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.

Regards
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.

Newsletter

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 pearson382@btinternet.com.

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 u3atod.org.uk 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 u3atod.org.uk or phone 01422 844713 or 01706 839176.

Report by John Bouttell
Picture by Gail Allaby

Chairman’s report June 2015

Today we had two meetings.

Annual General Meeting

The AGM was held before the normal general meeting. The Minutes of last year`s meeting were approved and the Annual Report and Accounts for 2014-15 were approved. It was reported that there had been another positive year with membership again increasing to 415. The financial position remains very healthy with another small increase in funds . As a result it had been possible to hold the membership fee at the same level for the sixth year. Barring any unforeseen events it should be possible to hold that position for at least another 2 years.

The Vice Chairman ,Jean Pearson ,had reached the end of her 2 year period in office and has stood down from that post. Jean has had made a invaluable contribution .As many of you will recall she was the Acting Chairman for 10 months ,following the untimely death of former Chairman ,David Cross. I am particularly grateful for the support which she has given to me. I trust that Jean will continue to play a major role in her capacity as a convenor and in helping to develop short courses, building on the success of the Magna Carta course which she organised. You may well have seen the references to that course in the recent issue of “Third Age Matters”.

Three other committee members also stood down; Andy Garner;Margaret Gunnill; and Gail Allaby.

The following were elected :

Ernie Rogan as Vice Chairman.

Gail Allaby ; Margaret Gunnill ;and Mary Devereux were elected to the vacant positions.

(I will circulate a full list of the new committee ,including co-opted members, with contact details in the next few days)

The AGM was closed at 2.13pm.

Following the  AGM we moved to the usual General Meeting. The speaker this week was well known to many members through her Physiotherapy Clinic based in Todmorden. Lynne Midwinter, a Chartered Physiotherapist with many years experience in the NHS  and in private practice talked about “Back issues” . This ranged over the various causes of back and other associated problems ;pointing out those most likely to affect our age group . She also outlined the steps which can be taken to help prevent or alleviate such problems. This included an element of audience participation in some exercises. It was an excellent, well illustrated, and humorous  presentation .

The next General Meeting is on Thursday July 16th when Geoff Budd will be speaking on “North Korea –Fact or Fantasy ”.

Kind Regards

Keith Coates

‘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 pennineheritage.org.uk/trails 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 u3atod.org.uk 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

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

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

Chairman’s report, March 2014

Speaker Geoff Carter, Chair Jean Pearson and Mayor of Hebden Royd Karl Boggis
Speaker Geoff Carter, Chair Jean Pearson and Mayor of Hebden Royd Karl Boggis

We now have 358 members and today 118 attended our meeting together with 5 visitors.

It was a great pleasure to welcome the Mayor of Hebden Royd Town Council – Mayor Councillor Karl Boggis.

We opened our meeting with a slideshow compiled by our U3A Tod official photographer – the late Philip Willis – who died so suddenly and so very recently. It provided us with a wonderful range of photographs of our U3A Tod events and activities and I think it was a fitting tribute to Philip’s contribution to our organization.

I reported how our AV equipment and team (led by Peter Gibson and ably supported by George Boyle) has been acclaimed as superb by visiting speakers. David Sutcliffe has now joined this team bringing with him his experience and expertise as a result of his involvement at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Three members observed our recent Committee meeting and it was a pleasure to welcome them. I’ve already received some extremely valuable feedback. I again asked for more members to come along to see what goes on at our meetings – please let me know if you do. Already we have one volunteer observer for our next merry Committee meeting.

The Publicity Group has been working hard on improving our website and other aspects of publicity. Nick Littlewood gave a presentation to our recent Committee meeting and I was able to show our members today the new design for our posters which go up around our region prior to our meetings.

I did remind members that at the AGM in June we will need a Chairperson, a leader of our speaker-finders team and three or four more Committee members. So I am appealing again for you to come forward.

Our Treasurer, Keith Coates, informed us that our fees for next year will remain the same (£15) and asked for members to use standing orders, if possible and also it helps with our finances if you can sign up for Gift Aid. Forms will be available from our Assistant Treasurer – Roger Howard – at the April meeting.

Gail Allaby – our Groups Co-ordinator – gave an update on developments associated with some of our special interest groups and I am attaching her full groups’ report with this letter.

It was a delight for us to welcome back Geoff Carter (Retired GP), our guest speaker, who gave us such an interesting talk entitled ‘The Galapagus, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution’. This was informative and entertaining and Geoff took questions at the end.

Mayor Karl Boggis gave the vote of thanks on our behalf – he almost walked off with our token of gratitude – but I reminded him to hand it over to Geoff!

Next month’s guest speaker will be Dave Wilson, Area Countryside Officer, Upper Valley with his presentation ‘The Protection of Our Rich and Natural Environment’ – the work of the Calderdale Countryside Service.

Ernie Rogan gave us information about the next Let’s Go trip to the Wedgwood Museum. This made a neat link with Geoff’s talk because Charles Darwin married a Wedgwood heiress! Contact Linda Cook if you wish your name to go on the list for this popular outing.

Thank you to all those who helped in returning the chairs to the edges of the Hall at the end of our meeting – we do appreciate this help.

Alison Greenwood needs volunteers to help with the refreshments at the June meeting. Please contact Alison on 01706 816870 or alison.greenwood@talktalk.net if you can help us.

Sincerely – Jean

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

Chairman’s report February 2014

Speaker Barrie Yates with Jean Pearson
Speaker Barrie Yates with Jean Pearson

What a pleasant and enlightening afternoon we have again enjoyed at our members’ February meeting. We tried a new signing-in system in attempt to cut down on our inevitable queues at the beginning of our meetings – I think we all found it much easier and quicker.

We also put the notice board at the front of the Hall after the meeting so that members had an extra chance to peruse all the announcements, posters and so forth.

We congratulated Geoff Boswell on becoming the u3a national adviser for Science. Copies of the Report by the Steering Group on the Future of the Todmorden Markets were available – you can get more information from the Tourist Information Centre.

U3A Todmorden is a member of the Calderdale 50+ Network which provides a wide range of information about services available for us throughout our region. A document has now been produced and copies are available in public buildings and in GPs surgeries. If you or someone you know needs support in any way this document might provide contact details of appropriate and useful organisations.

Thanks were extended to Peter Gibson and Alan McDonald for their comprehensive computer advice and guidance which has been circulated to all our email members. Dr Paul Whittaker, OBE, has thanked us for our donations to his charity ‘Music and the deaf’ at our January meeting which amounted to £350.

We now have a little over 350 members! 98 members and four visitors attended today’s meeting. Our guest speaker in September, 2014, will be the National Chairman of U3A – Barbara Lewis. She was born in America, has lived in England for many years and currently lives in Hertfordshire but we understand that she knows very little about our region. We are sending her a copy of the book ‘A History of Todmorden’ by Malcolm and Freda Heywood (U3A Todmorden members) and Bernard Jennings. We hope she will enjoy reading it prior to her visit to these northern parts.

Our guest speaker in March will be Geoff Carter – we will all be happy to welcome him back, I am sure – and his talk is entitled ‘The Galapagus, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution’. Please note that Sally Pulvertaft is not now able to give her talk about India at our April meeting – she’s re-located to France – so we are now working on a replacement speaker for you. I will keep you all informed.

We were happy to show our appreciation to Alison Greenwood and her team of helpers who provide us with refreshments every month. Alison gave the Groups Report and there are two new groups – Anthony Peter’s group – Novel Appreciation – will meet at TRCR at 11 am on 10th March, 2014 and Geoff Boswell is starting an IT group as well. Sheets were available to sign up and Gail’s report will give further details. If you would like to join these groups please put your name down as quickly as possible. I will send Gail’s report to you separately – if you are on email. Gail’s full list of groups and their reports are also available on our website.

Our guest speaker today was Barrie Yates – retired engineer – who presented his talk entitled ‘The Machine that Changed the World’ – the development of the motor car. We all thoroughly enjoyed his presentation which – for people like me – was not too technical. This prompted many questions from members at the end. Margaret Gunnill (Membership Secretary) gave the vote of thanks.

Finally I made an appeal for members to step forward and volunteer to be nominated for the U3A Tod Committee. At the AGM in June we will need a Chairperson together with four members (one to act as Assistant Treasurer and one to be leader of the Speaker-finders team). I do hope that some of you will be prepared to give just a little time to ensure that U3A Tod continues.

Sincerely – Jean

Jean A Pearson – Chairman – U3A Todmorden

Super-cali-quite-fantastic!

Dr Paul Whittaker OBE (right), Andrew Hesselwood, & Jean Pearson of U3A
Dr Paul Whittaker OBE (right), Andrew Hesselwood, & Jean Pearson of U3A

At the January General Meeting of Todmorden U3A, Dr. Paul Whittaker OBE, Artistic Director, Music and the Deaf, was another speaker making a welcome return to address the U3A audience. More Music To The Ear – The Osmonds, The Proms and More . . ., he entitled his talk.

Before Paul got under way, members heard that three new U3A groups have been formed: Critical Reading; First Aid; and Photography is so popular that a second Photography Group has been formed.

Paul explained for the benefit of those not at his first talk that from a young age, he wanted to help other deaf children and help deaf people get involved in music. Paul told his audience that they were not just going to sit there and listen and he wasted no time in getting everyone involved. Rather than merely state that rhythm is the foundation of all music, Paul got his audience clapping. Firstly a fairly simple rhythmic clap, then one a little more complicated before advancing to a round. Paul is one of those people who had no difficult in getting the one hundred plus attending involved in such ways early on. His warm and charismatic personality, along with the fact that he had his audience laughing from the word go, meant that they were relaxed and ready to let go of any inhibitions they may have had.

That part over, MatD, Paul continued to say, have set up Music Clubs in Yorkshire, Manchester, London and Peterborough. Two further groups have been launched in conjunction with the Nottingham City Music Hub and the North East Hub Cluster. In these clubs, deaf children have an opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Some go on to develop further skills, such as composition. More clubs are being formed in other parts of the country.

Signed Song is a project that brings deaf and hearing people of all ages together to make music. The Jersey Eisteddfod was the first music festival in the UK to have a signing choir class in competition. Paul has been invited the adjudicate this class since it started.

More audience participation! This time Paul invited his audience to join him and his very able signer and confederate, Andrew – who got his own well-deserved round of applause at the end of the meeting – in a signed rendition of “Hey, Mr Miller!”, a song dedicated to Glenn Miller. To get an idea of what this involved, those readers with a computer can key in the title of the song and get a link to YouTube (Sing Up) and see Paul and Andrew perform the number. The trombone is the sign for Glenn Miller.

Paul then brought the Osmonds into the picture. Two non-performing Osmond brothers Virl and Tom, were born deaf as was the second son of Merrill, Justin. This lead to much of the charity work of Merrill focussing on supporting the deaf and eventually bringing him into contact with Paul and Music and the Deaf. Paul was overwhelmed at the prospect of having support from the Osmonds with their presence. So were some of his older female colleagues, but for a different reason.

Merrill Osmond and his deaf son Justin, visited Music and the Deaf in Huddersfield. A fund raising show at the Grand in Leeds was held, featuring Shane Ritchie, Chico and other celebrities but especially the Osmonds, who could guarantee a sell-out. Proceeds went to The Hearing Fund UK, whose 2013 charity partner was Music and the Deaf.

At a concert in Cardiff, Paul encountered a woman from the BBC and challenged her on why there was no signing at the Proms. The message was taken back to London and in due course Paul was invited to sign for a concert of songs from musicals. The BBC would go for one of two options: Rogers and Hammerstein or Stephen Sondheim. “Lovely”, thought Paul. “They’re bound to opt for Rogers and Hammerstein”. The Beeb, however chose Sondheim, which posed difficulties for Paul as few of his songs stand alone outside of the context of the musical. Paul has gone on to do more signing at the Proms.

Paul performed himself and has a good singing voice and knows, he said, in answer to a later question, when he is out of tune. Back in speaking mode he explained that deaf children are often isolated because integrated education does not bring them into contact with other deaf children. This is another great benefit that MatD brings to them, they realise they are not alone. Although founded in 1988, there are still only a handful of people who are trained to teach music to deaf children.

Before he finished and took questions, Paul and Andrew delivered what was perhaps the high spot, a mimed performance, signing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Reader, you needed to be there. For more information on Music and the Deaf, go to matd.org.uk.

 

Talk: the age-old question

The Age Old Question, that was the title of the talk given at the November general meeting of Todmorden U3A. However, since the speaker was from the Institute of Advanced Motorists, members were not expecting a profound, philosophical lecture. They might however, have gone into the meeting fearing they may have to hand in their driving license. What they got was an informative and interesting talk with nuggets pertinent to drivers of all ages. And reassurance that they could probably hang on to their license. Members also got a couple of films thrown in for good measure.

 

Ian Andrew is Senior Motorcycle Observer for the Rochdale branch of the IAM and was accompainied by their Chairman, Eileen Taylor and Club Secretary John Bradshaw. Ian’s favoured form of road transport is motor cycling and it was from this perspective he gave his talk. However, he is a car driver as well and the principles of each mode are virtually the same. It came as no surprise to his audience when they heard that older drivers are safer drivers – they are more cautious. They less likely to exceed the speed limit, brake suddenly or their driving be impaired by alcohol.

 

Failed to look properly’ is the most common factor leading to accidents among all age groups but is particularly high among drivers over 70. Ian reassured his audience by pointing out that this is something that can be easily remedied. Other factors that appear in the statistics of older drivers involved in accidents include: failure to judge the other car’s path or speed; poor turning or manoeuvering; loss of control; illness or disability; nervousness, uncertainty or panic. Driver and rider error or reaction factors are recorded more frequently in accident statistics than other types. This is the case for all drivers.

 

Other good news for older drivers is that research has revealed that reaction times do not differ much between age groups, although they are slower amongst older drivers. This is compensated for by the fact that they are slower drivers. An area that needs attention comes with the care that drivers take when turning onto a road into traffic. It is highest amongst the youngest group of drivers, who look three times as often as older drivers – surprised, reader? Goes against the stereotype, perhaps. This declines with age and is worst amongst older drivers, again this can be remedied, although older drivers can have difficulty coping with the traffic environment.

 

How did Ian get involved with IAM? When she reached the age of 18, Ian’s daughter announced to her parents that she was going to get a motor bike. Trepidation on the part of Ian and his wife. After considering the options, Ian decided that the best one was for him to get a motor bike so that he could talk with his daughter about the craft of motor cycling on equal terms. Where to learn? With the IAM. Ian realised while taking their course that he had much to learn and bought a book on road craft.

 

Ian didn’t gloss over the fact that most if not all drivers have exceeded the speed limit. He stressed though, that some accidents are caused by driving at the wrong speed for the conditions. Whilst a driver may not be speeding acording to the designated limit, for example, driving at thirty past a school when the children are coming out, this is not driving at the appropriate speed for the conditions. 95% of crashes are due to driver error. Crashes – Ian always used that word advisedly, there are no accidents. Keeping one’s vehicle up to scratch helps, too, Ian said. Keep windows clean and wipers working properly, especially at this time of year with the sun low in the sky.

 

Ian showed a film he made, shot from a camera on his bike. He tallked his audience through the journey, commenting on his manoeverings and the reasons for them.

 

In talking about the factors of health and fitness, Ian pointed out the neck fexibility reduces with age, thus reducing the ability to look to each side. He also gave a tip for testing one’s peripheral vision. Using the index fingers, raise them each side of the head to eye level, behind one’s vision and slowly move them forward. The point at which they come into sight indicates one’s peripheral vision capacity. The value of convex mirrors were mentioned and Ian said that they are an asset but take getting used to as the images are smaller, initially leading to misjudgement of the distance of vehicles behind.

 

Ian talked about what drivers could expect from the IAM training. Comments on driver performance are given in a matter-of-fact, non critical way and one can take the test as many times as is necessary. For more information on IAM and the research they undertake, go to iam.org.uk. Ian belives that tailored driving assesments are needed because of the variation in individual drivers of all ages.

 

The first film shown was made in the 1930s and entitled Your Driving Test. Ian told his audience it was funny and it was. Being a period piece, trilbys and raincoats were to the fore and the driving practices owed more to slapstick than “this is how you should do it”.

 

So, some fun in addition to a talk which was not just interesting and informative but with useful content as well.

Talk: Psychology and You

David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A general meeting, giving part two of a talk entitled Psychology and You. By way of a subtitle he described the discipline as “the scientific study of mind and behaviour.” He started by giving a brief recap of his first talk, outlining significant landmarks in Western scientific discovery in order to illustrate and emphasise the fact that psychology is a discipline which employs the scientific method to verify its findings.

Each of those attending found a handout on their chair listing the various branches of psychology and also the various applications psychology has in society, along with some of the jobs in which graduate psychologists could apply their learning. The other side of the handout included some of those drawings of illusions where one sees two faces in one sketch, and a couple which one stares at to find there is more to the image than is at first apparent. The mind playing tricks.

David started with first impressions and the “halo effect”. Social psychologists have found that attractiveness can produce what is known as a halo effect. Essentially, we tend to assume that people who are physically attractive are also friendly, intelligent, pleasant, and likeable. First impressions do count but are, of course, mediated by experience when we get to know a person better.

David referred to a number of studies in the areas of ethics and morality and said that psychologists have demonstrated that we are not born with a conscience. Jean Piaget spent many years studying the development of morality in children. David outlined one of Piaget’s observations. Four children were playing a board game together. A six year old was losing and deliberately knocked his game piece off of the board. Another child told the teacher that the rules had been broken. The offender was told to sit in the corner.

The next day the children are again playing the board game. A ten year old child reached to move his game piece, lost his balance and placed his elbow into the middle of the board. All of the pieces bounced around, and flew off of the board. The offender of the previous day complained to the teacher. The teacher asked “Did you do it on purpose, or was it an accident?” The reply came that it was an accident. The teacher responded with agreement. She directed all four children to go back to playing the game. The six year old, upset by the teacher’s solution, protested, “It’s not fair! Yesterday I knocked off one piece and I had to sit in the corner? How come he doesn’t have to? He knocked off all the pieces!” The ten year old interjected, “It’s fair because you did it on purpose!” The younger child just doesn’t understand, and continued to insist it isn’t fair. This example illustrates how the development of a more sophisticated sense of fairness is one that progresses as children get older.

David then turned to research done on the research into the differences between men and women in making moral choices. Lawrence Kohlberg, based on research conducted exclusively on men, concluded that justice is the highest claim of morality. In doing so, David explained, his colleague, Carol Gilligan, saw this as down-grading women’s moral judgements based on exercising care. Gilligan did a study with 24 pregnant women who were considering abortion. These women discussed their choice within a care orientation rather than a framework of justice. Responsibility was interpreted as exercising care; not being selfish meant not causing hurt.

David continued by citing a famous experiment conducted at Princeton University in which a group of theology students was asked to walk across campus to deliver a sermon on the topic of the Good Samaritan. As part of the research, some of the students were told that they were late and needed to hurry. Along the route, the researchers had placed an actor, who was lying on the ground in pain and in need of help. In their haste to give a sermon on compassion, 90% of the “late” students from completely ignored the needs of the suffering person. Some of them literally stepped over him.

David spoke of how twins are studied to learn more about the contributions of inherited factors and the impact of the environment in determining behaviour. Introducing a lighter note, he said how the town of Twinsburg, Ohio, holds a twins convention every year. At the latest one. In 2012, 2096 sets of twins attended, of whom, 864 were identical, of these 81 were over 61 years old.

Towards the end of his talk, David realised he was running out of time but had said nothing about Freud and psychoanalysis. Before taking questions, he made a few quick remarks on the topic. Perhaps the subject of “Psychology and You Part 3”? Suggested subtitle, “Psychoanalysis and its Discontents.”

U3A Chairman, Jean Pearson moved the vote of thanks before Membership Secretary, Anne Foster presented the customary token of appreciation to David.

Talk: Coming to Britain

Jean Pearson with Richard & Chandra Law
Jean Pearson with Richard & Chandra Law

The membership of U3A Todmorden continues to grow to amazing levels. On the day of September’s meeting the earlier coffee morning attracted over 100 current members – and potential new recruits – to find out what all the special interest groups do, and share a friendly tale or two. As soon as a new idea like Social History becomes reality, it’s full of members. From art and badminton to philosophy and world affairs, small groups are meeting all over Todmorden with members coming from as far afield as – well, as Hebden Bridge.

Of course it’s partly the quality of the regular monthly speakers that keeps drawing people. September’s meeting at the Central Methodists on the 19th attracted a record 132 people to hear Chandra Law, helped by her husband Richard, talk about ‘Coming to Britain’.

Chandra is from Malaysia. She met Englishman Richard while they were working together in her native country. The detailed record she kept for her family when she first came to England with him provided a witty insight into how our country looks to a new visitor. In Malaysia they have no seasons, only occasional monsoons to interrupt the tropical heat. According to Chandra, ‘Richard says Malaysia is like living in an oven; I say England is like living in a freezer.’

On arriving in Britain and leaving the airport, Chandra told us, the cold literally hurt. She couldn’t walk properly and thought she was turning into a prawn: why did these English people have air-conditioning in the outside world? Why did rows and rows of trees have no leaves on them, was the whole place dying? Or did the English grow their trees upside down, was it their bare roots she was seeing through steamed-up windows?

In the Post Office that February to send her postcards about weird old England home to her family, Chandra tried to give up her place in the queue to an elderly gentleman – as you would in her native country – and was politely refused. It was the gentleman’s wife who explained that the white bullets falling outside weren’t free sago, collectible to make something nicely Malaysian for tea, but hailstones.

 

Among these reminiscences Chandra wove a well-designed account of how to create Malaysian batik (which Richard created beside her while she spoke). Batik-making is compulsory in Malaysian schools from the age of 14, when pupils are thought old enough to handle hot wax, which is what the word ‘batik’ means. An attentive audience of Todmordians transformed ourselves into Malaysian schoolgirls and schoolboys – the girls forever fearing the teacher’s cane on their hands or legs if they made a mistake – as we were taught the process.

Spread white cotton or silk on the floor. Heat wax (paraffin wax mixed with 50% resin in Malaysia) in a pot. Take a tjanting, pronounced ‘chanting’, a tool with a wooden handle that can apply wax. Learn how to carry the tjanting from pot to cloth, fast enough to avoid the wax solidifying, slow enough to avoid dripping, nimbly enough to avoid the ever-feared cane. On cotton the tjanting is a ready-designed block, easy to correct with water; on silk it’s a delicate equivalent to a paint-brush, and one error and the ruthless teacher will tear your silk in half because your work is spoiled.

Boys, it seems, get to work on bamboo, metal and wood. But girls are the batik specialists. Traditionally they create using themed colours. Bold reds and pinks apparently mean mountains; blue, fishing villages; green, paddy fields, black/brown/gold mean rubber plantations; purple means turtle islands; and silver stands for Kuala Lumpur. Get over the border to Ramsbottom Station to see Chandra’s and Richard’s work, from lipstick cases to sarongs (steady, men, it seems we can wear them too).

It was hard to hear new Chairman Jean Pearson’s effusive thanks afterwards amid the throng of people eager to see batik at first hand.

photograph by philip willis | report by alan mcdonald | this also appeared in Todmorden News