May’s Monthly Meeting

We had another well attended meeting this afternoon. There were about 130 present, including 4 visitors.

Our speaker was Gill Russell, who is the Chairman (the term they use rather than Chair) of the U3A North West Region Executive Committee. However, she wasn’t speaking to us about U3A, but about being “A Stranger in a Strange Land”, the strange land being Japan, where Gill and her family lived for 4 years and which she has recently revisited. It was a fascinating and informative talk which emphasised the juxtaposition of traditional culture and the ultra-modern in Japan with many illustrations.

The talk was very well received and clearly captured the imagination of many which was, perhaps, demonstrated by several members speaking to Gill afterwards about the best way to arrange visits to Japan.

gill u3a

World Affairs Group Special Meeting – EU Presentation

The World Affairs group are holding a special meeting on Wednesday June 8th at 2.00 pm  at Roomfield Baptist Church, Halifax Road, which is open to all members. There will be a charge of £1 to cover room hire.

The aim is  to inform and educate members about the EU and the UK in advance of the forthcoming referendum on UK membership of the EU. There will be no speeches for or against leaving and no vote.

There will be a series of short presentations by members of the World Affairs Group on a number of topics. The topics are still being developed and the provisional list below may change.

  • How EU institutions work and where the money goes
  • The political economy of the EU
  • Agriculture and fisheries
  • The development of common standards for the single market
  • What have we got for our EU membership?
  • The future for young people in the EU and the UK
  • The UK and its place in the world

After each topic presentation there will be a short opportunity for questions, but not for speeches expressing opinions. The presenters do not guarantee to answer the questions, as they may not know the answers.

Annual General Meeting

The next meeting on Thursday June 16th is the AGM. Notice of the AGM and Agenda are linked here . It will start at 2.00 pm and will be followed by the usual monthly meeting with a guest speaker who will be Dr. Frank Nicholson. He will be speaking about “Living in the Canadian Sub-Arctic”.

Committee Vacancies

One of the items at the AGM will be election of Officers and Members of the Committee. This year there are three vacancies for : Chairman : Secretary : one Committee Member. If you are interested in any of these positions, or you wish to nominate another member, this Nomination Form has to be returned to the Secretary by June 2nd.


Keith Coates

April’s Monthly Meeting

On yet another glorious day 125 members and visitors were willing to forgo their gardening duties to attend our April meeting. 80 members renewed their subscriptions and I would like to thank committee members and volunteers for their hard work in the efficient collection of funds.

After last month’s appeal, we have a volunteer for the post of Membership Secretary, but we still have a vacancy for a committee member.
Following our AGM in 2017, Peter Gibson will be relinquishing his position of Database Controller and Technical Officer so, we will need an experienced computer expert to take over these duties. It could take some time to understand the complexities of this post, so we are looking for a volunteer now.

Short Talk

Sarah Pennie made an appeal on behalf of the Friends of Centre Vale Park who are hoping to secure funding, from the Lottery, for improvements to the park. Regrettably repairs to the bandstand will not be part of this funding. Hopefully Sarah will return to update members on progress.

Main Speaker

Jane Shepherd gave us a most amusing insight into her life. She developed polio at 5 months, yet hers is a tale of positivity. Staying awake at a breakfast meeting became her break into broadcasting. Jane has worked at the World Service, Radio 5, Woman’s Hour and also television presenting. Her anecdotes, asides and self deprecating humour brought many laughs from members. Jane now attends many Benefit Tribunals and supports disabled people whenever possible.

Our next members’ meeting will be 19 May at Central Methodist at 2.00pm when our speaker will be Gill Russell and her subject will be “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

Your committee thank you for your attendance and look forward to meeting you next month.

Our Chairman, Keith Coates, is on holiday: this report compiled by Ernie Rogan, Vice Chairman.

March’s Monthly Meeting

Greetings to all.

On a glorious St Patrick’s day 102 members and 10 visitors attended our March meeting. U3A Todmorden has now reached the milestone figure of 500 members, in just eight years of activity. However, to sustain this growth, we will require to fill two vacancies on the committee at our forthcoming AGM: a potential Vice Chair and the post of Membership Secretary. Margaret Gunnill has to resign because of a medical condition. All members interested in these positions, supporting and maintaining U3A Todmorden, should contact any committee member.


Pam Booth and Ruth Goldthorpe gave a presentation about this organisation and made an appeal for new Trustees to join.

Short Talk

We had a fascinating talk by Hamish Willis about the benefits of cross country walking. Using poles, in the correct manner, after some training, participants would enjoy a better posture, be more active and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Gail Allaby will, for our April members’ meeting, commence a list for members who may be interested in taking up this activity. This list will then be passed on to Hamish. This group would not be part of U3A Todmorden.

Main Speaker

Penny Dean OBE gave a memorable, humorous, positive and uplifting presentation about her life. Penny was born with dwarfism into a tall family: all her siblings are over 6ft. Her mother always encouraged her to be positive and told her she could be whatever she wanted to be. Penny said she met some discrimination at Secondary school, just in her formative years. Visiting a circus, Penny met Arthur, also a dwarf, who was appearing as a clown. Encouraged by her sister, Penny began to write to Arthur and then met him whenever the circus appeared close by. The relationship took its course and Penny and Arthur were married when still quite young. Their first child died at birth, but they have been able to continue and now have three children; two daughters who have excellent careers, and a son: Penny’s description of him raised many laughs.

23 years ago Penny and Arthur started a charity: the Dwarf Sports Association. The Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds is a patron of their charity. Two years ago Penny and Arthur received OBEs from Prince Charles. Penny’s comments were that they were probably the only persons to whom Prince Charles had to bow!! The photograph explained everything.

Despite all the humour Penny described problems associated with dwarfism. The most upsetting, to the audience, were the descriptions of families who have rejected infants, because they have been born as dwarfs. However, Penny has been able to arrange adoption of 15 of these babies into families of both small and normal size.

At the end of the presentation, members were left with the positivity of Penny’s attitude to life and that, perhaps, we should all examine our prejudices.

News Letter

This will be published in May, so Jean Pearson and Christine Richmond are ready to receive snippets of information about any group or matters of interest to all members. I would encourage all convenors and indeed all members to contact Jean at 01706813933 or

The committee thank everyone for their attendance and look forward to seeing even more members at our next meeting, which will be on Thursday 21 April at Central Methodist Church at 2.00pm, when our speaker will be Jane Shepherd and her subject will be “My life as a cabbage – from Polio to TV presenting and beyond”.

Keith Coates, our Chairman, is on holiday and this report was compiled by Ernie Rogan, Vice Chairman.

February’s Monthly Meeting

Dear Members,

We had another well attended meeting at Central Methodists on Thursday last, the 17th February; 122 members and 10 visitors were present. Five new members were recruited, bringing our total membership to 440.

Short Talk

The meeting started with a short presentation by Peter Gibson about Todmorden Talking Newspaper which provides an invaluable service for blind and partially sighted people. Peter is one of several U3A members who give their time to this service. Peter asked that anyone who knows a blind or partially sighted person who may benefit should draw their attention to this free service. He also pointed out that there are articles/features which may well be of interest to a wider audience. Further information and contact details can be found on this web site.

Main Speaker

The main speaker on Thursday was Professor Ian Barclay, who gave a fascinating talk about his experience of exploring the Ice Caves which were found high in the Pyrenees by the French explorer Norbert Casternet in 1926. Casternet explored the caves in detail in 1950 with his two daughters. It was extraordinary to see the “casual” clothing worn by Casternat and his daughters in the extreme conditions which they faced, and to hear of the risks they took in entering unknown caves. Ian’s expedition with his colleagues some 12 years later was in comparison well-equipped.

The presentation covered not only the exploration of the caves but also the geology of the Pyrenees (and an alternative explanation of how Hercules built the Pyrenees from rocks from the surrounding area).

Ian’s clear and entertaining presentation was enhanced by exceptional photographs and was greatly appreciated.

Science Group – Open Meeting

On Monday, March 21st the Science Group are holding a special meeting when Professor Katherine Morris, Manchester University, will be speaking about “Radio Active Waste”. The meeting, which is open to all U3A members, will be at Central Methodists, Todmorden, and will start at There will be a charge of £1 to cover the cost of room hire.

U3A Todmorden Newsletter

The Newsletter which was published last November was well received by members and it has been decided to produce another one, to be circulated in May. Jean Pearson and Christine Richmond will again be responsible for the production. We hope that members will contribute items to the Newsletter. They may be items of information which may be of interest to the wider membership; others may wish to publish a poetic gem; or you may have comments on what U3A Tod is doing or not doing! If you have any such item of interest please contact Jean Pearson – 01706 813933 – email.

Tod in Bloom Appeal

The Todmorden in Bloom group is seeking volunteers for a community litter picking project which they are planning for March 20th to 22nd. Further details and contact information to follow.

Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Thursday March 17th, when Penny Dean will be speaking about her experience of being “Short in a Tall Person’s World”

Keith Coates

January’s Monthly Meeting

Dear Members

We got off to a good start with a full house for our first meeting of 2016.

There was a short talk from Daniel Jessop, Volunteer and Events Coordinator at Calderdale Council. Daniel,who has visited us before to talk about the development of the heritage centre at the Town Hall, invited members to take advantage of the opportunities to have a guided tour of the Town Hall and also asked if there are any members who are interested in volunteering as guides (there already U3A members involved in this role) or have memories of the Town Hall which they would like to share. For further information you can contact Daniel on 01706 548105 or 07912 891370 or visit the following web sites:

Visit Calderdale page on Todmorden Town Hall; Virtual Tour of Todmorden Town Hall

The main speaker was Professor Derek Scott, School of Music, Leeds University, whose subject was “Music and Orientalism”. This was a fascinating, informative and very entertaining presentation about the ways (sometimes bizarre ways) in which Western Music has attempted to portray or suggest “orientals”, which in effect meant anything foreign, whether from Spain, Turkey, Egypt, India, or China and Japan. His talk ranged over Mozart, Berlioz, Puccini (and many others including a recording of Rudolph Valentino) through to Chu Chin Chow, Miss Saigon, and, finally, the Pogues. His talk was illustrated not only with recordings, but by Professor Scott’s fine singing voice; and it was, I think, the first time that the grand piano has been used at one of our meetings.

I know from comments which I heard that the talk was much appreciated. Here are the musical scales to which Professor Scott referred in his talk.

Town Twinning Visit to Germany

The Town Twinning Association have some places available on their visit to Bramsche at the end of May and have asked if any U3A members would be interested in joining them on the visit. Details and contact information.

Keith Coates

December’s Monthly Meeting

Dear Members

On Thursday 17th December we had our last monthly meeting of 2015. It was, as all the year’s meetings have been, well attended.

Refreshments, including the much appreciated “non-alcoholic punch”, were provided by Alison Greenwood and her helpers. We must thank Alison not only for the refreshments on Thursday but for providing them throughout the year.

We must thank Myrna Beet and her team for organising the quiz, which was closely contested. So closely contested that four teams finished with the same score (after an objection to one answer, which was overruled). The winners were decided by the time honoured method of drawing lots.

Afterwards there was a presentation by Andrew Gill (The Lanternist). Andrew, who is a member of Burnley U3A, was making a return visit; he had been guest speaker nearly 3 years ago. He gave us another fascinating and amusing show of Victorian and Edwardian slides which was greatly enjoyed.

The next meeting is on Thursday, January 21st, when Professor Derek Scott will be speaking about “Music and Orientalism”.

I look forward to seeing you then.

In the meantime I trust that you have a Happy Christmas and New Year.

Kind Regards
Keith Coates

Monthly Meeting: Did I See Marilyn?

Last Thursday’s meeting was again well attended in spite of the appalling weather. Our speaker was Allan Stuttard whose subject was advertised as “From Tod to Korea and Back. National Service Remembered”. He caused me some consternation when he arrived and said that wasn’t the title of his talk – it was to be “Did I see Marilyn?”. However, despite the change of title, his talk was about his experiences as a young national serviceman who made his first trip abroad when he was sent to Korea towards the end of what he described as the “forgotten war” which claimed many British lives including two from Todmorden.

As he said, his 5 week “cruise” to Korea would cost a fortune now but a modern cruise liner is probably more comfortable than his troop ship. Alan’s humorous reflections on national service and his time in Korea and Hong Kong (we learned that his presence there on the border of Hong Kong prevented a Chinese invasion – possibly) were enjoyed and appreciated. He revealed that the answer to the question “Did I see Marilyn” was yes – he saw from the back of a huge audience of American soldiers – so far back that he couldn’t be certain that he had seen Marilyn Monroe until he saw a photograph that confirmed it was her.

Kind Regards
Keith Coates

Monthly Meeting: Shibden Hall

The meeting on October 15th was well attended with 127 present (126 members and one visitor). Our speaker, Pat Osborne, presented an illuminating insight into the history of Shibden Hall and particularly the life of its most ‘notorious’ owner, Anne Lister. The presentation was enlivened by Pat’s dry sense of humour. One interesting fact which emerged was the reason that homosexuality was illegal but not lesbianism in the nineteenth century. This was apparently because nobody was prepared to explain lesbianism to Queen Victoria. I suspect that members of the audience were inspired to learn more about Anne Lister with one inquiring about the availability of translations of her coded diaries.


Last month I told you about our U3A Tod Newsletter which will be issued in November. If you have any items for inclusion please contact Jean Pearson – 01706 813933 or by email to

Book Sales

You may have noticed that we did not have the usual sale of second hand books on Thursday. It has been decided that we should stop such sales. With the increasing numbers now attending the meetings we need to have more space for seats, and in any event there has been a major fall in the number of books purchased. Also there is an increasing problem of storing the books, which are accumulating. We will be disposing of the books by giving them to some Charity shops who do sell second hand books.

Report by Chairman Keith Coates

Monthly Meeting: Back Issues

Lynne Midwinter with Chairman Keith Coates
Lynne Midwinter with Chairman Keith Coates

Back Issues

The last meeting of U3A Todmorden involved members in more physical activity than is usual at its monthly meetings. They were encouraged by their guest speaker, Lynne Midwinter, to try out exercises as part of her talk on “Back Issues”, and joined in with enthusiasm.

Chartered Physiotherapist, Lynne, who specialises in the treatment of spinal problems, explained, with graphic illustrations, the structure of the muscular skeletal system and the range of problems which affect so many, not just the elderly.

She went on to emphasise that many of the problems can be prevented by regular exercise and demonstrated simple exercises which should be done on a daily basis to maintain flexibility. Even if a problem has already developed it doesn`t mean that exercise should be avoided – for most climbing stairs is a good thing –not something to be avoided.

The message was if you want to keep it – use it!

The talk clearly struck a chord, possibly a painful one, for many in the audience as was demonstrated by the many questions which it provoked.

U3A Todmorden – AGM

Lynne’s talk followed the Annual General Meeting of U3A (University of the Third Age) Todmorden on Thursday 18 June. The U3A has gone from strength to strength since it was started in 2008. In that first year there were about 40 members; the past year showed an increase from 370 to 415.

Over the year the U3A’s monthly meetings were regularly attended by more than 100 members. It now runs more than 30 interest groups covering a wide range of educational, recreational and social activities. Plans are already in place to add further groups. A new feature in the past year was a very successful short study course on the Magna Carta. It ‘s hoped that further short courses will be developed in the coming year.

Overall the message was – another very successful year.

If you are interested in finding out more, visit the web site or come to a monthly meeting – third Thursday of every month, 1:30 for 2:00 at Central Methodists, Todmorden. Our next speaker on Thursday 16 July will be Geoff Budd on ‘North Korea today: Fact or Fantasy?’

Report by Chairman Keith Coates

India: extremes and contrasts

Speaker Sally Pulvertaft with Keith Coates
Speaker Sally Pulvertaft with Keith Coates

If members and guests attending the May Todmorden U3A general meeting expected Sally Pulvertuft’s talk on India – Extremes and Contrasts to be traveller’s tales accompanied by a plethora of photographs, they were soon disabused. There were a few photos but perhaps more displays were quotes on India from others than herself. Sally has been a businesswoman then latterly an educationalist. She first went to India as a 22 year-old, and was captivated, like so many before and since, from the very start.

There was nothing familiar about the place. It was such a profound experience that she did not visit again for another ten years through fear that any subsequent visit would never live up to that first, life-changing experience. It made her look at the world in a completely different way. This quote might have been written for that first visit. “India is exhausting – it hits all your five senses at once.” Everywhere, Sally said, was surrounded by colour; and much of that is seen in fabric. That, too, is everywhere, lived under and eaten under, as well as on the person. The other thing Sally thought amazing was the people, they too, were everywhere. On a train, hanging off the top; a motor bike going past with ten people hanging on it. And Indians were always smiling and open, ready to engage. She saw bodies carried in the street in the spirit of celebration, as in the Hindu tradition the deceased was moving on and there is an acceptance of this because there is a completely different underpinning of society.

The impact on her, Sally said, could be summed up by a quote of Keith Bellow’s: “There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colours, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolour.”

Sally told her audience that she would talk about her travels – she has been going there for 35 years – but also raise questions, as part of her experience of India is that it always raised questions of herself, of our society and things we take for granted. She would also talk about education, the theme that has her keep going back. The first question that was raised in her mind on that first visit came from talking with a young woman. Both Sally and her travelling companion of about the same age had been divorced and talked with a young, well educated Indian woman about her arranged marriage. The young woman challenged them by remarking that the western marriage tradition didn’t work so well as they had both divorced at an early age whilst she was still married.

Sally’s work in education took her back there every few months over a ten year period. She worked with students and supported companies starting up and was able to see the growth of a superpower. She saw cities rising out of the ground; companies with a handful of staff which three months later would have a hundred, three more and they had an office block. Such was the rate of growth. The diversity of India can be summed up by the 120 official languages out of the 780 recognised languages that are spoken. The median age of there is 27, in China 37, in the UK 40. India has a young population as 65 per cent are under 35. This poses a big challenge for education and British universities are supporting the country in trying to build the necessary education infrastructure.

Sally has been working for the last 15 years trying to help build that infrastructure to meet this need. There are English speaking young people, highly educated in a high quality education system, for those that it can reach, who have a naturally external pluralist view and are entrepreneurs. These are the young people British young people are going to be competing with for jobs. The young in India are highly motivated as they see education as the way out of poverty.

Global Connections is a social enterprise organisation that Sally is involved with. It gives “gap years for oldies”, as Sally put it. One of their projects is the Toilet Museum, in the top ten of the weirdest in the world, according to Sally. It was set up by a man who has the mission to provide every home in India with a toilet. He looked at the lot of the Dalit – Untouchables, who had the task of dealing with human waste. He wanted to eliminate the need for that task and to help women who had to go into the fields in the evening if they had no toilet. This made them exposed and vulnerable. The museum shows the work of the project with various designs of toilets that can be used anywhere without the need for drainage and sewers. The waste can be recycled and used on the land for example. There are many examples of social enterprise across India applying practical ways to solve various social problems.

Sally moved on to education and spoke about a project that had increased mature women’s literacy by 25%. Sally thought that amazing but was pulled up short when told that it leaves 300 million women still illiterate. Her most satisfying work, she said, is with Professor Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. Sally played a couple of minutes of a TED talk that Mitra gave outlining his work. He is most famous for “The Hole in the Wall”, which became the inspiration for Slumdog Millionaire.

Educating children in rural India is a problem as young teachers want to work in the city. Mitra conceived the idea of placing a computer in a whole in the wall rather like an ATM and just leaving it with a camera focussed on it. In three months, illiterate children had taught themselves how to use it and were learning English. Research showed that children learn quicker this way, outstripping children spending the same number of hours in front of a teacher.

The World Bank gave Mitra some money to set up a project to research the use teacherless schools in rural areas as a way of dealing with the lack of teachers. Mitra went on to develop the “School in the Cloud” for which he won $1m dollars TED prize. Mitra recruited retired teachers and other educational professionals to teach English to children in rural India by distance learning on the internet, using webcams. Sally said the project is always looking for more retired teachers to get involved. She said it could also be applied in the country, giving the teaching of apprentices as an example. For perspectives on other aspects of Indian life, Sally recommended a series of essays by Amartya Sen, “The Argumentative Indian”.

Sally’s talk included an amusing family anecdote of driving two tuk-tuks, and how one of her teenage sons adopted the Indian entrepreneurial spirit whilst there. And her talk was interspersed with reflections on the similarities as well as the differences between Britain and India, and what challenges we may expect in respect of our place in the world as we move further into the twenty-first century. Jean Pearson moved the vote of thanks and presented a token of appreciation at the end of a much appreciated talk.

The next general meeting of Todmorden U3A is at 1.30 pm on Thursday 18 June at Central Methodists, Todmorden. Lynne Midwinter of Physiotherapies will speak on Back Issues. Details of group meetings are on or phone 01422 844713 or 01706 839176.

Report by John Bouttell
Picture by Gail Allaby

Summat a Nowt

Steve Murty, Peter Carrigan and Keith Coates
Steve Murty, Peter Carrigan and Keith Coates

Members of Todmorden U3A were presented with a different format when the main speaker was introduced at their April general meeting. Peter Carrigan, U3A’s speaker finder, interviewed Steve Murty about the history of Upper Calder Valley, a presentation entitled Summat a’ Nowt. This was at Steve’s request, as he felt more comfortable than facing his audience more directly. Did this mean that Peter had to draw him out? Not a bit of it, in fact, Peter needed to put but few questions, and then usually only to get Steve to give another angle on whatever aspect of life in Stubb he was focussing on.

For it was life in Stubb, the township in which he was born and raised, that Steve related to his audience. Customers of Steve’s motor business new to the area would ask him about the Calder Valley. At the same time, as a member of Hebden Bridge Local History Society – of which he is now Vice-President, Steve began to realise that there was a lot of local history which was held only in the minds of older people and was not being recorded. He set about recording the anecdotes he heard about the past from older people.

Steve’s own situation, living in one of the 17 cottages which comprised Stubb, in which his family had lived in for five generations, lent itself to the kind of research he wanted to do. Sixteen of the cottages were lived in by people in their old age. Those people had memories going back over a century. Some of Steve’s childhood memories aided him, too. When he had just started school he was diagnosed with suspected TB. This meant that although he did not go to school he was not confined to home. So he visited local artisans, farmers and neighbours and heard all sorts of tales of days gone by.

At that time, Steve said, Stubb was in a time warp as there had been no changes to the houses, still with the old ranges with a pot hanging above, rag rugs over flags, not a hint of modernisation. In the fifties, Steve’s parents were unmoved by visitors’ suggestions that they modernise by such steps as knocking out mullion windows and plywood boarding doors then painting over. Others did modernise in similar ways and later replaced wooden window frames with those made in pvc. The whole process, Steve wryly remarked, was largely reversed in later years by the comfortably off offcumdens who moved into the cottages and set about restoring “original features”.

The sinks and the larder were on the cooler, north side of each cottage. Each had a built in cupboard which served to store almost everything they owned when not in use. Floor level would have stored buckets, basins and mixing bowls. The shelf above took pans, kettle, flat iron, etc. Next would hold the cutlery tray and everything to be kept dry – sugar, salt, herbs and important papers. On upwards, the shelves held, crockery, linen, table cloths and any other possessions. All would be hidden from visitors behind panelled doors. Washing was always done on a Monday – protocol was strict – water would be boiled in a tub and a washboard used.

Steve revealed that through examining court records going back as far as 1307 and comparing the cases that his wife related to him in her role as a magistrate, the same kinds of offences committed remained the same over the years. Most of his audience were probably aware of the past existence of the gibbet in Halifax. Steve explained that cloth left hanging to dry was vulnerable to theft so the Halifax wool merchants instituted the gibbet as a deterrent. That was the reason for Halifax being a place to be delivered from in the lines: “From Hell, Hull and Halifax, the Good Lord deliver us.” In Hull’s case, Steve said, it was the risk of being press-ganged that was the reason for avoiding it.

Using his grandfather as an example, Steve illustrated how, despite working 12 hours a day, six days a week as a wheelwright, he found time to work a big garden, with all sorts of fruit and vegetables, and keep hens. His grandfather also played cricket and become a champion at billets. This was typical of the time. People educated themselves and Todmorden was home to a number of experts in botany, archaeology and other disciplines and exchanged papers with others, including academics.

With regard to social mores, Steve surprised no one when he said that years ago children received a clip round the ear, or perhaps the belt for more serious misdemeanours. If a woman received a male visitor in circumstances deemed inappropriate, the community would gather outside the door with pots and pans which would be beaten with increasing speed until the offending male was driven out and chased away. “Rough music” it was known as. The offender was only accepted back into the community if he made an honest woman of the lady concerned, or if he could not, then he was not accepted back at all. Steve observed that if the same practice continued today, there would be no peace and quiet in the valley!

When time forced Steve to bring his talk to a close, Peter referred to a number of aspects of Valley life that were not touched on. Material for a return visit, perhaps. Steve’s appreciative audience no doubt left with that hope in their minds. Some of them bought a copy of Steve’ book, Summat a’ Nowt, available at the meeting. Vice chairman Jean Pearson presented the gift token accompanied by warm applause.

The short talk was given by Daniel Jessop, Volunteer and Events Co-ordinator of Todmorden Town Hall Heritage Centre and Volunteer programme. A new Heritage Centre will be set up and volunteers trained to conduct tours of the Town Hall. The project will include research into the history of Todmorden and the Town Hall; mounting exhibitions, and oral history coffee mornings to encourage local people to share stories about the building’s rich heritage. Those interested in being involved can contact Daniel on 01706 548105; 07912 891370 or email Twitter @TodTownHall

Report by John Bouttell.

‘My convict ancestors’

Todmorden U3A member Sue Hayter made no apologies for having convict ancestors when she spoke at the March general meeting, in a talk entitled My Convict Ancestors – A Genealogical Journey. The story, a detailed and fascinating one, revolved around two brothers from Hereford who, having been convicted of aggravated robbery were transported to Australia in 1833. Sue also revealed that although her maiden name was Marriott, strictly speaking she should have been a Widdup. But that part of the story did not emerge until later.

Elizabeth Ann Maylard, Sue’s great grandmother married John Marriott and they had three children. Sue’s quest to trace her Maylard ancestry was prompted by hearing her great -Aunt Clara talking about the family in detail but holding back on something she told Sue to ask her father about. For his part, Sue’s father wanted to find out more about his father, Wilfred Widdup, with whom Elizabeth had a fling. Hence, Sue was really a Widdup. Wilfred went missing in about 1925 and little is known about him except that his mother’s maiden name was Maylard. Clara had also referred to a Rev. John Maylard, whom Sue could not fit into the family picture she had at that early stage. Her father was aware of a book called From Prison to Pulpit, and written about the Reverend after his death.

Sue started working backwards in time through public records to answer these and other questions she had about her family. The internet also proved a valuable aid in Sue’s search, and not just specialist websites – “googling”, found Herb Pruett, a second cousin in America, where a number of Maylards had gone in the 19th century. Herb was to provide Sue with a family tree and a transcript of From Prison to Pulpit.

Although born in Nottingham herself, Sue found forbears in Rochdale and Burnley but it’s Hereford, to where Rev. John had been traced, to continue to the story of the brothers. Sue went there to research in the library and records office. She found maps and located where the Maylards had lived, as she wanted as full a picture of the lives of her ancestors as she could glean, rather than merely compile a family tree. Sue identified Thomas Maylard and Elizabeth, nee Gough, and married in 1801, as the parents of the Rev. John.
He was one of nine children and it was two of his elder brothers, James, born 1811, and Charles, born 1813, three years John’s senior, who were transported.

John’s brushes with the law which gave rise to the title of the book about him were minor but did cause him to realise he could take his life in a wrong direction. Or it was it possibly the example of his brothers? Sue quoted from From Prison to Pulpit “On the morning of Easter Sunday 1833, when but 16 and a half years of age, he had a remarkable dream which made such an impression on him that he requested his father to allow him to leave his situation [employment] and thus remove him from the scene of peculiar temptation and sin.” This, a fortnight after his brothers’ trial. The dream lead to his decision to turn to God and he became a Primitive Methodist preacher active from 1834 until his death in 1896.

The law proved to be the restraint on James’s and Charles’s criminal activities after they undertook a burglary in Hereford with two others, stealing two silver watches and other items from Thomas Treherne. Treherne was 83 and used crutches. He was threatened with being struck with a plank – aggravated burglary in today’s terms.

They were apprehended and tried on 27 March, 1833. Previous convictions contributed to the sentence of transportation being passed. The first part of their sentence was spent in the local gaol before being taken to a hulk – prison ship. Many convicts spent their whole sentence on these hulks and only healthy young prisoners were sent to Australia. James and Charles sailed from Woolwich on the convict ship Lloyd on 19 August, 1833 and arrived in Sydney Cove on 18 December. Sue learned much about their fate and also had a quite detailed description of them from the Convict Indents which included their tattoos, which in Charles’s case were the initials and birthdays of his parents and siblings.

Convicts were made to work, the system being directed to that end. The only occupants of gaols were those convicted locally. James may have been a seaman as he was employed on steam boats. Charles was sent to a settler in Bathurst and may have been a shepherd. There were two types of pardon available to convicts: Conditional or Absolute. A conditional pardon removed all restrictions but they had to stay within the colony. An absolute pardon allowed a convict to travel anywhere. James and Charles both received conditional pardons in 1848.

Herb Pruett has two letters written by James which showed that he broke the terms of the pardon and returned to England. One of the letters conveyed the news that Charles was dead but with no details of the matter. James had seemed to have disappeared from the record until someone suggested that Sue search under his mother’s maiden name, Gough. Sure enough, Sue found a James Gough in Hampshire, with a wife from Australia and with other details that fitted. The happy outcome for all, particularly Sue’s father was a family hitherto unknown was reunited. Herb Pruett contacted Sue to tell her he and his wife planned to visit the UK with York on their itinerary. They all met there and had a celebratory lunch together.

It is difficult to do justice to Sue’s story here, as besides the story of Charles and James, the ins and outs of her research also had her audience gripped. Then there was the information, included in her talk, she has collected which provided a remarkable insight into the English penal system of the time, the history of transportation and the ships employed, and finally, the way the Australian penal colony worked. The talk was well timed for those in the audience who are watching the BBC series –“Banished”.

Sue’s story can be found in her book, My Maylard Family – The Genealogical History of an Ordinary Family, which also includes a transcript of From Prison to Pulpit.

Sue was preceded by a short talk given by Katie Whittam of Pennine Horizons who outlined their programme of history walks. This attracted considerable interest and all the leaflets were taken. There are presently eleven walks ranging in length for 2 to 8 miles. They cover a variety of interests from the wool trade; radical history, the Fieldens to woodland heritage. Look out for leaflets in your local information office or view at or ring 01422 844450.

The next general meeting of Todmorden U3A is at 1.30 pm on Thursday 16 April at Central Methodists, Todmorden. The main item: Summat a’ Nowt – A History of the Upper Calder Valley, a Conversation with Steve Murty. Details of group meetings are on or phone 01422 844713 or 01706 839176

Report by John Bouttell
Picture by Gail Allaby

Festive fun with Punch and Judy

Maurice Heath and Mr Punch
Maurice Heath and Mr Punch

It was Festive Fun, accompanied by liquid punch, mince pies and shortbread biscuits, at the December Todmorden U3A general meeting with Mad Hatter Illuminations, aka Maurice Heath and Judy Heath, topping the bill. Before putting on a Punch and Judy show they enlightened their audience with the history of this traditional entertainment.

Maurice explained that it had its roots in ancient Greece, where mood in drama was represented by the two masks of comedy and tragedy. Archaelogical evidence has led to conjecture that actors travelled to take a lighter form of theatre beyond the confines of the city of Athens. Mime was part of theatre and was taken back to Italy, where it flourished, after the Romans conquered Greece. It was here in Italy that came the beginnings of Punch and Judy as we know it, originating in commedia dell’arte and the character Pulcinello. It travelled to France and from there to Britain.

Pulcinello and the other characters started as marionettes and Pepys made reference in his diary to seeing this marionette show. For much of its history, it was an entertainment for adults, with political and economic commentary on the affairs of the day. Both show and audience were also very raucous. Performers travelled the country visiting the local fairs. Transporting marionettes, and the cost of paying several people to operate them, led to the adoption of glove puppets in the latter half of the 18th century. Puritanical attitudes towards actors also allowed puppets to thrive.

In the early 19th century Punch and Judy (originally Joan) was very violent, with Judy being beaten and killed by Punch. This was when the show included characters since dropped, Pretty Polly, Punch’s mistress, the Judge and the hangman, Jack Ketch. He is named after the infamous executioner appointed by Charles II. Ketch bungled the beheadings of two aristocrats (commoners were hanged) leading to his name being used as a term for the hangman of the day as well as a character in Punch and Judy.

There was no one story and certainly no script until 1828 when a journalist, John Collier, wrote down the scenario as performed by Giovanni Piccini and was published with illustrations by Cruikshank. The show we see in Britain today derives from this. Judy became milder over time, the baby was a toddler in Victorian times, and was always “it”, with no gender ascribed. The dog, another common character, became a live one, providing a greater attraction. It was always a “Yorkie”, the right size and with an amenable temperament. Scaramouche, one of the original characters, developed into a clown.

Later in the century, Mr Punch and co. moved into the towns with a show on almost every street corner, catering for people to poor to attend theatre. It was still very flamboyant and Italian in style. The next change came with the railways, Wakes Weeks, and holidays at the seaside to where Punch and Judy migrated. Of necessity, the story changed to accommodate the presence of children and became what it is today.

Much of the violence was removed leading to the departure of Pretty Polly – Punch couldn’t have a mistress in a children’s show – the Judge and Jack Ketch, among others. Only the policeman from the realm of law and order remained. Another advance in transport in the 1960s brought about the next change in Mr Punch’s fortunes, cheap air fares and package holidays enabling millions of Britons to holiday abroad. With a decline in audiences at the domestic seaside, he now preforms for children’s parties, in smaller and more portable booths. More recently, political correctness has also had its impact, with the issue of domestic violence much more to the for. Punch and Judy are still making appearances at fairs and fetes, and student unions arrange for the Victorian version to be performed.

After Maurice and Judy had delivered what was an amusing as well as a fascinating history, U3A members were treated to a short performance, gleefully accepting Judy’s invitation to be six years old again. This led for example, to many cries of “Oh no you weren’t!”, in response to Mr Punch’s protestations of how good he he had been. Peter Carrigan, U3A’s Speaker finder, moved the vote of thanks and presented the customary token. This was followed by a quiz set by Myrna Beet, Denise Wilson, Anne and Colin Crane, and Mary Findon. Then, like all good children after an afternoon of fun and entertainment, members went home tired but happy.

Report by John Bouttell
Picture by Gail Allaby

Tykes and le Tour

Mike Darke with chairman Keith Coates
Mike Darke with chairman Keith Coates

Yorkshire has a long history of leading racing cyclists and can boast an exceptional world champion in the person of Beryl Burton. Mike Darke a native of the Potteries, spoke as enthusiastically about them as any true born Yorkie when he addressed the November general meeting of Todmorden U3A.

British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France was his topic and though the British were late in entering a team in the race – 1955, Mike took his audience back to the beginnings of cycling, cycle racing, and Le Tour.

The first Tour was in 1903, its unlikely origins in the Dreyfus Affair. Dreyfus was an army captain convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans. He was exonerated some years later but in the meantime French opinion was divided and there were demonstrations on both sides. The largest sports newspaper, Le Velo, supported Dreyfus. A rival paper, L’Auto, owned by someone who thought Dreyfus guilty, was set up but struggled to get close to its rival’s sales and the first Tour was to be the answer.

The Tour was the first staged race and initially, the riders entered as individuals or as a member of a team until the thirties, when it became teams only, they being sponsored by bike manufacturers. The first staged race in Britain took place in 1942 between Llangollen and Wolverhampton and in 1945 the first version of the Tour of Britain was held.

Charles Holland and Bill Burl were the first Britons in the race in 1937. It took 18 years for Ravensthorpe-born Brian Robinson to become the first Briton to finish the Tour and the first to win a stage.

Barry Hoban was born ten years after Robinson, in Wakefield. He formerly held the record for the most stage wins in the Tour by a British rider, winning eight between 1967 and 1975. He holds the record for the most Tours completed by a British rider – having finished 11 of the 12 he started between 1965 and 1978. He was also the only Briton to have won two consecutive stages of the Tour until Mark Cavendish matched it in 2008.

Malcolm Elliott was not born in West Yorkshire but in Sheffield, in1961. He was mainly a sprint cyclist and his breakthrough came at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane where he first took gold in the team time trial and then again in the 184 kilometre road race, but did take part in the 1987 Tour.

Mike told his audience that he rated Tom Simpson as the most successful British cyclist. Simpson was both a road and track cyclist and his major achievements stretched from 1955 to 1967 and included donning the yellow jersey 3 times in the Tour, with a 6th place finish overall in 1962 as his best performance.

Some may argue with Mike’s estimation of Simpson’s achievements when compared with those of Leeds native Beryl Burton. Burton won the women’s world road race championship in 1960 and 1967 and was runner-up in 1961. On the track, she specialised in the individual pursuit, winning world championship medals almost every year across three decades. She was world champion five times silver-medallist three times, and winner of five bronze medals.

In domestic time trial competition, Burton was almost unbeatable. She won the Road Time Trials British Best All-Rounder Competition for 25 consecutive years from 1959 to 1983. In total, she won 72 national individual time trial titles; she won four at 10 miles (the championship was inaugurated in 1978), 26 at 25 miles, 24 at 50 miles and 18 at 100 miles. Her last national solo time trial titles were achieved in 1986 (at 25 and 50 miles;)

She also won a further 24 national titles in road racing and on the track: twelve road race championships, and 12 pursuit titles.

In 1967, she set a new 12-hour time trial record that surpassed the men’s record of the time and was not superseded by a man until 1969. While setting the record she caught and passed Mike McNamara who was on his way to setting the men’s record.

She also set about 50 new national records at distances of up to 100 miles; her final 10, 25 and 50-mile records each lasted 20 years before being broken, her 100-mile record lasted 28 years, and her 12-hour record still stands today.

Back to the Tour, and Mike reminded his audience that Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win, in 2012.

The success of the Tour enabled the owners of L’Auto to drive Le Velo out of business in 1904. Mike said that now the Tour is a both a vehicle of consumerism and has grown to be the greatest free show on earth watched on TV by half of the world’s population.

In answer to a question, Mike opined that the best way to promote cycling was for cars to slow down!

Bill Griffiths had the pleasure of presenting Mike with the usual token of appreciation at the end of an interesting talk .


Report by John Bouttell

Picture by Roger Howard

Misgivings and the joy of canals

Chairman Keith Coates with Todmorden Mayor Michael Gill and speaker Diana Monahan
Chairman Keith Coates with Todmorden Mayor Michael Gill and speaker Diana Monahan

Misgivings, was what Todmorden Mayor, Michael Gill felt, when contemplating the title of the talk due to be given at the October Todmorden U3A general meeting. Michael was a guest of the U3A, where the speaker was Diana Monahan on Canals in My Life. His worship (do we still use that form of address?) later confessed he didn’t find the title very promising, when presenting the usual token of appreciation to Diana at the end of the meeting. Her talk included a history of canals, the workings of locks and canal restoration,

Diana became acquainted with canals early in life as her father took her and her brother to the Pocklington and Cottingham canals as children. The family also holidayed with Anglo-Welsh Narrow Boats. It affected her life considerably, she said and went on to entertain her audience, including the Mayor, in the telling. An early anecdote concerned trying to get her A level results while on a boating holiday. The nearest phone box had one of the old A and B buttons and it was quite a trial for her to effect the call. Another concerned her brother encountering an on board shower for the first time. He couldn’t turn the water off and succeeded in pulling the head off as well, making things worse. She tried to assist and they frantically bailed at the same time. In the end it needed their father to determine they’d been trying to turn the tap the wrong way.

After marrying, Diana and her husband had a narrow boat honeymoon. There were still a number of working boats in those days but few guide books for those boating for leisure. Diana related another mishap as she had borrowed a guide book from the library, one that was out of print. The book found its way into the canal on a number of occasions, its resulting wrinkled condition necessitating them to purchase it from the library.

Diana and her husband bought their first boat, “Monty”, in 1977 and painted and refitted it. Their next purchase was a butty boat, Madeley, without engine or accommodation as these were the barges that were towed behind another barge as a means of transporting a greater load. The back end had been crushed by a swing bridge. They shortened the boat for use on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, built a traditional back cabin and fitted an old Lister engine, one of the last of its kind.

Diana then related how she secured a place on a training course in Birmingham. Her husband managed to get a work transfer from Leeds to Birmingham and they moved the boat to Gas Street Basin and lived there. The course over, they went back to Leeds and moored by the station for six months after which they sold their house and took Madeley, to back to Gas Street Basin. They stayed there long enough to attend three boat weddings.

Diana learned fender mending and they bought another butty boat – Argo and offered Argo Canal Services. They were the first to have diesel to supply other boats and carried sand, gravel and coal and also Marston’s beer in barrels. In 1984, Basin Street Basin was drained for cleaning for the first time in over a hundred years and the boats all had to move to Wolverhampton. They got as far as Tipton when the canal froze and all were stranded. There was a highlight for Diana in that Tipton had wonderful Victorian baths where she could not only swim but was able to regularly luxuriate in a hot bath. The boats finally got to Wolverhampton but were frozen-in there for a month.

Diana and her husband returned to a redeveloped Gas Street Basin with not just a noisy nightlife but a noisy early morning one as well. So a move to Curdworth was undertaken before returning to Yorkshire. It became too costly to moor three boats as fees were going up by 20% each year. They decided to sell up their business and retire, keeping only Madeley. They found a small house at Macpelah with a mooring and have been happily going all over the country, stopping to explore small towns.

Diana invited her audience to join her in being a volunteer with OWLS – Observer of Waterways Length. Owls keep an eye on a length of canal and pick up litter and dog muck. Diana’s talk was illustrated throughout and she also brought Madeley’s traditionally decorated water can and a boatwoman’s bonnet.

A questioner asked about holidaying on a boat with children. With younger children, Diana replied, it is better to choose a canal that is not heavily locked. An option for older children is to go down the Grand Union to London, affording the opportunity to go into Town and take in the sites and museums, etc., that London has to offer.

In moving the vote of thanks, Mayor Michael Gill assured Diana that his misgivings were misplaced, thanking her for an interesting and fascinating talk. A view shared by the audience judging by their response throughout as well as their applause at the end.

Report by John Bouttell. Picture by Roger Howard.

From singing with Pavarotti to…

National Chairman Barbara Lewis learns 'felting' from U3A Todmorden craft group members at the September coffee morning
National Chairman Barbara Lewis learns ‘felting’ from U3A Todmorden craft group members at the September coffee morning

In addressing the September general meeting of Todmorden U3A, National U3A Chairman, Barbara Lewis, gave her audience a teaser. “I’m going to tell you three things about myself, two of which are false. I’m going to leave you to guess which one and we’ll come back to them later. I’ve travelled on the Trans-Siberian railway. I’ve met Barack Obama. I’ve sang twelve times with Pavarotti. Which one is true?”

Barbara then proceeded with a little of the history of U3A. It started in France in 1972 and was firmly rooted in the universities and were run by them. This model was rejected in Britain, not least because the universities were not interested, nor was the government despite the fact that U3A fitted with government policy. So it was decided to go it alone. Barbara brandished a copy of the annual report which has a cover photo of Eric Midwinter, the last surviving member of the triumvirate of founders. Barbara recommended reading the annual report – usually thought of as a boring document, she said – as it had details of what the twelve regions of U3A are doing.

Presently, there are 926 groups in the UK, and while the voluntary sector generally is shrinking, U3A continues to grow.

Barbara then drew attention to the principles, vision and mission of U3A. The principles of U3A are mutual aid and self-help. Our Vision is to make lifelong learning, through the experience of U3A, a reality for all third-agers. Our Mission declares our purpose as an organisation and serves as the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions. It is to: facilitate the growth of the U3A movement; provide support for management and learning in U3As; raise the profile of the U3A movement; promote the benefits of learning in later life through self-help learning.

Barbara was especially enthusiastic in relating how, at the end of 2012 the U3A was asked to provide the speakers for an intergenerational debate in the House of Lords, chaired by the Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza. The House of Lords worked with The English-Speaking Union (ESU) to deliver the debate. The ESU trained three intergenerational teams of students and U3A members to lead on a separate debate option each – covering the involvement of the state, the family and the voluntary sector in providing social care. The teams were assisted by mentor members of the House of Lords, Lord Haskel and Baroness Pitkeathley.

Before ending her talk, Barbara referred to a list of free learning websites which were on a hand-out which each of her audience had been given. There is a wealth of free learning at all levels available on the internet.

Prompted by a member of her audience, Barbara returned to the three statements about her. She asked, in turn, how many people believed the first two. A fair number raised their hands in each case. In fact it was the last which was true and had the fewest who had believed. Barbara had sung with Pavarotti twelve times. She then related how, browsing the Sunday paper, on page 37 she had seen an ad asking, “Do you want to sing with Pavarotti?” She responded and ended up in the The World Festival Choir with nine months of rehearsals ahead of her. The culmination was a performance in Verona of Verdi’s Requiem. It took place at 9.00 in the evening with Princess Diana in the front row. At the appointed hour, with the full moon in view, the Angelus bell rang and the performance started.

Since then, there have been performances in Sweden, the UK, Australia and elsewhere. Barbara finished by encouraging her audience, “If you open your paper and turn to page 37 and there is an invitation to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Go for it. You never know what’s going to happen!”

The next general meeting of Todmorden U3A is at 1.30 pm on Thursday 21 October at Central Methodists, Todmorden. The speaker will be Diana Monahan on Canals and Me.

Report by John Bouttell.

Picture by Mary Findon

No one to fall back on: August 2014 meeting

Henrietta Bond and chair Keith Coates
Henrietta Bond and chair Keith Coates

Todmorden writer Henrietta Bond declared herself passionate about her subject to her audience at the August general meeting of Todmorden U3A; the plight of young people leaving care – the subtitle of her talk, No-One to Fall Back On. Henrietta proved to be true to her word and started by reading a passage from one of the Young Adult novels she has written about care leavers, Remote Control. One of a number of often moving readings she interspersed her talk with.

She was not a care leaver herself, having grown up in a conventional family and with a mother she could always go home to when she was older. When Henrietta was 26, her mother committed suicide which had a very big impact on her life but by this time she had a wonderful husband and very good friends she could turn to for support. Her situation, she emphasised, was very different from that of most care leavers.

Having been press officer with the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Henrietta met her first care leaver when she went to work for Fostering Network. She had written what she described as a nice cosy message designed to recruit foster carers. A colleague insisted she present the press release to a group of young people who had left foster care to get their approval. She resisted the idea, convinced that these young people would have no idea of what the media and the public needed to hear. It did not go well. Henrietta found herself faced with three, in her words, “highly articulate smartly turned out young people who had very strong opinions of their own.” They vehemently objected to what one characterised as a message that sounded “as though children are just something you give away.”

Henrietta still resisted but eventually she and the young people agreed on a final press release. So started a path which saw Henrietta working directly with young people in the process of leaving care, helping them use the media more effectively. She continued to help them tell their stories as a media trainer, consultant or a journalist. After a time the young people took over that role and began to train others, leading Henrietta to concentrate on writing.

The subtitle of Henrietta’s talk sums up the situation many care leavers face when they first venture out into the world. In England, around 10,000 16-18 year-olds leave care each year. Surveys show that many feel they leave care too early and often feel isolated and lonely. The quality of support care leavers receive is patchy and their journey through the first decade of adult life is often disrupted, unstable and troubled. They are used to a regulated life and are unlikely to have been given training in budgeting, or how to cope with things like utility bills and rent. Separated from their families by circumstances or rejection, they literally have no one to fall back on.

Henrietta reminded her audience how they sometimes find it frustrating when a utility company makes a mistake. A difficult or unforthcoming person on the other end of the phone can be testing enough for us, but imagine how it is for a 16/17 or 18 year old. As well as having lost touch with their wider families, young people may have a history of abuse or neglect; moved so many times that they had no chance to make lasting friends or make the most of their schooling. Experiences such as these are also very damaging to a young person’s self-esteem. In 2013, 34% of all care leavers were not in education, employment or training at age 19. Compared with 15.5% of 18 year-olds in the general population. Additionally, there is evidence that leaving care takes place at the time when young people’s memories of early trauma are re-awakened – all those events that brought them into care in the first place.

It’s not all doom and gloom, Henrietta assured her audience. In 2000 the Children Leaving Care Act introduced an entitlement to the support of a personal advisor up to the age of 25 for all care leavers in education or who wish to return to education. There is also now an assessment of prime needs such as education, training housing, health, relationships, finance and budgeting; which will comprise a Pathway Plan for the care leaver’s future. There is also a provision called Staying Put – where in theory – young people can stay in care until age 21.

Despite all the disadvantages they face, there are success stories and many young people leaving care go on to build happy lives of fulfilment and satisfaction and more are going on to university.

Henrietta’s readings vividly conveyed a picture of these young people’s lives in ways the above facts and figures cannot. Henrietta closed by urging her listeners to look up the Every Child Matters campaign on the internet and support it, adding her as her final message: if it’s not good enough for your own children then it isn’t good enough for these very vulnerable young people in care.

Henrietta’s website is The other titles she read from are: The Leaving Care Diaries; Brightness of Stars by Lisa Cherry; 51 Moves by Ben Ashcroft; Hackney Child by Hope Daniels and Morag Livingstone


Report by John Bouttell

Picture by Roger Howard

Flight to Recovery: the work of Yorkshire Air Ambulance

Lynne Copley with new U3A Chairman Keith Coates
Lynne Copley with new U3A Chairman Keith Coates

Lynne Copley was a teacher in Huddersfield when someone rushed into the staff room one day to say a young student had been badly hurt. Rushing out, she found that a 14-year-old pupil had somehow dashed into the road, fallen, and a bus’s wheels had driven accidentally over him.

That – as she told the U3A meeting in Todmorden in July – was her first encounter with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. If the service hadn’t been available at the other end of the 999 line, that boy might well have died. Instead, he was whisked off by helicopter to hospital, made a painful but good recovery – and when he came to school, he and his parents asked if the school would raise funds for the air ambulance.

What? Isn’t it part of the NHS? Well, it’s integrated with the NHS, who pay for the paramedics on board, as Lynne explained. But the cost of the ambulance and its infrastructure have to be met from charitable funds. And that cost is enormous: £3.6 million pounds a year. £5 per month keeps it flying one more minute. Everything about helicopters is expensive. How much do your windscreen wipers cost? For an MD902 they’re £43,000!

There are two bases in Yorkshire, one at Nostell Priory near Wakefield and one at RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk. There’s a dedicated ‘air desk’ to take calls from the police. There’s a paid pilot, and volunteer doctors on hand when they can.

But the benefits for the badly-injured are enormous. With speeds of up to 160 mph over gridlocked roads, a helicopter can get any patient to the nearest A and E in ten minutes, or a specialist treatment centre in 15 minutes – well within the ‘golden hour’ medical experts say is vital to start treatment happening to save lives.

That’s why Lynne herself became a volunteer speaker and fundraiser for the service, after experiencing for herself how it saved her student’s life.

As you might imagine, the coffers were well-replenished for Yorkshire Air Ambulance after her talk. And we noted that recycling helps too: there are containers in Tod Morrisons and in Mytholmroyd for unwanted clothing that goes to help YAA.

U3A’s next meeting is on Wednesday 21 August at 1:45 at the Central Methodists Todmorden, when the speaker will be Henrietta Bond, talking about the plight of young people leaving care.

Report by Alan McDonald. Photo by Gail Allaby

Life in La Serenissima

New chairman Keith Coates with speaker Kathryn Ogden
New chairman Keith Coates with speaker Kathryn Ogden

Members at the June general meeting of Todmorden U3A were treated to more than a glimpse of life in Venice for Kathryn Ogden, who winters there every year. Life in La Serenissima – most serene – was the subtitle of her talk.

Kathryn started her talk, illustrated by some fine photographs, with some history of the city.

The marshes on which it is built were settled by people fleeing from the armies of Attila the Hun. The magnificent buildings we associate with Venice were built on wooden piles and have been sinking in recent years. A barrier similar to that across the Thames has been constructed to protect them from the rising sea level.


Historically, the city was the capital of the Republic of Venice ruled over by a Doge and was an important centre of commerce between East and West during the middle ages and the Renaissance. Relics believed to be the body of St. Mark were stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants and taken to Venice. The Doge of the time built the original Basilica of St Mark next to his palace.


In 2008, Kathryn took early retirement from sales management due to ill health. She wanted to spend the winter away from Mythomroyd where she lives and as well as having a love of Italy, the attraction of Venice for her was that it is a small city, with no cars. Its situation also gives her access to other places in northern Italy. Kathryn had also read Sally Vickers’ novel, “Miss Garnet’s Angel”. A book inspired by the very old tale of Tobias, who travels to Medea unaware he is accompanied by the Archangel Raphael. Although generally milder than Mytholmroyd, Venice winters often have six weeks of rain and in 2012, the Grand Canal froze for the first time in over 20 years.


Kathryn’s photos were a mix of some of the sites of Venice along with those featuring her in some of her activities. One showed St. Mark’s Clock Tower, which twice a year, at Epiphany and on Ascension Day, the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways. Others featured scenes painted by Canaletto, who Kathryn said, took some artistic licence, as he would have had to be on a step ladder and hanging off to the left to paint the scene as it appears in his painting. Continuing the artistic theme, Kathryn went to an exhibition of works by Vorticists. Included was one called Mytholmroyd, by the Cleckheaton-born artist Edward Wadsworth. Unable to photograph the actual painting, she was able to take one of a reproduction in the exhibition catalogue.


Venice, Kathryn explained, has only three bridges and many use the traghetti, ferries to take Venetians across the canals or to the islands. There are 17 licenced traghetti and these are a much cheaper way for tourists to have the “gondala experience”, she advised. There are also 24 boats used by the emergency services and when they need go at high speed can sometimes overturn traghetti in the vicinity.


Kathryn’s photos also included shots of food in shops, markets and some of her own servings when entertaining some of the many friends she has made. It was mouth-watering stuff, seasonal produce only and so creatively and colourfully displayed in shops, markets and on the plate. Kathryn related, how she has to ask for the head and feet to be chopped of any chicken she buys as they are always sold complete, as it were, and the butcher’s bemusement at her request. In the Rialto market the fish are priced by size and each size is displayed on a notice board.


Kathryn has made a varied life for herself, making many friends of different nationalities. Each year she appears in pantomime. Her first role was as a fairy in Sleeping Beauty and was again a fairy the following year in Jack and the Beanstalk. Flamboyantly dressed Venetians participate in the Carnivale masked ball. Facial expressions cannot be seen behind the masks, which Kathryn found a bit scary. In addition to all her activities, including outings with Venice Ladies Club, visits to galleries and opera, Kathryn has found herself a job in Wellington, an English language bookshop. She insists she doesn’t allow browsers to get away without buying. Each year she chooses a photo project. This year the subject was washing lines. Kathryn has picked up Italian by being there and now gets together with a woman who wants to improve her English, on a mutual exchange basis. Kathryn rents a different flat each year, at rates comparable with this country. Whilst gas is expensive, the cost of living is similar to that here but transport is cheaper.


Kathryn’s lively talk was much appreciated and may well have prompted some to consider following her example. Her talk was preceded by Todmorden U3A AGM, at which Keith Coates was elected as the new Chair. T


Report by John Bouttell; picture by Roger Howard

Chernobyl Children: a heart-warming talk

Mai Chatham gave a very heart-warming talk to those attending the May general meeting of Todmorden University of the Third Age members. She spoke about the work of Chernobyl Children’s Project, set up to support children in Belarus who had been affected by the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Mai explained that although Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, 70% of the nuclear fallout fell in neighbouring Belarus. It will take 1000 years for decontamination to be complete. She noted that sheep in parts of Wales and the Lake District are still regularly monitored for the effects of fallout from Chernoby.

Food contaminated with caesium has caused many birth defects in affected areas, particularly in Gomel, the nearest city to the Ukraine. Thyroid cancer increased 1000 fold after the accident. Mai reminded her listeners of the conditions in Romanian orphanages the that were revealed after the fall of Ceausescu and said that such conditions prevailed across Eastern Europe and that attitudes to orphans and the disabled are very differentfrom here.

CCP (UK) was started in 1995 following a meeting in Manchester at which Adi Roche, CCP Ireland gave a moving speech about the plight of the children of Belarus. Within days local groups had been formed in Glossop and Littleborough, the latter being the one Mai worked with. Local doctors felt that the children needed to get away for recuperation, so the first support the people of Littleborough and Glossop gave was a four week holiday for a group of children. These, and those that came in the years following, were hosted by local families, who put them up for a fortnight before handing them over to another family for the remaining two week.

The children were housed in pairs so that they had company and someone who spoke their language. In the beginning, Mai said, it was difficult to undertake vetting of families – these were the days before CRB (now DBS) checks – but there was an interpreter in the party to whom the children had access at all times. In the early days there was little done to support the hosts but it got better over the years. DVDs in Russian were brought over for the children to watch and the hosts learned a little Russian themselves. Children in Trouble, a Minsk based charity which supports the families of children with cancer, saw that mothers needed a break as well, so in 1997, the first group of young children in remission came over with their mothers.

Local facilities were used as much as possible when organising activities and outings for the children, and local people, organisations and companies were generous with support in kind. Hollingworth Lake was handily on the doorstep and Todmorden Baths opened its doors early in the morning just for the children. There were lots of barbecues and picnics. Mai said they got very good at scroungin.

Mai went on to talk of the conditions in Belarus and the work CCP has undertaken there. Parents of children with disabilities were encouraged to place them in an orphanage. These were little more than holding institutions and one Mai described as a prison. Bright children had no place there. This particular one now has a brightly coloured room with facilities for arts and crafts. Stimulating and engaging activities were absent from these institutions. Fostering and adoption were also unknown in Belarus, and with training given by CCP, these are now established to the extent that institutions are now beginning to close. A respite day centre has also been set up.

Todmorden and Hebden Bridge families have also hosted children but although Glossop, Buxton and other places around the country continue to host, Littleborough folded about two years ago, owing to compassion fatigue and no new families coming forward. There was much appreciation for Mai’s talk from her audience, a considerable number of whom were already aware of the work of CCP. Instead of the usual token of appreciation customarily presented to guest speakers, Mai accepted a donation to CCP. There were also collection boxes for U3A members to make donations. For more information on CCP go to

Report by John Bouttell

The Protection of Our Rich and Natural Environment.


Chair Jean Pearson with David Wilson, Area Countryside Officer
Chair Jean Pearson with David Wilson, Area Countryside Officer

Early on in his talk on that subject at the April general meeting of Todmorden U3A, David Wilson pointed out that the responsibility for footpaths lies with the Public Rights of Way section of the council. David was speaking in his capacity as Upper Valley Area Countryside Officer and said his service receives many calls on the suject of footpaths as many understandably believe responsibility for their upkeep lies with them. Having said that, the Service is responsible for the Pennine Way and the Calderdale Way, and the Service is currently busy repairing a number of bridges which have been damaged by the recent heavy rainfalls.


David started by saying that the Service has been a victim of the cuts and less is being undertaken but then went on to tell his audience of how wide a brief the Service has, and how much, despite the cuts, is being done. David expressed his appreciation of the many volunteers who make this possible, some of whom were in the audience. Ogden Water Visitor Centre, for example, is entirely run by volunteers, who are supported by the Volunteers Co-ordinator. An Education Officer and Conservation Officer make up the rest of David’s team. Ogden Water attracts over 250,000 visitors a year. The Service is also responsible for Jerusalem Farm, along with 80 woodlands, the moors and Open Access lands. Street trees are also a responsibility of the Service.


David spoke of the invasive species found locally. Himalayan Balsam is familiar to many Calderdale residents and this plant is pushing out many native species. Moreover, when it dies back in the winter, nothing else grows, leaving the soil to be washed away. David encouraged his listeners to uproot as many of these plants as they can. The opposite is the case with Japanese Knotweed. Leave well alone, he advised, as it is all too easy to inadvertently spread by even the slightest of handling. It should certainly not be composted. Anyone encountering Japanese Knotweed should contact the council as specialist skills are needed to deal with it.


David then related the interesting story of Oxford Ragwort, poisonous to animals and humans. It was collected in Oxford but did not spread beyond the city until the advent of the railways. It established itself in the clinker of the railways and the trains then progressively transported it all over the country. Spanish Bluebell is another species that David encouraged his audience to uproot, as our native species is endangered by its spread. These are a paler blue or often pink or white in colour.


David explained how the Beech trees above Centre Vale Park will pose a problem as they were planted at the same time and so will age together and need replacing. Another problem the beeches create is that their large canopies allow little in the way of growth beneath and are not good for soil conservation. The plan is to plant a variety of native species which will aid the Service in another of its aims to encourage more wildlife, part of its Biodiversity Action Plan.


Partnerships with other with a wide range organisations is an important part of the Service’s work, including community groups and Friends of… Moor Watch, and the Police and Fire Services, to name but a few. David said that he has a finger in anything that’s Green.


In answer to questions, David said that the deer population is increasing but difficult to track and with no management as they move around and don’t stay in Calderdale! There is a fox population in Calderdale but not necessarily everywhere.


It’s not all serious stuff though. As well as the children’s activities that take place regularly, the Service mounted a Halloween event at Ogden Water that attracted 2,500 people, some of whom came from as far afield as Sheffield and Kendal. And David is the man behind the Boggart Festival. At the end of his warm and delightful talk, David was presented with a token of appreciation from Assistant Secretary Sarah Pennie.


Report by John Bouttell


Galapagos, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

Dr Geoff Carter made a welcome third appearance before Todmorden U3A members at their March General Meeting. On this occasion, his topic was Galapagos, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution. Darwin had both a good and a less auspicious start in life. He was born into a well-to-do family, his mother Susannah being of the Wedgwood family and his father a successful doctor. His grandfather, also a doctor, achieved the unlikely feat of writing racy, sexy poetry about vegetables, Geoff informed his audience.


His education record gave no indication of what was to come. He was sent to Shrewsbury School, which duly sent him back home where he was tutored. His father then despatched him to Edinburgh to train for the family profession. This he abandoned, due to boredom and to witnessing the amputation – without anaesthetic – of a girl’s leg, which he viewed as barbaric. He was then packed off to Cambridge to study divinity. This suited the young Darwin as it meant he could have a living and still find time to pursue the scientific interests which he had already developed. He was progressing in this thanks to learning field craft from John Henslow, Professor of Minerology, who was an ardent naturalist. Like many a student before and since, Darwin had a high old time with drink and women, and left Cambridge with what Geoff described as “a weedy degree”.


Geoff then moved on to a more familiar episode in Darwin’s life: the voyage of HMS Beagle, a marine survey ship. An advert appeared for the post of a naturalist to be a companion to the Captain of the ship, Robert Fitzroy – he who pioneered weather forecasting, he coined the term, and after whom the shipping area is named. Henslow, dissuaded by his wife from accepting the post, put Darwin’s name forward.


The voyage of the Beagle took five years, of which five weeks were spent in the Galapagos. Darwin explored the land, examined the geology, collected fossils and made detailed observations of plants, animals and birds, specimens of which were sent back.

There is a generally held misconception that the eponymous Darwin’s Finch gave the impetus for him to develop his theory of evolution. Although Darwin noted the gradation of different beak sizes in this species, he failed to note on which island he found those differences. Geoff explained that this was the crucial in the case of the mockingbird. Darwin noted which subtle variation in this species appeared in the birds on each island. It was this that later prompted Darwin’s thinking when closer examination by ornitholigsts determined that were different species rather than varieties.


Another important observation of Darwin’s was that although there is a considerable degree of resemblance in the volcanic nature of the soil, in climate, height, and size of the islands, between the Galapagos and Cape Verde Islands, the life found in each was entirely different. The species on the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa resembled those found on the mainland. Similarly, those found on the Galapagos were similar to those found on the South American mainland. Darwin drew the conclusion that each of the groups of islands could be colonised from the mainland and then modifications in the species take place.


The Beagle spent a year returning, arriving back in October, 1836. Darwin started to develop his theory during this time. In 1839, he married his cousin Emma Wedgwood and her wealth meant that he could devote himself to science for the rest of his life. He completed the development of his theory in 1838, and although his ideas were not completely unknown to others, he was collaborating with and learning from other scientists of various disciplines, he did not publish for another 21 years. Part of the reason was that he did not want to hurt his wife, who was a devout Unitarian. He also knew that publication would cause a furore and that he would undoubtedly face a great deal of personal attack. His hand was forced when his close friend and fellow geologist, Sir Charles Lyell, read a paper by Alfred Russel Wallace. The paper outlined similar ideas to Darwin’s and Lyell urged Darwin to publish to establish precedent. He did nothing for almost three years until in June, 1858, when Russel himself sent Darwin a paper outlining his own theory.


The upshot was a joint presentation to The Linnean Society but which did not cause a stir. This came about when Darwin completed the book he had undertaken and finally finished in 1859. Publication took place in November of that year after encouragement from friends and Lyell taking responsibility for placing it with John Murray. The expected attacks came and Dariwn withdrew, leaving it to friends such as Joseph Hooker and Thomas Henry Huxley to defend him and his theory. Queen Victoria rejected his theory and for this reason Darwin received no knighthood. In his later years he became a recluse and died after an illness in April, 1882.

Report by John Bouttell

The machine that changed the world

The Machine that Changed the World. This was the sub-title that Barry Yates chose for his talk given at the February Todmorden U3A meeting. It could describe a number of items but Barrie was referring to the almost ubiquitous motor car. Barrie himself is an engineer with experience of working in many different fields and countries. There is probably little that he doesn’t know of the subject.

He started by displaying a picture of a Sumerian cart circa 3,000 BCE, pointing out that the basic shape of the motor car remains the same. Apart from improvements to the interiors and the suspension of the horse-drawn coach, the next significant development was the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century.

There was no prospect of steam driven vehicles until Richard Trevithick designed the first high-pressure steam engine, enabling them to be much reduced in size. Barrie told his audience that a number of discrete developments were needed to take place before the final advance to the petrol-driven internal combustion engine was made.

The first of these was, Alessandro Volta, investigating gases, ignited marsh gas with an electric spark, paving the way for the spark plug. Giovanni Venturi determined that when a fluid flows through a tube that narrows to a smaller diameter, the partial restriction causes a higher pressure. This principle was later used to develop the carburettor. Some others included the building by François de Rivaz of an internal combustion engine powered by a hydrogen and oxygen mixture, and ignited by electric spark. In 1860, Etienne Lenoir produced the first internal combustion engine, which was gas-fired. Two years later, Nikolaus Otto was the first to build and sell such engines. In the 1870s, Otto worked with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach to develop a 4-stroke gas engine and meanwhile Karl Benz worked on a 2-stroke then a 4-stroke engine, patented in 1886 which was used to power the first cars in production.

In 1884 Edward Butler constructed the first petrol internal combustion engine. Butler invented the spark plug, ignition magneto, coil ignition and spray jet carburettor, and was the first to use the word petrol. A year later, Benz built the Motorwago, the first car to have a petrol engine. It was much lighter than the steam engine and was faster.

In the beginning, cars were very much a rich man’s toy, and were custom built. Moreover, they were not built by a single concern. A coach builder would construct the body, while the engine would be built elsewhere. Production-line manufacturing of more affordable cars was started by Ransom Olds in 1902. His Oldsmobile factory was based upon the assembly line techniques pioneered by Marc Isambard Brunel (father of Isambard Kingdom) at the Portsmouth Block Mills in 1802. Henry Ford took up and developed this to produce the famous Model T Ford. 20 millions of these cars were produced. A figure exceeded by only one other model of car. You’ve guessed it! The VW Beetle.

General Motors under Alfred Sloan became the biggest motor manufacturer in the world. Sloane developed a range of models which had the same chassis, starting with basic model and the cheapest – the Chevrolet. Owners could then upgrade as their income grew, to Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick; culminating in the Cadillac. Production costs were minimised and buyers were encouraged to stay with GM.

Britain has an illustrious history in motor manufacture at all levels. The most prominent names associated with the mass market are Herbert Austin and William Morris. It was the latter who pioneered Ford’s mass production methods in this country and the famous Morris Minor can still be seen on our roads as well as those of other countries, notably India.

Barrie brought his talk up to date by commenting on the implications of depleting oil reserves and climate change. In his opinion, until our public transport is improved to the degree that many can dispense with car use, hybrid vehicles are the best choice of car for those who wish to keep their emissions as low as possible. Membership Secretary Margaret Gunnill gave the vote of thanks for a well-received talk and presented Barrie with the customary book token.

Report by John Bouttell