August monthly meeting

Members at the meeting this afternoon enjoyed an informative and amusing talk by David Bell on some aspects of medical treatment in the seventeenth century. David, with a wide variety of visual aids including a blow-up doll dressed as Samuel Pepys, described the diagnostic methods of doctors at this time, and their treatments based on the “doctrine of signatures”, pointing out that in some cases later scientific knowledge had proved these treatments to be helpful. He went on to describe in gruesome detail the operation Pepys underwent for the removal of a bladder stone, an operation which Pepys survived.

David Bell and Samuel Pepys

On a more sombre note, David closed his talk with an account of the heroism of the villagers of Eyam in the Peak District who by putting themselves into quarantine prevented plague spreading. The description of the sufferings of the Mortons, a family who had lived in his own house in Eyam during this period, was particularly poignant.

Gail’s Groups Report was brief, as August was a quiet month with so many members on holiday or grandparenting. There would be an attempt to restart the Shakespeare Studies Group and second Creative Writing Group in the autumn. The Three Valleys Reading Group, convened by Caroline Pindar, was up and running.

Members who wish to receive the monthly mailshots for 2018-19 were asked to pay their £8 to cover the postage.

The Committee asked for ideas for festive items for the December 20th meeting.This has already resulted in three suggestions. If anyone else can recommend a performer/group who would be free to perform on that Thursday afternoon, please send it in to the Secretary.

The U3A national body, the Third Age Trust, is holding its AGM on August 30th, and this event will be live-streamed from 9.30 to 12.30. Should anyone wish to watch the proceedings, they can do so via the U3A YouTube channel, or at

Finally, apologies for the lack of an email reminder about this month’s meeting. The team are working under strength at the moment and this was one thing which simply slipped my mind.

The meeting on September 20th will feature Neil Smith, guitarist and raconteur, who members may remember from a previous visit. This time he will be telling us about his experiences “Beyond the Iron Curtain.”

Best Wishes,
Marion Kershaw, Secretary (standing in for our Chair Gill Radford, who is on holiday)

Chairman’s report to 2018 AGM (Ernie Rogan’s farewell)

(Chairman’s Annual Report 2017/2018. For the AGM 19 July 2018)

The financial year started with just 500 members and we now stand at 533, with about 100 still to pay their subscriptions. This is a slightly better percentage than last year. We have 41 special interest groups alive and kicking.

The Treasurer Emily Watnick has continued to encourage members to sign up for Gift Aid, which allows us to claim money from HMRC. I would ask all members, who pay tax, to sign this simple form. It will help in the running of U3A Todmorden and also help to retain our subscriptions at the present unchanged level. To date, this financial year, we have reclaimed £424.

As Emily has commented, we are in a very healthy position financially, and hopefully will continue in this manner. I would ask that members, who have not yet done so, pay their now very overdue subscriptions, before the final reminder letters are emailed and posted in the next couple of weeks.

Over the year there have been 3 main projects. Our Accessibility Project was led by Doug Simpson and adopted by the committee. Doug and his team made several proposals, and we accepted the majority. We purchased a connection between our sound system and the loop system in the room to provide better facilities for members. Doug carried out a short survey and of the 20 odd members who wore aids, very few actually used or knew how to use their aids correctly with a loop system.

Keith Coates and his team published the 10 year History of U3A Todmorden. It was a 17 month effort, mainly on Keith’s part, and the committee thank him for his endeavours. Many, many people were involved in this, what turned out to be, mammoth work. Todmorden Town Council, kindly offered a grant towards publication. I was pleased to receive favourable comments from Stephen McNair, son of our founder John.. If you have not read the report, I would encourage you so to do. Copies are available at the back of the room

Preparations for the 3rd project have been ongoing for almost 12 months, and we will start utilising the Beacon System in the autumn. This is a Third Age Trust recommended and backed computer system, which combines financial and membership details. This will, when fully implemented, save time, effort, and lower the blood pressure of the committee members who input such details.

Like an old fashioned compendium of games GDPR, the updated Data Protection, gave the committee hours of endless fun. We discussed, commented, argued about the best form of words, before settling and adopting the paragraphs now on our website.

Our appeals for members to become involved in committee matters have resulted in one member, Brenda, being voted on to the committee. It’s a start. Many committee members have served for 8, 9 even the full 10 years. Eventually, they, like me, will call time and there will have to be replacements. Better to start now, that leave the hand over at an AGM. We don’t have a Vice Chair. The plain fact is that this is an Office of U3A Todmorden. If it is not filled in the next 2 years, then U3A Tod may close. We cannot, in accordance with our Constitution operate without this office.

In the past year we have welcomed the Mayor of Todmorden twice, and the Mayor of Hebden Royd, to our meetings. Also visiting were the Chairs of U3A’s of Clitheroe, Burnley and Longridge. We agreed a reciprocal agreement with U3A in Littleborough and gave advice to U3A Wadsworth as they started up. I have continued to attend cluster meetings with local U3A’s and training sessions with our Regional groups.

A notable afternoon was a training session given by a member of Yorkshire Ambulance, who instructed 20 members in basic First Aid.

As I complete my tenure as Chairman, just like an Oscar ceremony, I must thank many, many people.

Nigel Plant, who has been co opted for his computer skills to carry us through the fog of the aforementioned Beacon System.

Linda Cook, Irene Wilkinson, Anne Lee and John Townend, with whom I have shared many hours planning Let’s Go trips, sunk gallons of coffee and travelled many many miles.

Keith Coates and Jean Pearson for the help and advice they have given to me, as well as the huge amount of hours and effort they contributed to the History booklet.

Nick Littlewood, who produces our posters and heads up the Publicity Group. Nick’s posters receive many compliments from our speakers. Antony Peter, who writes our articles published in Todmorden News. How he turns an hours presentation into an enjoyable few paragraphs is a talent I wish I had.

Marion Kershaw and Anne Foster, our 2 stalwart Secretaries, who have served for the full 10 years, and whose help and guidance has been invaluable.

Dinah Kenworthy, who took on the post of Membership Secretary and beavers away assiduously.

Peter Carrigan, who has introduced a more balanced group of varied speakers. He is probably one of, if not the best Speaker Finder we have had. And I say that through gritted teeth – I did that job for 2 years !

Emily Watncik, who took over from Bill Griffiths, as Treasurer and has brought in her expertise as a previous financial expertise, working for a Charity.

Gail Allaby, who has held down the job of Groups Coordinator, helping new groups set up and liaising with them constantly.

Peter Gibson, with whom I have had many lively discussions-not quite equal to Mrs Merton’s “heated debates”. Peter has held down various posts and been Chairman, Data Controller, Speaker Finder, leader of Walks, Sound expert. Peter, in my mind, embodies all the right attributes: dedication, persistence, enthusiasm; that are required in a Committee member.

Before I hand over to Gill, I want to thank her for her patience in the last 2 years as we have worked together. I hope you enjoy your tenure as much as I have.

Finally, there is one person to whom I am totally indebted. The other member of OUR team. Without her help, support, nudging, confidence in my limited ability, calming influence, reminders and smiling face, I would not have had so much satisfaction; especially during the last 3 months of last year; my beloved Arline.

So members I have great pleasure in introducing your new Chair ; Gill Radford.

Ernie Rogan

Chairman U3A Todmorden 2016/2018.

“I’ll Put My Mind to Anything”

U3A Todmorden heard a cracking talk from Allan Shalks on Thursday, June 21st. Enigmatically titled ‘My Interesting Life’, that’s just what it turned out to be.

Inspired by his grandchildren urging him to write an autobiography, Allan has started his public talks both as a vindication of a life well led and to encourage listeners to believe that one career is simply not enough!

At 10, Allan’s parents were hospitalised for 9 months following a car crash. He was looked after by an aunt in Birmingham before returning to his recovered parents in Leeds. At 14, pretending to be 17, he got a sports paper round with the Yorkshire Post, and sold the Empire News in pubs on Saturday nights.

He moonlighted from school to be in the Harry ‘Sooty’ Corbett show. The truant officer hauled him before his headteacher who set him lines and taught him a valuable lesson: “There is a way to do things in life. You ask first.”

His fulltime working life began when he was apprenticed to a ladies’ hairdresser. Here he learned another valuable lesson. If your boss says clean the basin after using it, and you forget, then you get suspended for a week without pay.

Engaged at 18 and on the verge of marriage, he was left in the lurch after his fiancée’s father told him he wouldn’t be able to keep his daughter in the manner to which she was accustomed.

As things turned out, his reception venue was taken over by his aunt for her daughter’s wedding and there he met the young woman who would become, and still is, his wife.

By 21, Allan had opened his own hairdressing salon and his wife sold perm lotions. On his off days he ran and then bought his uncle’s market pitch in Darlington.

But this was not enough, so in 1970 he went to run Purcell’s Stores in Glossop. In 1983 he moved to Manchester, commuted to Glossop, and sold up in 2001.

Then he got bored and started work again as a deliverer of new cars. He developed the business for his boss raising the delivery rate to 200 in 18 months.

When that went sour, he thought he’d try his luck as an actor, and has appeared as an extra in ‘Cold Feet’, ‘Emmerdale’, Coronation Street’, ‘Doctors’ and many other TV shows.

He has also been a body double for Tom Conti and has enjoyed the company of a make-up girl in bed which led to an explanation of the way sheets are arranged to separate bodies in such scenes.

Allan has recently expanded into deejaying for Salford Radio, teaching at the Jewish Museum in Manchester and until 2014 was a Jewish function co-ordinator at The Pines Hotel in Clayton-le-Woods.

“At different stages of your life you can do different things,” he said – an inspiring witness to the fact that life can begin and begin over and over if you just take your opportunities.

U3A Todmorden’s next meeting will be on Thursday, July 19th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden. This will be our AGM, and our speaker will be Professor June Andrews of Stirling University, an acknowledged expert on dementia. Our contact details are (website), (email), or 01706 812015 (phone).

Happy 10th Anniversary, U3A Todmorden!

On Thursday, May 17th, U3A Todmorden met to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its first members’ monthly meeting.

We were honoured by the attendance of Cllr Christine Potter, Mayor of Todmorden, and her consort, and representatives from our U3A cluster groups of Burnley, Clitheroe and Longridge.

Many original members were there, including member 001, Geoff Boswell, erstwhile convenor of the Science and Photography groups, and former Science Advisor for U3A itself.

Our afternoon was a varied one. We enjoyed an excellent quiz organised by Myrna Beet and Denise Wilson, based on our recollections of the last ten years.

Our ‘Senior Moments’ Concert Party (oldest member over 90) gave us a taste of the performances they give in care homes. Their repertoire is heavy on nostalgia, as this goes down well with dementia sufferers.

A survey was handed out to gather data on what U3A means to its Todmorden members, and the Creative Writing group read some of their work inspired by the idea of our 10th anniversary.

Their stories and poems showed how getting older is much more bearable when you laugh, when U3A is easily confused with urethra, and when a family member’s ashes can end up as accidental rose fertiliser.

But the focal point of the afternoon was Keith Coates’ presentation of the publication ‘U3A Todmorden – the First Ten Years – 2008-2018’, compiled by himself with a resilient team.

This glossy publication is packed with our history, embracing our demography, ethnicity, socio-economics, education, membership, organisation, monthly talks, interest groups and the composition of the committee over the years.

Keith’s talk was delivered with his characteristic mixture of seriousness and genial humour.

Respects were paid to John McNair, our first chairman and moving spirit behind the founding of this educational organisation. Keith observed how John had raised an eyebrow at the idea of a lunch club.

John would be pleased to know, therefore, that though we have retained a social element to our activities, he would find it hard to quibble with an organisation that promotes the learning of Anglo-Saxon and Greek, studies the novel, Shakespeare, opera and poetry, embraces science and computing, and stretches the brain with philosophy and world affairs.

Keith observed that it was a curious fact that only 32% of our membership is male. It is of interest too that our membership is increasingly widely spread, embracing folk from Burnley, Rossendale, Littleborough and, remarkably, one person from Wigan.

Equally peculiar is the fact that there are 54 members who pay but are involved in no group activities at all!

Keith highlighted some of our work: the art exhibitions, the annual photography display in the Information Centre and the publication of ‘On the Write Lines’ by the Creative Writing group.

He also remembered fondly a Christmas talk given by Gail Allaby, ‘Queen of the Undersea World’, dressed in full diving gear.

Finally, Cllr Potter was presented with a copy of the booklet, and Ernie Rogan, our Chairman, drew this very happy afternoon to an end by announcing that copies were available free to members on leaving, courtesy of a generous grant from Todmorden town council.

U3A Todmorden’s next meeting will be on Thursday, June 21st, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden. The speaker will be Allan Shalks who will be talking about his interesting life in TV, theatre, radio and films. Our contact details are (website), (email), or 01706 812015 (phone).

April’s monthly meeting

Members meeting 19 April 2018.

Greetings to all members.

A sweltering day and the committee expected a smaller than usual attendance. However 132 members and visitors gave up gardening duties to attend. Of these 103 paid their subscriptions by cash or cheque and another 27 paid by post or internet banking. We also had 5 new members, so welcome to them. This means we now have almost 25% of subscriptions already paid. Thanks to all members who have paid to date. On 1 May 2018 subscriptions paid by standing order will be due, and this puts U3A Todmorden in a very healthy financial position. It benefits all members for subscriptions to be paid on time; reminders cost time and money.

Gail, our Groups Coordinator had a hospital appointment, so her report was given by Gill Radford, our Vice Chair, who told us that there are 5 more groups about to be formed; details can found shortly on the website. Gill also gave us a progress report about the Banner being produced for our 10th Anniversary, and reminded convenors to contact Mary Findon, with their ideas.

We now have 524 members and are, by far, the largest in our “cluster” group of neighbouring U3A’s.

All this progress and growth is astounding, in so short a time. In my youth, job adverts often stated: “do you want to join a vigorous, growing, dynamic organisation?”

We have a vacancy for Vice Chair !! Who wants to join ??

Sue Nightingale showcased the Opera Appreciation Group. Her love of this art form was obvious to all. Full details of the group can be found on the website.

Peter Gibson originally suggested that we showcase groups, and he has undertaken the bookings and administration. He has now handed that responsibility to me. I will be writing shortly to all convenors asking if they wished to make booking, and giving contact details.

Our History project has finally had the last of the proof reading and is winging its way to the printers. The first meeting to put ideas together, was in January 2017. So it’s been a long time consuming project. All thanks must go to Keith Coates, our former Chairman, who has led a hardworking team. I did comment “War and Peace would have been easier.”

You will hear shortly about an EU directive; GDPR; which is a sort of update for Privacy and Data Protection. The committee have worked hard to ensure we will meet the criteria required and last week agreed a policy we will adopt. This will be published on our website prior to 25 May, the date the directive takes effect. All members will be informed by email, or post for those who do not have web facilities.

Our guest speaker, making a welcome return was Granville Dobson. This time he turned his attention to his 15 years as a Magistrate. While his presentation was, in the main humorous, he spoke about the serious decisions which have to be taken. Magistrates are drawn from all aspects of society and must represent the population. All Court cases start initially at Magistrates Court, before, perhaps, moving on to Criminal Court. There were, at one time, 300 Magistrates in the Bradford Courts, all unpaid. 97% of all cases are dealt with by Magistrates. There are usually 3 sitting together so a decision can be reached.

Granville gave an instance of an accused being rude to the Bench, was told he was in Contempt of Court, and every further outburst would result in an additional month’s sentence being applied. Asked several times if he understood, the accused eventually replied that he had been told, by Granville, not to speak again !!

We hope Granville can return for another talk.

Our next meeting will be Thursday 17 May, our 10th Anniversary meeting, commencing at 2:00pm. It will be an enjoyable afternoon, with probably some cake, a quiz, a humorous questionnaire and entertainment from various groups.

Your committee look forward to seeing you.

Ernie Rogan.


Report on Let’s Go trip to Massom Mill. Matlock. 2017

Our first trip of our 2017 season was to Arkwright Massom Mill in Matlock. 53 hungry souls descended on the café, arriving at lunchtime. The staff were surprised by our later than expected arrival, but coped admirably. Having refreshed themselves the members set out to walk down to the “Heights of Abraham” or avail themselves of a shopping opportunity.

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Promptly at 2:45pm the tour of the mill commenced. Kevin, the  guide, dressed appropriately for the period, showed a short film then gave a potted history of Arkwright, his life, inventions and the mill itself. Built in 1783 on the site of a former paper mill, the mill is situated on the banks of the River Derwent, which supplied the water to power the machinery. Soon there were 2 huge water wheels driving the mill engine. Over time, these were replaced by coal, then later oil fired boilers. Now there are water turbines which supply electricity, sufficient for the mill’s activities and the excess power is sold to the National Grid. The looms were started and the noise levels increased until all 6 were running at full speed. It would be difficult to imagine the sound of one thousand looms in a site. The group were also shown a jacquard loom working. The dangers of the operatives, both young and old were explained; moving machinery, cotton dust in the lungs. One sign declared that no young or female person should operate that particular machine ! The star of the show was the mill engine. The fascinating massive machine with giant pistons moving slowly and the huge flywheel turning, which would have driven all the mill’s looms, by a series of shafts, wheels and belts. The mill finally closed in the late 1980’s and was, at that time, the longest continuously working mill in the world.

Report on the Let’s Go trip to Blist Hill 11 July 2017.

Ernie Rogan

What a day !! Continuous heavy rain, traffic jams in both directions, but were the members downhearted ?  The “village” of Blist Hill is a living museum, close to Ironbridge and the origins of the Industrial Revolution. Although there was not a village on this site, houses shops and places of work, have been moved brick by brick to create this Victorian atmosphere. The entrance to the site is unusual, moving into darkness and climbing a staircase to overlook and feel the sensation of working in a heavy industrial environment. From there visitors go directly into the village streets with and the many establishments. Firstly a call at the Bank to exchange modern day money into token Victorian coins to spend in the shop: the sweet shop being favourite judging by the queues. The New Inn Public House served “original” Victorian fare and drink. Perhaps to everyone’s modern taste. Whereas the Forest Glen Refreshments Pavilion’s menu was most certainly up to date.

Of great interest was the Trevithick locomotive. The original was built in 1802; members saw a replica, made by local apprentices, from few original drawings. This remarkable vehicle trundles its way for 200 yards and then reverses. This is only fired up 3 times a week, so members were fortunate to see it.

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The chemist shop has featured in the tv series Victorian Chemist, and contains all the wonderful, colourful bottles and jars of the period.The winding engine for raising and lowering the cages down the 400 ft shaft was fully steamed and works at great speed. Members tried their hands at the Victorian Fairground, with coconut shy, hoopla and various other side shows.It was interesting to see the size of machinery made to make products. Huge beam and steam engines providing the power for the Industrial Revolution.

Despite the weather members commented, at the end of the day, that overall they had enjoyed the trip. The committee hope for better weather next time.