GENERAL MEETING REPORTS
The February speaker was Gerry Kersey who gave us his talk on 50 years in broadcasting. It was an amusing journey through
the decades and brought back many memories of radio from as far back as the 1940’s. Many of our members remembered
and could sing along with the theme tunes when Gerry sang them. Dick Barton being one of them.
Gerry can be regularly heard on Radio Sheffield at 4.00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons with his programme ‘Musical nostalgia
To read an interview at the Sheffield Star go to:
Our speaker for January was Dennis Ashton. Dennis talked to us about the many friends he’s made over the years who have
been involved in the Iditarod race in Alaska and which has become known as ‘The last great race on earth’.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome,
entirely within the US state of Alaska. Mushers and a team of 14 dogs, of which at least 5 must be on the towline at the finish
line, cover the distance of over 1,000 miles in 8 – 15 days or more. Dennis told of the love of their dogs and how well they are
looked after by the mushers. Dennis’s enthusiasm was infectious and gave us a very entertaining 50 Minutes.
A representative from Co-operative Insurance gave a very insightful and humorous presentation to the November general
Tax, Care and Toy Boys!
During the wide ranging financial topic he mentioned inheritance tax, wills and the potential impact on your children after your
death if your spouse takes a toy boy as a partner! He said these pitfalls can be mitigated by a trust deed.
When discussing care costs he mentioned their impact on your home. Again he had suggestions regarding these. He had a
very engaging style and invited questions during his presentation. This resulted in member participation and turned a
potentially dull subject into an interesting one. Power of Attorney was raised and he dealt with it in a professional manner
Philip Caine: Barrow to Bagdad and back
From the title of the talk I was expecting to hear about a soldier’s account of warfare. I was surprised to hear the life story of
an entrepreneur and author. Philip Caine told his story, starting in Barrow and ending in Barrow. He was easy to listen to as
he gave an outline of his working life and experiences in remote and dangerous places across the world. It was a unique
insight into a world very few would ever encounter. From cooking for the differing palates of the Scots and the French workers
on an oil rig in the North Sea, on to the Soviet Union and an encounter with the KGB and the Russian mafia, with some time
in Africa and the Middle East for good measure!
He settled back into life in Barrow and, in a much safer environment, he now works as a writer of fiction, calling on some of
his adventures and dubious characters he met for inspiration. A most engaging speaker.
Our speaker for July 19 was Dr Ann Featherstone who had given us a talk the previous year. I received such good feedback
that I thought it would be worth having her visit us again. We weren’t disappointed. Her talk on ‘When Music Hall became
Variety’ was both interesting and fun. Memories were stirred with a monologue and songs and everyone had a chance to join
in the singalongs. We also discovered that some of the popular songs that we still sing today are a lot older than we realised.
David Bell – The Plague Doctor
David, a Geordie, used to live in Byker Grove and is a friend of Jimmy Nail. He now lives in the house of Martin Morton, a
plague survivor, next to the hidden waterfall near Eyam. He talked about irritating health problems in the 17th century. This
came with a warning - 70% was true.
In the 17th century life expectancy was around 38 years. Oxygen had not been discovered. It was thought that blood was
pumped around the body by the magnetic forces from the moon. People had no idea what the heart was for. There were no
antiseptics, no antibiotics and no anaesthetics. Hospitals were just places where doctors went to learn. They were teaching
establishments with no regard for the health of patients.
Samuel Pepys kept a record of his ongoing health in his diary. He was treated by Dr. Hollier at St. Thomas’ hospital. When
reading the following - remember the warning about the truth.
Treatment: No beer, coffee, tea or wine. Dandelion & burdock was the best diuretic.
Pain relief: Wooden mallet to render unconscious or mandrake root (hallucinogenic). Procedure: Incision of a rusty nail. Cutting
with a rusty, blunt knife followed by removal using rusty plier tongs. Treatment of wound: Pack with crushed egg (including
shell) and cover with feathers off the street followed by a hot flat iron to cauterise the wound.
Molasses in the anus and/or a live leach in the anus overnight - and a new leach each night for the next 9 nights.
Exercise to agitate the bowels: horse & trap going over bumps. A visit to Epsom to drink the water that contained magnesium
sulphate. That didn’t work for Samuel Pepys. Procedure: Hollow bamboo cane inserted. Use of beef dripping as there was no
Vaseline. The doctor had a clay pipe and blew the smoke up the bamboo tube. Bellows were then used and evacuation
followed with 1 hour.
David concluded his talk with some facts about the plague at Eyam, and about Martin Morton, his family and dog, Flash.
A most entertaining talk.
To read excerpts from Pepys’ diary go to https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/summary
April gave us John Hoare and his ‘Acorn to Oak’ talk. His knowledge about the subject was engaging from the start. It was
fascinating to learn how this massive organisation, The National Trust, started and evolved and is still evolving today. John
didn’t take a fee but asked that the money be given to the National Trust instead. So not only did we have a very interesting
talk, we gave support to this amazing Trust.
Our speaker for March was Pat Osborne, whose talk was ‘Queen Victoria, some surprising and lesser known facts’. Pat, who
was still recovering from illness gave her talk from her wheelchair and had us hanging on every word. Queen Victoria, always
an interesting lady to hear about and with some very stubborn streaks.
In comparison, I found the February speaker, Keith Whatlin, fascinating to listen to. He took a potentially dry subject ‘The
History of English Architecture’ and spoke with great knowledge and enthusiasm. Although the venue was far from ideal
because it was impossible for members to sneak in and out regarding things that had to be done, it didn’t faze Keith at all and
he was thrilled with the feedback our members gave him at the end of his talk.
Our January speaker, Robert Wood, was a perfect example. The talk ‘Gemstones and Crystals’ wasn’t at all what I expected
but it was given with confidence if a little ‘drifting’ occasionally. I personally didn’t quite understand what he was trying to get
over. There were however a lot of people interested in speaking to him at the end and looking at the stones etc. that he had
brought to sell.
At what stage and which stage?
The sudden closure of The Trades Club not only created problems for our Chairman and Committee but especially our Drama
Impresario, Chris Woolven. He had been visualising the regular stage for his third pantomime when a rewrite was forced upon
him by the change of venue. The Catholic Club is darker than the Trades, with different access points to the stage. The regular
team of U3A thespians gave bravura performances involving their usual zany characters.
It is a pity that we have been unable to find a pianist among our members or associates when we could form a choir and music
could be included into our Christmas Extravaganza, and possibly even a demonstration from our Scottish Country Dancing
Thanks should be expressed to those members who arranged the tables and supplied the food and crackers, and cleared up
at the end.