Charles Hanson gave a talk ‘My Life as an Auctioneer’.
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.