A Day in the Museum with Frogs, Firearms and Flames

Heather Davis with Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden. Photo by Gail Allaby.

Heather Davis is the Conservation and Collections Manager for Lancashire County Museums and, as U3A Todmorden discovered on Thursday 21st November, an expert on dangers that lurk in every object for the uninitiated, would-be museum curator.

Not for nothing is it that museum visitors are instructed not to touch exhibits, for besides possible damage from slippery hands or the natural greases on human skin, we may imperil ourselves from a wide-ranging variety of dangers.

Asbestos, for example. Who’d have thought that curators and the public must protect themselves from some cookers, boilers, bike lamps, gas masks and ironing boards – not to mention bakelite toilet cisterns and radios, magic lanterns, and cupboard units designed for post-war pre-fabs?

Or radiation! When dealing with items from mining industries and geological specimens (including torbenite, uranium and autunite), you have to beware of radioactive contamination.

Believe it or not, there was a time when radiation was considered friendly to

Advertisement for Tho-Radia face cream.

human beings. Tho-Radia produced a face powder containing thorium, and the ‘Radium Girls’ who painted luminous watch hands and numbers suffered from radiation poisoning.

You too, sonny, can be Superman!

And as for Laine Médicale of Paris, who promoted ‘Laine Oradium’ as a ‘Source précieuse de chaleur et énergie vitale’, as a woollen fabric suitable to clothe your grandchild in – Well, I ask you!

And no children’s toy such as ‘Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory’ containing four radioactive ores from Colorado would ever reach the

The ideal Christmas gift for aspiring atomic scientists.

shelves today.

So, Heather went on, if you’ve survived the museum so far, you need next to watch out for tetanus from rusty agricultural items, being cut by razors, glass, or knives, and encounters with explosives in powder horns, unfired rifle cartridges, unstable fireworks, or residual powders on miners’ tampers.

And a major double whammy! – a bag made of asbestos for holding (possibly live) dynamite.

Finally, if you’ve escaped so far, maybe poisons will get you. Simple poisons came in green bottles with ribbed sides: in the light, they could be easily identified, but in the dark the ribbing would have distinguished them from milk, or gin (for the midnight tippler).

More unexpected danger zones include fur and felt hats (smoothed to a

Bringing home the arsenic for dinner.

sheen – by hand! – with a solution of mercuric nitrate), taxidermy exhibits (preserved with insect-proofing arsenic), and WW2 military uniforms (possibly still permeated with the delousing agent DDT).

Your friendly local supplier of strychnine, Mr Phyllobates Bicolor.

Finally, let us consider the ordinary arrow. If it is South American, it may be lethally poisoned with strychnine derived from Phyllobates bicolour (the black-legged poison frog). And it may be accompanied by an innocuous-looking wooden box. Red alert! The box would have contained the poison.

This was an exciting Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not lecture from a careful and very well-informed museum curator. Heather’s students and assistants should feel very well looked after, and U3A Todmorden had a cracker of an afternoon.

Our next meeting:   U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, December 19th, 2019 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. The meeting will feature our traditional quiz and our unique Radio Pantomime, written by the Creative Writing Group and performed by the Concert Party and Friends.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

The Last Cowkeeper in Garston

U3A Todmorden’s October meeting enjoyed a superlative afternoon of quiet rapture in Dave Joy’s energised, energising and fluent talk about his cowkeeping family from Garston.

And what, we wondered, was a cowkeeper?

A cowkeeper was a Yorkshire or Lancashire farmer of the early nineteenth century who spotted that milk transported in churns by the railway to growing cities was often sour by the time it got there. Wouldn’t it be better for city-dwellers to have access to milk straight from the cow?

Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden, with Dave Joy. Photo by Gail Allaby

So these enterprising, hard-working dairy families moved with a few cows to Liverpool (in the case of the Joys, to Wavertree and then Garston), where they took, ideally, an end-of-terrace house with a yard, and set up business.

They milked at 5.00 and the milk round started by horse and cart at 7.30. They milked again at 2.00 with a 4.30 round. They delivered straight to the customer’s jug.

So a ‘cowkeeper’ was specifically a keeper of cows who provided superfresh milk rather than corporate railway milk. It was a very precise trade description, holding, perhaps, the same cachet as ‘organic’ today.

And it was a profitable business (Dave’s grandfather, Percy, owned a Bullnose Morris Cowley and 3 properties).  As well as milk, a cowkeeper would have good quality manure to sell – 4 cows equalled 1 ton of manure a week equalled 5/- a week profit – and milk cart horses produced saleable dung too.

Cows had a remarkably varied diet. They were grazed where possible, and always had access to municipal grass-cuttings, bran from millers, spent grain from brewers, molasses from sugar refiners, linseed cake from oil merchants, and a variety of seasonal root crops as well as imported maize and peas.

The favoured cow was the shorthorn as she milked well and could be quickly fattened up to sell as beef. These animals would be brought into the city on Cow Fridays, and be driven to their destination cowkeepers, followed by

Herding cows in Garston in 1950

occasional cries of ‘There’s a bull loose!’

Although businesses were successful and were passed on from father to son, after World War II things changed. Many cowkeepers were bombed out of Liverpool and by 1951 no more than 6% of the city’s milk came from city shippons.  Moreover, cowkeepers sold milk in its raw state to corporate dairies for the now necessary processing and bought it back bottled to sell on their rounds.

David Joy’s father, Eric, the last of the Garston cowkeepers, in his milk cart drawn by Rupert.

Eventually, the Joys had to give up all their cows and become ordinary milkmen selling corporate milk until they called it a day in the late 1960s.

This account covers a fraction of what Dave spoke about and omits most of his family history, an interlinking second strand to his talk. For those keen to know more, please consider buying his books – ‘Liverpool Cowkeepers’ and ‘My Family and Other Scousers’ – real gems of social history. We were really lucky to enjoy an afternoon with Dave and other Joys.

Our next meeting

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, November 21st, 2019 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker, Heather Davis, will be delivering her interestingly-titled talk ‘Frogs, Firearms and Flames’ – Tales of a Museum Curator.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Saving Lives – the work of the RNLI

Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden, with Roy Meakin of the RNLI. Photo by Gail Allaby.

In September, Todmorden U3A members enjoyed an instructive talk, illustrated with film clips, by Roy Meakin, one of the RNLI’s education officers.

Roy took us through the origins and development of the Society, from the very first boat for rescuing the shipwrecked, kept at Formby, in 1777, to the ultra-modern, hi-tech Shannon class lifeboats of today.

Henry Greathead, b. 1757, designed a boat, rowed by 10 short oars, the sides of which were cased with cork secured by copper plates, which could carry 20 people. By 1806 his boats were in use all around the British coasts.

Henry Greathead’s boat in action.

One of his boats, the Zetland, saved over 500 lives. Early rescues were an heroic and dangerous endeavour as exemplified by the story of Grace Darling who became a national heroine after risking her own life to save survivors of the rigged paddle steamer Forfarshire in 1838.

In the early 19th century there was an average of 1,800 shipwrecks a year around our coasts. One man, Sir William Hillary, living on the Isle of Man and witness to many terrible shipwrecks, had a vision for a service dedicated to saving the lives of the shipwrecked, using trained crews.

Sir William Hillary

Having failed to elicit any interest from the Royal Navy, he appealed to wealthy, philanthropic members of London Society. His campaign proved highly successful and on March 4th 1824, a group met in the London Tavern in Bishopsgate – and the fledgling RNLI was born.

King George IV and Prince Albert were early patrons who granted the royal prefix so that the society became known as the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, later renamed the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, or RNLI.

Today the RNLI has 238 lifeboat stations and 444 lifeboats. Crews rescued around 22 people a day in 2015. Lifeguards operate on more than 200 beaches, paid by local authorities but trained by the RNLI. They also operate Flood Rescue teams both nationally and internationally. Much effort is put into training and education, particularly for children.

The RNLI is a charity, wholly funded by legacies and donations. The first street collection was in Manchester in 1891.  Most of the lifeboat crews are unpaid volunteers and the service receives no government subsidy and prefers it that way. The RNLI headquarters is in Poole where there is a college for training and an all-weather Lifeboat Centre where the ultra-modern, 25-knot, Shannon-class lifeboats are now built, thus allowing the service complete independence.

Lowestoft Shannon class lifeboat Patsy Knight 13-05 in rough seas during the stom know as the ‘Beast from the East’, March 2018. Dramatic, stormy, huge waves and white spray.

The service has always been well-supported in the Pennine area, perhaps somewhat surprisingly given our distance from the coast. However, should the valley flood again, I suppose we might yet be grateful to see their flood rescue teams on our streets. The talk ended with questions from the floor and a collection.

Our next meeting     U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, October 17th, 2019 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker, Dave Joy, will be telling us about the Liverpool Cow Keepers who came from Yorkshire.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

This month’s reporter was Anne Foster.

Love of Chocolate, Love of Science

Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden with Dr Diana Leitch MBE. Photo by Roger Howard.

Dr Diana Leitch MBE is a serious scientist, a chemist with not only a love of chocolate, but an appetite for promoting science and its role in society.

Thus, on Thursday, 15th August, Diana told U3A Todmorden all about why chocolate makes us feel good.

But she also told us about its geography, history, cultivation and, unexpectedly, its political role.

First things first. The cacao tree (which fruits all year, but needs shade) produces beans that make cocoa and related products such as chocolate.

Note the spellings!  The OED tries to clarify, suggesting the words cacao and cocoa are essentially synonyms and have been used interchangeably since the 17th century. In modern use, the form cacao is often restricted to senses concerned more with the plant itself than with cocoa as a semi-processed commodity or food item.

Anyway, it originates in the Yucatan peninsula in central America and was used by Mayans as a status beverage with special drinking vessels dedicated to it.

Then the Aztecs got hold of it and cultivated it. Montezuma, Diana said, was reported to drink 60 cups a day of a foamy, reddish bitter drink, spiced with chilli. It is allegedly an aphrodisiac.

And cacao beans were valuable: 100 beans were worth one slave.

In time, the Spanish imported it into Europe through the Spanish Netherlands, and sold it at ridiculous prices. But because it was so bitter, they mixed it with cinnamon from India and sugar from Papua New Guinea.

In time the European powers developed their own colonial slave-dependent plantations in Venezuela, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka and West Africa.

In some countries, cacao was vital to the economy. In Tobago, for example, when the plantations were destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963, the country could no longer rely on commodities and became instead a tourist destination.

Our modern chocolate developed perhaps because of Hans Sloane’s tastebuds. This former 18th century Governor of Jamaica, added milk to his chocolate and water to soften the taste. This concoction gained popularity in England.

The next leap forward came when John Cadbury, a Quaker, decided to produce an affordable drinking chocolate to lure drinkers away from alcohol. Initially it tasted buttery, so he added sago flour and potato starch to counterbalance that.

Then in 1847 J.S. Fry’s produced the first chocolate bar, and Cadbury’s followed in 1849.

But in 1875, Swiss confectioner Daniel Peters added Nestlé powdered milk to his chocolate, producing the first milk chocolate bar, not emulated by Cadbury’s till 1905.

However, in the cut-throat modern business world Cadbury’s have been acquired by Mondelez, who have gradually lowered the volume of cocoa solids in their chocolate bars. ‘Cadbury’s’ Bournville now contains 36% cocoa solids, nearer the American standard instead of the 60% required under British law.

But is chocolate good for you?

Oh yes! Especially dark chocolate. The science says so.

The Real Thing

Chocolate is full of magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

It contains antioxidants; it increases your feel-good levels with its serotonin and phenylethylamines, and it contains theobromine which is a mild stimulant. And it has a good range of vitamins as well.

What’s not to like? Well, theobromine is a mild diuretic and it is poisonous to dogs. And because chocolate manufacturers want to maximise profits, products will often contain more sugar than is good for us.

The Cadbury’s Creme Egg is notorious: the fondant in one egg contains about 10 heaped teaspoons of sugar, which gives a whole new meaning to the notion of ‘Sweet Death’.

Even if Nestlé manage to ‘structure sugar differently’ they are barking up a very dubious scientific tree. And even if you structure your Kit-Kat bar differently by making it smaller, that won’t necessarily reduce the sugar content.

A small chocolate fountain

And look out for Galaxy which contains more salt than salt water, and chocolate fountains which flow beautifully because they are lubricated with oil.

This was a very stimulating talk by an enthusiastic chemist. I think it more than likely U3A Todmorden members will be visiting her home base at the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum in Widnes in the next few months.

Our next meeting:   U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, September 19th when our speaker will be Roy Meakin, whose subject is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Hearing Loop at Central Methodist Church – Doug Simpson’s Advice

Information and Advice for Hearing Aid Users

At the U3A General Meeting in July Peter Gibson asked me, as a hearing aid user, to confirm that the loop system worked. At the end of the meeting I was able to confirm that it worked perfectly, as it had at the previous meeting and many others. He explained that some hearing aid users have said that they can’t hear with it.

My response to this is that all modern hearing aids are capable of working with induction loop systems, and that the user should be able to switch the loop detector on and off as necessary. In the case of NHS digital aids, which I use, this is done by pressing the volume button in until two bleeps are heard, but other aids may be different .

However, there is an issue, at least with NHS aids and possibly with others, that the loop detector in the hearing needs to be activated by the provider via their computer when first setting up the new aid for a user. Some time ago I discovered that the Calderdale Audiology Unit do not routinely do this unless the user asks for it, and in some cases they may not even mention it to the user. I complained about this approach, but do not know if anything has changed.

I would recommend that any hearing aid user who cannot hear via the loop system at the meeting goes back to their provider, explains the position, and asks for confirmation that the hearing aid is activated for such use.

Doug Simpson

July Members’ Meeting – Bradford Warriors: Suffragettes at Large

From ‘Punch’ 1910

2019 – the centenary-plus-one of women being given the right to vote in Britain. Or, as Helen Broadhead, in suffragette colours of green, white and violet, reminded U3A Todmorden on 18th July, a right for some women – those who were 30 or older and only if they, or their husbands, were ratepayers.

Helen Broadhead in full suffragette costume with Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden. Photo by Roger Howard.

All men over 21 had been accorded the vote in the Representation of the People Act in 1918, but women had to wait until 1928 before Parliament saw fit to offer them the same right.

With these anomalies and, to us, now, bizarre injustices in mind, Helen launched into an extensive broadside about the women’s suffrage movement and some local and regional heroines in the suffrage struggle.

She began by drawing a careful distinction between the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), who were law-abiding, and Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), who were prepared to and did break the law to achieve their ends.

However, Helen pointed out that suffragists had been active on a broad front for some time before the surge of activity at the turn of the 19th century.  It not till 1906 that ‘suffragette’ was coined.

The Daily Mail, which supported the peaceful NUWSS, used it to describe the actions of those associated with the WSPU, whose militancy it disapproved of.

The WSPU then adopted the word as a badge of honour.

But as early as 1841, the Female Chartist Association had lent their weight to the campaign for increased male suffrage. This process activated women’s interest in political action. In 1866, for example, Emily Davies was urging John Stuart Mill to change ‘man’ to ‘person’ in Disraeli’s Great Reform Bill of the following year in order to open the vote to women.

By 1869, women ratepayers had been given voting rights in municipal elections, and the same year women packed St George’s Hall in Bradford during a by-election to back the Liberal candidate who promised support for women’s suffrage.

By now, figures with a prominent profile were emerging to promote female suffrage.  Catherine Salt (married to Titus Jnr.) and her Salt’s Ladies supported the Third Reform Bill of 1884.

Annie Kenney
Christabel Pankhurst

Other names memorialised in Helen’s talk included Julia Varley, an early union member in Bradford, Isabella Ford, a Leeds socialist, and Annie

Kenney who was taken under the wing of Christabel Pankhurst herself.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the afternoon was Helen’s mentioning a Hebden woman, Mary Gawthorpe, a WSPU activist who remarked that she was ‘expected to make herself useless by ignoring things that matter.’

Mary Gawthorpe

Thank goodness she, and many other suffragettes and suffragists did not, and thank you to Helen for keeping the history of this movement alive.

Our next meeting

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, August 15th, 2019 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Dr Diana Leitch who will be talking about ‘The Science of Chocolate’.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

The Mystery that Was Elmet

On Thursday, 20th June, Dave Weldrake, self-describing as an ‘enthusiastic archaeologist’ and formerly of the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service, gave U3A Todmorden a masterclass in making detective-like deductions about the possibly probable from the minimum of evidence.

Elmet: that lost kingdom of the ‘Dark Ages’, that strange period between the years the Romans left their province of Britannia and the invasion of the Angles and the Saxons from across the North Sea – where was it?

But first, how did it come about? Dave began by observing that when the Romans began to leave Britain, their administrative systems would have started to break down.

Eventually, Britons filled the power vacuum, and would have established their own administration centres, probably in old Roman towns or forts. One of these would have been the capital, as it were, of Elmet.

But what were Elmet’s boundaries? Place names such as Barwick-in-Elmet and Sherburn-in-Elmet testify to the kingdom’s reality, but not to its borders.

Dave posited that he was moderately certain that they would have been roughly between the Wharfe and the Don in the north and south, and between the Great North Road and the Pennine watershed in the east and west.  

But his main interest was answering the question as to where Elmet’s administrative heartland might have been. Candidates for this honour include Castleford, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury, Ilkley, and Quarry Hill in Leeds.

However, Dave clearly favoured Adel north of Leeds.

Near Adel, there is a Roman fort whose importance is given weight by its being a staging post with the Roman name Camboduno on the Antonine Itinerary, Iter (Route) II, a kind of Google Maps of its day.

But here’s the rub. In this world of uncertain factual evidence, the name on Iter II could have been Camuloduno, which would identify as Slack near Huddersfield, also on the way from Adel to Manchester.

These uncertainties and obscurities indicate how difficult the history of the Dark Ages is to construct. Dave was, however, able to offer some relative certainties about Elmet itself.

Bede, for example, in ‘The Ecclesiastical History of the English People’, records that King Edwin of Northumbria expelled Certic from his kingdom of Elmet. And this Certic is referred to in Welsh sources as Ceredig ap Gwallog.

Indeed, the people now known as the Welsh were the original inhabitants of Roman Britannia, and pan-British links with Elmet are not therefore surprising. Thus the inscription in Gwynedd, ‘Aliotus Elmetiacos Hic Jacet’ (Aliotus the Elmetian lies here).

And even as late as 1315, a Florentine bill of sale records ‘d’Elmetta 11 marks per sack’ for wool. Elmet International plc!

Peter Carrigan, our Vice-Chair, with Dave Weldrake. Photo by Roger Howard.

This was a talk in the best traditions of U3A. As Jean Pearson would say, ‘Did learning take place?’ I think we can safely answer that, thanks to Dave, it did.

Our next meeting

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Helen Broadhead whose talk is titled ‘The Bradford Warriors’ about the Bradford suffragettes.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

A Cat among the Literary Pigeons

U3A Todmorden’s recent speakers have been like high pressure weather systems: we have enjoyed the vivid freshness and sunshine of Maria Glot on Titus Salt, Tony Waltham on volcanoes and, on 16th May, Patrick Wildgust on Shandy Hall and Laurence Sterne – and, of course, Sterne’s phenomenal novel, ‘Tristram Shandy’.

 

Patrick Wildgust with Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden (and Dave Sutcliffe coiling cable)

To reflect the substance and nature of Patrick’s talk, this report should be (apparently) randomly organised, full of digression and only fleetingly touching on the advertised subject matter.

 

For why?

 

Well, ‘Tristram Shandy’, a novel – or perhaps anti-novel – written and published variously between 1759 and 1767, was the brainchild of Laurence Sterne, a clergyman educated in Yorkshire and at Cambridge whose first living was in Sutton-on-the-Forest, later supplemented by those of Stillington and then Coxwold.

 

It was in Coxwold that he established his writer’s retreat at Shandy Hall, now a memorial museum to its erstwhile genius occupant which is managed by Patrick.

 

And what does ‘Shandy’ mean? It’s a Yorkshire word for wild, crack-brained, half-crazy, which explains and justifies Sterne’s decision to ignore the conventions of storytelling that were current and to adopt a style that was that of everyday digressive speech and not structurally literarified.

 

Moreover, the novel, published in 9 volumes, terminates at the end of Volume 4 where the word ‘FINIS’ is used. Volume 9 concludes ‘End of Volume 9’.

 

And why not introduce a randomly included marbled page on page 169 of Volume 3 to represent ‘the motley of my work’? Or ‘black pages’? Or blank pages? Or asterisks, dashes, and wiggly lines?

 

And why should every copy be identical? Sterne personally supervised editions of his work to ensure that each copy was unique. 

 

Patrick highlighted Sterne’s brilliant marketing. For example, Sir Joshua Reynolds painted Sterne’s portrait.  But who posed it – Reynolds or Sterne? A parson (a pillar of the establishment) with an ill-set wig, a challengingly mischievous smile, a finger pointing to his forehead indicating wit and intelligence, and – shock horror – a manuscript of ‘Tristram Shandy’.

 

Sterne even published his sermons under the name of one of his characters – Parson Yorick (named after the dead jester in ‘Hamlet’). These were unconventional in that they were non-didactic, though commonly promoting the notion of the goodness of human beings, in keeping with Sterne’s persona of a jester subverting expectations.

 

We also learned about hourglasses, myrioramas, moths and Sterne’s 3-decker pulpit.

 

We should thank our speaker whose talk was anything but wild – though possibly like chaos, well-ridden – and a gust of fresh air. This reporter is certainly up for a trip to Coxwold and a third attempt to read ‘Tristram Shandy’, if only because, as Patrick said, ‘All the people who’ve read it are nice’.

 

Our next meeting

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Dave Weldrake talking about ‘The Lost Kingdom of Elmet’.

 

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Volcanoes of Italy Are a Blast and Anniversary Wall Hangings Are, Too

In March U3A Todmorden reported on Maria Glot, Titus Salt’s modern publicity tornado, and April saw Tony Waltham strut his pyroclastic stuff on

April Speaker
Tony Waltham with Gill Radford, our Chair.

behalf of the Italian Tourist Board.

Altham’s, look out: you may have a sudden flow of spur-of-the-moment holidaymakers through your doors.

Tony is an engineer and geologist by training who has an eye for a good photograph and a yen for a good ‘fire fountain’.

His travels clearly require occasional commitment from his family, to the extent of camping overnight at the summit of Stromboli. How else can you witness the lava fountains that erupt every 20 minutes, and which smoke and ash obscure by day?

But not all volcanoes in Italy are so restrained. Vesuvius is a case in point. Tony carefully explained the famous explosion of 79 AD: Pompeii, which everyone knows well, was clearly not blasted as badly as Herculaneum. Vesuvius’ first pyroclastic surge (of the six that took place during the night) wiped it out, covering it under 20 metres of ash and volcanic debris.

Pompeii, by contrast, was done for by surge number four, but was buried only to a depth of 7 metres.

Pyroclastic surges? Fast-moving (up to 400 mph) flows of volcanic debris and ash and superheated gases, from which there is no escape. Tony was a speaker who could make technical terms easily understood.

Thus we all now know the difference between a crater and a caldera and how plate tectonics work.

We also know about super volcanoes like Campi Flegri, now grumblingly dormant, but once the site of a huge explosion when a magma chamber collapsed.

Nevertheless, owing to local bradyseism – the slow rising and falling of the land owing to seismic activity – a harbour boat ramp no longer reaches down to the sea.

A less inconvenient phenomenon is the volcanic mud of Vulcano. Here

Mud pools on Vulcano.

Italians disport themselves in the health-giving mud, caking themselves in the sun and washing themselves off in the Mediterranean. Tony’s English outsider vision found them good photographic material.

But what about Etna? Unlike Vesuvius, it does not kill people, but it does emit plenty of ash and lava and occasionally, as in 2000, a spectacular 1000

Etna lets rip with a spectacular fire fountain

ft fire fountain of lava that lasted 10 minutes.

Usually, it just oozes quickly-cooling lava that if necessary can be redirected. In 1669, the citizens of Catania who were in the path of the flow redirected it. The citizens of Paterno took exception: it was now heading for them. They redirected it again. Lava wars ensued, but the lava got both communities anyway.

Our thanks are very much due to Tony and his 9-on-the-Richter-Scale presentation.

U3A Todmorden 10th Anniversary Tree of Knowledge

The final textile

A second highlight of the afternoon was the unveiling of the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, a wall hanging made by the Craft Group to celebrate and commemorate U3A Todmorden’s 10th anniversary which took place last year.

The piece is housed permanently in the Central Methodist Church’s upper room in a glazed frame made from reclaimed wood by John Andreae, the son-in-law of our founder, John McNair.

Some members of The Craft Group in front of the finished commemorative textile in its permanent home.

The piece, which also bears witness to hundreds of hours of work by a team of Craft Group members, represents each of our Special Interest Groups extant at the time of our anniversary.

Each group is shown as an apple whose design characterises each group. Thus, Philosophy is represented by Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’; the intricacies of philosophical thought are shown by the convolutions of quilling and its logic by straight lines.

By contrast, Spanish consists of the vivid flag of Spain with the black ‘Osborne’ bull in the centre.

Anglo-Saxon is emblematised by the Alfred Jewel delicately figured in gold thread on a green sheeny background, and Golf, played at Todmorden Golf Club, emphasises something of the rough landscape surrounding the course by using felting in greens, browns and greys.

Numerous techniques have been deployed. In addition to those already mentioned you can find macramé, découpage, collage, beading, patchwork, embroidery, appliqué, knitting, lace-making, weaving, and ceramics.

In this respect, the Badminton and Table Tennis Club is exceptional. The apple-artist has used an embroidery background; the foregrounded objects are composed of cocktail sticks, garden and rubberised twine, a prosecco cork, a Wetherspoons stirrer, nail polish, brads and feathers.

Craft Group members designed the apples in consultation with Group convenors, and each apple took an average of 40 hours to complete.

This is truly a labour of love, celebrating what U3A Todmorden has offered the town’s active and enquiring retired community, and furnishing a permanent record of one aspect of community life in the Upper Calder Valley in the 21st century.

It is only fitting public recognition should be given to the Craft Group for the generous way they have dedicated their talents, skills and services to the production of this ‘Tree of Knowledge’, and to the Methodist Church for giving the hanging a home. Long may both ‘Tree’ and Church be a feature of Todmorden.

Our next meeting

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, May 16th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Patrick Wildgust whose subject will be ‘Shandy Hall and Laurence Sterne’.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

 

Maria Glot, Saltaire’s Industrial-Historical Storyteller

21st March, 2019 will be remembered as the time Todmorden U3A was hit once again by the benign storytelling tornado that is Maria Glot, historical raconteur extraordinaire.

Her primary subject was what happened to Saltaire and Salt’s Mill after the death of Titus Snr; her secondary subject – or parallel plotline – was the ‘The Curse of Milner Field’, a story intricately linked with the fates of several owners and managers of Salt’s Mill.

Titus Salt Jnr built himself a magnificent Xanadu of a mansion in Shipley Glen in 1869 which he called Milner Field after the manor house he had demolished. But he died young of a heart attack in 1887.

Shortly after, a downturn in the wool trade resulted in a near collapse of the business which passed eventually into the ownership of James Roberts who made a killing on uniforms for the army in the Boer War and again in 1917 when he sold redundant blue-grey serge to the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps.

But moving into Milner Field did Roberts no good: three sons all died young, the remaining one was badly injured during World War One, and his daughter’s lover was shot by her jealous husband.

Roberts sold the mill to Edward Gates whose wife died a few weeks after they moved into Milner Field. Gates himself died from blood poisoning following an injury to a big toe.

Gates’ successor, Arthur Hollins, apparently hiccoughed to death and his wife predeceased him, dying of blood poisoning. (Or was it a gall bladder infection and pneumonia respectively!)

At this point, the house became unsellable, and Salt’s Mill’s next owner, Sir Henry Whitehead, chose to live in Harrogate. The house fell into disrepair, survived dynamiting and was finally demolished. Today it lies in ruins. And is haunted – Maria told us with great authority! – by a thwarted 18th century lover, who cursed the house and then hanged herself.

Salt’s Mill itself survived until 1986 when it closed because large lorries could not access it. It was bought by Jonathan Silver in 1987 and redeveloped into a technology, business and retail hub, the David Hockney 1853 gallery, a museum, and dining venue.

Peter Carrigan, Vice Chair of U3A Todmorden and Speaker Finder, with Maria Glot. Photo by Roger Howard.

Maria has been involved with Salt’s Mill and Saltaire for many years and is proud to have been part of the team that achieved World Heritage Status for Saltaire in 2001. Her deep love for the place and its people is evident in her talks, and we have been privileged to listen to her twice.

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, April 18th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Tony Waltham, and his topic ‘Volcanoes of Italy’.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

 

February Members’ Meeting – Barrow Lad Goes Bargaining in Middle East

U3A Todmorden had clearly bargained for 45 minutes from Philip Caine on 21st February, but it got a lifetime’s worth of fluent storytelling (and a chance to buy a book at the end of it).

 

Philip Caine with Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden

Leaving school at 15 in Barrow usually meant a trip to Vickers-Armstrong and signing up for an apprenticeship. But Philip bucked that for the excitement he’d been having behind his dad’s back – cheffing at a local hotel.

 

After a two-year apprenticeship in the kitchen, a series of jobs in Bowness, Harrogate, London and Paris and some hotel management led to Philip’s indomitable wife, Sandra, suggesting oil rigs. Two weeks on, two weeks off – what wasn’t to like? For both of them!

 

And that led to ten years on rigs in a variety of roles, followed by seven working in logistics for BP in the North Sea.

 

But boredom was setting in. ‘So, Sandra, how about my going to Algeria to build an accommodation block in the desert for 500 people?’ ‘No way, I can’t be sure what you’ll be up to.’ ‘Tax-free salary, though.’ ‘Off you go, Big Boy.’

 

And the same again in Nigeria.

 

Philip’s next big challenge came as the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, and he took a job with Chevron building accommodation for 2000 in a new gasfield in Kazakhstan. Six weeks on, three weeks off and Sandra was still happy.

 

Supply lines were a challenge – 6000 meals a day require a lot of meat. The route from Russia was through bandit territory. If you keep losing $20,000’s worth of meat, you need a new supply route.

 

A certain Russian Colonel Alexei offered his help. He had two business associates in Moscow. They could charter planes. The meat was flown in.

 

And when Alexei wanted his nightclub running, Philip was his man, assisted by bouncers from the local judo club. A nice little earner for the lonely evenings.

 

Then the big gamble. Resign, start a company, borrow money and build two hotels in Astana. A pity it coincided with the crash and Philip was left with $250,000 of debt.

 

But Sandra believed in him. After 2 years working and managing to service his debt, he snapped up a job in Baghdad – building accommodation for 30,000 troops in three months.

 

Complicated security and travel logistics meant the camp was often short of 400 migrant workers for up to eight days.

 

Alexei’s business associates obliged by operating charter flights between Dubai and Baghdad. Changeover gap reduced to 36 hours. Brilliant.

 

In spite of the dangers inherent in this workplace, Philip had paid his debt off in 2 years and finally quit in 2010. After which Sandra got a bite of the cherry and they lived in Dubai while Philip set up companies in Kurdistan.

 

When that got tricky, he closed his company and went home to Barrow.

 

Where he was bored. ‘Write a book about what you’ve done,’ said Sandra. And thus the Jack Castle series was born, all based on a lifetime of experience.

 

Philip Caine makes a sale.

And if publishers turn you down? Become your own publisher and enjoy rejecting those same people who gave you the thumbs down. And tell them you’ve a screenplay in development.

 

What a whirlwind of a life! A terrific talk from a most engaging speaker. U3A Todmorden salutes you, Philip Caine!

 

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, March 21st, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45.

 

We will be welcoming back Maria Glot. Last time we heard her lively, detailed and entertaining take on Titus Salt and Saltaire; this time she will be talking about ‘After Titus’.

                           

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk

(email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

 

Pathways Films – The Stuff of Legend

January 17th, 2019 –a sad day for Calderdale for our speakers, Peter Thornton and Ray Riches, the Powell and Pressburger of the Calder Valley, announced their retirement from film-making.

But not before they had given themselves a very fine send-off and U3A Todmorden a double act worth a guinea a minute.

Peter remarked that they usually got decent audiences because people had heard how many cock-ups they made. By the end of the afternoon, it was clear what they really meant was they were masters of badinage, anecdote and bonhomie.

What more would you expect from men whose walks through, round and over the valleys, hills and moors of  Calderdale, be they rural-urban or urban-rural, habitually begin with a toasted tea-cake and end with a pint?

Since 2000 when they produced their seminal ‘A Walk on t’Cut’ followed the next year by the equally aptly named ‘A Walk on t’Long Cut’, they have made a range of local films.

These have included, randomly, the Brontes, the Mary Towneley Loop, Halifax, the Luddenden Valley, Shibden, and Hebden Bridge.  And, of course, Hardcastle Crags (home of the tongue-twistingly difficult ‘Great Northern Hairy’ – and aggressive – ‘Wood Ant’).

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Their last outing with the camera encompassed Ray’s beloved Heptonstall and Colden in which they highlight empty farmsteads, Barbara Miskin’s pottery, Colden village, Lumb Bank, Dawson City, bellringing and the famous Pace Egg Play – cue Ray’s revival of his role as St George.

Memorable Thornton and Riches lines might include Ray’s remark about taking direction from the camera man on an obscure track on the way to Rishworth: ‘Go through them brambles, he said’. And May’s Aladdin’s Cave in Colden was ‘the smallest supermarket in the world’.

They tried to elicit the secret of black pudding making from a master pudding maker. The reply was a cracker of Lancashire humour: ‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.’ (And doubtless that would have resulted in a vintage pud.)

Explaining to a gentleman in Luddenden that they were making a film about the valley, their interlocutor was dumbfounded. ‘Why?’ he said.

All the same, a good question.

Simple answer. If you are making films about then and now, your own films become the then of the future and contribute to the richness of Calderdale’s local history, identity and self-belief. Not much could be more important.

Ray and Peter are two men who have richly filled their days in a land they love. The Valley will, surely, want to congratulate them on and thank them for their valuable, life-enhancing work, and wish them a happy ‘retirement’ from the camera.

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, February 21st, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45.

Our speaker will be Philip Caine whose topic will be ‘From Barrow to Baghdad and Back’.                       

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk(email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Christmas Music and a Cracking Quiz

U3A Todmorden’s Christmas meeting was well served by local talent.

Dee Ashworth conducted the Todmorden Community Adult Learners Brass Band in a fine medley of tunes.

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This was TCALBB’s first outing. They more than rose to the occasion, belting out ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and rolling through ‘Out and About’, before unleashing the B flat bass on the bass line of ‘Dr Who’.

This was followed  by the lively ‘Hoe-Down’ and the rhythmically mellow ‘Calypso Crazy’ before winding up with ‘Bass Runner’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’.

The concert was fine example of what U3A is all about: ‘inclusion, enjoyment and pursuing interests together’.  Congratulations to all participants, and to the patience and encouragement of their conductor!

 

Those who were inspired can seize the hour and contact Todmorden Community Brass Band to get themselves going. The Five Note Band extends a warm welcome to trainee musicians of all ages.

 

The synergy of the musicians was then translated to impromptu quiz groups who were set fiendish seasonal questions by Myrna Beet of the Quiz Group.

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If you knew who set up the first nativity scene in 1223 and where, or what Kenyans prefer to have for dinner on Christmas day, or what the last line of ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is, then this was the moment for you to shine.

 

Confusion was genially aroused by the question ‘In which Eastern European country do Killantzaroi (goblins) visit homes between Christmas and Epiphany?’

 

The answer is ‘Greece’. But many of us were stuck in the political past, thinking Greece was a ‘Western’ country, when in fact we were being asked about a geographical constant.

 

The final section was based on one of the rounds in ‘Only Connect’ – completing a sequence. Try these!

 

Stop sign, 50p coin, honeycomb and …..?

 

Drummers, Lords, Maids and …..?

 

Thorn, shout, seat and …..?

 

The winners of the quiz were Marion Kershaw, Brenda and Jim Botten, Christine Morton and Emily Watnick, a veteran of the ‘Only Connect’ competitors, The Cosmopolitans.  Fine play from all the team.

 

Gill Radford, Chair of U3A Todmorden, made several announcements, including the pleasing news that four members had volunteered themselves for committee work.

 

Gill also hoped that Todmorden might produce its own Bake Off contestant. Any takers?

 

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, January 17th, 2019  in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45.

 

We will be welcoming the return of Ray Riches and Peter Thornton who will be talking about ‘Pathways and Film Production’.

           

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk

(email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Teazles and Teazlemen – Robert McMillan in Todmorden

Before November 15th, few members of U3A Tod would have known that a teazle features in crests on the Clothworkers’ Building at Leeds University and in the decorations of Rochdale Town Hall’s council chamber.

And not many of us would have known what a teazle is.

By the end of Robert McMillan’s knowledgeable, detailed and entertaining talk we certainly did.

So, what’s a teazle? First, you must distinguish between the common teazle and the Fuller’s teazle. It’s the latter you need for raising the nap in clothmaking – it’s spikier and hardier.

The next thing is what is a fuller? He was the bloke who trampled newly woven cloth in stale urine to help clean, degrease and thicken the cloth.

After this trampling, the fuller raised the nap on the cloth by hand using teazles mounted on a handle. Then one or more shearmen trimmed the nap for a fine finish.

Later this ‘teasing’ process was mechanized. Specialist workers – ‘setters’ – mounted the teazles onto ‘rods’ that they inserted into a ‘gig’, a spinning drum across which the unteased cloth was passed.

Setters wore leather gloves to stop their hands being ripped to shreds. And indeed, spent teazles were used for the first passing of the cloth: fresh teazles are so sharp they rip new cloth.

By this time, the significance of the teazle to our local history was plain.  But it was also significant to Somerset’s history too. In Somerset, teazles were an 18th and 19th century commercial crop.

Planted by broadcasting, the teazles were harvested in the plant’s second year.

A maker-up then bunched the teazle stems in tens. The bunches were tied onto a stock to produce a ‘stave’. These staves were then transported to Yorkshire where sales were made, for example, in pub yards in Leeds.

Huddersfield Cloth Hall was also a teazle trading centre. John Briggs advertised himself as selling ‘Foreign and English Teazles’ in Huddersfield, Milnes Bridge and Linthwaite.

Nowadays, teazles are still used in woollen cloth manufacture and are imported mostly from Navarre in Spain. They are available from Border Technologies in Cleckheaton.

Robert’s talk goes to show that even the most unexpected subject is interesting when presented with well-organised, knowledgeable enthusiasm. Local museums can expect a flurry of interest from U3A Tod members!

U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, December 20th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45.

This is our Christmas meeting when we will enjoy Myrna Beet’s annual quiz and listen to Brass Band music provided by the Todmorden Community Brass Adult Learners’ Band.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk(email), or 01422 886021 (phone).