the engravings of the fine Gloucestershire houses existing at the time. Although many have been demolished or have only partially survived, Alan illustrated with his photographs how many of the buildings and estate features could still be identified, demonstrating the accuracy of Kip’s drawings.
Another interesting feature was the inclusion of land use maps which showed that in the 1700’s Gloucestershire was given over much more to arable farming than to sheep, corn being where the money was in that era.
An interesting talk full of local interest.
Turn Left at the Pacific.
On Wednesday 6th February John Macartney came to Painswick Probus to present his talk entitled “Turn Left at the Pacific”. This concerned his drive around the US and Canada in a classic car to raise money for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) charities and is the title of his book covering the trip. Why PTSD and why driving a classic car around North America?
Well John had worked for Standard Triumph for many years and in 1980 was working in Iraq setting up tractor service centres when he was caught up in the start of the Iran Iraq war. Trapped in Baghdad close to military targets he was bombed and shelled for many days before he could escape and even had to kill in self defence. This left John very shaken and suffering from undiagnosed PTSD for many years until he was given treatment to help him cope with the effects. Around 2007 John was contemplating what he could do to repay the people who had helped him and that combined with his love of classic cars, particularly Triumphs, gave him the idea of a charity drive. He set up an internet website which raised a lot of interest, particularly from the US, and suggestions for a route poured in. What was needed now was a suitable vehicle. John owned a number of classic Triumphs but these would need to be certified for US roads. A group of enthusiasts in the US proposed a Triumph Stag they had acquired but unfortunately it was a non-runner in very poor condition. Undeterred they set about restoring it and after several thousand man hours an immaculate Stag emerged. John got his 90 day visitors visa and off he set in 2009 starting from Florida, around the US and Canada, and ending up in San Francisco within the 90 days.
John’s talk was enlivened with many anecdotes and photographs of the people and places he visited. He would meet up with fellow PTSD sufferers and classic car enthusiasts would escort him in convoy. He was clearly impressed with the help and hospitality he received throughout his trip. The Triumph Stag is not renowned for its reliability but John covered nearly 18,000 miles with just one breakdown – a fuel pump failure. At the time the trip raised several thousand pounds but has continued to raise money since and today the total stands at around £160,000 which has been evenly divided between charities in US, UK and Canada. Even the car raised money, a man from Minneapolis who saw the Stag on the trip bought it for a very generous £35,000.
John’s book covering the trip also details his personal experiences with PTSD.
The Magic & Mystery of Glenn Miller
We were very pleased to welcome back Bill King and his wife to our first meeting of the year, held on Wednesday 23rd January.
The talk covered the life of Glenn Miller from his birth on 1st March 1904 to the mystery surrounding his disappearance on a cross channel flight from Bedford to Paris in 1944. Many of us have seen the 1960’s film ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allison, so it was fascinating to hear Bill King’s story of Miller’s life and listen to some of his big band compositions and arrangements and in particular his signature tune ‘Moonlight Serenade’.
Glenn Miller was born in the very small town of Clarinda in the USA mid-western state of Iowa. He was introduced to the trombone by his father and in his early days played in his school band. After dropping out after a year at the University of Michigan he made a sort of living playing primarily swing music in ‘speakeasy’ clubs which distributed alcohol during the prohibition era of 1920’s and 1930’s. Later he left Chicago area for New York where he studied for a degree in Musicology. It was while at college in New York that he shared a room with Benny Goodman and made a lasting friendship.
In was in the late 1920’s that Glenn Miller formed his band and shortly after began his long association with the RCA Broadcasting Corporation of New York. In the early days the transmission range of radio stations was only 30 to 40 miles, so Miller and the band travelled around the country from one station to the next one playing their music over the airways. Although Miller played the trombone, his great skill was in bringing together the various sections of the band and his novel and popular arrangements. The rapid increase in the possession of radios by households and the consequent spread of popular programmes turned Glenn Miller and his band into national celebrities. By 1938 Miller became a wealthy man and famous in the world of popular Big Band music. This included a lucrative sponsorship by the Chesterfield Cigarette Company, an early example of product placing.
During WW2, he was drafted into the forces and in 1942 he moved to the UK with the American Army Air force. Captain Miller with his band began playing at concerts at the various bases entertaining the forces and also playing at dance venues. Miller and the actor David Niven and the BBC were active in making clandestine broadcasts with aim of demoralizing the German forces towards the latter stages of WW2. He used his signature composition to signal the start the broadcast. By this time he had been promoted to the rank of major.
There has always been a mystery surrounding his death on 15th December 1944, although the weather and visibility was fine, the aircraft he was on was lost in the English Channel on its way to recently liberated city of Paris. There were and still are various theories on how and why the plane was lost, ranging from been shot down by enemy or even allied forces guns, engine failure, pilot error or loss of fuel; no trace of the aircraft was found.
During the talk Bill King played recordings of Glenn Miller’s Band Big Band music, these included ‘In the Mood’, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, ‘I’ve Got A Gal in Kalamazoo'( the first ever Golden Disc awarded in 1939) and several other well remembered tunes of that era.
On 9 Jan 2019 Dr Tim Brain visited the Club again and squeezed into one hour his account of the many battles fought in Gloucestershire since the first properly organized one at Crickley Hill in 6 B.C.
Battles took place when tribes or lords saw opportunities to acquire arable land both to support the increasing population and to enable routes through the region to be controlled. Gloucestershire lies on the north-south route between Exeter and Lincoln and the east-west route towards Wales, making it a strategic “crossroads”.
Over the centuries armies have met at many places but not always to fight; sometimes their leaders would agree to a treaty whose purpose could be to change the royal succession plan without the loss of blood.
Dr Brain explained that the Wars of the Roses were about the failure of politics and the ineffectiveness of the inexperienced, ill-advised and and indecisive monarch – Henry VI. Associated battles included those at Nibley Green in 1470 and Tewkesbury in 1471.
Battles at Stow-on-the-Wold (1646) and the Siege of Gloucester during the British Civil War were also mentioned.
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Malcolm Lewis returned to Painswick Probus on 28 Nov 2018 to present another of his popular talks on a musical theme. This time it was on Rodgers and Hammerstein, arguably the most successful writing partnership in the musical theatre.
Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) was born into an affluent American family and was a promising musician even at a young age. By the age of 9 he had composed his first tune. He actually met Oscar Hammerstein at the age of 12 when he visited his brother at Columbia University, however it was not until 1943 that they teamed up as a musical partnership. Earlier Rodgers had partnered Lorenz Hart and despite having little early success, almost prompting Rogers to become an underwear salesman, they did write some popular shows and films over a 20 year partnership.
Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) was born into a theatrical management family. The business was started by his grandfather Oscar Hammerstein I who emigrated to the US from Prussia to escape his overbearing father. He found employment in a cigar factory and went on to make a fortune from cigar machinery patents. Oscar II’s family were not keen on him following a theatrical career and he initially studied law at Columbia but quit to pursue theatre. He also had some successful partnerships with composers, notably Jerome Kern, before teaming up with Rodgers.
Their first success came with “Oaklahoma” which ran on Broadway for over 2000 performances until 1948 and became a film in 1955. Other musicals followed and many of them also made into films – Carousel, State Fair, Allegro, South Pacific, The King And I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, The Flower Drum Song and probably their best known The Sound of Music. Rodgers and Hammerstein are credited by many as being the first to write musicals with a proper story line, with believable characters and which addressed real issues such as racism.
As usual Malcolm interspersed his talk with music and amusing anecdotes and regularly tested the memory and knowledge of his audience. In all a very entertaining way to spend an hour.
Everest Base Camp Trek November 2006.
The Painswick Probus talk on Wednesday 14th November concerned Lew Lawton’s trek to the Everest base camp. Lew spent 30 years in the British Army and part of the reason for his trek was to see the homeland of the Gurkha soldiers.
Everest is on the border between Nepal and Tibet (China) and there are base camps for climbers on both sides. The Tibetan camp is accessible by road but the Nepal camp can only be reached on foot. Most people fly into Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, and then take a local plane to Lukla from where the trek takes about 13 days (9 days up and 4 days down) with an ascent of 2800m. The trek is very popular and a major source of income for Nepal which is a poor country with few natural resources. The base camp is at an altitude of around 5400m and the effects of altitude sickness can be significant, sometimes fatal. The problem is that the trek is just achievable with a two-week vacation and people often don’t allow sufficient time to acclimatise to the lack of oxygen.
There are daily flights from Kathmandu to Lukla but only in good weather and early in the day so flights are limited. Lukla airport has the distinction of being the most dangerous airport in the world and Lew suggested a search on YouTube would be ‘enlightening’.
The talk was illustrated his talk with lots of photographs and anecdotes and Lew was clearly impressed with the people, the food and especially the scenery. He admitted that none of his photos could really do justice to the views. He was also particularly impressed by the Sherpas. Nearly everything is carried up the mountain by these men or by yaks. Mostly they are farmers who take time off during the trekking season because of the money they can earn, their ultimate goal being to become a trek guide. Lew showed some amazing photos of loaded Sherpas who can carry loads approaching their own body weight and often only wearing sandals or flip-flops! More amazing when you hear that most trekkers struggle to put one foot in front of the other as they approach base camp.
One unfortunate consequence of the popularity in trekking and climbing Everest is the amount of rubbish that accumulates. Lew presented a list of what is estimated to have been left on the slopes because of the difficulty in removing it although steps are now being taken to limit what goes up and remove what is there. Macabrely the list includes 125 dead bodies but climbers accept that they are left if they perish while making an ascent. Fortunately Lew returned to talk about his adventure.
The Renaissance & Renaissance Art.
Looking at the title of this talk to Painswick Probus Club, many in the audience probably feared an hour loaded with slides of Renaissance art and a discussion of the merits of various artists and their techniques, but not so. This was an interesting discussion by Ken Power of his view of the cultural and social changes that resulted in the Renaissance period and its radically new presentation of art.
Ken started by describing how the ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and the Greeks sought stability in their society by worshipping the heavens and the gods. They were competent astronomers who viewed the stars and planets and attributed the consistency they saw to some greater being(s). In Egypt the power that the Pharaoh enjoyed was because he was seen as the peoples conduit to the heavens. Perhaps in order to maintain this power and stability Egyptian art became very stylised – the Pharaoh was always represented in the same way, sitting or standing straight-backed, and any artistic improvisation could be penalised by death. There was no representation of personal character or emotion in their art and no development of style and technique..
Greek art, although less stylised, concentrated on the god-given attributes of the human form, the body, its athleticism, strength and balance but again no individual personality. Faces and hands were expressionless.
A major change came with the spread of Christianity. Jesus taught that the power came from within an individual and not directly from God or the heavens. However over the years Christianity became institutionalised in great churches and in its ceremonies and rituals. Art was religious art. It was positioned high up in the churches to symbolise that the power came from heaven. The format was repetitive and two-dimensional.
Ken’s belief is that this all changed largely because of one man. Not an artist but the son of a wealthy Florence cloth merchant – that man was St. Francis of Assisi. He became wealthy like his father but one day he gave up all his wealth and possessions and started to help the poor who were flocking to the expanding city of Florence to find work in cloth making. In his preaching he presented a more accessible, human image of Christ and artists started to depict a much more mortal Christ. They were freed up to paint all kinds of subjects, paintings told stories, subjects showed emotion and human traits, techniques developed, paintings had perspective and depth. The Renaissance in art that gave us the likes of Raphael, Da Vinci and Michaelangelo had begun.
How To Make A Fortune In The 18th Century.
On 17 Oct 2018, Peter Covey-Crump came to Probus to present a talk on the life of his seventh cousin Anselm Beaumont who became a wealthy man through trading in India. Although Beaumont became a close friend of Lord Clive there is little mention of him in historical references but Peter was able to piece together his life from the large number of his letters held in the British Library.
Beaumont died a wealthy man as was evident from the James Christie auction catalogue of his household effects. There was a two-day sale of ‘household furniture, pictures, china, fine linen, rich wardrobe and other valuable effects’ followed by a sale of his ‘well chosen library in fine condition’. The catalogues show that his Argyle Street house was lavishly furnished and his wardrobe included 15 silk suits, four waistcoats and 140 shirts, of which 66 had not been worn.
Born in 1715 he followed in his father’s footsteps and became an apothecary. By 1751 he had risen to the highest grade in the Society of Apothecaries but this would not have explained his wealth and he was, by then, relatively mature for the times. So how did he do it?
Peter’s research has uncovered an application by him to the Directors of the East India Company to trade on his own behalf. This was accepted, probably because he was not going to compete with the EIC and in 1753 he arrived in Calcutta as a Free Merchant with a chest of Mediterranean coral beads valued at £500. He was aged 38. He lost everything in the Siege of 1756 but was then appointed a Factor in the East India Company “because of his honourable conduct and his great losses in the late general calamity”.
He was obviously very capable and by 1759, he had risen to Senior Merchant and was the Provincial Military Store Keeper, which included responsibility for the Mint. In 1763 he was tasked with building the new fort for the EIC in Midnapore.
The British Library holds transcripts of his letters, including 217 business letters, and Peter read extracts from these to explain how he amassed his wealth. He was trading in a diverse range of goods including opium with China, coral, pearls and emeralds, textiles, wine, rice, cloves, cinnamon, hides, cowtails, shellac and marble slabs! However it was probably his trade in salt where he really made his money. It is estimated he distributed around 10,000 tonnes annually within India at a profit of £10,000 or £1.5M in today’s values.
He returned to England in 1763 after only 10 years trading with an estimated fortune of £70,000 (£10.5M today). This is quite amazing when you consider the difficulties in communication and travel at the time – just the voyage to India would take 12 months. Never married he died in 1776 without any immediate heirs. A fascinating piece of historical research by Peter presented in an entertaining fashion.
Courtesans, Fashionistas and Street Walkers 18th Century Style.
For the first meeting of the new season on 5 Sep 2018, Mike Rendell came to talk to Painswick Probus Club about the ladies of the Georgian period. Mike has researched and written several books about the Georgian period and his talk covered the subject of a forthcoming book.
The Georgians were very open about sex and prostitution and it is estimated that there were between 65 and 75 thousand prostitutes in London alone and around 5000 brothels. At the time there was very little alternative employment for women and no social security and it is estimated that one in five women sold sex for money at some time.
At the top of the scale were the Courtesans who often were the mistresses of prominent men. They were the celebrities of their day, clothes they wore would be copied by stores and prints of their portraits would be sold to the public. Many were young girls who, because of their youth and good looks, were taken in by rich gentlemen. Some prospered and became wealthy in their own right but many slid down the ladder when their looks faded and they were ejected by their gentlemen. The Prince of Wales was notorious for promising his ladies an annuity but then reneging on his promises when he tired of them.
The vast majority of course were not in this league. The fate of many of the girls is graphically illustrated in a series of 6 paintings by William Hogarth entitled ‘The Harlot’s Progress’. This shows a young girl arriving in London to seek work, being tricked into prostitution and dying of venereal disease, still in her twenties. Most would ply their trade on the streets or in brothels known as Bagnios ( bath-house in Italian). In London the centre of the trade was Covent Garden, and in particular Drury Lane with its theatres and coffee houses. There were even published directories of prostitutes describing their attributes and specialties. The most famous of these was ‘Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies’ which was published annually from 1757 to 1795 and sold for 2 shillings and 6 pence, a significant sum for a working man. Nevertheless around 8000 copies were sold annually.
An interesting talk but one about an unfortunate aspect of Georgian life.
The Engineering of the Pyramids
On 20 Jun 2018 John Clark came to Painswick Probus to explain his theory on how the Pyramids of Egypt were constructed. John, an engineer, worked in Cairo for several years and one day he and his neighbour Dick Parry, a civil engineer, decided to investigate how the Pyramids could have been constructed.
After reviewing data on the great pyramids they soon realised that many of the theories suggesting vast armies of slaves dragging blocks up ramps on sledges were just not tenable. The great pyramid at Giza is 230m square at the base, is146m high and contains 2.3 million blocks each weighing 2.5 tons. With a build time of 22 years a block would have to be placed every few minutes – this was clearly a vast production engineering project requiring ingenuity and planning rather than just brute force.
It is known that the stone came from a quarry 7 km away on the opposite side of the Nile and there is clear evidence that the blocks were cut to size in the quarry. It is also feasible that the blocks were floated across the Nile on reed barges but the means of transport over land and up the Pyramid site was less obvious. Sledges pulled by slaves are often suggested but immense effort would have been required even over flat ground.
John and Dick had a theory that any equipment used in the construction would have been buried with the Pharaoh for use in the after life and they were granted access to the Cairo Museum’s warehouse full of pyramid artefacts. There were many tools for cutting the stone and aligning the blocks but only one sledge which supported their view that this was not the means of transport. There were however around 150 curved wooden constructions which John described as ‘rockers’. These were also found on the river bed with stone blocks that failed to make the crossing suggesting they were transported with the blocks. It was then realised that these rockers could be clamped around a stone block, four at each end, to form a construction a bit like a modern cable drum. It has been shown with a full size replica that this can easily be rolled over flat ground and by winding ropes around the rockers around 20 men could safely steer it up a ramp around the Pyramid.
John admits that theirs is only a theory and the truth may never be known but believes it is based on sound engineering judgements and equipment known to exist at the time.
A fascinating talk and a believable theory but maybe it is better that we never know in order to maintain the mystique of the Pyramids?
My Life in Russia
At the meeting on 23 May 2018 Masha Lees gave a talk entitled ‘My Life in Russia before Perestroika and After’ which covered the period from 1957 to 1997. In this she contrasted the Soviet time when the educational system and the medical facilities were excellent, through the Perestroika period of chaos in Yeltzin’s time, to the present where a doctor’s qualifications can be bought in the open market for cash.
She showed something of family life marked by squalid living conditions in Soviet times, through to poverty as the USSR broke up, to modern times where for some there are great riches but for the masses, particularly in the countryside, there has been little change. Life in Russia, she explained, is now centred on money, acquired usually illegally. Power and wealth can be grabbed by individuals by theft but only retained through kick- backs to high officials of the regime, right to the top. In consequence the good education she received, admittedly as the daughter of a government official, is now not available.
Masha Lees gave a fascinating account of a changing Russia which has moved from socialism and lack of freedom, to a regime based on theft and corruption. She did, however, show us some of the eternal aspects of Russia in the exhibits she displayed, including shawls, samovar cups and newspapers, in her interesting and well-illustrated talk.
The Building of the Kariba Dam
On 9 May 2018 David Lemon returned to share his passion and knowledge of Africa, and in particular the Zambezi River, and the building of the dam at Kariba during the period of 1951 – 1958. At first engineers could not find a practical route, which would require many bridges and tunnels through the inhospitable terrain, for the road which was essential for getting materials and labour to Kariba. Then it was noticed that elephants had formed an ancient track along the ridges – a natural solution!
Tenders were invited in 1955 to divert the river, and to build the dam, turbine hall, and accommodation for the 10,000 labourers who would ultimately be employed for 4 years.
The lake started to be filled in 1958 with 183 billion cubic metres of water, forcibly displacing some 57,000 Tongan tribesmen and women from their ancestral land. changing the ecology of the region for ever.
Forgotten Objects of Yesteryear
On 25 April 2018 Sandra Ashenford delighted her audience of both ladies’ and gentlemen’s Probus Clubs with her interactive talk about forgotten objects of yesteryear. Her talk was followed by the customary buffet lunch arranged by Paul Sparks.
On 14 April the Club held its AGM. The president’s chain of office was passed from Henry Hall to Basil Butler, formerly the vice-president. The draft minutes may be found on this website. The AGM was followed by an interesting presentation by David Chapman about the trustee’s emerging future vision for the Painswick Centre and a less interesting one about the impact on the Club of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
Apr 2017 – Mar 2018
The Life And Songs of George Formby
On March 28th Matthew Sproston entertained Probus with a talk on the life of George Formby interspersed with some of his songs accompanied by the ukulele. Matthew is a member of the George Formby Society and a member of one of the many ukulele clubs which have sprung up as a result of the popularity of George’s songs. Even the Queen is a fan, her favourite apparently being ‘Leaning on a Lamp Post’.
The eldest of seven children, George Booth was born in Wigan in 1904 into a relatively affluent family, his father being a music hall entertainer of some repute. It was his father, George senior, who first used the stage name Formby after the town on the Lancashire coast. His parents didn’t want George to follow his dad and he went off at a young age to train as an apprentice jockey. George senior suffered continual chest problems and often referred to it into his act. It is reputed he coined the phrase “ It’s not the coughin’ that carries you off it’s the coffin they carry you off in”.
His father died when George was only 16 and he returned home to support his mother and family. It was on a trip to London with his mother that they saw an act similar to that of George senior and decided that George would take over his father’s act. The act was a disaster until George took up the ukulele and then met Beryl Ingham, a clog dancer from Accrington, who agreed to become George’s manager and was eventually his wife for 36 years. Beryl was very astute and George became one of the best paid male stars making 21 films, usually playing the simple but likeable working-class man, and recording 230 songs. George was no great musician but played with an attractive syncopated style, thought to mimic Beryl’s clog dancing. However it was the lyrics of his songs with their sexual innuendo that really made him popular, no doubt aided by the BBC banning many of them for broadcast. Many of the songs were written by two songwriters but Beryl made sure George added some words of his own to ensure they could share the royalties.
Beryl was the dominant one in the partnership, reputedly she gave George 5s per week spending money despite him earning around £100,000 per annum. Even so George managed to own 26 Rolls-Royces and several houses during his lifetime. After WW2 George’s popularity declined and so did his health. When Beryl died of leukaemia George caused a stir by getting engaged 6 weeks later to Pat Howson, the daughter of his Rolls Royce dealer! However, before they could marry, George died of a second heart attack in 1961 at the age of only 56. His funeral in Liverpool attracted 100,000 mourners.
The George Formby Society was formed in the 1960’s and has gone from strength to strength, meeting four times a year in Blackpool. The ukulele is also becoming an increasingly popular instrument because of its accessibility and there are numerous local ukulele clubs.
Matthew finished an entertaining talk with one of George’s best known songs “Leaning on a Lamp Post”.
Katherine Parr, Gloucestershire’s Queen.
On March 14th Mike Bottomley, an admirer of Katherine Parr, came to talk to Painswick Probus about her life, achievements and her connection to Gloucestershire. Dressed as Miles Coverdale who, for a time, served as her almoner and spiritual guide at Sudeley Castle, Mike presented a portrait of the most interesting of Henry’s queens. He also enlivened his talk with videos he had created using costumed actors at Sudeley castle.
Born in 1512, the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of Westmorland, she was well educated and became fluent in French, Latin and Italian. First married at 16 she was widowed by the age of 20. She was re-married shortly afterwards to John Neville who was twice her age but was a substantial step up from her first husband. Widowed again at 30 she was now a wealthy independent woman. Having renewed a friendship with Mary, daughter of Henry and his first wife Katherine of Aragon, she became a member of Mary’s household. It was here she came to the notice of the king. Katherine accepted the king’s offer of marriage despite being romantically involved with Thomas Seymour, brother of the late queen Jane Seymour and poor Thomas was posted abroad to avoid any distraction for the new queen.
Henry loved Katherine and of all his marriages it was probably the most loving. She was becoming increasingly interested in the new Protestant religion, was reading widely and starting to translate books from Latin into English in order to make them more accessible to ordinary people. She saw this as God’s work. She even composed her own book of prayers and had two books published under her own name, becoming the first published female author. However Henry was reverting to Catholicism, really only having left for convenience and this led to an argument between the couple. Fortunately Katherine diplomatically placated him before a warrant for her arrest was implemented. Henry’s health was now declining and Katherine nursed him until his death. Widowed again the dowager queen retired from court following the coronation of the new king, Edward VI.
Henry’s death prompted Thomas Seymour, later Baron Seymour of Sudeley, to return from exile and they renewed their romance secretly. They married in secret as it was so soon after Henry’s death and as such could be considered as treason. This was when Katherine took her stepdaughter Elizabeth under her wing at Sudeley.
To her delight Katherine became pregnant but sadly died at Sudeley 8 days after the birth at the age of 36. She was buried there with the first service conducted in English. Thomas left Sudeley and never returned, the castle fell into disrepair but was eventually restored in the 19th century and a re-creation of Katherine’s tomb can be seen in the restored chapel.
Mike summarised Katherine Parr’s legacy as being:
Henry VIII’s favourite wife
The first published female author
Responsible for the first church service in English
Involved in the formative years of one of our greatest monarchs
The only queen buried in Gloucestershire.
Dame Janet Trotter – Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire
On 28 Feb 2018 we were privileged to welcome Dame Janet Trotter who is the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire. Supported by 30 deputy lieutenants distributed evenly throughout the region, Dame Janet summed up her role as “to uphold the dignity of the crown”.
Dame Janet reflected on her activities in 4 main areas during her 8 year term of of office:
Royal Visits – assisting event organisers with planning and with Palace and Police liaison
Supporting Excellence – recommending Queens Awards for voluntary service
The Armed Forces – currently gearing up for the commemoration of the end of WW1.
Building up Civil Society – special interest in foster carers, Age UK, and the Nelson Trust
Dating from the time of Henry VIII, when armies loyal to the king needed to be raised, Lord-Lieutenants who were usually wealthy and experienced in military matters were appointed to use their money and influence to satisfy their king and be rewarded by the gift of land.
Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants are the representatives of the Crown for each county in the United Kingdom. Men or women of all backgrounds, they are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.
There are 98 Lord-Lieutenants, who cover all areas of the UK, from Shetland to Cornwall, County Tyrone to South Glamorgan. As the sovereign’s representative in his or her county, the Lord-Lieutenant remains non-political and does not hold office in any political party. They are appointed for life, although the customary age of retirement is seventy-five.
Lord-Lieutenants are responsible for the organisation of all official Royal visits to their county. On the day of an engagement they escort the Royal visitor around the different locations — not simply The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, but any member of the Royal Family.
Lord-Lieutenants also carry out other duties in their county, such as the presentation of decorations (where the recipient is unable to attend an Investiture), The Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology, and Queen’s Scout and Queen’s Guide Awards. As well as taking a particular interest in the armed forces (including ex-Service men and women and their families), Lord-Lieutenants have a close association with the magistracy and higher courts in their areas — thus demonstrating the maintenance of historical links.
Lord-Lieutenants are also responsible for ensuring that The Queen’s Private Office is kept informed about local issues relating to their area, particularly when a Royal visit is being planned.
On St Valentines day Jen Robinson-Slater came to Painswick Probus to talk about stroke awareness and the role of the Stroke Association.
There is good news in that survival rates have doubled in recent years but the incidence of strokes is rising due to longer life expectancy and lifestyle changes. The Association directs its efforts in three ways: research into prevention, support for stroke victims and campaigning for better treatment; however, treatment facilities and expertise are still a bit of a postcode lottery.
A stroke is a brain attack where the cells of the brain are damaged due to a lack of blood flow. The most common form of stroke is an ischaemic attack which is a blockage due to a thrombosis or an embolism and accounts for around 80% of strokes. Alternatively, a stroke can be a haemorrhagic stroke caused by bleeding in the brain. A third type, known as a TIA, is a transient ischaemic attack where the symptoms are short lived because the blockage is temporary. Because the symptoms are temporary many people ignore a TIA but it is still serious and often a precursor to another attack.
The symptoms of a stroke can be various physical and emotional changes. Because different sides of the brain control different sides of the body the effects are often one sided, such a loss of facial control or limb weakness. “Time lost is brain lost” and fast identification and treatment of a stroke is critical. The association has had great success with a recent campaign resulting in a 24% increase in prompt emergency calls following a stroke.
The campaign used the acronym FAST:
any of these three symptoms and it’s Time to call 999.
With the different causes of strokes it is vital that the cause is identified to inform the treatment; blood thinning drugs may help a blockage but worsen a bleed. The good news is that treatment techniques have improved significantly with brain scanning, clot-busting drugs and mechanical clot removal.
As with everything though prevention is better than cure. There are risk factors we can’t control such as age or ethnicity but there are others we can influence such as obesity, smoking, alcohol which are things that all contribute to high blood pressure. And this was the underlying message – if we could control blood pressure around 40% of strokes could be avoided.
The Stroke Association can be found at www.stroke.co.uk.
Mountain Search And Rescue
At the end of January, Vince Williams came to talk to Painswick Probus about mountain search and rescue in the UK. Vince is a Search Manager and active member of the Western Beacons Mountain Search and Rescue Team in South Wales.
In the early 1900’s fell walking and rock climbing were activities enjoyed by relatively few people, however a number of high profile accidents resulted in the formation of the Joint Stretcher Committee by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club and others in 1932. They were charged with devising a suitable mountain stretcher and selecting other equipment to be located in huts in popular walking and climbing areas. A desire for a more permanent structure led to the formation of the First Aid Committee funded by interested parties such as the Ramblers Association and the YHA and by 1950, the First Aid Committee had become the Mountain Rescue Committee, a charitable trust with membership from a wider spectrum of outdoor pursuit groups. In 1993 the MR Committee became the MR Council with representatives from the Police, Coastguard, Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Sports Council, Air Ambulance Association and others. The MRC is now the Mountain Rescue (England & Wales) and individual teams (such as Western Beacons) are members both of the MREW and of their regional association (e.g. South Wales S&R Association) which is also represented at MREW. However neither the MREW nor the regional associations have authority over the individual teams but provide an opportunity to discuss and agree standards, training and equipment.
Despite being the fourth ’emergency service’ after Police, Fire and Ambulance, Mountain Rescue today remains a volunteer-manned service and surprisingly MR teams in England and Wales receive no direct government funding and have to finance their own running costs through charity fund-raising or sponsorship.
Volunteers are from all walks of life and need no pre-qualification to join. As Vince explained the range of equipment and continuous training a team requires, his audience appreciated that funding a team is not a trivial exercise.
When required Mountain Rescue will be called out by the Police in response to a 999 call but not just for walking and climbing accidents in difficult terrain; their skills are often used, along with their colleagues in SARDA (Search And Rescue Dogs Association), in locating persons missing due to illness or mishap. So just because we don’t dangle from ropes on icy cliff faces we shouldn’t assume mountain rescue will not be relevant to us – a donation may be worthwhile!
The Korean War 1950-53
David Thorp gave an excellent talk to Painswick Probus on 17 Jan 2018 about the Korean War. It is often called the ‘forgotten war’ but the Korean War has a particular relevance for Gloucestershire due to the substantial losses (some 33%) incurred by the Gloucestershire Regiment.
Korea was a unified country for nearly 600 years but was annexed by Japan and ruled as colony from 1910 until the end of WW2 when the Russians liberated the north and the U.S. liberated the south. Initially the US had little interest in the country until the advent of the Cold War when it became concerned about the advance of communism. Korea was then split, along the 38th parallel, into two regions with separate governments much as we know it today. Both claimed to be the legitimate government of all Korea, and neither accepted the border or the truce as permanent.
The war started in June 1950 when North Korean forces supported by the Soviet Union and China moved swiftly to occupy much of the South. In response the UN authorised the formation of a UN force, supported by 21 countries, to repel the invasion. Within only two months the Northern forces had advanced almost to the southern tip of the country, however a sea-based UN counter offensive in the middle of the country isolated many of the Northern forces and enabled UN forces to advance northwards almost to the Chinese border. Then, surprised by a Chinese offensive, the UN forces were pushed back until, in mid-1951, the front line was more or less on the 38th parallel.
In April 1951 the Chinese army attacked positions on the Imjin river in an attempt to re-capture the capital Seoul. This region was defended by the 29th Brigade of which the Gloucestershire Regiment was part. Despite being outnumbered by a factor of almost 20, the brigade held its position for three days. When they were ultimately forced to fall back, their actions in the Battle of the Imjin River had blunted the Chinese offensive and allowed UN forces to halt the Chinese army. The Gloucestershire Regiment, were eventually surrounded by Chinese forces on Hill 235, a feature that is now known as Gloster Hill. Although defeated and captured their resistance was an important factor in repelling the communist takeover of South Korea.
The war became a stalemate and fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when an armistice was signed. However, no peace treaty has been signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war. Photos were shown of substantial tunnels which the North has built under the demilitarized zone between the two countries, capable of through which thousands of North Korean troops intended to mount a surprise attack, an accusation Pyongyang has long denied. In the decades since their discovery, some of the tunnels have found new life as a tourist destinations!
Living On The Edge
For the first meeting of 2018 Painswick Probus were presented with a talk by Rose Hewlett concerning fishing and farming along the upper Severn estuary. Starting in pre-historic times when the vale would have been densely wooded and prowled by wolves, wild boar and woolly mammoths she traced the developments through Roman times and the Middle Ages up to the present.
As men developed farming techniques and animal husbandry and moved away from hunter gathering the banks were cleared of trees and the vale took on the look we know today. From finds of iron tools and weapons we know the area was inhabited in the iron age and the crossing at Newnham to Arlingham was probably part of the route eastwards for iron deposits from the Forest of Dean. The Romans came and built the banks we still see today to protect the low lying farmland from the storm tides. Good examples can be seen at Arlingham, Longney and Elmore. They established the town of Goucester (Glevum) and many fine villas were built around the fertile lands of the estuary.
Much of the land bounding the estuary is reclaimed land and in 1637 King Charles I unsuccessfully attempted to raise money by taxing these reclaimed areas. He failed due to the counter argument that the margins of the river were continually changing and land could be lost or gained. Breakwaters were built to protect the margins and prevent erosion by the river water. The finest example was Hock Crib at Freetherne, built in 1739 to protect land at Slimbridge but only the foundations remain today.
Fishing in the Severn has long been an important industry and the oldest recorded fishing grant is dated to 1143 for rights at Frampton. Wooden weirs containing willow or hazel baskets called putchers were built across part of the estuary and would trap the fish which could then be removed when the tide receded. Another more precarious form of fishing employs lane nets where men wade into the river holding a funnel-like net but this has largely died out today.
Rose finished her talk by saying that the Severn Estuary is a unique environment but she is optimistic for its future. She is proud to work with many other locals and the various Government agencies in managing the margins where the modern approach is not to constrain the river but more to allow it to do what it has done for thousands of years.
The Poppy as a Symbol of Remembrance
Bill King, military historian and member of the British legion, came to talk to Painswick Probus on 1 Nov 2017 about how the poppy was adopted as the symbol of remembrance of those that fell in WW1 and subsequent conflicts.
The churning of the land by artillery shells had eliminated nearly all the flora around the front lines but a poppy seed can lay dormant in the ground for years waiting to germinate when the land is disturbed. The disturbance resulted in an abundance of the flower near the front lines and the burial sites. One evening a Canadian medic, John McCrae, serving with the Royal Army Medical Core and having just buried a close friend, sat down and penned the poem we know as “In Flanders Fields”. However it was not until 1918, when a lady called Moina Michael came across the poem, that the idea of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was devised. Moina worked in the New York YMCA through which many US servicemen passed and one day she came across McCrae’s poem in a magazine. The poem was published under an alternative title of “We Shall Not Sleep” and Moina was particularly affected by the last verse:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
At that moment Moina made a personal pledge to “keep the faith” and she took her pen and immediately composed the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith”. Noting the poppies in the illustration accompanying John McCrae’s poem she vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. Moina worked at getting a number of American institutions to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance with some success but it was a French lady, Anna Geurin, a representative of the French YMCA, who hit on the idea of making artificial poppies for sale to fund help for French people suffering from the effects of war.
Anna worked to introduce the idea of the memorial poppy throughout the allied nations and in 1921 French ladies came to London to sell their poppies and Anna herself went to meet Earl Haig, founder of the British Legion. She persuaded him to adopt the poppy as its emblem and the first British Poppy Day Appeal was launched that year and has continued to this day.
So what we may think of as a particularly British institution was initiated by a Canadian medic’s poem and implemented by an American lady and a French lady.
History of Policing
Dr. Tim Brain, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire from 2001 to 2010, returned on 18 Oct 2017 to Painswick Probus to give another excellent talk, this time on the history of policing in Britain. With the audience expecting the history to start with Robert Peel, Dr. Brain explained that this may have been the start of the police force as we know it today but it was a long way short of when policing began.
Going back almost to Roman times the majority of people in England lived in small village communities. These villages, or tithings, would consist of maybe up to 10 families, grouped together and subsistence farming the surrounding land. Issues of law and order were the tithing’s responsibility, overseen by a tithing leader or ‘tithing-man’.
With the formation of kingdoms such as Mercia and Wessex, the kings saw a need to maintain law and order and it was Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, who started to codify the rules established in the tithings. With the expansion of the population and creation of towns there was a greater need to maintain law and order and this was seen as the duty of ‘worthy men’. These were men with some property and hence an interest in maintaining local order. As time went by and the task became more onerous, the worthy men would recruit paid help, eventually in the form of constable watchmen. These men would patrol the streets at night equipped with a lamp, a staff and a bell and every hour would cry out ‘all is well’ to assure their colleagues patrolling neighbouring streets.
In the 18th century there was rapid change; as the population doubled towns expanded. With the end of the Napoleonic wars soldiers were laid off and, being without employment, they would turn to stealing with a resultant crime-wave and public outcry. This led to the emergence of ‘thief-takers’ – individuals who, using bands of informers, would track down culprits and claim a reward for their arrest. Unfortunately many of the thief-takers were setting up the crimes in order to claim the rewards.
Particularly within London there was a need for a more coordinated system which would eliminate this corruption. In response it was magistrates Henry and John Fielding who, in 1749, set up the Bow Street Runners who are considered to be the first professional police force. By the early 18oo’s there were numerous similar forces in London but there was a need for a more unified force and this was when Robert Peel, then Home Secretary, set up the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829. This became the model for other forces established throughout the counties and towns over the following years and formed the basis of the system we have today.
Dr. Brain then outlined how the police force has developed into what we have today, taking account of the many technological and social changes, but still retaining the devolved nature of the current 43 forces. An interesting question session followed. A fascinating talk by a highly accomplished speaker.
Outing to The Royal Mint, LLantrisant
On 4 Oct 2017 26 members including some guests joined a coach trip to The Royal Mint at Llantrisant, where the history of coin design and production was presented through “The Royal Mint Experience” – a combination of a guided tour, films, demonstrations and an exhibition. Several visitors struck their own brilliant, uncirculated, one pound coins which were preserved in transparent packaging immediately. Morning coffee on arrival and an excellent finger buffet rounded off the visit in appropriate style.
Top tip for visit organisers: if a disabled coach passenger has a blue badge the coach may use the Severn Bridge toll-free (normally £20)! The toll is due to cease by 31 Dec 2018.
Jan Ryder, Community Events Manager of Longfield, was invited to Probus on 20 Sep 2017 to talk about the work of the hospice and how this fits into the care network for Gloucestershire.
The hospice was established around 30 years ago but in 2012 it decided on a name change from Cotswold Care to Longfield, the name of the house in which it is based. It was felt that the original name gave a misleading image of the service provided. Longfield’s aim is to support adults with a life-limiting illness from diagnosis onwards, helping them to understand their illness and to cope better with its impact on their lives; however it is not residential and provides no bedded care in-house. The care is aimed to complement that provided by the other Gloucestershire hospices, Sue Ryder in Leckhampton and Great Oaks Forest of Dean, and in conjunction with them it will provide nursing care in the home for patients in their last 3 months of life.
Patients can apply to attend for daycare at Longfield after diagnosis without referral from a healthcare professional, referral is only required for the home nursing service. If a patient is accepted they will usually attend one day a week for 12 weeks by which time they will hopefully have been given the tools to help them cope with the emotional and psychological impact of their illness. Services provided include complementary therapies such as massage, Reiki and reflexology, and creative therapies such as painting, pottery and counselling. In the event of a patient’s death bereavement counselling is available to the family.
All services are free and are 85% paid for by funding from the public and sales in the 17 charity shops with the remaining 15% from the NHS to support the home nursing service. There are a number of paid employees, mainly part time, but an army of around 500 volunteers provide 50,000 hours of unpaid labour without which the hospice could not survive.
The hospice currently handles around 1200 patients per annum but with an increasing ageing population this is sure to rise in the future.
On Wednesday 6 Sep 2017 Mike Rendell made a return visit to Painswick Probus, this time to talk about entertainment in the Georgian period. Mike is a keen student of the period and has written several books on different aspects of life at that time. This interest is fuelled by a large archive of diaries, letters and other documents inherited from his great, great, great, great grandfather Richard Hill. Richard was a relatively wealthy hosier who lived at 1 London Bridge at the end of the 16th century and was in a prime position to observe London life which he recorded in detail in his diaries. Mike used this archive extensively in illustrating his talk on the development of all forms of entertainment during the Georgian period.
Many forms of theatre had been banned by the puritans and only two theatres, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, were licensed to present ‘spoken drama’ and therefore other theatres were having to be inventive with the forms of entertainment they presented. Orchestral music had been confined mainly to private recitals and it was at this time that Handel was starting to make music available to a wider audience with his public concerts. Circuses, which consisted of displays of horsemanship, together with acrobats and jugglers but no wild animals, became extremely popular as they were one of the few forms of family entertainment.
It was a time when many of the sports and games we know today were being developed and the rules established. Mike showed illustrations of the early forms of sports such as skating, ice hockey, cricket, football, rugby, badminton, squash, billiards and skittles.
Gambling was responsible for the popularity of many sports such as horse racing and boxing and also some less savoury pastimes such as bear baiting and cock fighting. Fortunately the latter were banned by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.
It was a time of development of pastimes and hobbies. Compact pianos allowed people to learn and play at home, card games and board games were being invented and the range of children’s toys was expanding. One of Mike’s illustrations showed the Prince of Wales playing with a popular toy known as a bandelure and reputedly Napoleon was also a fan. We know it better today as the yo-yo.
Altogether a well presented talk by an knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker with access to a unique archive of the period.
Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575
Gill White made a welcome return to Painswick Probus on 5 July 2017 to speak this time about “Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth and the Kenilworth Entertainment of 1575”.
It is not certain when Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth first met, but it was probably at court during childhood. They had one distinction in common: both had had a parent executed for treason. At her coronation in 1559, Robert Dudley was Elizabeth’s Master of Horse, which meant that he rode at the head of the procession following the queen. Rumours were spread by foreign ambassadors that the pair were lovers, a potential relationship that caused much concern, particularly as Robert Dudley was already married. When his wife died in mysterious circumstances in 1560 (a verdict of “Death by Misadventure” was recorded by the coroner), Robert Dudley became very unpopular. (The coroner’s report was lost for centuries and was found only in the last decade or so; it had been “misfiled”). Circumstances changed after Queen Elizabeth’s recovery from a near fatal smallpox infection in 1562 at which point she was told she could choose her own husband. She made Dudley Earl of Leicester, gave him Kenilworth Castle but kept him hanging. The Kenilworth entertainment was a 3 week extravaganza designed by Robert Dudley as a final attempt to persuade Queen Elizabeth to marry him. The speaker gave details of the elaborate festivities and the preparations for them, which included extensive castle modifications and building. As we know, Dudley was unsuccessful in his aim. He went on to marry one of the queen’s cousins and he died in 1588. Queen Elizabeth went into mourning and kept his last letter to her until her death in 1603.
Gloucester Cathedral – Inside and Out
On 7 Jun 2017 the Club was privileged to welcome The Very Reverend Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral. The Dean is primarily responsible for the management and maintenance of the fabric and facilities of the cathedral, working alongside the Bishop of Gloucester who leads the religious aspects of the cathedral. Unlike other churches which receive funds from the dioceses, the 42 cathedrals in England must generate their own income from sources such as donations from the 500,000 visitors they see each year and from investments. The Dean is justifiably proud of his record of engagement with all communities in Gloucestershire, and is determined to avoid the introduction of admission charges. The present building was founded in 1581 so, unsurprisingly, maintaining and replacing stonework is a constant task. Apprentice stonemasons are being trained to sustain this vital aspect of maintenance. A £6M project named Project Pilgrim is underway both to improve access and to restore the Lady Chapel.
I Was An Olympic Volunteer (Twice)
On Wednesday May 24th Mike Cooper came to talk to Probus about his experiences as an Olympic volunteer.
In the late 1980’s, after 27 years with IBM, Mike took advantage of the company’s need to reduce manpower in the UK. While wondering what to do with his new found leisure time, Mike noticed an article in the company magazine looking for volunteers for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Although clearly aimed at US residents, Mike applied and was accepted.
Training was to take place a month before the games but no expenses were offered for accommodation. Fortunately Mike negotiated his training to be a couple of days before the games opened and he was assigned to main stadium management – checking tickets and ushering people to their seats. This was an ideal job as once people were seated Mike could enjoy the opening ceremony with the rest.
With time off between the opening ceremony and the start of the athletics he was able to take in some of the other sports. Mountain biking was in the Olympics for the first time and Mike saw the men’s race won by a competitor from a country without anything approaching a mountain – Holland. Controversy arose when the winner was censured for unzipping his singlet in the heat. He was allowed to keep his medal but was fined $5k. Strangely the same penalty was not awarded to an attractive Italian competitor who did the same in the lady’s race.
The rest of Mike’s time was spent in the main stadium with a grandstand view of the events including top athletes such as Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson. With the material he collected Mike has written a book on his experiences entitled “ I was an Olympic Volunteer” and this includes a foreword by Mary Peters whom he met in Atlanta.
Subsequent Olympics were either too far (Sydney) or required a foreign language, but when London 2012 arrived Mike got the urge again. He applied, was accepted for interview and set off with his book in hand. Success and once again a plum job in the Olympic stadium affording him views of the opening ceremony and the athletics. He was there on ‘Super Saturday’ when GB won three golds.
Mike entertained Probus with anecdotes from both events which are too numerous to repeat here but has now decided to call it a day – well he will be over 80 when Tokyo 2020 arrives!
A Whisper of Eternity, The Life of Edith Cavell
As a young boy on his way to school in Norwich, Peter Petrie would pass by the grave of Edith Cavell and attend the annual service in her name at the Cathedral without perhaps fully appreciating the significance of her life. Now he has researched her life and the repercussions of her death and he came to share his knowledge with Painswick Probus in a talk entitled “A Whisper of Eternity”, the title of a recent biography of Edith Cavell.
Edith was born in 1865 in the Norfolk village of Swardeston where her father was the vicar. She was educated at the Girls High School in Norwich where she showed an aptitude for languages. This and her yearning to travel led her to take up the role of governess to a Belgian family which she did for 5 years. It was probably during this time, when admitted to a German hospital with a cut arm and being impressed by the standards of nursing, that she developed the desire to become a nurse.
HavIan Breckelsing returned home to nurse her ailing father Edith enrolled to train as a nurse at the London Hospital at the age of 30. After completing her training and working at a number of hospitals throughout England, she developed a significant reputation for her nursing and organisational skills which resulted in her being recruited by Dr Antoine Depage to be the Matron of a training hospital at St. Gilles in Belgium. Dr Depage was concerned by the poor standards of nursing in Belgium, and in particular infection control. Edith’s fluency in French was no doubt a significant asset. By 1912, Edith was busy managing several nursing schools and training hospitals.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Edith was in Norwich but returned to the front-line in Belgium saying “At a time like this, I am more needed than ever” . A devout Christian, Edith believed it was her duty to nurse the wounded whichever side they were on. She became involved in the escape route for allied soldiers from occupied Belgium by sheltering them in her hospital. She was arrested by the Germans in August 1915 and charged with ‘conducting soldiers to the enemy’. At her trial Edith’s Christian upbringing made her unable to deny the charges. The British were powerless to intervene but the U.S. Ambassador informed the Germans that executing Cavell would rank alongside the atrocities of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania. Despite this Edith was shot by firing squad on the morning of October 12th 1915.
Cavell’s execution was a godsend for the British propaganda effort, in the months following her death recruitment was said to have doubled. She was buried in the grounds of St. Gilles prison but after the war her body was repatriated with a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and burial in ‘Life’s Green’ in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral where the young Peter Petrie would pass on his way to the school playing fields.
Exploring our Churches
On 26 April 2017 Philip Wilkinson revealed his long term interest in the fabric of England’s churches, having been attracted initially by their architecture and then by the extraordinary range of objects he has found inside many churches. John Betjeman dubbed the activity “church-crawling”.
Illustrated by excellent images, Philip highlighted architectural features and the practical aspects of church construction using local stone, ranging from relatively easily worked and low cost timber in Shropshire and Worcestershire, through red sandstone and limestone sometimes in-filled with flint, to the hard granite found in some churches in Cornwall. Perhaps the ultimate material was Portland stone, as used for many public buildings in London, including the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.
Churches sometimes have clear links with individuals. For example a prisoner in the Civil War who left his mark in our St Mary’s Church, and a plumber who worked the lead gazing bars of a church in 1839 and left his name scratched on the glass. Various gadgets can be seen such as the large hour-glass to inform both the congregation and the preacher of the progress of the sermon. Perhaps Philip’s most remarkable discovery was the ducking stool last used in 1809 to punish a woman with a loose tongue – or should the honour go to the portable “hood” made for a clergyman who wished to be sheltered at the graveside when conducting his service in the rain. Or the village fire “engine” dating from 1728 stored ready for action in the village church?
Philip closed by inviting those who wanted to learn more to visit his blog at http://englishbuildings.blogspot.co.uk/
Apr 2012 – Mar 2017
The Land Girls
On 29 Mar 2017 we invited our partners to attend and receive from Fiona Warin an engaging presentation about the Women’s Land Army (WLA) who helped the UK to sustain food supplies during 2 world wars. Before WW2 the UK was importing over 70% of its food. With shipping being vulnerable to attack and the need for weapons and munitions also to be imported, somehow the production of home-grown food had to be increased substantially.
Fiona set the scene by addressing her audience as a group of young women of Painswick who thought hey might be eligible to join the WLA. Several would-be applicants were reassured about the terms and conditions of service and the variety of roles they could undertake as a vital part of the war effort if the country was not to be starved into surrender. Examples of the motivation for individuals to join were cited, along with quotes from letters to home from enlisted girls, some of whom enjoyed communal living in groups of 30 while others were assigned individually to a small and remote farm. The prospect of pay at 22/6 ( £1.12) per week of hard labour and possible access to local produce was offset by the isolation of some girls and their corresponding vulnerability to harassment.
By the end of the WW2 some 80,000 girls were serving in the WLA and had raised the production of home-grown food from 30% to 90% of the total required. The gap was dealt with by rationing. Not until December 2007, After much campaigning, did the British Government announce that the surviving Land Girls would receive a special Veteran’s Badge. These were awarded to surviving former land girls from July 2008 onwards.
The event was followed by a suitably sumptuous buffet.
A Ride Around England – One Man, One Horse
When we plan for retirement not many of us think “ I’ll ride round England, just me and a horse, visit cities with cathedrals and raise money for charity”, especially not if we are a novice rider and don’t own a horse. But that is exactly what William Reddaway did, and on 15 Mar 2017 he came to tell Probus all about his epic journey in aid of two charities – The Family Holiday Association and The Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre.
After several years of detailed route planning William needed to find a suitable horse. An adequate rider but with little horse knowledge, William enlisted the help of more knowledgeable friends and Strider was purchased. A trial around Winchombe’s narrow streets and in Cheltenham’s traffic proved he was the right temperament for the journey and on 10th May 2012 the pair set off from the Farncombe estate near Broadway.
The first cathedral visit was to Gloucester then on to Hereford, Worcester, Coventry, Lichfield and Chester. Through the Peak District to Sheffield, travelling for 5 days with 2 days off the pair were making good progress until Strider developed a saddle sore. Despite veterinary attention and William walking the hills the sore was not healing so the saddle was abandoned and the pair walked together. Up the Pennines to Carlisle, along Hadrian’s Wall to the North Sea at Bamborough and down to Durham. On to Ripon where the terrain flattens out at last and the sore is healing nicely – until Strider decides to scratch his back on a tree! Walking on to York and then Lincoln where the pair were invited in to the cathedral and blessed by the Dean (William’s sister’s ex boyfriend). On to Southall and Peterborough and the sore is mended – but the saddle is in Lancashire. Not to worry, the man they are staying with, whom William had never met before, drives the 9 hour round trip to collect it!
On to Ely, Norwich, St Albans, and into London to the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre. Then to St. Pauls but without Strider who is being trucked through the London traffic. To Southwark with a Met police mounted escort. Back in the saddle and on to Rochester, Canterbury Chichester,Winchester, Salisbury, Exeter, over Dartmoor to Truro and to Lands End – the fourth corner of England. Finally back through Wells, Bristol and Oxford to Gloucester and the Farncombe estate, Strider’s home.
An amazing effort – 2682 miles around England in 214 days, 30 cathedrals visited and so far £80k has been raised for charity.
From Medicine To Movies And Back
Dr Tom Shannon came to talk to Probus on 15 Feb 2017 about his involvement over the past 30 plus years in ‘motion capture’ as a founding member of the Oxford Metrics group, a world leaders in the field.
Many of us will be familiar with the sequence of photos of a horse by which Edward Muybridge proved that it left the ground at the gallop – this was probably the first example of motion capture. However it wasn’t until the 1970’s with the availability of video cameras and computers that progress in the technique began to accelerate and Oxford Metrics developed their motion capture camera system in the 1980’s. With several cameras filming visible targets on the subject the equipment could record the movements of the body in 3 dimensions. Initially the system was developed for clinical gait analysis to aid surgical orthopaedic correction and prosthetics design and today this remains the companies main area of business. However a chance meeting with a film director saw them develop their system for use in the movie industry where today so much of a film can be generated by computer graphics. The motion capture systems allow film makers to place actors onto virtual sets which in reality would be either too dangerous or expensive yet still retain realistic facial and body movements. Now sportsmen and athletes are using the system to improve their technique and gain that small but vital advantage over their opponents and manufacturing companies are using it to examine the man-machine interface.
Tom explained how these developments are now feeding back and helping to improve the medical applications, hence “From medicine to movies and back”.
On Wednesday 1st of February Painswick Probus were greatly entertained by the double act of Malcolm Lewis and Cliff Hilditch on the subject of signature tunes.
Today we can instantly recognise TV and radio programmes by their signature tunes and we probably take them very much for granted but it was not until around the time of WW2, when the number of radio broadcasts was rapidly expanding, that broadcasters realised the value of a good signature tune. One of the first to realise this was the musical instrument maker Boosey and Hawkes who developed a library of short catchy tunes. Another to make the most of the opportunity was Eric Coates who realised there was more money to be made in composing than playing the viola in a symphony orchestra.
Malcolm and Cliff kept the audience entertained with snatches of the tunes together with associated facts and anecdotes. It was interesting how many of the tunes were instantly recognisable, even those from 50 plus years ago, and how members could name the programmes after only a few bars of the music. Sadly the titles of the music were not that well known.
An interesting and amusing presentation and, for many, a nostalgic one.
Vergeltungswaffen – Retaliation Weapons.
Vergeltungswaffen, retaliation weapons, the name given by Hitler to what we know better as the V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets. This was the subject of a talk by Bill Affleck to Painswick Probus on 18 Jan 2017.
Germany was prevented from developing armaments following WW1 but not rockets despite these being used in warfare since Napoleonic times.
The V1 was really a small unmanned plane, built of sheet steel to save aluminium for aircraft and propelled by a pulse jet fuelled with kerosene and compressed air which gave it it’s distinctive sound. Range and course were set at launch and a propeller device measured distance and cut the engine over the target. The V1 needed to be up to 200 mph to start the ram jet and was catapult launched from a ramp. It flew at 3000ft and nearly 400mph which made it difficult to combat with fighter aircraft. Initially concrete ramps were built on the French coast but these were easy for the Allies to locate and bomb so moveable launchers were developed.
Initially Hitler was not interested in the V weapons but by 1943, with the state of the war, he was changing his stance. The first V1 was launched in June 1944, one week after the D-Day landings but by October 1944 the launch sites had been pushed back and London was out of range. Nevertheless a staggering 9,500 V1’s were launched at the South East at a rate of 150 per day. Thereafter Belgium became the primary target, particularly the port of Antwerp. The last V1 launch was in March 1945, one month before the end of war in Europe.
The V2 was a totally different proposition – the forerunner of the rockets we know today. A liquid oxygen/alcohol fuelled rocket which reached an altitude of 50 miles and flew at supersonic speeds. Defence with anti-aircraft guns or fighters was futile. The V2 was launched vertically and would burrow into the ground on landing before exploding and leaving a huge crater. The mobile launchers were often located in residential areas and so difficult to attack. The first V2 launch was in September 1944 on Paris and on the same day London was targeted from the Hague. The cause of the explosions was difficult to identify because of the speed of the V2 and for weeks, in order to avoid panic, the British government blamed the damage on other causes such as gas main explosions. In total 3170 V2’s were fired, many at London but more than half at targets in Europe as the Germans retreated. In fact Antwerp received most with 1610 compared to London’s 1358.
In many ways a sombre topic but also an interesting and technically fascinating one, very well presented by Bill Affleck. John Watson proposed the vote of thanks.
Yeomen Of The Guard – The Queen’s Bodyguard.
For the first Probus talk of the New Year on 4 Jan 2017, Shaun McCormack, a serving yeoman, came to explain the history of the Yeomen and their current role. Currently Yeomen are recruited from long serving, retired members of the armed forces, mainly Army, Royal Marines and RAF and since 2011 the Royal Navy. They remain Yeomen for life but after the age of 70 they go on the exempt list and are no longer called for service. Steve, who retired from the Army after 24 years service, joined in 2000.
The Yeomen were formed in 1485 from his loyal followers by Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth Field. They fought for the Crown and protected the Sovereign. Yeomen would sleep outside the royal bedchamber – the Yeoman Bedgoer and the Yeoman Bedhanger. The ‘goer’ would fetch fresh straw for the King’s mattress and the ‘hanger’ would stuff and hang the mattress to eliminate any wildlife. They would also test the mattress to check for any secreted weapons put there to injure the King. Yeomen would also act as the King’s food tasters and they can still be seen standing behind the Queen at royal banquets.
Today there are 79 Yeomen and their role is purely ceremonial at state occasions and other royal events but they are called for service many times per year. They can be seen in their distinctive ‘beefeater’ uniforms often standing close to the Queen but should not be confused with the Yeomen Wardens of the Tower who are permitted to wear the Guards uniform on 6 occasions per year. One of their most notable roles is to inspect the cellars of the Houses of Parliament for explosives prior to the State Opening of Parliament, although the police may have been round in advance. In 2002 they stood guard at the lying in state of the Queen Mother and each year they carry the money at the Maunday Service.
Shaun, wearing highly polished shoes, illustrated his lively and fluent talk with many slides and objects which were passed around the audience, in particular his beautifully embroidered uniform tunic – very heavy and very hot in Summer.
Christmas Dinner 2016
On 7 Dec 2016 members rounded off the year with the traditional and excellent Christmas dinner at “The Hill” Stroud, where Paul Sparks coordinated the event with his usual panache. President Ian Breckels summarised the year’s activities in an entertaining address, and Dianna Breckels responded on behalf of the ladies and other guests who were present.
The final talk for 2016 was presented by Richard Aylward on 30 Nov 2016. Richard discussed some of the idiosyncrasies of our wonderful language and how, particularly when abroad or even in other parts of the UK, English can be misunderstood. A carefully worded vote of thanks, avoiding the pitfalls we had learned about, was delivered by Brian Rowlands.
Tracing The History of Your House.
Lots of us think about tracing our family history but how many of us trace the history of our house. Perhaps less personal but in many cases just as fascinating, especially with the age of some of the houses around Painswick. If you are thinking about it Rose Hewlett, a local historian from Frampton-on-Severn, is one person to consult and she came to talk to Probus on 16 Nov 2016 about the resources that are available to help you.
The obvious place to start is the house deeds but Rose reeled off a long list of other sources that could help. Many of these were people records such as the electoral registers, census returns, birth marriage and death records, school records etc. by which you can trace the history of the house by the people who dwelt there. Local history books, old photos, parish magazines, local newspapers, wills and inventories are all potential sources of further information. Then there are tithe maps, estate records, OS maps, planning applications, land tax records and hearth tax records – the list goes on an on. Even if your house is not that old it can be interesting to trace the history of the land on which it stands.
Following on from how to do the research Rose recounted a few examples where she had investigated local properties. In one case a quite ordinary looking property in Cam was traced back to 1675!
If you want to know more Rose has a website at: www.gloucestershirehousehistories.co.uk.
On 2 Nov 2016 Painswick Probus members were treated to an interesting presentation by Louise Emerson, CEO of Cheltenham Festivals, a charity which organises all the four festivals of Music, Literature, Jazz and Science held in Cheltenham.
The music festival was the first to be held and was started as far back as 1945 and was closely followed by Literature in 1949. This was the first of its kind in the country and now there are around 350 literature festivals annually in the UK. Jazz started in 1996 and finally Science in 2002. Since 2006 the four festivals have come under the one umbrella of the charity which has its own marketing, development and education teams. Altogether there are some 32 days of festivals each year but what was a surprise to many in the audience was the amount of work the organisation does in all four fields, in schools and the wider community, outside the festival times.
The charity receives some funding from the Arts Council but the vast majority comes more or less equally from ticket sales, around 200,000 annually, and from corporate sponsorship by companies such as the Times and Sunday Times and EDF Energy. Funding the festivals to ensure they attract the best names in their fields was clearly a major challenge.
During her talk Louise outlined some of the recent events and those planned with the names of those appearing which made the audience realise how fortunate we are to have such high quality festivals on our doorstep.
Bristol Blue Glass
Mike Rendell, retired lawyer and now author and social historian, came to talk to Probus on 21 September 2016 about Bristol Blue Glass – a remarkable cobalt blue glassware. Confessing to be an enthusiast rather than an expert on Bristol Blue, Mike’s interest was awakened one rainy day when he visited the remaining blue glass factory in Bristol. This led to him researching the history of blue glass and publishing a book on the subject.
Mike’s over-riding interest is in social history especially around the the 18th century at the birth of the industrial revolution and in a very well presented and illustrated talk he took the meeting through the development of Bristol Blue glass against a background of changing social habits and industrial development.
Bristol was the second city and already had a significant glass making industry when Bristol Blue glass was developed in the late 18th century. Richard Champion a Bristol potter and William Cookworthy a chemist were looking for cobalt oxide to give the blue glaze decoration on white porcelain and they obtained the exclusive import rights to cobalt from Saxony. Although blue glass was also made in Newcastle and Stourbridge it probably became known as Bristol Blue as this was the port of import for the cobalt.
The most famous name in blue glass is Isaac Jacobs whose father Lazarus started a glass cutting works in Bristol. Isaac is accredited with developing Bristol Blue glass using Cookworthy’s cobalt and getting it onto the fashionable tables of Europe. Many of the finest examples of Bristol Blue bear his signature. In the process Isaac became very rich but when he lost money on an unpaid loan he was declared bankrupt and accused of fraud. He died in poverty in 1835.
Bristol Blue glass declined in popularity and production ceased in the 1920’s. There is now just one manufacturer, Bristol Blue Glass Ltd, which was started in 1988.
Australian Outback – Darwin to Perth
Following the summer recess we held our first meeting of the autumn on 7 September 2016. We were very pleased to welcome back Bob Price, who gave a talk on a journey he made with his wife in 2007 from Darwin in the Northern Territories to Perth in Western Australia.
Bob, his wife and a friend set off from Darwin in two fairly basic motorhomes on a four week trip through some fairly rough terrain not often on the tourist map. This is the Australian aboriginal heartland and the rough gravel roads followed the tracks which originally the aboriginal people used on their migration travels going between water sources. The photographs of the trip were quite outstanding covering fascinating geological rock formations, deep waterfalls and gorges, examples of ancient aboriginal drawings in caves (the Stick people drawings) and the unique fauna and flora found in this part of Australia. There were also some very good photographs of salt and fresh water crocodiles, wallabies and the vast bird life inhabiting this part of the country. The journey took them past old gold mine workings near Gunlum, the Argyle Diamond field and very long railway trains with wagons transporting huge payloads of iron ore to the ports facing the Indian Ocean. His presentation also included photos of coral reefs and a wide variety of sea life including dolphin colonies to be found on the coastline near Perth. By the time they arrived in Perth, they had travelled approximately 4800 miles.
The 2007 Floods
On 6 July 2016 we were delighted to welcome back Dr Tim Brain, former Chief Constable of Gloucestershire. On taking command in 2001 one of his first actions was to obtain funding for a new Tri-Service Emergency Centre (GTEC), and a Police Headquarters alongside.
The worth of collocation, rather than integration, of emergency services was amply demonstrated during the response to the water emergency of 2007. Failure to respond could have disrupted power supplies massively and, therefore, the ability to pump sewerage and operate water treatment plants. At an early stage Dr Brain used his authority to call on the armed services for helicopter search and rescue, and for logistics support. The GTEC provided strategic direction to 25 agencies.
By grasping the nettle quickly and managing the media he retained the confidence of the community. At the peak of the crisis 7 million litres of drinking water per day were being provided to the affected areas while contaminated systems were repaired and purged. Crucially, temporary defences were constructed to protect the power distribution centre at Mythe.
This was the largest peacetime emergency in terms of scale and duration, yet only one life had been lost.
If you wish to know more please see: http://www.floodprobe.eu/partner/assets/documents/Floodprobe-Factsheet-casestudy-gloucester.pdf
Bess of Hardwick and Hardwick Hall.
On a much anticipated return to Painswick Probus on 22 Jun 2016, Gillian White presented a profile of Bess of Hardwick followed by a description of the wonderfully preserved Hardwick Hall.
Born Elizabeth Hardwick in 1527 into a family of ‘minor gentry’ Bess rose to become the most powerful countess in the land and the second richest woman after Elizabeth I.
Married four times, first at the age of 14, Bess used her marriages to accumulate wealth and property and to rise through the ranks of the gentry. Her second marriage to Sir William Cavendish lasted 10 years until his death and left Bess a wealthy widow at the age of 30. He was a rich man being Treasurer of the King’s Chamber and involved in the dissolution of the monasteries. Together they had eight children and in 1549 bought the Chatsworth estate, close to Hardwick, for the princely sum of £600. On his death, Bess claimed his property insisting that the land be settled to their heirs and the family still own Chatsworth today, the family name of the Dukes of Devonshire being Cavendish.
The final marriage to Sir George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury was a big leap up the social ladder. However the marriage falters as George cracks under the strain of being the gaoler of Mary Queen of Scots for 16 years, largely without the support of Bess who concentrates on safeguarding her children’s inheritance. Bess is thrown out of Chatsworth by Sir George, but buys the Hardwick estate in her son’s name and, being unhappy with the old hall, proceeds to build and furnish the new Hardwick Hall. At the age of 70 she moves into the new hall and lives there until her death at age of 81.
Gillian ended her talk with an illustrated description of Hardwick as we find it today. Maybe not the finest piece of architecture and described by Robert Cecil as “Hardwick Hall – more glass than wall” but probably the best preserved house and contents from the period.
Painswick Probus meets fortnightly and forthcoming events can be found in the Beacon diary.
On 8 June 2016 Painswick Probus Club members hosted a talk by James Showers from Family Tree Funerals on a sombre-sounding subject “The changing face of the dismal trade”. It turned out to be informative – even amusing!
In medieval times funerals were held on Saturdays, when all those working could attend. Carpenters measured the body, made the coffins from plentiful elm or expensive oak, and supplied the wagons. The church bell would be struck 30 times for a male and one for each year of his age. It was thought to be fewer for a woman.
As the population increased, the Victorians created extensive rules of bereavement etiquette – ‘professionalising’ old rituals, and introducing black clothing and black accessories – a boon to the clothing and tailoring trades. Done correctly a funeral conferred status and prestige.
The First World War brought astonishing loss of life to this land: fearing a grief-storm the government – via the church and media of the day – demanded we ‘cease this unseemly obsession with grief’ and ‘stop parading bereavement’. Mediums and spiritualists prospered. Families had to swallow their grief and wear a stiff upper lip.
Nowadays, death is no longer seen as ‘God’s Call’ but a ‘Natural’ or ‘Medical’ event, with two thirds occurring in hospital. Funerals more often reflect the style and character of families and celebrate the deceased. Princess Diana was buried wearing her own clothes on private land; Elton John sang; her brother gave an edgy and impassioned speech prompting spontaneous applause: some of these (except perhaps Mr. John) being common elements in many funerals today.
Pub Signs, A Talk by Angela Panrucker
They are everywhere, we walk under them daily but do we observe them and do we realise the history behind them? Well Painswick Probus do after a fascinating talk by Angela Panrucker on 25 May 2016.
As with so many things it started with the Romans where a tavern would hang an evergreen bush (vine leaves were scarce in England) to indicate it sold wine. If they sold ale it would be a long pole or ale stake. The naming of inns became commonplace in the 12 century and in 1393 Richard II decreed that they should all display a sign to indicate their business. As few people could read it was common practice for trades to display recognisable signs such as the barber’s pole or a boot for the cobbler. So it was with pubs who would represent their name pictorially.
In the middle ages names and signs were religious, heraldic or royal. Heraldic signs would indicate who’s land the inn was on, for example the Red Lion, still the most common pub name, was the emblem of John of Gaunt. The Crossed Keys is a religious sign being the emblem of St. Peter. The Rose and Crown depicts the end of the War of the Roses with red rose and the white rose combined under the crown.
Through the years the names have become more and more diverse, reflecting the changing times and Angela displayed her very high quality photographs of the more unusual ones. Many display a high level of artistry and many are humorous. Often there is local history behind the name and the sign. Some common names we take for granted have obscure origins – the Pig and Whistle is a corruption of the Anglo Saxon ‘piggin wassail’ or good health.
Angela has a collection of around 8,000 photographs out of an estimated total of 10,500 different pub signs but her final message was one of concern. Pubs and pub signs are disappearing at an alarming rate – of the 149 signs shown to Probus 72 no longer exist. Some signs are rescued but many end up in skips and so this drives Angela and other members of the Inn Sign Society to research and record them before they disappear.
A fascinating talk by a very enthusiastic speaker.
Nik Marsh’s talk on 11 May 2016 was titled “Anything is Possible – An Ironman Journey”.
The first Ironman was held in Hawaii in 1978 after a group of friends, attending a swimming gala awards ceremony, could not agree on who were the fittest athletes – swimmers, cyclists or runners. They decided to put the toughest races of each discipline together to form a long distance triathlon and whoever finished first would be called the Ironman.
18 people lined up for the first race with 12 finishing the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and full marathon (26.2 miles). This 140.6 mile format is still used today but has grown into 41 races around the World, with over 75,000 competitors taking on the challenge in any given year. To be able to call yourself an Ironman, these days, you don’t need to win but just complete the race within the strict time limit of 17 hours.
Nik’s planning started in earnest during January 2015 and over the course of the next 9 months he was training between 10-20 hours a week. In total he would: Swim 185 miles, in the pool and South Cerney lakes; cycle 2,800 miles, mostly through the Cotswold Hills and run just shy of 800 miles, around Painswick and Cheltenham.
He set off at 4 a.m. Sunday 13 September, 2015 from Tenby. Then after almost 14 ½ hours spent swimming, cycling and run/walking he was back in the heart of Tenby for the last mile of the adventure. The weather, which had been awesome all day, now turned for the worse as the skies opened in almost biblical fashion.
The noise from the crowd and the music being played, was immense. So much so that he missed the words he had been waiting to hear for nearly a year. – NIK MARSH – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
On 27 Apr 2016 Peter Bungard, Chief Executive, Gloucestershire County Council (GCC), introduced himself by outlining his career which started as a civil engineer building roads before moving to Gloucestershire in 1998 and joining the county council’s environmental department. He became the Council’s chief executive in 2005 and has comfortably outlived the average time in post for his peers of 3 and a half years, achieving 11 years in post to date. While openly admitting to having had some good luck on the way, it was clear from the following talk that he had mastered his brief and was well qualified not only to lead his delivery teams but also to advise all 53 councillors with diverse political persuasions to achieve well informed and balanced decisions. He intended to talk mostly about current issues, finance, and the significance of the areas of greatest deprivation within the county. He would conclude with the vexed issue of Coxit – a proposal to join East Cotswolds with West Oxfordshire districts.
Discussion about the range of the GCC’s responsibilities quickly led the audience to highlight the state of pot-holed roads in the locality. Peter explained that the council was responsible for some 3000 miles of roads (excluding motorways), and 5000 miles of public rights of way within an annual budget of £32M against the backdrop of an estimated £100M backlog of repairs to restore all roads to “perfect” condition. The discussion progressed to the promised 3 mile “Missing link” to complete the M4 to M5 route around Birdlip. The project has been delayed by planning consent issues but is firmly budgeted for and is expected to start in 2020, or soon thereafter.
Social services consume some 70-90% of the council’s available resources. Targeted groups include vulnerable people, many of whom are living longer but with ever greater needs for services to help them cope with ill-health, immobility, and dementia. Safeguarding of children is also a high priority. Generally the council is working in conjunction with other public service providers such as the NHS and police to identify and address the needs of vulnerable people.
Although Painswick, and Gloucestershire, are affluent areas of the country, the county has some 44000 people who are among the 20% worst deprived of opportunities. Symptoms include poor educational achievement and high levels of secondary school absence.
Peter outlined the strategy of the government to achieve a balanced budget by 2020, with both government expenditure and total income through taxation and other sources limited to 36% of GDP. Consequently, there is no provision for growth in demands for services caused by an increasing and ageing population, for example. Furthermore, existing funds have been and will continue to be reduced year after year from 2010. The austerity programme has required the council to find savings of £114M to date and ongoing savings of around £25M each year.. Past efforts have concentrated on finding efficiency measures (i.e. delivering the same services for less money), and offering fewer services. The future will see even more emphasis on reductions in the demand for services by working in closer partnerships with other public service providers and focussing on the most vulnerable and deprived people, and more local taxation such as this year’s adult social care 2% levy.
Finally, Peter shared his thoughts about mayor-ships, the impact of any “Coxit” – a merging of Cotswolds and West Oxfordshire districts – and the government’s devolution agenda, before responding to wide-ranging questions questions including the impact of the EU on local councils.
Peter’s talk was enlightening and he was warmly thanked for visiting Painswick Probus Club whose members were joined on this occasion by guests from other Painswick groups.
Apr 2015 – Mar 2016
On 30 Mar 2016 Painswick Probus member Peter Jenkins described a sailing trip that he made some years ago just after his retirement. It went deep into the Arctic Circle to within 600 miles of the North Pole, exploring the West and Northwest coasts of Spitsbergen, which is the largest of the seven islands forming Svalbard.
vessels crewed by a professional skipper and a mixed crew of amateur
enthusiasts with varied sailing experience. Starting in Plymouth the
first port of call, after a stop at the Shetland Isles, was Bergen in
Norway where the majority of the amateur crew joined for the journey
along the Norwegian coast, through the Lofoten Islands and then north
across the open sea to Svalbard. Peter described one eventful night
when he was woken for his watch to find the vessel running with a wind
strong enough to cause the hull to plane over the water. An anxious
time followed with extreme care being needed to prevent the vessel from
gybing with potentially disastrous consequences.
and an excellent video showing some wonderful glaciers and fjords.
Peter also provided information about Svalbard, its history and issues
regarding sovereignty, as well as precautions taken against polar bears
during a trek over land.
Dr Tom Shannon
On March 2nd Dr. Tom Shannon came to talk to Painswick Probus on the British involvement in Afghanistan from the first Anglo-Afghan war in 1839 to the present. Although a scientist and engineer and never directly involved in Afghanistan, Tom’s interest in the subject was roused by the involvement of his great great great grandfather in the first Anglo-Afghan war and through ex-army colleagues who had served in the region. This had led him to extensively research the Anglo-Afghan relationship over the period.
Tom explained how British involvement in country was prompted by concerns about a Russian invasion of India through Afghanistan. Initially they sought to form an alliance with the Afghan ruler but, when they refused him support in his internal struggles, they feared he would seek the support of Russia and so mounted an invasion in 1839 with the intention of installing a pro-British ruler. However the British needed troops in other regions and found it increasingly difficult to control the Afghans who resented the occupation of their country. After a resounding defeat the British sent in an “Army of Retribution” before finally withdrawing in 1842.
The second Anglo-Afghan war took place between 1878 and 1880 when the British invaded again fearing expansion of the Russian empire into India. It ended with a treaty allowing the Afghans to rule internally but Britain to control the area’s foreign relations.
There followed a period of relative peace with Afghanistan remaining neutral throughout the First World War however the next Anglo-Afghan conflict was triggered by Afghan troops crossing the Afghan-Indian border in May 1919. The conflict was resolved in August 1919 but the victor was unclear with the invasion being repelled but the Afghans recovering control of their foreign affairs.
Tom then took us through the Afghan history with relative peace until the Soviet invasion between 1979-89, civil war in the 90’s and rise of the Taliban and the US led invasion in 2001 with British troops involved up until 2014 and handover to Afghan troops. Hopefully the fourth and final British involvement.
A lively debate followed Tom’s presentation, predominantly about what the future holds for the region.
On 17th February David Sweet made a welcome return to Painswick Probus speaking this time on the controversy of the Dresden bombing conducted in 1945. He presented a factual account and analysis of events, supported by statistics from Allied and German sources and showed a short film of the raids and their aftermath. Opinions were expressed only in the extensive question and answer session that followed the presentation.
Allied bombing in WW2 initially targeted factories, docks and military installations. Expansion to bombing houses in major German cities with the aim of lowering morale was said to be in response to the German bombing of Rotterdam and major British cities. Dresden was a historic city described as the “Florence on the Elbe”. In early 1945 it was home to 642,000 residents plus some 200,000 refugees from eastern Germany and 26,000 prisoners of war. It also had extensive strategically important railway facilities forming a major terminus to the east and some 200 factories engaged in manufacturing for the war effort, including the Zeiss Ikon optical plant. It had been raided on three separate occasions in 1944 with the USAF targeting the railway yards.
We were told that the strategy to expand the bombing campaign was agreed at the Yalta Conference and the command to commence blanket bombing was issued by Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Air Staff for implementation by Sir Arthur Harris, C-in-C Bomber Command, who initially queried the command. “Operation Thunderclap” as it was called was delayed, but a series of five raids, the first two being night raids by the RAF and the subsequent three being daylight raids by the USAF, commenced on 13 February 1945. The ensuing fire-storm destroyed 90% of the city including 19 hospitals and 24,866 out of 28,400 houses in the city. German records show 21,271 burials with approximately 25,000 people missing. The exact number of missing is unknown as the refugee population was not properly documented. Despite the massive destruction, the railway resumed operation and a further raid on the marshalling yards by the USAF was conducted on 17 April.
Dresden was not the most heavily bombed German city. Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Leipzig and Essen were all more heavily bombed and Berlin received more than ten times the tonnage of British and American bombs. The talk concluded with pictures of a rebuilt Dresden with many historic buildings restored to their previous grandeur. A lively discussion involving many members was triggered by the question: “Was it justified?”
On February 3rd Jackie Garner, a wildlife artist based in Randwick, came to Painswick Probus to talk about her latest project of interpreting the wildlife depicted in the art of ancient Egypt.
A chance meeting with ornithologist John Wyatt led to Jackie being asked to illustrate a book which would relate the actual species of animals, predominantly birds, to the often stylised depictions in the hieroglyphics found in the Egyptian tombs. John was not convinced that egyptologists had, in all cases, correctly interpreted the paintings. Jackie’s task would be to copy the tomb paintings and, with her extensive wildlife knowledge, to help John relate these to current species found in North Africa and maybe identify animals that had gone extinct or were no longer indigenous to Egypt.
The work started with a six week tour of the tombs of Egypt, often involving perilous access through the tunnels dug by tomb robbers into unlit burial chambers. Photography was either not allowed or permits were prohibitively expensive, so Jackie would sketch the paintings for reproduction in the book where they could be compared to her accurate drawing of the real animal. In addition to the tomb paintings there were other sources of art in museums that could be used such as drawings on papyrus, pottery or stone carvings. The art was always stylised with the animals depicted in a standard way such that they could be interpreted by others. There was no individualism evident in the paintings although the depictions could be seen to evolve with time. Animals were deified by the Egyptians but successive Pharaohs often changed their gods such that images were often removed or modified.
The Egyptians were obsessed with the after-life and it was believed that the depictions on your tomb were a representation of the future and your worldly wealth would travel with you. The level of detail and the quality of the paintings or carvings varied significantly and was an indication of the wealth of the patron.
Jackie illustrated the talk with examples of her work and how she and John had related the images to the real animals.
The book is not yet published but there are more details on Jackie’s website – jackiegarner.co.uk together with details of her other work. Jackie has a studio in Randwick and also exhibits her work at the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge.
We welcomed Zimbabwe born Stroud resident David Lemon to our meeting on January 20th to talk about his incredible feat of walking the length of the Zambezi river, a distance of almost 3000 kilometres.
The trek started at the source of the Zambezi, a tiny spring on the Zambia/Congo border and as David, a man in his late sixties, loaded his 34 Kg pack onto his back he asked himself “why?”. He wasn’t really sure but now he had sponsorship and he had to go!
The river follows the Zambian border for a short while then passes through Angola before turning back into Zambia. This first part of the journey was along dirt roads or paths through the bush alongside the river and at the end of the day David would take his bed roll and sleep under the stars, the exertions of the day being soothed by the wonderful sunsets. He would come across villages where he was always welcomed and given food by people who had barely enough for themselves. Being next to the river he was given lots of fish , but occasionally rat (very tasty!) monkey (felt like cannibalism!) and flying ants (eaten those a lot!). He remarked how the people who had nothing were always smiling and laughing. One man carried his pack for several kilometres and would accept no reward.
Being a mighty river the Zambezi has lots of tributaries, some can be waded or crossed on floating log bridges but others would have a ferryman with a dug-out canoe. David always asked them to take his pack first which paid off on one occasion when the ferryman, David and canoe disappeared to the bottom of the river. The next obstacle was the Luena Plain. This is a flood plain which should have been dry by the time of David’s arrival but was still knee deep in water. Undeterred he set off wading for three days and collecting leaches on the way – surely things can’t get worse he thought.
By the time he got to Livingstone on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border David had lost 20Kg so spent a week feeding up and resting his feet. He was approaching the magnificent Victoria falls where the river plunges through high gorges and walking by the river is not possible. Fortunately a friend gave him two porters to guide him through another gorge and back to the Zambezi but progress was slow scrambling over loose rocks. Eventually he arrived at Lake Kariba which he thought of as home and where he had spent many past times canoeing and swimming. By this time temperatures were soaring to 50 C and he was suffering with malaria and was advised to take a break and recuperate, but he had done 1800K and wasn’t giving up now.
David returned after several months and continued on through the lower Zambezi national park where the animals were becoming more numerous. Nevertheless in almost 3000K he never felt threatened by any animal or person. He then crossed into Mozambique for the final leg of the trek down to the delta and the Indian ocean. Unfortunately illness struck again and he went down again with malaria and dehydration but he was not alone and was airlifted to hospital. But he wasn’t going to give up with only 400K to go. So back he came with two porters to guide him through the Cabora Bassa gorge and finally down to the Indian ocean at Chinde. The length of the Zambezi in a total of 292 days, the first recorded person to do so and completing the walk just short of his 70th birthday.
Davids journey is recalled in his book “ Cowbells down the Zambezi”.
Neil Gow came to talk to Painswick Probus on his hobby turned profession of wood carving and sculpture. Neil became interested in wood carving at an early age and though his father and grand-father were both skilled joiners he preferred the free-form nature of carving. He studied at art school but soon realised that the employment opportunities in wood carving were limited and became a draughstman. However Neil continued to carve and started to exhibit at wood carving shows in the 1990’s. This led to him becoming a professional wood carver and this has become his living for the past 12 years.
Neil brought along some of the more portable examples of his work and photographs of his larger sculptures. He has competed and exhibited over the past few years at the Festival of the Tree (Treefest) held at Westonbirt arboretum each August and many of his works are on show there. His sculptures range from small, intricate hand carved figures up to large structures such as totem poles produced by using chain saws and angle grinders.
Most of his work is done on commission and Neil explained how he would set about creating a sculpture – sketching his ideas and agreeing these with the client, finding an appropriate piece of wood and roughing out the basic shape with power tools before progressively moving on to the more intricate detail using an array of hand tools. He also brought along a large selection of his tools to illustrate how he would produce the various features of the carvings. One particularly impressive example of his work was a model of a white-water canoeist with the turbulent water produced in realistic detail.
His talk was followed by a lively question and answer session which continued as members examined his work at close quarters.
On 25th November Painswick Probus welcomed Lynn Hilditch to talk about her life and career in air traffic control for the RAF. Coming from a military family with a father in the RAF, Lynn initially rebelled against her fathers wish that she also join the military. However after a brief period in nursing she applied to the RAF for a position in ground support. This was the 1960’s and positions for women were very limited and military attitudes were very male chauvinistic. Lynn passed the exams for intelligence and aptitude and, to her relief, was offered a post to train in air traffic control where she would have some contact with the flyers rather than in fighter control hidden away underground.
Lynn entertained her audience with stories of her progression through the ranks in air traffic control in the UK and overseas bases and with examples of the rules and attitudes that women faced at that time. Over a six year period Lynn rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant but had to resign her post in the RAF when she married and started a family. Over the next decade or so Lynn raised a family of three children but by 1984 the military attitudes to married women had changed and general government legislation on sexual equality meant that she could re-apply to join the RAF despite having dependant children.
She re-trained in air traffic control taking in the new technologies that had been developed and adapting to the new ‘language’ of air traffic control. There followed a second career of around 16 years based at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Colerne before her retirement from the RAF around 2000. Although legislation and attitudes towards women had changed over the time she had spent in the RAF and now they could serve at the front line, she still felt that women had to over-perform to be regarded equally to their male counterparts. However her audience were left in no doubt that she would have put many of her male colleagues in the shade.
At their meeting on 28th October the Painswick Probus were treated to an enthusiastically presented and well illustrated talk by Gillian White entitled “Henry VIII and the Field of Cloth of Gold”.
Mainly through the efforts of Cardinal Wolsey the Treaty of London had been signed in 1518. This was a non-aggression pact between the major European powers, including England, France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, in response to the threat from the Ottoman Empire. Concerned that the treaty was falling apart Wolesey arranged meetings between Henry VIII and Charles V of Spain, the new Holy Roman Emperor, and Henry and Francis I of France.
It is this second meeting which took place over a two and a half week period in June 1520 on English controlled land near Calais that was to become known thereafter as the Field of Cloth of Gold. Although the political after effects of the meeting didn’t amount to much, the accounts of the meeting give us an insight into the two kings and their courts. Both kings were young men in their twenties and saw the meeting as an opportunity to outdo each other in a show of wealth rather than, as Wolsey would have wished, to cement the Treaty of London.
Henry set sail from Dover in a fleet of vessels carrying an entourage estimated to be around 6000 people, more than many armies of the time. Henry was accompanied by Wolsey and the queen, Catherine of Aragon. From Calais they travelled to the meeting sight where they were met by Francis I and his entourage of a similar size. Henry’s entourage were accommodated in a grand tent draped with cloth of gold and adorned with other gold decorations. Francis’ tent is recorded as similarly opulent although no illustrations survive. Cloth of gold is an enormously expensive material made from silk where one of the threads is spirally wound with gold. Henry himself, the queen and Wolsey were accommodated in a 100 metre square building constructed from brick and painted timber to represent a grand palace and shipped over and erected especially for the event. At the front of the palace were two fountains which flowed with wine and ale for the duration of the jamboree.
Gill enthralled here audience with descriptions of the the inventories for the event, the banquet menus, the tournaments and other somewhat dubious entertainments, much of it gleaned from English accounts as the French records were largely destroyed during the Revolution. One particularly painting produced some years after the event by an unknown artist now hangs in Hampton Court Palace and is over 4m wide. It graphically illustrates many of the goings-on that can readily be imagined with so many people and so much food and wine being brought together. Despite all the excesses involved Gill was in admiration of the organisation and logistics involved, noting that the Tudor civil service was by then a very efficient and well oiled machine.
But all was for nought. Within weeks Henry was plotting with Charles against Francis and by 1542 England and France were again at war.
At the Probus meeting on Wednesday 14th October the members were entertained by a talk from Bill King entitled “Industrial Archaeology in your Garage, Shed and Attic”. Bill explained that archaeology is the study of past cultures through their artefacts that remain today, but does not necessarily require the excavation of holes in the ground. We all have objects around our houses (some more than others) that we have collected or inherited, that can inform us of the way people worked and played in the past.
We have heard of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and so on, and understand how cultures developed with the development of new materials and tools, but we also can get a fascinating insight into more recent times by examination of the artefacts that were used even by us as children, our parents and their parents. With the exponential progress in materials and technologies we don’t have to look very far back to appreciate the extensive changes in the way we live and work.
Bill illustrated his point with many examples of how items such as children’s toys, tradesman’s tools, farm implements, household goods, transport, communications and computers have developed over time and how these developments have impacted our lives. Many of the items Bill used to illustrate his talk were from his own personal collection and from this and his enthusiasm it was evident that, with people like him, our recent archaeological history will be secure. The talk was well received by the Probus members.
Mark Stuart, who is the Finance Director of Elim Housing and Chairman of GEAR (Gloucestershire EmergencyAccommodation Resource), gave members an insight into the way GEAR projects and Elim Housing have been helping those who find themselves without a home or who are vulnerably housed in Gloucestershire. This whole subject is most challenging and particularly relevant in view of changing funding allocation and of the current debate on new housing numbers. He presented statistics of the growing number of households in Gloucestershire waiting to be housed.
Mark described an initiative which ensures that when a homeless person ends up in hospital they do not go back out on to the streets. He also shared something about their latest work in providing homes for those in the gypsy and traveller community. Together with Steve Pankhurst, they gave some real examples from their experiences and led a lively interactive session with the members
Visit to Jaguar Cars at Castle Bromwich
On the 17th September around 30 Painswick Probus members and guests spent an interesting day visiting the Castle Bromwich factory of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The Castle Bromwich site is the body construction and final assembly line for the XF and XJ saloons and the F-Type sports car. The tour was conducted in small groups by knowledgeable JLR engineering staff and enabled members to get up close to the assembly processes. The tour concentrated on the line for the F-Type cabriolets and coupes which are of an all aluminium, bonded and riveted construction and followed the process from rolls of aluminium sheet through to final finishing and drive-out of the cars.
It was fascinating to see how the modern, robotised assembly line had been incorporated into a historic site which is constrained on all sides by motorways and other development. The site was originally built as the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory (CBAF), a shadow aircraft factory to utilise the skills of local people from the motor industry to produce wartime aircraft. In total over 12000 spitfires were built at CBAF, over half of the total production, in addition to Lancaster bombers. The site transferred to Jaguar Cars in 1977.
It seemed appropriate that the plant was now producing cars with bodies constructed of bonded aluminium in a similar way to modern aircraft construction. Each car was being built to the individual customers specification with the correct components arriving at the assembly line at the appropriate time. Surprisingly sequential cars could be of any colour, hard top or soft top, any trim specification, any engine specification and so on. Although much of the assembly was done by robots there was still a significant human input, particularly in the final stages, and against all pre-conceptions this did not seem to be a mindless repetitive job. According to our guide staff morale is much higher now than when JLR were owned by Ford. JLR are now owned by Tata Steel of India but are largely left to manage their own business and are enjoying healthy sales. It was notable how many of the cars were in left hand drive format with 83% of production going for export, mainly to the US, China and the Middle East.
PROBUS was treated to an enthralling talk on the 2nd September, by Chris Roberts, a local member of Painswick Probus Club. Chris has pursued his interest in this subject for over 20 years and has supported his research with the acquisition of period uniform, protective equipment, weaponry and motorcycles issued to the British Army dispatch riders during WW1.
He explained that the initial recruitment of 150 riders was achieved by encouraging volunteers to join up and bring their motorcycles to earn an increased daily allowance. The riders represented a new, swift and reliable form of communication, which ensured an orderly retreat from Mons by the British Expeditionary Force. The service was eventually expanded to a force of 1500 under the aegis of the Royal Engineers.
Chris made his presentation in full uniform and supported it with photographs, items of equipment and a period Douglas motorcycle. He has made similar presentations around Europe and been party to commemorative events in the countries involved in WW1.
Chris is to donate half of his fee to ‘Help the Hero’s’ and members added a further £80 in contribution to this cause.
Russell Herbert, President.
This meeting set a sombre note when Jim Laing enlightened us with a ‘full and frank’ talk about prostate cancer. He represents the charity ‘Prostate Cancer UK’ and lead us through the symptoms, tests and treatments associated with the disease. We learned the sobering facts that 1 in 8 men in the UK suffer at some time from prostate cancer and that the incidence and mortality rates are similar to breast cancer.
Jim tackled the serious subject with some gruesome facts and diagrams but also with humour and a deep understanding of the experiences faced by sufferers. We left the meeting very much wiser than when it started.
Genealogy has become an absorbing hobby for many people and our first speaker last month, Dennis Halliday, was probably more enthusiastic than many. His talk was entitled ‘Discovering a Family Tree’ and he introduced us to some of the sources of information that are available to trace families back through the generations. Sources range from the obvious such as elderly relatives to family Bibles as well as census and parish records, and also less obvious sources such as the Mormons.
Dennis then recounted the enthralling history of his own family which went back to Viking invaders who settled in a deep valley near the Scottish town of Moffat where they established themselves as reivers (robbers to you and me). There they raped, pillaged and plundered livestock from neighbouring clans, which they rounded up in their valley, known as the ‘Devil’s beef tub’ to this day.
His research led him through some fascinating finds relating to his family’s lives and times until a branch of the family ended up in Bisley.
The speaker for our scheduled meeting did not arrive and we were rescued by our own Alan Hudson who stepped in with an excellent talk on the History of Tea. We learned that tea was traded by the Dutch in Europe before Britain and was initially brought to the notice of the English by Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II in 1662.
We also learned that, among the famous London coffee houses like Lloyds was ‘Twinings in the Strand’ which was established in 1706 by Thomas Twining from Painswick.
Tea was an expensive luxury which had to be locked away in Tea Chests and was rendered even more expensive by the Tea Tax – hence the Boston Tea Party in our troublesome colony.
Alan also touched on the history of tea bags and even ‘Earl Grey’s Tea’. He brought us up-to-date with the expansion of tea plantations from China to India and on to world-wide production including Africa, South America, and even Cornwall and Kew Gardens!
Marion Beagley was already known to Probus, having given us a talk about Japan in the past and on 30th April her subject was ‘The Village Shop’. She spoke from experience and recalled may of the characters who would visit her shop.
She reminded us of the days before supermarkets, health and safety and sell-by dates when village shops and their urban equivalents used to provide wide ranging services. In addition to providing groceries and fresh produce for the whole village they were the centre of the community where friends and neighbours would meet to chat. Many provided postal services and Marion’s shop would even keep the ‘visiting list’ for the doctor when he arrived in the village.
In the days before refrigerators were widely available, customers would visit the local shop daily. We were reminded that customers would bring shopping lists and the shopkeeper would collect, weigh out and package the goods for them.
Our next meeting was an open social event with the ladies. Swithin Fry, suitably attired, entertained us with a load of Nonsense comprising extracts from Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. Nostalgia was stoked with such epics as ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ and ‘The Jabberwocky’ and a touch of Stanley Holloway thrown in. The proceedings finished with an excellent buffet lunch washed down with wine and coffee.
Thanks are due to Paul Sparks for organising the catering in his usual quiet efficiency.
Apr 2014-Apr 2015
Fiona Warin, Allotment Officer for Cheltenham gave us an amusing and really informative talk about allotments. Their history in Britain can be traced back to the Norman conquest after which large estates of land were parceled up and handed to the Norman aristocracy. Although common land was initially relatively plentiful for agriculture, the rot set in when sheep and the wool trade required large tracts of land and landowners invoked the Enclosure Acts reducing the ability of poor people to grow their own food.
Today’s allotments date back to the Nineteenth Century when land was allocated to the labouring poor for the provision of food and the two world wars spurred on their provision. We learned that since the wars, allotments have gradually declined in popularity save for a spike in the 1970s when the TV series ‘The Good Life’ created a surge of interest but a more recent increase was caused by food scares and the organic food movement as well as TV programmes about growing vegetables. This has recently died down when popular interest has turned to home baking.
Fiona pointed out that allotments these days are less about alleviating starvation and more an addictive leisure pursuit.
Ken Bigg’s career had been in sales which he claims is one if the most important jobs in today’s society – “every product or service needs to be sold!”. He gave us a talk about salesmanship entitled ‘Just a Can of Beans’, pointing out initially that the beans had to be sold at every stage of their cycle – to the canning works, to the supermarket and ultimately to the consumer.
We learned that the most important attribute for a salesperson is personality and that training is not vital. Having made that point, he illustrated a number of tricks of the trade and some check lists or techniques that can be taught.
On 5th February, we were treated to an excellent presentation from Peter Petrie about the history of Gloucester Cathedral. We were fascinated by the Cathedral’s long history and its links to the city of Gloucester. We learned that the site was originally a Saxon Abbey built in 678 AD and that after the Norman conquest from 1089 the abbey was rebuilt as the massive norman building which still survives in the nave to this day. Later additions including the impressive cloisters and the spectacular Great East Window were added later in the perpendicular style.
We learned that the building owes its existence to the fact that the unfortunate King Edward II was buried in the Abbey in 1327. When King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries, Gloucester Abbey surrendered in 1540 but unlike other monasteries in the realm, the building was spared as the burial place of Edward II. Since then, the building survived further turbulent times in its new role as the Cathedral we know today.
Mike Guest of Cotswold Canals Trust brought us up-to-date with an excellent presentation, illustrating the work of the Trust. He gave us a short history of the Stroudwater and Thames & Severn canals and went on to examine the progress in restoring them to their former glory.
The benefits that Mike listed were:
Formation of an environmental corridor
Towpath for recreation
Better place to live
Economic benefits to the area
Opportunities for volunteering.
We learned of the daunting challenges that face the Trust and that projects to be tackled over the next five years include; Waitrose to Brimscombe and ‘The Ocean’ (near Stonehouse) to Saul Junction as well as others from Briscombe to Sapperton tunnel and projects to connect to the Thames.
Many people have heard of Glubb Pasha but not many know exactly who he was. Brian Ashworth had met Glubb while serving in the Middle East and his talk outlined much of the complex detail of Glubb’s life and times.
We learned that Lieutenant-General Glubb was a British soldier who established, lead and trained the Transjordan Arab Legion, modelling it on the British army. During his leadership between 1939 and 1956, the Arab Legion achieved legendary status as the best, most disciplined fighting force in the Middle East. The Arab Legion kept the peace in large areas of the region and Glubb earned the title Pasha, which was granted to high-ranking soldiers or government officials.
Glubb was born in Preston and educated at Cheltenham College. He joined the Royal Engineers in 1915 and was seriously wounded in World War I. However, it was after the war, in 1920 that he was transferred to Iraq after which his involvement with the Arab world took over. His career lead him into the complex and politically fraught melting pot of many states, tribes and factions of the area which culminated in establishing the current boundaries, founding of the state of Israel and the origins of today’s many serious problems. Glubb was highly respected but it was political expediency that finally ended his army career when he was dismissed by King Hussein of Jordan.
Glubb identified himself with the Arab cause in the struggle against Israel – controversy continues to this day and indeed even raised some issues during the question session at the end of our talk!
GFirstLEP is the Local Enterprise Partnership for Gloucestershire and we welcomed their Chief Executive, David Owen who gave us an excellent presentation. He introduced his organisation and gave us an upbeat view of the present and future of the county’s economy. The LEP relies almost exclusively on local support but has recently attracted £0.25 million from government.
We looked at the county’s main strengths as Tourism and Business and although the major emphasis of the partnership is on development of business, the Cotswolds are an important element for the promotion of the county.
The LEP spends a lot of its energy on promoting Gloucestershire abroad with a narrative that includes Cheeses, Wallace & Grommit, Budding’s invention of the lawnmower, Whittle and development of the jet engine, Dowty landing gear, Walls ice cream, GCHQ, Superdry clothing and even the production of artificial snow for the film and television industries. We learned that Huffkins the tearooms and bakers went down well at a recent exhibition in Japan earning them substantial revenues.
One of the county’s strengths is education with good schools, university and technical apprenticeships and promotion of Gloucestershire stresses the nurturing of high tech skills, creating the right environment for new business start-ups. Businesses such as Renishaw can only develop with access to a highly skilled workforce.
David stressed that the county has good communications with the London rail link, M5, and M4 however the LEP is pressing for improvements. These improvements include the rail improvements between Swindon and Kemble, tackling the bottleneck at Nettleton Bottom, remodelling M5 Junction 10 (Cheltenham North), Superfast Broadband throughout the county and development of Gloucestershire airport.
The partnerships growth plan for the future includes:
Attraction of European funding – we do not currently attract much funding as Gloucestershire has a relatively strong economy
Promotion – marketing Gloucestershire as a great place to live and do business.
Development along the M5 corridor focusing on:
Developments adjacent to junctions:Redevelopment of the Ashchurch MOD site
Development of Staverton Airport
The Incinerator site at Junction 12
The final messages were:
Confidence – Gloucestershire cannot be complacent
Development – embrace it, don’t be anti-business
Globalisation – don’t panic, we can compete
Our future – we must ensure that our skilled young people stay and work in the county.
The presentation was well received, we learned a lot and we were impressed with the efforts that David and his team are making.
It is said that the more obscure the title, the more interesting the subject. This was certainly the case on the morning of 26th June when Chris Amison gave us a fascinating talk on the life of Sir Thoms Phillipps, a man born at the beginning of the 18th Century, who when at Oxford started to collect books and manuscripts from all over the world. An unpopular man for most of his life, he was forced to move to larger premises and chose Thirlestaine House, now part of the College in Cheltenham. After his death, the cellar revealed even more treasures which were found in purpose built crates, these were gradually sold by his family, the last lot as recently as 2002. Libraries and Museums in many countries have benefitted from this extraordinary man’s obsession.
At our next meeting Probus Members welcomed back Tore Fauske, this time with a most entertaining talk about his ancestors, The Vikings. He did not deny their reputation and gave his version of history as to how they moved from being peaceful traders to pillaging and other things. These adventurers travelled to many parts of the world, including America, Russia and North Africa. He amused members with new definitions of certain Viking words and left us to puzzle which to believe.
Stewart Price who is well known to many of us gave us a thought provoking talk about the electricity generating and distribution industry in this country. He explained in detail but in plain language how the privatised power generation companies interface with the National Grid and how the electricity ends up in our homes, offices and factories. When the CEGB was established in 1947 it had a legal requirement to provide power at all times whereas, it is now market forces only which make that provision.
Electricity cannot be stored and he pointed out that, in order to keep the lights on, the industry must always have enough capacity to meet peak requirements, not just when the wind blows or the sun shines! Currently the majority suppliers of power are Coal and Gas fired power stations but these are to be decommissioned over the next few years. The capital and running costs of power suppliers vary, with Wind and Nuclear having the highest capital costs but providing the lowest running costs.
We learned that it is always more efficient to use energy sources directly, for example a gas boiler can provide heating far more efficiently than electric heating using gas generated power. Thus, the move towards electric cars is deplorable as these vehicles must be charged from the National Grid often at peak times rather than using primary energy sources.
Our Wine Tasting event took on a new look this year. Firstly it was held in the Beacon Hall at the Centre and secondly, the wine tasting was introduced by video clips prior to each tasting.
All the wines featured by Paul Sparks were from a single, family run Italian farm, Fattoria La Vialla in the Chianti region and were well received. The farm unusually only sells its produce directly to consumers outside Italy.
Our thanks go to the Probus Ladies for rounding off the event with an excellent buffet lunch, especially to Joan Hardwidge and Penny Eastwood for organising the meal.
We held an efficient and speedy AGM during which David Walker handed the presidential mantle to Alan Hudson. David summarised the club’s activities throughout the year and, in the absence of our treasurer the accounts were approved.
Following the proceedings, we repaired to The Falcon to celebrate another successful year for Painswick Probus.
Doctor Anne Dunn gave us a fascinating insight into the topic “The voice and its repertoire”
She opened by describing her own professional career as a classical singer. She preferred the concert scene stage to the operatic one and as such had appeared on some of the most famous stages in the world.
After telling us that the voice should be considered as an instrument she played various extracts, including some of her own performances, to demonstrate it. We were told that the most polished singer will be the one who has successfully learned how they can use their whole body to make the sound they wish to achieve. As an example she showed us how the vocal range can be extended by those able to best utilize control of their breathing.
Archery is a sport that not many of us knew much about but Barry Groves, who has won countless championships and trophies in archery gave us an excellent presentation on the subject.
We looked at the history of archery which evolved from simple wooden bows and arrows to the complex equipment used by today’s archers.
We learned about the ‘Archer’s Paradox’ or the phenomenon of an arrow striking its target when pointed slightly to the side of the target – caused by the fact that arrows do not pass through the bow but must divert past it.
We also looked at the various ways in which archers compete: target archery or field archery to simulate hunting animals in woodland or finally, to the formula one of archery ‘flight archery’ where archers must achieve the greatest distance of flight where distances of greater than 1.5 km have been achieved.
The range of equipment is bewildering from simple traditional bows with wooden arrows to high tech compound bows made from aluminium and fibreglass with stabilisers and telescopic sights. Arrows also have come a long way being made from aluminium or carbon fibre.
The accuracy of bowman with this equipment is amazing and we saw a video of a Korean archer who was able to hit the centre of the bull with an arrow then fire another arrow to embed itself inside the first.
We were grateful to Brian Lamerton who stepped in the last minute after a cancellation to give us an excellent, Illustrated presentation on a cruise to Antarctica. The cruise left from Ushuaia, the most southern city in Argentina and proceeded via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsular.
We learned about the Antarctic Treaty which regulates international relations and the regulations which cover environmental conservation. One of the conditions was that only 50 people can go ashore at any one time. One or two of the shore visits were very hairy – In small boats with rough seas.
Brian showed some stunning photographs of penguins and other wildlife as well as the amazing terrain. It was also interesting to see photographs of the places they visited including Port Stanley and Grytviken in South Georgia which is a derelict whaling station and where Ernest Shackleton was buried.
Bill Affleck gave an impressive presentation on the Invasion of Sicily during World War II. He reminded us that this was just the ‘Latest Invasion’ as Sicily had been invaded many times before. The talk was illustrated with digital slides of excellent maps and photographs which were well combined and described.
The story of the invasion from it’s planning to its detailed unfolding from invasion of the beaches to the withdrawal of German forces was an epic tale littered with failures in communications and wrong decisions. We looked at the command structure of the British and American forces under General Eisenhower and learned that by contrast, the German and Italian command was fragmented and incoherent.
From landings in the South, the American force under General Patton took most of the west and north of the Island in an energetic campaign while the British force under Montgomery having made a good start, embarked on too ambitious a programme and became bogged down with serious fighting in the East.
Bill concluded that the real winner of the conflict was the German General Baade whose planning and execution of the German withdrawal enabled them to save a large proportion of their fighting forces and equipment from the Island. He also concluded that the losers were the Sicilian people.
Adrian Lyster’s talk about the NHS concentrated on the establishment of pain clinics in the Gloucestershire trust where he had started as an unpaid volunteer and achieved the status of a consultant specialising in acupuncture.
We learned about the nature of pain and how pain is not felt at the point where the pain is generated but in the brain. We also learned that the messages from the source to the brain are carried by nerves and there is a theory that those nerves pass through ‘Gates’ which can control the perception of pain.
We also learned the difference between acute pain and chronic pain and that the latter can persist long after trauma has healed or where there is no trauma – an extreme example being the phenomenon of pain which can feel like it comes from a limb that has been amputated. It is chronic pain that is of particular interest to the clinics.
Adrian explained that the methods used target the brain and nervous system and may include acupuncture as well as meditation and distraction techniques. He explained how some alternative therapies can work where drugs do not and that these procedures may have less side effects than drug treatments.
Access to pain clinics are not available throughout the NHS and, due to a standardisation policy they may no longer be available in future. Existing facilities will have to be offered by charitable trusts. Insights into the culture of the NHS and how it has changed over the last quarter of a century were very interesting.
Howard Pitts is undoubtedly enthusiastic about bees and beekeeping. He has produce honey commercially and he tackled the subject with gusto. It soon became clear that the subject of bees is immense and that he was only going to scratch the surface.
We learned that people have collected honey for millennia and that honey in earthenware pots sealed with beeswax was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb – and was still in perfect, edible condition. Another subject that came to light was the extraordinary mating habits of bees where the drones of the hive arrange a tryst high in the sky with a virgin queen which ends in sad death of the drones concerned all in the service of future generations – which shed new light on “the birds and the bees”!
We were able to look at a hive and were initiated into the mysteries of smoking the bees as well as some of the diseases and hazards afflicting bees. In addition, we learned about the production and use of Beeswax as well as the properties of another mysterious substance called Propolis produced by bees and used as a health supplement.
James Tabor has researched the men and machines of the Royal Flying Corp during WW1. His talk, accompanied by digital photographs was an interesting perspective on the early days of flight.
He pointed out that the first recorded flight by the Wight Brothers was in 1903 yet the RFC was formed only 9 years later in 1912. Aircraft were very basic indeed and the people who flew them took their life in their hands.
Initially the aviators where wealthy men of mature years who has taken to flying as a hobby. Most of them died during the war and were replaced by young men and teenagers with minimal basic training.
The primary role of the Royal Flying Corp in the war was reconnaissance which meant flying behind enemy lines in slow, primitive craft without parachutes or radio communication and unarmed or armed only with pistols. The German aircraft were armed and concentrated on hunting the British and French over friendly territory. Later British aircraft were armed and there were technical advances in engine design and the development of machine guns which could synchronise with propellors blades.
Apart from the considerable dangers the airmen faced, James pointed out the extreme conditions they weathered – in the open air with no heating in subzero temperatures. The talk was a tribute to exceptionally brave and tough men.
The Germans developed an enormous biplane bomber right at the end of the war but we learned that although bombers were not really used during the First War airman “sometimes dropped darts”!
Howard Beard has amassed a large collection of historic photographs and postcards from the Stroud District. As the title implied, this was about the people and made a fascinating presentation of social history.
Starting with Amberley, the talk homed in on the towns and villages in alphabetic order and we looked at many aspects of life – people at work and play. The presentation was delivered with much historic information and with humour as well as some ‘then and now’ shots which in some cases had hardly changed.
Richard Kendrick got into catering initially after an impulse buy – a transport café! From there it was a short step to buying a caravan and converting it to a mobile food stall. However he didn’t stop there and before their retirement, he and his wife went on to build a location catering business capable of feeding hundreds of people at divers locations.
Their clients included film crews, television on location, sporting events, weddings etc. He gave us numerous examples of how they provided food to discerning customers from all walks of life, often in really difficult conditions. Timing was a factor that was always a top priority, for example where contracted to provide top quality hot meals for a film crew of say 300 people in just one hour.
Richard was proud of his vehicles and equipment, much of which was designed to his specifications. Mobile kitchens, dining facilities, loos and even make-up and wardrobe vehicles all had to be provided and brought to site whatever the conditions. Dealing with big name clients, as well as stars from sport, film and television were all in a days work.
There were, of course a number of great anecdotes like a film location involving a hunt with hounds where the hounds became more interested in the barbecue than the quarry.
Torpedoes are not in the forefront of most people’s minds but David Brand gave us a fascinating insight into their history. Early torpedoes were attached to the side of wooden ships from long poles and we learned that the first self propelled “automobile” torpedoes were invented by an Englishman, Robert Whitehead who produced them for the Austrian navy in 1866.
Whitehead’s early torpedoes were powered by compressed air and he invented an ingenious device which kept the torpedo at a constant depth. The device which was top secret for many years was based on a hydrostatic pressure valve and a pendulum, the latter preventing the torpedo from “porpoising”. His torpedoes were sold around the world.
Whitehead’s company was sold to Vickers Armstrong and, of course, torpedoes became more and more powerful. It was frightening to see a video of a current device which literally broke a target vessel in two.
An interesting footnote to the talk was that Whitehead’s granddaughter Agathe married a certain George Ludwig von Trapp. Before she died in 1922, Agathe produced seven children who later became the von Trapp family singers with George’s second wife Maria – and the “Sound of Music” was born. It appears however, that the family did not escape over the Alps as in the film, they simply boarded a train!
Black Country Museum
A coachload of us descended on the Black Country Museum to find a small canalside town which consists of buildings moved from a number of locations and rebuilt on the site. The museum consists of houses, workshops, shops, a community hall and even a coal mine. Roads with historic cars and buses as well as an operating tramway all provide an authentic atmosphere, which transported us back in time.
Various establishments provided food, the most popular of which was the fish ‘n chip shop in the historic shopping street. There were opportunities to see various tradespeople in action and to intrude upon the cottages and accommodation showing the living conditions during the early part of the last century.
To complete the experience we all donned safety helmets and climbed into a narrowboat, looking like so many eggs in a crate. The narrowboat took us deep underground through tunnels that had been dug to mine limestone and other minerals. It was a fascinating insight into the sheer dogged determination that our forebears must have had to build such a vast network of underground workings.
None of us took up the challange to ‘leg’ the boat through the tunnel!
We knew little about Korea except the Korean war and the ongoing cold war between North and South until we welcomed a native speaker Hang-jin. His talk revealed some astonishing examples of their rich heritage and also looked at the remarkable recovery of South Korea following their disastrous war.
One of the objects we learned about was a printed book intriguingly called Tripitaka Koreana which was completed in 1251. Over 52 million chinese characters were engraved on woodblocks, all still in excellent, useable condition. It is estimated that this book would take 30 years, 7 days a week for anyone to read.
Another object was a reliquary from the 7th Century AD. This object included artistic details which were so minute that they could not be seen with the human eye. It is not known how or why details not visible with the naked eye were made.
A further example was a 1200 year old grotto constructed from granite to a level of precision which could not be matched even with high tech instruments and tools available today.
Finally we learned about the extraordinary level of scientific, social, technical and engineering development that has been achieved in South Korea since the war.
Joint meeting with ladies
We were joined by the ladies for a joint meeting in the Church Rooms.
The dancer, Anne Blagden introduced us to Belly Dancing with an interesting talk outlining the history and cultural significance of the art form. She then gave a demonstration of the dance, in authentic costume!
The entertainment was followed by an excellent buffet lunch prepared and served by the Probus Ladies – a superb effort considering they had done very much the same for the Community Lunch only two days previously.
Our thanks go to The Probus Ladies group who met the challenge of hosting the Painswick Community Lunch at Aswell House. It was enjoyed by all those who attended.
David Achard treated us to one of his great presentations of Painswick’s history illustrated with some of his numerous photographs of the town through the last century.
We learned that apart from the buildings, local characters and many events, some of our current members had also become part of the town’s recorded history.
We enjoyed a virtual tour, guided by Theo Stenning around the mid-west states of the USA looking at some well-known and some lesser known National Parks. The tour included Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and we learned a lot of facts about the area.
We learned that there is a project in progress to build a rival to Mount Rushmore commemorating Native Americans. Known as the Crazy Horse Memorial, this massive sculpture project is being undertaken without public finance.