Barrie Johnson produces reports on our talks; often they are published in the Andover Advertiser. Here is his report on our first "real" in-person talk and reports on on some of our Zoom meeting talks.
Live at the Weyhill Fair
With a collective sigh of relief but looking, perhaps, somewhat jaded, 25 members of Andover's PROBUS Club assembled on October at the Weyhill Fair Pub to enjoy the first of their post-lockdown lunches. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding were on the menu, perhaps appropriate for a venue near to the very spot where in his 'Mayor of Casterbridge' Thomas Hardy's Michael Henshaw, in his cups, sold his wife to a sailor for 5 guineas, though roast lamb might have been more appropriate since the medieval Fair, positioned on 8 ancient trackways including Harrow Way. was known to sell 100,000 sheep on a single day.
The event was given added significance by the presence as speaker of Bonny Sartin, a member of the famous West Country folk group, The Yetties. The Group was formed from a Scout group singing around their camp fire in Yetminster in Dorset, turning professional in 1967 and becoming the West country's folk music ambassadors. No doubt there are Advertiser readers who will remember songs such as '50 stones of Loveliness', 'Who's Afeard' and 'Dorset is Beautiful'. In those days, unlike today, the listener was able to understand the lyrics!
Bonny spoke of the history of smuggling in the 18th Century when the King, desperate for cash, raised taxes, making smuggling of wine and spirits, tea and most other luxury items a lucrative occupation. In spite of the heavy penalties there was no shortage of willing middle class customers in (including Thomas Hardy himself and Dr Johnson). In 1830 60 smuggler gangs were operating off the south coast, outrunning Customs and the Dragoons and out gunning the navy. Bonny sang a couple of the group's songs, encouraging PROBUS members to join in a chorus in what might be described as a 'group croak!' The Yetties retired in 2011 but their music lives on through their excellent web site.
The Club will meet again at the Weyhill Fair Pub on 29 November and is planning the customary traditional Christmas celebration lunch. New members are needed and will always be welcomed. Contact details are to be found on the Club's web site. Why not join in, add a new string to your bow and enjoy the Festive Season.
A number of members of The Probus Club of Andover continue to meet on the last Monday of each month, virtually of course, via ZOOM. This is made possible thanks to the efforts of the Club’s Speaker Secretary, Member John Bowman, whose expertise ranges from the selection of, and invitation to a variety of excellent speakers to communication with members and the setting up of each meeting. PROBUS members taking part, which have included very welcome guests from the Basingstoke and Salisbury branches, have been treated to a several excellent talks on a wide variety of subjects.
Members were entertained to an excellent talk by Kevin Patience who had spoken before on the true stories behind 'The African Queen' and 'The Bridge Over the River Kwai'. His talks are meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated and reports are included on the Club's web site. On this occasion his talk was on 'Two Sets of Medals - a Unique Award for a Unique Man', the man in question being Jeffrey Lincoln-Gordon', Born in Luknow in 1894 he lived his early life in the shadow of the Indian Mutiny, the Black Hole of Calcutta and all that. As a young man he worked for the Indian postal system in Lahore, serving in the postal service on the Western Front in 1915 when the delivery of letters to the men in the trenches was a vital morale factor. Twelve and a half million letters were delivered, 19000 each day. He later moved to support the campaign in Mesopotania before completing pilot training, flying solo in action after only 5 hours training (although not without mishap). After the war he eturned to India with two sets of war medals, one British and the other Indian. In 1941 Licoln-Gordon found himslf in Singapore where he was captured by the Japanese, enduring three years on the 'Death Railway'. He later farmed in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion, taking an active part in defence force operations. His set of medals, possibly a unique group, including the OBE, tells a story of a remarkable and inspirational man.
The River Scheldt talk was given by Sqn Ldr (Retd) Chris Perkins who served in the RAF for 35 years, much of that time as a Support Helicopter Crewman in the demanding and often dangerous role of Loadmaster, working in Army/air support operations in the Middle East and Central and South America. Retiring in 2001 he was involved in the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flying in the legendry Dakota and he researched, designed, and led battlefield tours. His carefully scripted and illustrated talk described the battle which was fought in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands in 1944 aimed at liberating north-western Europe and defeating Nazi Germany. At the end of the crucial five-week campaign the Canadian 1st Army with British divisions and RAF air support had taken 41.000 German prisoners but with considerable losses particularly to the Canadians in the vicious fighting in waterlogged conditions.
John Carvell, Consultant Emeritus Orthopaedic Surgeon, Salisbury NHA Foundation Trust and Lesley Self who works for dementia environments, ICU and Quite Room Projects at Salisbury District Hospital gave a fascinating insight into the remarkable development of post WWI and WWII healthcare in Salisbury.
At Christmas 2020, with members wearing festive hats and sweaters and with at-the-elbow libations, Kevin Patience told ‘The true Story Behind the Bridge over the River Kwai’. Kevin, who had visited Singapore and the Death Railway, told the story behind the making of the Alec Guinness film, the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the subsequent construction by prisoners of war of the notorious Death Railway linking Burma and Thailand, resulting in the brutal treatment and deaths of so many prisoners. His talk, together with coloured but grainy and fascinating photographs, exploded some of the myths created in the film.
Member Ron Bryan, the Club’s past President, talked about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the story of six agriculture labourers who, in 1833, met at a sycamore tree in Tolpuddle, Dorset to discuss their poor wages and living conditions. The men were arrested in 1834 for swearing a secret oath as part of the formation of a workers’ Union, were found guilty and transported to Australia earning, themselves the name ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ and a famous place in the history of trade unionism.
Keith Stevens spoke on ‘Climate Change? What Climate Change’. Keith worked 26 years at the Atomic Energy Authority at Tribology, the study of friction, wear, and corrosion. In 1995 he took up a post in in an engineering company called Poeton in Gloucester, working on surface coatings and treatments. He became the Research and Development Director and retired after 16 years in 2011. He continues with consultancy work for Poeton and for companies in the power generation industry. His degree is in physics at Birmingham. His period at the Atomic Energy does not mean that he has any great loyalty to nuclear power and his talk revealed a considerable depth of knowledge and interest and, indeed, skepticism in modern thinking on the wider issues of climate change. His talk, coinciding as it does with BBC1’s ‘A Perfect Planet’ series, raised considerable interest and left questions unanswered to the extent that Club members have asked for his talk, recorded on ZOOM, to be repeated. In the Speaker Secretary’s experience, no past speaker has stimulated this degree of interest and discussion.
Additional references –
Click on the link to go to more information on each topic – (these are not authoritative; merely the result of web-searches:
The bridge on the River Kwai 1
The bridge on the River Kwai 2
Tolpuddle Martyrs 1
Tolpuddle Martyrs 2
Climate Change 1
Climate Change – For and Against