Zooming into Over t’ Head History

Todmorden U3A’s first virtual Monthly Members’ Meeting was an insightful pictorial and historical tour of Britain described through some of our pub and inn signs.  In an articulate and energetic Zoom presentation, Michael Astrop, one of our members, offered us ways to enhance our historical awareness of England, revealing how inn signs are indicators of both the past and key issues that once prevailed in our towns and villages.

He traced this development from Roman to the present day, showing that our inn signs have been inspired by a huge variety of key developments and themes in our history, including transport, religion, politics, royalty, heroes and the occasional scandal.

However, we were first introduced to the four main types of signs – Hanging , Pillory, Banged Up and Gallows or Beam signs. As space and expense allowed, inns advertised themselves prominently on their street location and often became very large, with one sign in Norfolk being so heavy it pulled a house down.

But why have signs at all? Taxes, illiteracy, and streetmapping.

Signs in a largely illiterate world served two major purposes: they were both a tradesman’s advertisement and a public way marker. ‘How do I find the road to X?’ ‘Turn right at the White Lion, go past The Robin Hood and the sign of the pawnbroker…’ and so on. But such signs were mandated for inns and pubs only in 1393 by Richard II so his inspectors could identify them for tax purposes.

Inn signs also record and commemorate former historical realities. Political allegiances might be indicated by the colour of the ‘Lion’. A red one indicated loyalty to John of Gaunt, for example, while a White Hart represented Richard II. If your town had a Blue Boar, if probably favoured the Earls of Oxford.

The Old Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, and references to Saracen’s and Turk’s Heads remind us of the era of the Crusades; great commanders such as Wellington, Marlborough, and Nelson preside over many a drinking den as do highwaymen, and the frequency with which The Marquis of Granby is commemorated is a reflection of his having given each of the men in his service money to buy their own inn – he died in debt!!

Developments in transport are often to be celebrated: The Bargeman’s Rest, The Railway Inn, The Old Ship, The Mermaid, The Prospect of Whitby.

And all this history is traditionally presented to the public by skilled professional pub sign artists.

Our speaker kept us on our toes by using a quiz sheet where we had to try and match a sign to one of three possible names. This gave rise to more anecdotes of the history above our heads.

 During discussion following his talk, Michael speculated on some local inn signs such as The Shannon and Chesapeake, based upon an American sea battle in 1813. Worth investigating further in the light of Todmorden’s history.

He ended by considering an intriguing group of inn signs that were variations depicting the Four Alls – Rule, Pray, Fight and Pay, and it would be fair to say we were All Entertained, Enlightened, Engrossed and Excited to have this, our first Zoom meeting, so well attended by over 100 members.

This reviewer will certainly spend more time looking at our richness of inn signs with a keener eye when we can each more safely travel around our country visiting friends and family or enjoying a holiday, maybe just a pie and a pint.

Mary Carrigan

The next Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting by Zoom will be on July 16 at 1.45 p.m., open to all fully paid up members for 2020. Our presenter will be David Keep, a world-travelled professional photographer, who take us on a set of journeys into “Underwater Photography: From Sharks to Gannets.”

Contact details – www.u3atod.org.ukinfo@u3atod.org.uk; 01422 886021

The Captive Queen

Todmorden U3A by Angela Greenwood

The Captive Queen

Over the centuries, the life of Marie Stuart, Mary Queen of Scots, has been a source of inspiration to writers such as Madame de Lafayette, Friedrich von Schiller, Walter Scott, to musicians Donizetti and Schumann, and to countless film-makers.

On Thursday 20 February, David Templeman, a nationally known speaker and Elizabethan historian, recounted in exhaustive detail the circumstances of young Marie Stuart’s 19 years of captivity. His book ‘The Captive Queen’, the fruit of 12 years’ research based on primary sources, revealed previously unpublished details about the many different places in which Mary was incarcerated in England.

Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, born in 1542, who became the rightful Queen of Scotland when she was only six days old, spent most of her childhood in France. In 1558 she married the future Francois II, and on his accession to the throne in 1559 she became queen consort of France.

Grief-stricken by François’ early death in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561 aged 18 years. She had lived in France from the age of five, spoke no English and had little direct experience of the dangerous and complex political situation in Scotland. As a devout Catholic, she was regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects, as well as by her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England.

In 1565 Mary married her English-born, half-cousin Darnley, gave birth to their son James in 1566 and, after a tumultuous period of plots and conspiracies, was abducted and imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle in 1567.

It was from this island castle that Mary escaped on 2 May 1568 to Workington Hall; little did she realise that this was her last night of freedom. On 18 May local officials took her into protective custody at Carlisle Castle. Within three or four months she was moved south to Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, away from the coast and the Scottish border for security.

Mary’s decision to flee to England from Scotland was seen as a threat by her cousin Queen Elizabeth who feared that Mary’s presence could become a Catholic rallying point for English revolts or invasions from Spain, France or Scotland. For this reason Mary was held in secure and well-defended places.

Thus, Mary was moved further south, and further from the sea, to secure places in the Sheffield area. The main locations used to hold Mary over the next 19 years were Tutbury Castle, Wingeld Manor, Worksop Manor, Chatsworth, Shefeld Castle, and Shefeld Manor. For all of these places, the political set up, the people involved and the conditions endured by Mary were described with details based on meticulous research.

Neither did David Templeman spare us the details of how Mary’s health seriously suffered as a result of the insalubrious conditions endured in some of the places where she was held captive. The young Marie Stuart who’d been described as vivacious, beautiful and clever, became a ghost of her former self.

Especially tall, she attained an adult height of 5 ft 11 inches. A sportswoman, she rode, hunted and hawked dressed in men’s garb and also enjoyed golf, tennis and archery. One can only feel profoundly dismayed by the effect prolonged incarceration had on her physical and moral well-being. For the most part, during these long years, Mary had to content herself with embroidery.

David Templeman’s fascinating and thoroughly researched account was applauded with much enthusiasm and members eagerly queued up to buy signed copies of his book ’Mary Queen of Scots the Captive Queen of England’.

Coronavirus: please do not attend our next U3A meeting on Thursday 19 March if you have any symptoms of a cold or cough.

Our speaker will be  Dr. Georgina Ferry  with a talk entitled “From Diamonds to DNA – Women in Science”

Contact details – www.u3atod.org.uk; info@u3atod.org.uk; 01422 886021


Flood Brings Penguins to Todmorden

On Thursday 16 January, there was a buzz of eager anticipation as enthusiastic U3A members filled Todmorden Central Methodist Hall. Sue Flood, internationally acclaimed award-winning wild life photographer and film maker was coming. Could our audience have imagined the extraordinary and enthralling journey they were about to embark upon with her?

Sue told how she grew up in small village in North Wales and took her first photo with her grandad’s camera. Her first two early inspirations were her father, Howard, who had travelled the world with the Merchant Navy and also David Attenborough, whose television programmes had already kindled her desire to explore wild places.

Sue’s accounts were peppered with humorous anecdotes, the first of which concerned her teachers’ response when she told them she’d like to work with David Attenborough. They suggested that she might like to study Domestic Science! Sue thought otherwise and went off to Durham University to study Zoology.

Acting on advice from someone at the BBC that she needed ‘something on her CV to make her stand out above other candidates’, Sue applied for Operation Raleigh in 1986 as a Queen’s volunteer with marine biologists. This provided her with ample opportunites for deep sea diving and underwater photography.

She was subsequently able to get a research job in the BBC’s prestigious Natural History Unit working on such global hits such as The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, with Sir David Attenborough. It was during this 11 year period that her first visit to the Poles happened; the beginning of her fascination for Arctic zones, exemplified by a plethora of photos and videos.

She recalled her trip from Moscow to Siberia, showing us a stunning photo of the Northern lights. She was en route to the Siberian arctic to visit the Nenets, guardians of a style of reindeer herding that is the last of its kind. This is one of the most challenging environments on earth where temperatures plummet to -50°C. Another photo showed Sue wearing a borrowed reindeer fur coat. She slept with the family in one large reindeer fur wigwam and for breakfast they ate chunks of reindeer meat washed down with vodka.

Sue’s adventures on more than 30 trips to the Arctic and Antarctic have taken her from camping at
-40°C, working on Russian icebreakers on trips to the North Pole and living with Inuit hunters on the floe edge, to diving with leopard seals in the Antarctic.

Whilst working on the ice sheets around Baffin Island in 2000, they awoke to find that the sea ice had broken up overnight, leaving them dangerously isolated for several hours on a now small ice floe. And only last year, she was stuck in the ice on a Russian Icebreaker for six days, ominously close to where Shackleton and the Endurance crew met their fate.

During these polar trips there were also some seriously dangerous personal moments like the time when a group of polar bears continued to wander towards their camp even after they’d shot several noise grenades. The bears were only only 30 feet away and you mustn’t let them know you’re scared; finally, the deterrent spray worked!

Sue’s entertaining photographic essay was rounded off in a final flourish of delightful descriptions and photos of Emperor penguins including that famous image of two parents with a chick on their feet.
After what can only be described as an unforgettable afternoon, the audience were briefly speechless when it came to the Q&A session at the end.

Some lucky members queued up for signed copies of her recent book ‘Emperor – The Perfect Penguin’, Foreword by Michael Palin

Next Todmorden U3A members’ meeting: Thursday 20 February at 1.45pm in the Central Methodist Church Hall, Todmorden.

The speaker will be acclaimed author and presenter David Templeman, who will be talking about Mary, Queen of Scots, The Captive Queen in England, 1568-87.


Message from the Committee about Meetings


After the very popular talk by Sue Flood at the January Members’ Meeting it seems pertinent to advise all members about some concerns the Committee did have in preparing the final touches for the meeting.

We were concerned that we have no way of knowing how many people would be attending the meeting and if in fact we would have to turn some people away.

Maybe we should consider making such events ‘ticket only’? but that would I feel, be unnecessarily bureaucratic and after all, members cannot easily predict their availability.

The Fire Regulations stipulated by the Fire Brigade tell us that the maximum number allowed in the building is 160.

Meetings generally attract between 100 and 125 people so an extra 35 was manageable; yet we knew we would have no alternative but to turn people away if Anne Foster’s ‘clicker’  as she welcomed you at the door, showed numbers were at the limit!

This message then is quite straight forward.

On future occasions when attendance at our meetings is quite likely to be high can we suggest that you make sure to arrive as close to 1.30pm as possible, when the doors open. We cannot guarantee that visitors too would not be sure to arrive punctually, but at least you have been made aware that there does exist a maximum number to which we must adhere for the Health and Safety’s sake of our members.

We are delighted to find and secure speakers of as high a calibre as Sue. Indeed, Peter Carrigan has an excellent record of booking speakers on topics we find entertaining for which we are most grateful. Long may his success rate of finding top notch speakers remain!

U3A Day 2020

U3A is delighted to announce the very first national U3A Day – this year which will take place on June 3rd 2020.

U3As across the country are being invited to mark the day by celebrating and showcasing what happens in their U3A.
Regional Trustee, Sue Stokes, a member of the Communications and External Affairs Committee said, “We are so excited that from now on, every year, there will be a day dedicated to learning, staying active and having fun in your third age (retired, semi-retired or no longer bringing up a family)

“We hope this day becomes, not just an opportunity for U3A members to showcase some of the amazing things that they do, but a way to challenge negative perceptions of older adults and a chance to invite other Third Agers in the community to learn about the contribution U3A makes to the quality of life for retired people.

“We really would welcome as many U3As as possible, either individually or collaboratively with neighbouring U3As, to engage with the public all on the same day with each U3A deciding what it would like to do.

“Potentially this could mean the movement staging hundreds of “eye catching” events across the UK on the same day.

“A resource pack is being developed with exciting ideas and guidelines and will be available before the end of December. We will post regular updates on facebook and more detail in the monthly national newsletter – which you can sign up for here 

“If you want to be in the organising of U3A Day you can join the closed Facebook group

“For now, please put Wednesday 3rd June in your 2020 diaries and let’s make our first National U3A Day a great success”.

Table Tennis and Badminton

Twenty-eight members and partners enjoyed a belated Christmas lunch at Top Brink pub recently, to thank convenor Sandra Lambshead for all her hard work, with a bouquet and other gifts.

U3A Tod’s Radiophonic Razzle-Dazzle Xmas Panto Spectacular – ‘Cinderella’

with the U3A Concert Party Choir and Friends

U3A Todmorden’s far-sighted and forward-planning committee decided several months ago that something fresh was needed for our December Members’ Meeting, so they came up with a traditional panto!

But this would not be just an ordinary Christmas panto, oh no. This would be a U3A Sponsored and Commissioned, subtly scripted, wickedly witty, perfectly punned, colourfully costumed, musically magical, audibly amplified and magnificently marketed Christmas panto.

And who better to approach for a script than the U3A Creative Writing Group, who boldly accepted the challenge and plumped for a Tod version of ‘Cinderella’.

Although the first joke of the one and only matinée performance was ‘No expense has been spared; in fact there was no expense at all’, there had in fact been some professional input. The Creative Writers enjoyed a workshop in writing-for-panto from local actor Ryan Greaves.

Money well spent!  because we had a frabjous afternoon in the company of the Creative Writing Actors’ Company, for these were writers prepared to stop sucking their pencils and stand by what they’d written.

Sylvia Hartley casts her U3A Todmorden panto magic with her borrowed wand. Photo by Roger Howard.

Sylvia Hartley, decked in glittery top and with pink frills on her ‘pen’-feathers, played the Yorkshire Fairy Godmother-cum-narrator and, as this was a ‘no expense at all’ production, addressed us with her borrowed wand.

The Ugly Hardup Sisters, Madge (Madonna) and Ga-Ga (Gargantua) were played in shocking pink and neon green wigs respectively by David Rawson and Colin Sansom. Proper dim-witted super-bitches they were too: conceited and deluded and obsessed with Bogofs from Lidl whither they would dispatch Cinderella (Helen Walmsley) to buy their special Beauty Cream and cut-price Pinot Grigio on a daily basis.

But therein lay a great irony, for in the aisles of Lidl (home of ‘Romanian roses’ and ‘Belgian bog brushes’) who should Cinderella be approached by but the gauche Prince Charming (Linda Sandler), disguised as a commoner.

Dandini (Barbara Griffiths) schools Prince Charming in how to charm ladies in Lidl. Photo by Roger Howard.

This was a royal ‘talent’-spotting outing organised by Dandini (Barbara Griffiths), a Tod lad made good in royal service, and embarrassingly recognised by his former muckers Dudley Pike (Denise Tyas) and Manky Knowles (Maddie Cullinane). 

The Prince soon discovered that remarks about an extensive wine cellar did not impress a bird who was charged with ‘buying quantity rather than quality’, but that wooing an attractive young woman with ‘Romeo and Juliet’ had more of a wow factor.

And so, in spite of the vilest of invitation-

Gargantua (Colin Sansom) and Madonna (David Rawson) – two luminescently Ugly Sisters in U3A Todmorden’s Christmas Panto. Photo by Roger Howard.

burning machinations by Madge and Ga-Ga, and with the help of the natty Carnaby Streetwise servant Velcro (formerly Buttons) (Maddie Cullinane) and the services of a taxi driver unable to provide the traditional coach and horses ordered by the Fairy Godmother owing to animal rights legislation forbidding the use of horses in Todmorden after 18.00, Cinderella did go to the ball, and she did lose her miserably uncomfortable 4 inch heel glass slipper, and she was locked in a cellar, but she did get out, and the slipper fitted, and all ended happily with a rousing rendition of ‘Winter Wonderland’ by the Concert Party Choir and Friends.

There was so much that was enjoyable in this well-delivered, read performance.

The local and contemporary references were delightful.  ‘The Kingdom of Tod’ was declared to be ‘small in area, but large in importance’, Lidl was, for the Prince, where ‘ordinary people buy food’, and the Town Hall ‘next to the betting shop’ was clearly the only place suitable for a royal celebratory ball.

The writers had deployed some choice phrases. I giggled particularly at the striking alliterative turn taken by an inspired Ga-Ga that she was the ‘Tantalising Temptress in Turquoise Taffeta) whereas her sister was merely ‘luscious in lemon’.  Other opinions assessed them as ‘dressed up like a pair of ice-cream sundaes’ but in fact looking ‘more like Eton Messes’. And perhaps my favourite – ‘And talking of old boilers, how are you two ladies?’

Prince Charming learned that you do not chat up a woman with two bunches of flowers  with ‘What nice bouquets you’ve got’, for which he earned a couple of sound-effect slaps.

Peter Gibson and Sue Hayter provided the sound effects, the microphones, and the projector system that announced scene changes with appropriate photos. There were two specially impressive pictures of Ugly Feet – one pair warty and hairy, and the other pair green and horny-nailed.

The Concert Party Choir and Friends strut their stuff. Photo by Roger Howard.

And we must not forget the choir. They had three neatly integrated slots with ‘Sisters’ (offering an ironic commentary on Madge and Ga-Ga), ‘I’d Do Anything’ (following the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ balcony scene), and ‘Winter Wonderland’ to see the happy couple off on their honeymoon.

Some words were of course suitably adjusted, and the songs were accompanied by Gill Baldwin on ukulele and concertina. And the choir led us in singing ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ before we all settled down to a fiendish quiz organised by Marion Kershaw.

So, see if you can answer the following three questions.

What precious jewel was found by Sherlock Holmes in the crop of a mislaid goose?

What is the odd one out?  Wings, Mud, Slade, Scaffold, Wizzard.

What do Eartha Kitt, Madonna, and Kylie Minogue all want ‘Santa Baby’ to do?

This meeting was pure pleasure for people who were delighted to be presented with what we’ve been familiar with for so long written and performed by those we know and love.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Our next meeting     U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, January 16th, 2020 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45 when our guest speaker, Sue Flood, will be talking about the ‘Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer’.

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

French Improvers Bake Off!

A cookery demonstration of a chocolate log, ( buche de Noel) in French! Session involved discussion of the ingredients, equipment & method en français!

Then we ate it!

Joyeux Noel à tous

Art Club

At our last meeting we rose to Jean’s Christmas challenges with some outstanding artistic results – well done to everyone.


Members around the still life challenge of a Christmas tree!

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

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.

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 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 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).

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

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

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?

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

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.

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).

Let’s Go! Visit to Thirsk

The penultimate trip of 2019 was to Thirsk and the award winning James Herriot museum. This “tardis” like surgery sits in the main street in Thirsk. Furnished appropriately for the period, the house has many rooms, including the parlour, where sit Tricki Woo and Mrs Pumphrey : don’t touch the dog it barks! The surgery area has many of James Herriot’s veterinary instruments on display. There is also a film room showing a short documentary, hosted by Christopher Timothy, describing the vet’s history and the TV and film series.

Known for his “All Creatures Great and Small” TV series, which followed the success of his books, Alf White – Herriot’s real name – did not start to write until his 50th birthday. Encouraged by his wife Joan, who had listened to his tales of daily happenings, Alf eventually bought a portable typewriter and in the evening would tap away. It took a long time before any publisher would take up his stories, and he dreaded the thump on the mat as another document was returned with a rejection letter.

Also in the house is a mock- up of a TV studio, some barns and a top floor devoted to children, who can learn that food does not just come from supermarkets, and can help deliver a calf.

The museum and the town of Thirsk are well worth a visit. The museum has a warm, friendly feel and the staff most helpful and proud of its history.

Tree of Knowledge marks our 10th Anniversary

On 18th April at our Monthly Members’ Meeting, we unveiled 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.

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.

Ant Peters

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.’

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).

U3A Todmorden Let’s Go trip 16 July

For our last outing before the summer break a visit to Erddig Hall, near Wrexham, was chosen. However, for various reasons, there were an unusually low number of members who travelled.

The day was fine and the greeting from the staff, warm.

Erddig, now a National Trust property has benefitted from not having a complete makeover. Most of the property has been refurbished but much of the fixtures and fittings are still as the last owner left them. In fact many of the room Guides knew the Yorkes.

The Yorke family are well known for having portraits, and latterly, photographs of their retainers. The most famous, having been featured on TV, is that of Jane Ebbrell (1793): Housemaid and Spider Brusher (an old term for Domestic Servant); with a face that would frighten.

The gardens themselves are worth a visit and the gardeners showed remarkable patience answering numerous questions.

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).

But What if We Tried – Art Appreciation Group

But what if we tried.
That is the title of the current exhibition at the Touchstones Gallery in Rochdale and is the gallery’s response to the challenge posed by artist Harry Meadley as to why so much of publicly owned art is stuffed away in stacks out of sight.
The U3A Art Appreciation group normally meets monthly at the Fielden Centre but every three months we venture afield to a gallery or an artist’s studio and in May we luckily decided to visit this exhibition. We were fortunate enough to have an introductory talk by a member of the curatorial team at Touchstones who explained how the collection came about and how it developed over 150 years. All local authorities are under financial pressure and some have controversially sold off publicly owned works of art to raise funds.

Rochdale however has not only held onto their collection but with the assistance of bodies such as the Art Fund has continued to make acquisitions, including of contemporary Northern art.
Rochdale now has a very substantial collection and has displayed in the largest gallery many wonderful examples from an early self-portrait by Tim Bobbin to recently created paintings and prints selected and hung in order of acquisition. It leads to a display full of surprises and delights. In one of the smaller galleries is a display recreating the stacks showing how work is stored, conserved and restored and how vitals funds are raised by loaning out work to other galleries and museums.
Fascinating to think that all of this wonderful art displayed still only represents 13% of the art owned by the people of Rochdale.

The exhibition continues to the 1st June and is strongly recommended.

Text: Campbell Malone Pictures: Ann Foster, Campbell Malone and Doug Simpson

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).


April Members’ Meeting

Gill welcomed special guests Reverend Kathy and Deacon Bob from Central Methodist’s Church to the April Meeting. U3A Todmorden is always pleased to have an opportunity to thank Central for letting us use their meeting rooms for U3A events and this afternoon we had special reason to thank them.

Gill thanked Treasurer Emily and Membership Secretary Brenda and their team of helpers who had worked hard to make it crystal clear what exactly needed to be done to renew membership this year; namely not only paying subs but also giving us your permission to hold safely and securely your details in accordance with recent legal changes. So, thank you to members for your understanding.

 Gail gave her Groups Report and was delighted that there is the possibility of a new group starting. Those interested in forming a Dance group – not ball room dancing, but other than that the dances themselves would be decided by the evolving group. Let Gail know if you are interested. Also, please would Convenors contact John Boutell to let him know any News for including in the Websites News Desk.

Last year we celebrated our 10th Anniversary from 2008 to 2018 and Keith Coates and team presented us with the very impressive history of U3A Tod. Thursday was also part of the anniversary celebrations because it was agreed last year that during the 10th year that the Craft group would create a wall hanging, a tapestry to commemorate this milestone.

There wasn’t enough time to make something that could be presented at last year’s celebrations especially as discussions within the group made sure that maintaining the normal Craft group format in their Friday morning sessions was paramount. Gill had had no idea the lengths these wonderful people would go to, to make sure what they created would be of the highest possible standard. They knew, but she didn’t!

23 members of the Craft group have contributed and spent hundreds of Craft grouphours creating this commemorative masterpiece, including the core of 8 people who have overseen the project and made sure the textile would be ready on time. 12 members of the Craft group came to the presentation. Gill thanked Mary and the Craft group for the love and absolute dedication that had gone into their work. The Craft group have ticked as many boxes as possible to make sure this Tree of Knowledge is an absolute testament to U3A Todmorden’s work in Todmorden and The Upper Calder Valley.

On a final note the frame has been made from locally sourced recycled timber by the son in law of John McNair the instigator and driving force behind U3A Todmorden back in April 2008.

We were delighted that Rev Kathy and Deacon Bob could share the presentation with us, with Bob assisting Gill in the unveiling. Our special thanks go to them for allowing us to hang a non-religious artefact in their church hall a privilege which U3A Tod does not take lightly.

April SpeakerGill introduced the main speaker of the afternoon Tony Waltham who gave us his slide show and talk of the geological formations of 7 of the volcanoes in Italy. I would defy anyone not to have been bowled over by his magnificent photos, his highly informative and charismatic style of presentation. I feel sure he will be invited back!

Peter Carrigan thanked Tony for his amazing talk which somehow did actually fit into the 60minute window he had requested.

Next month’s Members’ Meeting will take place on Thursday 16th May and the talk will be by Patrick Wildgust, entitled ‘ Shandy Hall and Laurence Sterne’. Members may like to read the following link in preparation for his talk. https://www.laurencesternetrust.org.uk/shandy-hall.php.

With Best wishes for a Happy Easter

Gill Radford,  Chair U3A Todmorden 2019.





Central Methodists Todmorden was the venue for the third Tod U3A Convenors’ Lunch. The purpose of these is two fold: as an expression of thanks from the Committee for all the hard work the convenors do to keep Tod U3A going. Secondly, it is an opportunity to keep convenors up-to-date with anything they need to know.

So before the convenors helped themselves to the buffet lunch provided by Catrina and Andrew at Drop Farm, Oxenhope, Gill Radford welcomed everybody and thanked them for all they are doing. She then recited three questions we would be asked to answer in small groups. More of which later.

Nigel Plant kicked off business matters with a few details regarding Beacon, the new IT system designed to make internet use simpler when using for anything to do with Tod U3A. Convenors had had training from Nigel but little bits and bobs came up as the training went on and he wanted to ensure that those in the earlier sessions had the opportunity to be apprised of anything they may have missed.

Membership Secretary Brenda Botten then introduced herself and asked convenors to remind their group members that membership renewal time is approaching, She then introduced yours truly so that I might explain my role and the existence of this page. I invited them to send me any news item they may wish to have posted here. It need only be bullet points – I will be happy to expand. Send to news@u3atod.org.uk

Our treasurer, Emily Watnik was next up, now able to keep track of our finances in a more sophisticated way using Beacon, and asked convenors to get an invoice when paying venues directly.

Fiona Ryland broached the subject of accessibility to our classes and invited convenors to contact her if they had any queries or problems. I’m assuming her email address is accessibility@u3atod.org.uk I will update if necessary.

Ernie Rogan advised that he has reorganised the rota for refreshments served at general meetings. Each group will take it in turns, starting alphabetically, to have two of its members staff the refreshment point. As there are so many groups, Ernie said, each with a number of members, it would mean that each individual member is likely to do it only once in ten years. That’ll be a lifetime for most of us, so grab your chance when it comes.

After everyone had eaten the lovely buffet lunch and had filled their doggy bags – Catrina and Andrew give good value – those of us remaining set about answering the following:

What in your experience makes a group successful?

What niggles do you have about convening a group?

What help would you appreciate, if anything?

Which ideas will you try to put into practise with your group?

Our table had an interesting discussion and each table fed back at the end leaving the committee with some useful points to mull over.


The photography group have some of their work displayed at Tod Information Centre throughout April. You will enjoy a variety of subjects: the expected, but not to say ordinary. Landscapes, wildlife – the birds and the bees, well, wasps actually, as well as the unexpected, unusual and imaginative. Do go along. Your correspondent has and gives his recommendation.

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).


March Members’ meeting

Vice Chairman’s report of the Members meeting Thursday 21 March 2019.

We had an excellent turn out, rough count 140 including 4 guests.

In the 5 minute showcase Sarah Penney gave a short, succinct and thought-provoking account of the work  of Age Concern Todmorden

Gail’s Groups Report March 2019 has already been sent to all members by email.

Our main speaker, Maria Glot, talked about Saltaire after Titus from 1840 to the present day. As before, she gave a full-on amusing story-telling experience of the characters who drove the Mill through its various phases of boom and bust. The canvas proved broad enough to include many personalities through their loves, desires and all to frequent early or sudden death, curses of Milner’s Field included. 1983 saw the nadir of the mill, with only 123 workers. Some visionary ownership and management then led to its listed building status and the ultimate reward of world heritage site status. A complete account will appear in the local press and on our website next month.  For more about her talks, look at the Saltaire experience.

Our next meeting will be Thursday 18 April 2019 and our speaker will be by professional photographer, Dr Tony Waltham. He will take us on a photographic tour of the Volcanoes of Italy. His website has recently been hacked, so a link to his work is here.

Your committee look forward to perhaps seeing you next month.

Peter Carrigan,

Vice Chairman.

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).


February Meeting: from Barrow to Baghdad

The Chair welcomed everyone to the February meeting. We are delighted to announce that the membership of U3A Todmorden has now reached 519 and we hope the recent recruits enjoy their involvement finding many opportunities to make friends and contribute to stimulating discussions in their new learning ventures.

The May 2018 survey results are now on line for members to have a look and are encouraged to click on the link to make comments (by the end of February please.)

Gill asked the members to join her in thanking and congratulating the Publicity team on the huge amount of work and effort this has taken but it does indeed paint a positive picture of U3A Tod with many good suggestions for the committee to consider. A new webmaster to take the place of Alan McDonald has been appointed. Gill welcomed Teresa Paskiewicz as the newest recruit to the Publicity team and thanked Teresa for stepping forward.

A very general over view of the Survey results shows that many members enjoy the monthly meetings and our speakers but then again the bulk of the replies did come from the audience at the May, 10 year celebrations so that isn’t too surprising. Next time we must definitely make sure to encourage those who didn’t attend the meeting to reply too.

In the Special Interest Groups section, Gill is taking on board requests referring to Languages by attending the first Language Conference at Aston University next month and in particular is hoping to find out how these groups can function long term without a leader who has specialist knowledge. It is of course part of our ethos that we share the learning task between us but she particularly wants to know useful tips on how you can actually make progress without an expert to guide and correct you, especially in pronunciation!

It was also amusing to find out how warmly members regard our association by the fruits, furniture and animals chosen to represent us. Gill tempted members to look more closely at the results but gave as examples the following; an animal? A cheetah because it has lots of interesting spots! A piece of furniture? a 3 legged stool because it is stable and a great support and finally a fruit? A pomegranate because there are lots of things inside one skin / lots of seeds with the potential to grow into something fantastic.

The coffee morning for new comers is going to be on Tuesday 9th April, down stairs at Central Methodist from 10.30am to 12 midday. Gill will be in touch with all those who replied showing an interest.

Members were encouraged to consider attending the U3A Summer Schools by The Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Association at Easingwold near York, from 5th-8th August and The North West Region of U3As in Keswick from 28th-31st August. There are lots of interesting courses and friendly people to meet, not to mention one of the perks of living so close to the Yorkshire Lancashire boundary is that we are entitled to attend both!

There were several notices of events with which our members have connections: Alan Fowler, our Social History Convenor and member of Hebden Bridge Local History Society is giving a talk on 13th March at The Methodist Church, Hebden Bridge entitled, ’Remembering Peterloo’. Non members are most welcome, £3 on the door.

Jill Dobson is reminding us of the 4th Hebden Bridge Lecture by the Hebden Bridge Literary & Scientific Society on Saturday 2nd March, 7.30pm at The Town Hall. Richard Morris looks at Yorkshire through the eyes of artists and writers like JMW Turner, Thomas Girtin, Winifred Holtby and JB Priestly, tickets cost £10.

Angela Greenwood is involved with the first Hebden Bridge Annual Film Festival and is inviting members to the launch at Hebden Bridge Town Hall on Friday 8 March at 6.30pm. Printed programmes will be available and passes & tickets will be on sale for the Festival which takes place 22nd to 24th March They can also be bought at both Todmorden & HB Tourist Information Offices & Hebden Bridge Town Hall.

Melvin Coleman told us about The Calder Valley Community Land Trust which is a community benefit society and a charity so certainly not “political”. Their remit is to hold land & buildings for the benefit of the community (eg they own the Fielden Centre) and to provide sustainable and environmentally sound housing which is more affordable for the ordinary folk of the upper valley. The Trust is developing 6 bungalows at Walsden suitable for older folk. They have been working to provide 20 apartments in Hebden, particularly aimed at the 20-34 year age group, many of whom leave the area because of the lack of affordable homes. Sadly the application was very recently rejected so their important work is definitely on going.

The main speaker of the afternoon was Philip Crane who took us on a whirl wind tour of his life from leaving school in Barrow, Cumbria with ‘no formal qualifications’ to Baghdad and back again. Although he started as a chef this developed into Hotel Management in the Uk and Europe, to the management of residential complexes for thousands, to catering for military staff in Iraq, via Moscow the KGB and the Mafia. He reached amazing heights and shattering lows but with the encouragement and support of his wife he not only lived to tell the tale but has written 6 novels about it too with ideas and plans for at least 4 more.

A thorough and entertaining account will be available in the local press, courtesy of Ant Peters and the Chair assures the members who were unable to attend to make sure they look out for it. It will be a riveting read!


The Art Club have been busy, as Jean Pearson explains below.

We have been inspired by poetry for our current project and some beautiful artwork has been produced.   We have been inspired by poems such as ‘Daffodils’, ‘Matchstick Men’, ‘Wild Geese’, ‘Ode to Autumn’, ‘Ducks’,  ‘Robins Round’, ‘The Curious Hare’, ‘The Birch Tree’, ‘The Scarecrow’, ‘The Englishwoman’, ‘On a fly drinking out of his cup’, ‘9 Circles of Hell’, ‘Billy Goat Gruff’, ‘Anne Hathaway’ and ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

At our next meeting at the Fielden Centre, Todmorden from 11 am -1 pm on Tuesday, 26th February, 2019, we will be discussing our individual choices and sharing our techniques and ideas.

There are just a few places available if you would like to have a taste of what we do – every fortnight.

Every session at Art Club is very special to all of us!!!   I haven’t taken any photographs of our work but I have scanned my painting – watercolours – entitled ‘The Englishwoman’ by Stevie Smith.   ‘This Englishwoman is very refined; She has a flat chest and a flat behind.’   I’ve written a second verse!   ‘These Englishwomen are not refined;   Each has a buxom bosom and a big behind!’.   So I’ve drawn a matchstick woman and some Beryl Cook women.   Hope it gives you a chuckle.

Members’ survey 2018

At the May monthly meeting last year, as part of the 10 year anniversary celebrations of Todmorden U3A, members  were invited to complete a survey/questionnaire about their thoughts on U3A Todmorden. Many questions were straightforward requiring direct answers which would provide useful feedback; other questions were of a more whimsical and humorous nature but again would provide some indication of the current membership mindset. Finally – after much burning of midnight oil, overheating of grey matter, and attention to overworked keyboards, the results of this U3A Todmorden Questionnaire are published as a pdf on the website. Download it here.

We hope you will peruse, and be informed and entertained by its findings. We’d be interested in hearing your comments: please email surveyfeedback@u3atod.org.uk.