Christmas Open Meeting. There were refreshments and entertainment which included Singing for Fun, Ukulele Group, Play Reading Group and the Attenborough Handbell Ringers .
Below are photographs taken by Mike Johnson at the Meeting. Click on any photograph to start a slideshow.
December Christmas meeting – What a talented lot we are!
To begin with there was coffee and cakes for those who wanted and then we got down to business. Our Christmas celebration started with the announcement of the winner of the Short Story Competition. This year there were 23 entries so to reduce them to a short list of three was no mean task. Claire Harvey, a local author of historical fiction, had been invited to make the final decision. She told us briefly about the three finalists and explained that the theme this year had been ‘Rain’. She was intrigued to see how variously the theme had been interpreted and also made some comments of her own about the subject. She was impressed by some phrases to suggest that she may ‘borrow’ them for future use. Our winner was Sue Daley for her story entitled ‘An Invisible Hand’. Congratulations Sue!
The serious business disposed of it was time for the fun. Our first performers were the combined Singing for Fun Group and the Ukulele Players. A quick head count showed 14 players and a choir of around 40 (some were multi tasking!). They opened the proceedings with a jolly rendition of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ other Christmas favourites followed including different settings of ‘While Shepherds watched’ and ‘Oh, holy night’. A rousing chorus of ‘Merry Christmas everyone’ concluded their contribution.
The Play Readers followed with what could be described as a homage to the late Victoria Wood. They performed a short selection of some of her sketches. We sympathised with Dottie’s ‘groin strain’, were probably glad we did not patronise Victoria’s supermarket, ‘Young Love’ raised some wry chuckles, ‘Cosmetic Surgery’ and ‘Skin Care’ reminded us of the ridiculous lengths some people make to try to defeat the onset of age. The final piece, ‘Groupies’ made me hope that one cannot be sued for an impersonation – and as for the sexy underwear, words fail me!!
Last year we were entertained by a Barber Shop Group, this year we had invited the Attenborough Handbell Ringers to our party. It is amazing what a variety of sizes these bells come in. Some were so small they could be hidden in a closed fist and made a gentle tinkle, others looked quite heavy and obviously made more sonorous sounds. It seems that the group started some years ago and obviously the personnel has changed over that time, but the original husband and wife team are still there. All power to their elbow.
It is good to see that so many people are willing to give their time and energy for the entertainment of us all but, as we are reminded regularly, that is what the U3A is all about. Happy Christmas everyone!
Ann Featherstone gave a talk ‘The Baby Killer and the Thief: Two Local Victorian Crimes’.
Ann is clearly passionate about local history and has painstakingly traced the stories of two crimes committed during Victorian times, and found out about the legal process and what became of the sorry people who were tied up in these incidents.
The first story tells of a servant girl’s dilemma, when she became pregnant and was unmarried, and desperately needed to keep working for a living. She gave birth in a privy and left her baby in a biscuit tin, which was found weeks later. The court case was complicated by the fact that there were no witnesses and relied on the confession of this young woman recounting what happened moments after giving birth, on her own. It can be said that a woman in such a predicament would not be completely in control of her faculties – a little bit mad! She was punished with a lengthy prison sentence, after which she disappeared from the public record.
The second case was about a 16 year old man (boy) who stole a valuable watch and tried to pawn it. This was at a time when people over the age of 16 were transported to Australia for their crime, and conditions aboard the ship (both before setting sail and during the voyage) were awful. In Australia, these young people were set on as slaves until they had paid their debt to society, and then they were released. Ann had been able to trace a letter which came from the young man to his parents back in Nottingham, asking them if they’d like to come and join him in Australia. It’s likely they never saw each other again. Harsh times for anyone who broke the law.
The atmosphere at the Pearson Centre for the Group Fair was reminiscent of a really good party! There was a buzz of excited conversation and so much to see. The majority of the 74+ groups in our U3A were represented, many of them demonstrating what they could offer.
The ukulele group strummed for us, the choir sang, recorders were blown, the Scottish Country Dance group demonstrated their skills and we were told that they had an NHS endorsement, dancing is good cardio-vascular exercise! The Folk Dance group took us on a short European tour and there was the opportunity to play table tennis. For obvious reasons the badminton players and the Walkers/Strollers were not demonstrating but were attracting interest.
Having exhausted ourselves, theoretically at least, the Lunch Clubs seemed to be doing good business as were the Wine Appreciation societies – no free samples though! There were opportunities to try one’s hand at Scrabble, various card games seemed to be in progress, both Bridge and Whist. There was an interesting display of water colour paintings on the Art stand varying from ones done by beginners to one on loan from a professional artist.
Various crafts were well represented; photography, knitting and crochet, quilting to mention a few. For the more serious minded of us, Psychology & Sociology, Philosophy & Religion and Exploring Spiritualty were all there to be considered as was Science and the discussion group What the Papers Say.
As one would expect there were several Book Groups to choose from including the specialist Murder book group. It says much for our members’ enthusiasm that there is a waiting list for some of these groups, as there is for several of the groups.
Music, both classical and Jazz were on offer, Play reading, Latin with an eye-catching display showing how many common words owe their origin to the ancient language. History and, more particularly, Art History and Appreciation and also Family History. It seems as if tracing your family’s ancestors is not as simple as the programme ‘Who do you think you are’ might make it seem. This group aims to help you find your way through the many web sites, some free, some not, which will enable you to find information.
Not all activities are inside however. There are outside events too. Lucy organises interesting trips, usually a day but on occasions longer trips for two or more days. Recently we have been to the Lady Lever Art Gallery and also to the Anderton Boat lift. These outings are popular and there is often a waiting list. The Theatre Group also ‘goes out’. Usually the performance is in Nottingham; ‘Kindertransport’ this month, and ‘Wipers Times’ last month, but sometimes we venture as far as Derby as we will later the month to see ‘Abigail’s Party’. It is so good to discuss what we have seen at the next meeting of the Group. The film group also discuss what they have been to see but with many venues in the area they do not all go to the same showing of a film.
If one wished it would be possible to go to two groups a day every day of the week for a month! It is frustrating to talk to someone about joining the group and then realising that that time is already booked for another group and then there is the dilemma, which one to go to? Which one to drop?
I think it is abundantly clear that Beeston U3A is thriving and that there are many enthusiastic members which will ensure a long and happy future for it.
Below are a series of pictures taken at the Fair by Mike Johnson. Click on any image to start a slide show.
We were treated to an interesting account of the life and work of Samuel Pepys, a talk given by Brian Tuck which had previously been given to the History group. Samuel Pepys (pronounced PEEPS) was born in Salisbury in 1633, one of 11 children. He lived with his uncle in Huntingdonshire as a child in order to avoid the plague, which dispatched several of his siblings.
After the civil war, he went to London and started writing his famous diary, after all, these were turbulent times in England. He had political connections through his employer who was the First Lord of the Admiralty, and responsible for bringing Charles back from exile. As a principal officer of navy administration, he acquired power and moderate wealth. However, the years of writing was causing such strain on his eyes that he thought he was going blind. His diary finished in 1669, but in fact his career continued afterwards. He became an MP and President of the Royal Society, but his alliance with James II brought suspicion that he had Jacobite sympathies. He died in London in 1703 at the age of 70, but leaves behind his personal record of the times during the 1660’s as a valuable historical account of the time.
Dr Tim Grey MBE gave a talk on the East Midlands Immediate Care Scheme.
Many people were slightly surprised at the content of this talk, but all those who listened came away knowing something new, and many were so impressed by what they heard, they were happy to hand over contributions which amounted to almost £400!
Dr Grey is the founder and chairman of this registered charity which provides pre-hospital emergency medical care for victims of accidents. All the doctors are volunteers and the charity receives NO financial support from the NHS. As if doctors didn’t have enough to occupy them during their average working day, there are, at the moment, 26 of them in the East Midlands who are prepared to react to an emergency call whenever it comes; to drive, along with the blues and twos, in their fully equipped cars, to wherever the incident has occurred.
The aim of the charity is to treat a patient on site and within the so-called ‘Golden Hour’. All the volunteers have specialist trauma training, in addition to the medical training they already have. It costs between £4000 – £6000 to train and equip a volunteer doctor. Treating a victim trapped in a vehicle, possibly unconscious, and not easily accessible bears little resemblance to what one might see on TV. To start with the doctors all wear high vis suits, not white coats, and helmets. Depending on geography, they may be first on the scene so they will have to assess the situation and ‘read the wreckage’. It is important that they work as part of the team which will include the other Emergency Services. Dr Grey stressed the importance of the Fire and Rescue Service in these situations. Fire fighters are vital in stabilising a crushed or overturned vehicle, cutting a person out of a vehicle, assessing and reducing the risk of fire. According to Dr Grey, fire fighters spend many hours learning to cut the roof off a car and they love the chance to do it! Apparently it takes them four and a half minutes to “cabriolet a car”! I’m not sure I can open a can of baked beans that quickly!
The volunteers are contacted through the ambulance call centre but not all 999 calls merit an EMICS callout. There is a challenge when trying to work out if everyone has been accounted for. For example; a motorcyclist who is unconscious, did he have a pillion passenger who may have been flung off and may be lying in a field nearby, also unconscious? A child’s car seat is found in the road and again, maybe no one is able to answer the question. ‘was there a child in the seat?’ An overturned lorry lying on its side after it swerved and toppled over. When a crane gets to the site, a crushed car is discovered underneath. All in a day’s work for this amazing team of volunteers.
Maureen Rushton gave a talk ‘The Tragedy of the Canary Girls’.
It seems incredulous that the biggest loss of life during a single explosion during the First World War took place not on the battlefields of France, but much closer to home in Chilwell. On 1st July 1918 the explosion happened at the National Shell Filling Factory in the mixing plant. It was one of Britain’s worst wartime disasters; it’s the forgotten tragedy in which 134 Nottingham workers were killed, the majority of whom would never be identified. 250 people were injured by the blast that flattened much of the area around the site. The massive explosion caused body parts to be hurled into the air and to land in the surrounding fields, and yet, at the time, it was only reported in the newspapers as: “60 feared dead”.
The most instantly recognisable munitions workers were the Canary Girls, so-called because the sulphur and chemicals they used to produce the trinitrotoluene (TNT) caused their skin to turn yellow and their hair to turn green but it also caused more serious health problems including anaemia, jaw-rot, and in the more severe cases, even liver failure. By the end of the war, more than 400 women had died from exposure to the deadly toxins.
Following the explosion, the first funeral was held on 4th July 1918. Of the 34 bodies which were buried in a mass grave in Attenborough village, only one could be identified.
So, what was the cause of the huge explosion at Chilwell? Was it a tragic accident or could it be sabotage? There were rumours that the IRA or fifth columnists might have got in there to cause it. A Home Office inquiry was convened on 8 July 1918 and closed on 7 August 1918; the report was classified as ‘secret’ but the cause of the explosion was believed to have been accidental.
A memorial to those who had died was unveiled by the Duke of Portland, the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, on 13th March 1919. It takes the form of a small obelisk above a massive pyramidal base inside the Chetwynd army base.
Charles Hanson gave a talk ‘My Life as an Auctioneer’.
There was an air of excited anticipation as a larger than usual audience waited in the church for the arrival of Charles Hanson. With the news that he may be unable to make it due to traffic, Anne Allery got ready to provide an alternative talk. A very unenviable situation for Anne, who had only just got prepared, when in walked Charles Hanson. The relief felt was palpable across the hall. For those who don’t know, Charles Hanson runs his own auctioneers in Etwall in Derbyshire, and has regularly appeared on TV in Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip.
Charles set out some gold enamelled flowers in pots on a table and explained they had been brought to him at his auction room in Derby, wrapped in a tea towel within an old shoe box. It turned out that they were Faberge and very rare. They had been left by a relative who had worked for Queen Mary. They went to auction with an estimated value of half a million pounds!
As an auctioneer, Charles talked with great passion about his love of the objects that he comes across, and he often wonders what tales they could tell. He visited an ordinary house, in which a large Chinese vase stood in the hall, regularly being wobbled and played with by passing children. When it was taken to an expert for a valuation, it was deemed to be worth between three and five hundred thousand pounds. The owner was asked if he wanted to sell it, to which came the understated reply, “Oh go on then”.
Some of the more unusual items which came up for auction were described, including the left cheek from Saddam Hussain’s bronze statue which was brought down following the war in Iraq. There is a buoyant market for collectibles, but not so good for china, furniture and household items. Antique shops are now becoming a thing of the past (no pun intended). Internet buying has taken over. Even auction rooms have more online bidders these days. From experience, Charles has advised that you should check out any inherited property before you discard it…you never know what it could be worth!
To finish, Charles conducted an auction to win VIP days at the next filming of Bargain Hunt. He ended up allocating 3 gifts of VIP days, which went for £100 each, with all the money being donated to his favourite charity.
AGM followed by a talk from Ann Mason, ‘Bees Around the World’.
As well as offering us a table laden with products derived from bees, we were treated to a highly informative talk about bees. Rob and Anne took up beekeeping in retirement, and have passed on their enthusiasm to grandchildren.
It seems bee keeping has been around for some 5,000 years or so, and hieroglyphics representing bees have been revealed in Egypt, and an ancient hive has been excavated in Jordan. In fact, the wax at the bottom of the original clay cylinder was revealed to be still sweet, after all these years! Bees have also been found caught up in amber, revealing that they were around at the same time as the dinosaurs.
Over 40 percent of our food depends on pollination by insects, but unfortunately, there are up to 75 percent fewer insects around these days. This is a result of loss of habitat and the use of pesticides. We should really be encouraging them by planting more flowers that bloom throughout the year, more single flowers and native wildflowers which the bees and other insects love.
There are many different species of bee throughout the world, and they have different places to nest and breed. The length of the tongue often differentiates the different species. They all have 5 eyes: 2 compound eyes plus 3 simple eyes on the top of the head. They can communicate using a “waggle dance” to instruct other bees where to find supplies of nectar. The figure of eight dance, demonstrated ably by Rob, denotes the angle relative to the sun of the origin of food. These signals have recently been discovered with the aid of radar and GPS systems. It is the use of pesticides which seems to disrupt their navigation systems, which hinders their route to the food. Given the need to pollinate our foods, and the use made of so many bee products, we owe it to ourselves, as well as them, to respect their environment and encourage them into our gardens in order to arrest their decline.
See AGM May 2018.
April 2018 – John Whitfield – Sir Winston Churchill: Man of Destiny
We all think we know quite a bit about our famous war time prime minister, but our speaker this month was an absolute mine of information about his life, and told us a number of things we didn’t already know. John Whitfield spoke fluently and most interestingly, without the aid of notes or a projected set of slides, which demonstrates how well he knew the story of Churchill’s life.
Winston had an unhappy childhood, being brought up mainly by his nanny within a broken and unloving aristocratic family. His parents, Randolph Churchill and Jenny Jerome, showed little interest in their children, seeking their own individual interests in life. Following his Sandhurst training, Winston joined a cavalry regiment, much to the disgust of his father, who would now have to pay out for a horse! He saw battle in India, and again in the Boer War, where he was captured and sent to prison camp, escaped, and then returned to fight at Mafeking. He also started his journalistic career, reporting from the front line.
In 1900 he returned home to become a politician, a career which lasted until 1964 when he stood down at the General Election at the age of 90. Not many politicians had actually experienced going into battle but Churchill seemed to seek out the opportunity to go towards the fight. He was firstly a Conservative, but then crossed the House to become a Liberal when he saw a rising and more energised party. He fought the suffragette movement vehemently as Home Secretary, and had to deal with rioting miners at the Tonypandy riots. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he sought to upgrade battle ships recognising the need to keep the navy strong. During the First World War, he actually served at the Western Front, when his position had been downgraded following disaster at Gallipoli, for which he had to take some of the blame.
Churchill rejoined the Conservatives in 1924 and was appointed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the most dire economic time, and following the defeat of the government in 1929, he entered what became known as his “wilderness years”. He was asked back to join the cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939 when war was declared. After the resignation of Chamberlain, the most obvious replacement was Winston Churchill, and his rousing speeches raised morale across all the allied forces. His role during the Second World War is well known, but what is less well known is his plan to push Stalin’s troops back East using Germany and the USA as unlikely allies against the Communists. How Europe might have looked if this plan had gone ahead makes an interesting speculation.
The 1945 Atlee-led Labour government put Churchill back in opposition, and he suffered a period of ill health and depression, an illness which he named “the black dog”. After 6 years, he was back as Prime Minister again, but his position only lasted until 1955 when he retired as Prime Minister. After his death in 1965, a state funeral took place which was the largest state funeral in the world up to that time. Whatever anyone thinks of his politics and his beliefs, he was the right man for the job as a war time Prime Minister and proved himself to be a great man in this role.
March – The Group Fair (cancelled due to snow)
The beast from the east
We British have an ambivalent attitude to snow. So many of our Christmas card designs feature a snowy landscape in some shape or form, perhaps a copy of a Bruegel or just a modern drawing of children and snowmen. Until recently bookmakers would give odds on the chances of a white Christmas. Possibly global warming has led to the decline of this practice or maybe people have other things to waste their money on! Did the Victorians, who have a lot to do with the way we celebrate Christmas, have something to do with this? Certainly Dickens and other 19th century writers talk about snowy landscapes. I am not sure when we last had a white Christmas but small children still hope for one.
So we set out towards Christmas with romantic, schmaltzy ideas about an idyllic Christmas with icicles, frost embellished trees, robins etc. However sometime it all changes as it did this year. No, we did not have snow at Christmas, but we did have the major disruption that was the ‘Beast from the East’. Immediately many events were cancelled, in many cases with justification.
Our Scandinavian cousins laugh at our panic over a few centimetres of snow. Rightly, because they cope with masses every year and that is the difference. It happens to them every year so they are geared up to it. They know how to drive in snow, their cars have snow tyres, their clothing is better adapted to the cold than ours.
Thinking about it, we have the same problem with a heatwave. This has added panic value because the media can factor in the possible dangers of skin cancer from exposure to the sun. What seems to have been overlooked is the rise in rickets caused by lack of Vitamin D. Apparently this is a particular problem in children of African origin. Too much sun cream is NOT a good idea for them. So far no one has identified a cancer which can be caused by snow. If one were found it would be very interesting to see what would happen to the Christmas card market!
February 2018 – Graham Hayes – ‘Titanic’ The Ship of Dreams
A big ship, hit an iceberg and sank!
That was Graham Hayes brief summary of his talk for ‘Those who want to leave early’. Fortunately for those of us who stayed he gave an interesting talk about the Titanic, telling us much about her background.
Greatly increased immigration to the USA caused by Jewish persecution in Russia, political unrest in eastern Europe and also by the knock-on effect of the Irish potato famine meant a great number of people were seeking a better life in America. To service this need they decided to build what was then the largest and most costly, but not the fastest, ship ever built.
In 1907 a design team produced a plan for an Olympic class liner which would have a crew of 860, could carry 600+ first class passengers, 700+ second class passengers and 1700+ third or steerage class, but ony 20 lifeboats. Working conditions were hard. Health and Safety as we know it did not exist; there were no hard hats, protective gloves or steel capped boots. During her construction there were 9 fatalities and in excess of 200 serious injuries. The men worked a 49 hour week for £2. She was scheduled to be launched on the 31st May 1911 and her maiden voyage was planned for 20 March 1912. This date was changed because damage to the Olympic meant that men had to be taken from the Titanic to repair the sister ship. This delay was a contributory factor in the eventual tragedy because the later sailing put them later in the year and hence closer to the danger time for icebergs. The captain appointed for the maiden voyage was Captain E J Smith, a man with a penchant for running his ships aground or into piers. Not perhaps the most sensible choice for such a prestigious trip!
The Titanic set sail on 14 April 1912 on a calm, very cold moonless day. The mild weather had caused many icebergs to drift further south than normal. The many warnings from other ships about the presence of icebergs did not get to the bridge of the Titanic. The ship hit the iceberg 37 secs after it was sighted. The damage to the hull allowed water to pour in at 7 tons/sec so the boat became unstable very quickly. There was a significant delay in evacuation and the ‘Abandon Ship!’ order was never given. The Carpathia which was nearest to the stricken ship picked up many survivors but only 2 of the 18 lifeboats which got away went back to search for survivors. The majority of the survivors were from First Class; most of the steerage passengers perished either because they did not know where the lifeboats were or because they did not understand any instructions which may have been given.
January 2018 – The Arkwright Society, The History of Cromford Mills and Sir Richard Arkwright
The Industrial Revolution Started Here
Most of us who did O level History in the last century ‘did’ the Industrial Revolution but did we get told where it started? Those of you who are local to the Midlands might have been, but I am a Devonian and as far as I was concerned it was ‘somewhere in the north’! Chas Arnold put us straight in no uncertain fashion with his fascinating talk about Richard Arkwright and the Cromford Mill complex. It seems that Arkwright was a larger than life character. At one time he was the richest commoner in the country and he was knighted for his services to the economy.
He was semi-literate and had started life as an apprentice barber/wigmaker in Nottingham but he was very interested in mechanical things and invented two machines which revolutionised cotton spinning; one which made cotton yarn and one which did the carding. In 1771 he built the first commercial water powered mill making cotton yarn. The main markets for cotton yarn were Manchester, ‘Cottonopolis’, and Nottingham. Within ten years there were 142 factories nationwide copying what he had done. It cost about £4000 to build and equip a factory. From 1771 he continued to develop the mills and warehouses which are now incorporated into the Cromford Mills site.
Contrary to local belief he did not take the water for the mill from the River Derwent but from the Derwent Sough which was supplied by the draining of the Wirksworth lead mines. By 1840 problems with the water supply started to affect the textile production. Arkwright was a man of ideas and so he put the buildings to other uses which included a brewery, still in existence, laundries and cheese warehousing; there was a weekly market, 2 corn mills and a variety of other shops.
His factories worked from the top down, like the corn mills, the raw cotton was put in at the top and as each process was completed it dropped down a level until the finished product, cotton yarn, arrived at ground level ready to be transported to the mills. For the first five years everything was done by hand but then he invented the carding machine which dramatically increased the output. The work force was doing a 12 hour shift and 75% were children from the age of 7. Later the age of children was raised to 10 and they were given 6 hours education a week. Although this seems harsh, the risk of accident or injury was very low because these machines worked so slowly . For many families the woman was the breadwinner, looking after the animals etc while the men worked at home weaving in the attics.