Open Meeting Reports 2019

May 2019

AGM followed by Anne Allery with a talk ‘A Passage to India’. See 2019 AGM page for full details.

April 2019

Robert Williams. William Shakespeare: His Life and His Plays.

March 2019

Nelson Blackley (Nottingham Business School) gave a talk ‘What’s happening in UK retail – and Why’.

February 2019

Robert Mee gave a talk ‘History Along the Erewash Valley Trail’.

All Photographs were taken by Mike Johnson.

We probably thought we knew all these places along the Erewash Valley Trail, but it turns out there is a vast amount of history associated with the villages and features along the route. The tour started off in the Langley basin, where the Erewash canal once connected with the Nottingham and Cromford canals, with the Erewash being the first to be opened in 1779. Some sections of these canals have since been filled in, and of course, the collieries and industries have long since closed, making the scenery much changed from how it once was. We all knew Digby Colliery…well, only because the site is now home to Ikea!

Awsworth village seems largely unchanged from years ago, and Cossall village was used as a location for the filming of D H Lawrence’s The Rainbow. Trowell was selected as a “typical English village” mixing rural and industrial use, for the celebration of the Festival of Britain in 1951. There’s a well-known pub and a memorial to mark the occasion.

Many famous people were born in the area: Sir John Borlace Warren, Arthur Mee and Frederick Attenborough (father of Richard and David) were born in Stapleford. Historical connections were many and varied covering the Chilwell factory explosion, the Hemlock Stone and the Druid connection, Long Eaton and Sandiacre with their mills and factories, often converted to posh flats now. Shipley and the listed buildings around the canal, and then back to the Langley basin where the 30 mile trail ends.

The talk was illustrated with many photos, some of the present day and some featuring buildings that once stood there, or bridges and viaducts that still remain to this day. A fascinating whistle-stop tour of the area, with some very interesting historical links, which makes us realise what an interesting place we live in.

Celia Billau

January 2019

David Skillen

David Skillen gave a talk ‘Fifty Years in Fifty Minutes – The American Civil War‘.

We are all aware of the American Civil War, we know that ‘John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in his grave and his truth goes marching on’ but it was fascinating to be told about this conflict by someone with expert knowledge and much enthusiasm.

I think I went to the bus station humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic! David Skillen, for one hour, allowed us to share his passion for one of the most important events in American history. For several years he has visited the States and toured the various battle sites. From what he said and the slides he showed it would appear that the American people take more pride in their history than we do (it could be said , of course, that our history is a lot longer!). Their battle sites are beautifully preserved; I don’t imagine they would find an important body buried in a car park!

He had photos and information about battles we have all heard about. It was interesting to hear that a lot of information has been amassed from letters that were written home by soldiers involved in the conflict. It is possible that it was the first conflict in history where the army on both sides has a degree of literacy. What would our opinions of the Wars of the Roses be for example if we had this wonderful source of information?

The forces of the south were numerically superior and in theory could have defeated the north but the north had a general who had more knowledge of military strategy than his southern counterparts and he realised that weight of numbers could be defeated by strategy. By blockading the south he starved it of essential supplies; this coupled with the two decisive Battles of Bull Run, which effectively split the country geographically, contributed to the eventual victory of the north.

Other factors introduced during this war also had deciding impacts. Up until this time firing any form of gun was a bit ‘hit and miss’ to put it mildly but a Frenchman introduced rifling into gun barrels so that the weapon could be aimed more precisely and also enabled the bullet to travel much farther. Also at this time neither side had any form of field medical care. If you were injured your chances were not good – if the wound did not kill you the resulting infection probably would! Women in various parts of the country began to set up stations where the wounded could be treated and their legacy remains.

David introduced many famous names into his talk. I began to feel sympathy for any American schoolchild trying to sort out who was who in this important conflict – it might be easier if it is part of your heritage. His comprehensive knowledge was impressive but a diagram or slide of ‘Who was Who’ would have been helpful.

For those of us whose knowledge of this conflict is limited to ‘Gone with the Wind’ (film or book) this was an eye opener particularly that the conflict was not on the moral grounds of the rights and wrongs of slavery but on the economic grounds of cotton production. Sam Slater a UK emigrant who had worked for Arkwright in the English cotton mills, introduced the cotton gin which sped up the processing of the processing of the raw cotton and which threatened to revolutionize the whole industry.

A thought provoking ‘take’ on the American civil war and one to make us ponder.

Rosemary Pickering

Before the Meeting

All Photographs were taken by Mike Johnson.