Pam’s Past Speaker Meetings

By | July 16, 2023


May 2024

On Thursday 9th May we welcomed Dr John Patterson, Principal at St Vincent’s School for visually impaired children, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. After taking over as Principal in 2012, Dr Patterson set about encouraging students’ entrepreneurialism, employment skills, creativity, and solidarity with those less fortunate. On Wednesdays pupils choose lessons they feel play to their strengths, including in music, drama, sports, ICT, environmental work, and growing food on the school grounds to use in a student-run café. One of his many achievements has been to oversee pupils developing a disability sports toolbox that now helps children in 20 countries across four continents.

He has championed pupils’ leadership skills with an enriched curriculum which has them teaching their international peers in how to use the toolbox, and the Indonesian government has since asked for 70,000 of its social workers to be similarly trained.

The school’s pupils have made ceramic Remembrance poppies worn by leaders including the then-Prime Minister Theresa May; they have sung for the Queen; and have also been featured in an exhibition by celebrity photographer Rankin for the COP26 climate change summit that took place in Glasgow during 2021.

Thank you John for this inspirational talk!

April 2024

On 11th April Russell Parry entertained us with the fascinating story of The Appley Bridge Meteorite.

We heard how, at 8.45 pm on Tuesday 14th October 1914, a large meteorite landed at Halliwell Farm, Up Holland. Locals at first mistook the explosion and fireball for a German invasion, the police were called and promptly confiscated the meteorite. It was then put on display in the village shop and can now be seen in the Natural History Museum in London.

Thank you Russell for this most interesting talk!

March 2024

A large audience gathered on Thursday 14th March to hear magician Pete Turner’s fascinating talk, Through the Eyes of a Magician. Using a series of ‘magic tricks’, including a handkerchief which mysteriously found its way into one member’s wallet, Pete demonstrated how the seemingly impossible can appear to happen before our eyes. This was a very entertaining and thought-provoking talk, very much enjoyed by all who attended. Thank you Pete!


February 2024

The first Speaker Meeting of the year took place on Thursday 8th February, when Angela Danby returned with more extraordinary tales from her time as a reporter with the Southport Visiter. Angela was a print journalist for almost 20 years. During that time, she worked as a news editor, features editor, sub editor and crime corresponden

We heard about the history of the Southport Visiter (originally literally aimed at visitors to Southport) and were shown a copy of the first edition, from May 1844. We heard about the horrific murder of Linsey Quy in the 1990s, whose husband was jailed for life in 2001 for her murder, and also the murder of Nigel Bostock in 1986.

Thank you Angela for an interesting and entertaining talk!


December 2023

The final Speaker Meeting of the year  took place on Thursday 14th December, when Carol Rogers MBE, Director, House of Memories, National Museums Liverpool spoke about the multi-award-winning House of Memories, a flagship dementia awareness programme for National Museums Liverpool.

In her inspiring and well-illustrated talk, Carol showed how House of Memories is making a difference to people living with dementia, their carers, families and communities. More than 60,000 people have benefited from the programme, which continues to expand across the UK and globally in USA and South East Asia. The programme includes workshops, memory walks, mobile museums, memory suitcases, mobile immersive experiences and the My House of Memories app.

In January 2015, Carol was acknowledged by HRH Queen Elizabeth II and awarded an MBE (Member of The British Empire), for her role leading House of Memories. She has developed a notable career at National Museums Liverpool. Her profile is well known across the North West of England and she maintains an extensive national and international network of education, museum, health and social care partnerships. Her work is recognised for its creativity, innovation and enterprise; successfully connecting cross-sector organisations and resources.

House of Memories programme achievements to date include the following national and international awards:

  • Winner, Liverpool City Region Culture & Creativity Awards 2020, Impact Award – International Reach
  • Winner, Exceptional Achievement Award at the Museums Association Museums Change Lives Awards 2018
  • Runner up in the Outstanding Person initiative category at the Liverpool Older People’s Awards 2017
  • Commendation Winner, Jodi Awards 2017
  • Winner, North West NHS Clinical Improvement Awards 2017
  • Runner up, North West Adult Learners Awards Health and Care 2016
  • Winner, Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia-Friendly Awards 2015
  • Winner, Excellent Smart Health Innovation Award 2015 (Think Dementia Conference)
  • Winner, Innovate Dementia European Award (The World Health and Design Forum 2014)
  • Winner, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education 2014
  • Winner, Museums and Heritage Awards 2014 – national educational initiative
  • Highly Commended, Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Awards 2011

November 2023

On Thursday 2nd November a large audience welcomed Stuart Elliott, who spoke on the subject of English Village Life in the Middle Ages.

This well illustrated talk covered English village history from roughly 550  to 1450 A.D. In particular, Stuart highlighted stages of medieval village development: the English village in pre-Conquest times, the consequences of the Norman Conquest, the English village in about 1250 to 1300 and the impact of the Black Death on  English village society between 1350 and 1450. The social structure of the medieval village was outlined together with the role of the church, the nature of village governance,  leisure pastimes, changes in agricultural practice, the decline of personal servitude and, towards the close of the middle ages, the emergence of a village cloth industry with international dimensions.
Thank you Stuart!

September 2023

The first of our Autumn talks took place on Thursday 7th September, when author Fran Sandham spoke about his Solo Walk across Africa.

In a most entertaining and fascinating illustrated talk, Fran told us how, as a 6 year old child in hospital in Birkenhead, he was enthralled by a Tarzan comic featuring Africa. This developed into an interest in Victorian explorers such as David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, then a New Year’s Eve decision to spend a year walking solo across Africa in 1997. Carrying a rucksack weighing 100 lb and walking an average of 26 miles a day, he managed to cover 3,500 miles in a year; at the outset he weighed 12.5 stone, and by the end of the journey 8.5 stone. Despite illness, blisters and a very uncooperative donkey, what Fran remembers most vividly is the friendship, kindness and hospitality of the people he met along the way. Thank you for sharing your unique experience with us Fran.

July 2023

A large audience gathered on Thursday 6th July to hear Dave Carlos (Cyber Volunteer for Lancashire Police) speak on the subject of Cyber Crime. In a highly informative and well illustrated talk, Dave offered detailed advice on passwords, scams and online security, and emphasised the importance of vigilance when responding to emails and texts. Since the talk, Dave has sent over some links which may be of interest:

Stolen Logins and Password Checker:
Scams video link:
Phishing reports:
Suspicious text reporting: Forward to 7726
Support & Advice – National Cyber Security Centre:
Cyber Crime reporting – Action Fraud:
Victim Support: 24/7 Support line 08 08 16 89 111
Take Five, Stop Fraud:
Get Safe Online:

June 2023

On Thursday 1st June Sid Calderbank returned to entertain us with songs, stories and poems in Lancashire dialect, expertly accompanied this time by violinist Joy Hunter. Sid’s theme was the life and career of Edwin (Ned) Waugh, born in Rochdale in 1817 to a very poor family who ran a cobblers’ market stall. He was apprenticed to a printer, and through the trade became acquainted with literary men who inspired him to write songs and stories. He eventually settled in Manchester and in 1856 wrote a poem about a young wife pleading for her husband to come home from the pub. The poem was published and made him famous, he made a lot of money and travelled widely giving readings and singing songs. He died of cancer of the tongue after a lifetime addiction to snuff, and 2000 people came to his funeral. We love hearing your stories Sid, thank you!

May 2023

On Thursday 4th May we welcomed Dave Joy, who vividly described how his own family had moved from Wharfdale in Yorkshire to set up in business in Liverpool supplying fresh milk from their own cows. Using many photographs to illustrate his talk, Dave explained how, in the early nineteenth century, many farmers were moving from the Pennine Dales with the intention of taking advantage of the mass migration of workers into cities like Liverpool, as the industrial revolution took hold. We heard how such farmers would typically set up in end of terrace properties, housing their cattle in the back yard. The cows would be fed on grass cuttings from local parks, spent grain from breweries, molasses and oil seed cake. Waste products would be exchanged for hay at the city’s haymarket. The businesses did a roaring trade selling fresh milk, until competition began to emerge from corporate dairies, who brought milk into the city by train. Nevertheless, Dave’s ancestors traded successfully as A Joy & Sons between 1863 and 1963. Thank you Dave for an exceptionally interesting and well presented talk.

April 2023

The Real War Horses

On Thursday 6th April Dot Hawkes, Secretary and Trustee of Lathom Park Trust, gave a detailed and moving account of how Lathom Park became a Remount Depot during the First World War. Opened in 1915, Lathom Park was just one of 12 such depots around the coast, where horses were imported from Australia, the USA and Canada in specially adapted ships, then trained and cared for until they were ready to be taken onward to battle sites. A ship could accommodate 500-700 horses, and many were lost when the ships were attacked at sea. The Horse Mobilisation Scheme was a major undertaking and the horses played a vital role in warfare, to the extent that it was said that the loss of one horse was the equivalent to the loss of 100 men. Upon arrival in Liverpool, horses were checked by vets, before being brought by train to Ormskirk then walked to Lathom. The Warhorse Route is a popular walk today, and in 2019 a memorial was erected at the entrance to Lathom Park.

An inspiring story, thank you Dot!

March 2023

A large audience gathered at HQ on 2nd March to hear Graham Stirrup’s talk on Women in World War 1. In a superbly well illustrated talk, Graham took us back to 1773, when records show that a man sold his wife at a cattle auction for one shilling. By 1914 women could still expect a life of drudgery in the home, the mills and in service, unless they were very rich. Things began to change with the outbreak of war, when thousands of men were called up and women were called upon to work in transport, munitions factories, in mines and on the land, often working in dangerous conditions and with toxic substances. After the war ended in 1918 and men returned from fighting, women were obliged to return to the same occupations they had before. However, this era also saw the beginning of the Suffragette movement and the Women’s Land Army, heralding the start of momentous changes which we benefit from today. A most entertaining informative and thought-provoking talk, superbly well presented. Thank you Graham!

February 2023

 The first Speaker Meeting of 2023 took place on Thursday 2nd February, when Angela Danby gave a very entertaining talk about her 20 year career as a journalist with the Southport Visiter. We were shown a first edition copy of the paper from 1844, which included the announcement of the birth of a baby to a lady with 24 children! Angela also gave us a vivid description of a fire at Huntapac in Tarleton, the famous visit of Diana, Princess of Wales, to Queenscourt Hospice in 1992 and the attempted murder which took place at Pineapple Park restaurant, also in 1992. Angela has met and interviewed many famous people during her career, including Jason Donovan, Ken Dodd and Roy Castle. A thoroughly enjoyable talk – thank you Angela!


November 2022

The last Speaker Meeting of the year took place on 3rd November, when author Philip Caine entertained us with a whistle-stop tour of his extraordinary career. In 45 minutes of vivid description, colourful characters and fascinating anecdotes we heard of Philip’s extraordinary adventures and exploits in the North Sea, Algeria, West Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iraq and finally Dubai. Philip retired in 2015 and is now pursuing as second career as a writer and speaker.

October 2022

On Thursday 6th October we enjoyed a moving and inspirational talk by u3a member Mike McKenna and ex-serviceman Tom O’Brian. After a difficult childhood blighted by ill health, Mike trained as an athlete and competed successfully at a high level.

He then went on to teach discus and shot put and joined Preston Harriers as a coach, where he began training injured ex-servicemen to take part in the newly inaugurated Invictus Games.

Tom was one such veteran. Having joined up at 17, he served with the Scots Guards in London before being posted to various locations around the world including Afghanistan in 2010, where he acted as an interpreter in addition to active service. Having sustained significant injuries during heavy fighting, he left the Army in 2012, but over the next 4 years struggled with mental and physical injuries which brought him to a very low point in his life. Eventually, he heard from a friend about Combat Support and the Invictus Games, and decided to approach Preston Harriers, where he met Mike. This friendship, and the sport training, changed his life. He competed in the Warrior Games in the USA, met Prince Harry and took part in the Invictus Games.

This was a vividly described account of triumph over adversity and the power of friendship. Thank you, Mike and Tom, for sharing it with us.

September 2022

On Thursday 1st September a large audience gathered to hear Roger Blaxall speak about his interesting and exciting career as Public Relations Officer for Greater Manchester Police and also Lancashire Constabulary. In a very detailed and entertaining talk we heard about the Police Constable who stole cars to pay off his £58,000 gambling debt, the Police Sergeant who smuggled drugs to India whilst claiming to make monthly visits for specialist back treatment, and the Detective Sergeant whose strippergram party was covertly filmed and sent to the News of the World.

June 2022

A large audience gathered on Thursday 9th June to hear David Hearn’s fascinating talk about Sir William Brown. One of linen merchant Alexander Brown’s four sons, William was born in Liverpool but moved with his family to Baltimore, then returned to Liverpool in 1810 and married his wife Sarah. They had 9 children, and William outlived all of them.

William’s extensive interests covered shipping, banking and railways, and by 1836 he was turning over £10 million a year. $1 in every $6 of US overseas trade was handled by William Brown’s companies. Several office buildings were built in Liverpool, including the library and museum we see today, and William Brown Street is the only street in Europe which consists entirely of public buildings. In spite of this William was not well liked and was rather an introvert, however he was well known for his philanthropy.

May 2022

The Lancashire Cotton Famine

Sid Calderbank

1860, and the Industrial Revolution is well under way, with 2000 cotton mills employing half a million people, using cotton mostly supplied from the cotton fields of the Southern States of America which arrives regularly in the port of Liverpool with its 7 miles of docks. Then in 1861 war breaks out in America. 800,000 lives will be lost and there are naval blockades of the Southern States. The supply of cotton comes to an end; nearly 50 mills close within a few months and in Wigan alone 10,000 workers are unemployed. With no other source of income or support they are reduced to begging and burning furniture for warmth.

Then in 1862 John Whittaker, aka Lancashire Lad, writes a letter to the paper about the plight of the workers and begins to receive donations. Other philanthropists follow suit, and before long towns are setting up their own Relief Committees. Sewing schools are set up to retrain young mill girls, and by 1865 the war has ended and the supply of cotton resumes.

This amazing tale of triumph over adversity was told by Sid Calderbank, a Lancashire Lad himself who for 25 years has been entertaining groups such as ours. Using songs, poems and extracts from contemporary diaries, Sid painted a vivid and evocative picture of these extraordinary times, and drew parallels with the present tragic situation in Ukraine. A spellbinding talk, thank you Sid!

April 2022

Fakes and Forgeries: is there a difference?

After a most informative, amusing and well-illustrated talk by Bill Soens, we were left in no doubt: a fake is not intended to deceive, whereas a forgery most definitely is.

Bill began by showing us a Georgian silver coffee pot, valued at several thousand pounds and complete with hallmarks. In fact this turned out to be fashioned from a silver chalice, to which a spout, handle and lid had been added and which now had two sets of genuine hallmarks about 150 years apart.

By contrast, we were then introduced to ‘The Bolton Mafia’, aka George and Olive Greenhalgh and their son Shaun. Working in his garden shed, Shaun forged paintings by Lowry, artefacts by Barbara Hepworth and Paul Gauguin and an Egyptian statuette which he sold to the Bolton museum for £440,000, after it had been authenticated by the British Museum and Christie’s Auction house experts. He also claimed that an alleged Leonardo painting, La Principessa, had been painted by him and was in fact the checkout girl from the local Coop.  This is still in dispute.  He was eventually prosecuted and spent 4 ½ years in jail. Apparently he is still painting but signs everything with his own name, and has returned his ill-gotten gains to the Bolton Museum.

March 2022

On Thursday 3rd March Julia Clayton made a welcome return, and gave a good size audience a fascinating insight into The Grand Tour. We heard how one of the first Grand Tours took place from 1613-14, when Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, and his wife Alathea journied to Italy, accompanied by the artist Inigo Jones. Amongst many other works of art they purchased 37 paintings by Titian, which can all be seen in the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. Many others followed in their foot

steps, renting a carriage in Calais and travelling onward in the hope of improving their language skills, building on their classical education, viewing artworks (and often having portraits painted of themselves), and listening to new music. This would build up their prestige and confirm them as men and women of taste. Clothes would be bought in Paris, and lists of what to take included such suggestions as a sofa bed, cutlery, condiments, cork-soled shoes and ‘portable soup’.

Julia then introduced us to 3 Lancashire gentlemen who made the Grand Tour: Charles Townley of Burnley, whose sculpture gallery formed the basis of the British Museum collection; Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell, a landowner whose collection of sculptures can be seen in Liverpool Museum; and finally John Foster Junior, a young architect. After spending 7 years abroad John Foster became the chief architect for Liverpool and designed the ‘bombed out church’ we are all familiar with, and many other buildings.

With the advent of the railways, improved techniques for reproduction and mass market guide books, the Grand Tour fell out of favour, but its legacy remains for us to enjoy today. Thank you Julia for a most interesting and enjoyable talk.

Julia will be back next year – keep an eye open for details.

February 2022

Neil Stevenson

The first of our 2022 Speaker Meetings took place via Zoom on Thursday 3rd February, when Neil Stevenson gave a fascinating illustrated talk entitled From Pit Graves to Pyramids: Ancient Egyptian Burial Practices. We heard of evidence from 3500 BC in the form of Gebelein Man, who was simply buried in sand surrounded by grave goods, and whose body can be seen in the British Museum. In later times large structures were built over graves, then further developments led to step pyramids being constructed out of mud bricks. Finally techniques were perfected and the famous Pyramids at Giza were constructed using locally quarried limestone and granite from Aswan, using various transportation methods including sleds, levers and ramps. Neil also gave us an insight into hieroglyphics, the sophisticated writing system developed by the Egyptians 4500 years ago.

A lively Q & A session followed Neil’s talk.


October 2021

If you’re irritated by the cost of renewing your passport, be grateful you were not trying to obtain one in 1858, when it would have cost you £2 7s 6d (equivalent to £266) and involved personal acquaintance with the Foreign Secretary!

A large audience attended the Speaker Meeting on 7th October at Aughton Village Hall, to hear author, broadcaster and former Immigration Officer Martin Lloyd describe three events which have influenced the development of the passport we know today. In a vivid and detailed talk we travelled back to France in 1858 and the attempted assassination of Napoleon III, then to events Germany in 1914 which led to the inclusion of photographs, and again in Germany in 1945 when William Joyce, alias Lord Haw Haw, was executed for treason.

August 2021

An appreciative audience gathered at Aughton Village Hall on 19th August for the first ‘in person’ Speaker Meeting since for 18 months. Author Carolyn Kirby spoke about the background to her latest novel, ‘When We Fall’, a gripping 2nd World War thriller which was chosen by the Times and Sunday Times as one of the 10 best historical novels of 2020. Carolyn spoke movingly about the women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary who flew aircraft from factory to airfield with minimal training, often making 3 or 4 trips a day. In particular we heard about Diana Barnato Walker, whose obituary in The Guardian was the original inspiration for the novel, Amy Johnson, a huge celebrity of the time following her solo flight to Australia, Polish pilot and resistance hero Janina Lavandowska, who was taken prisoner by the Russians and killed at the infamous Katyn massacre, and Monique Agazarian, who after the war became a pioneer of simulator training.

Carolyn is at present working on her 3rd novel, and we hope to hear from her again in the future.

June 2021

On Thursday 3rd June we were greatly entertained by Fool’s Gold, alias Carol and Steve Robson. Carol and Steve have been performing their unique shows for some while – long enough to rack up over 1000 performances which have been delivered to audiences all over the UK. Since the pandemic began, they have adapted their performances so that they can be delivered very effectively via Zoom. Dark Light is the new Fool’s Gold zoom show for 2021. Using a very effective combination of songs, film, photos and graphics, Carol and Steve told the fascinating story of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from Flannan Island in 1900. A most enjoyable performance. More details about Fool’s Gold can be found on their website:

May 2021

On Thursday 6th May an appreciative Zoom audience enjoyed a fascinating and informative talk by John Whittles on Red Mason Bees. John told us how for many years farmers had been relying on imported bees to pollinate their fruit crops, due to the low numbers of native species. was originally a pollination service for farmers and growers, but has now developed into an educational enterprise designed to encourage us all to use our gardens and green spaces to create homes for solitary bees, which represent 90% of the bee population. We heard about the life-cycle of the Red Mason Bee which spans only 6-8 weeks in Springtime, and how the use of simple, specially designed equipment can greatly improve the chances of success, and so increase the declining numbers of bees.

You can find out more about these essential insects and their lifecycle on John’s website

April 2021

On Thursday 1st April a very appreciative audience was entertained once again by chocolate expert Andrew Thwaite, whose talk ‘Brilliant Brands’, told the stories behind the history and development of chocolate manufacture in York, and in particular Rowntree’s and Terry’s. We heard how the 19th century founders of these companies were Quakers, and how cocoa was considered to be a wholesome alternative to the ‘demon drink’. In the beginning only hand-made chocolate assortments were produced, which were so expensive that the receipt of one was considered to be as good as a marriage proposal! The Kit Kat which we all know and love was first produced in 1935 as a result of a suggestion box scheme at the factory, and is now the world’s best selling chocolate bar – 6 million being made every day. Kit Kats are very popular in Japan, where they have developed flavours such as squid ink, hot dog and purple sweet potato! Andrew vividly described the early development of many of the products we still enjoy today, such as Polos, Walnut Whips (one eaten every 2 seconds, even though there is no longer a walnut on the top), and Terry’s Chocolate Orange, which started off as Chocolate Apple, then Chocolate Lemon before becoming the chocolate treat we enjoy today.

March 2021

Stephen Wells

Stephen Wells spoke about The Curious Incident of Agatha Christie

Thursday 4th March over 50 members enjoyed a most entertaining and informative talk by professional entertainer Stephen Wells. The topic was ‘The Curious Incident of Agatha Christie’, and we heard how the famous author staged her own ‘disappearance’ in 1926, after receiving the devastating news that her husband had been having an affair. After a much publicised investigation involving Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace and Dorothy L Sayers, she was finally found 10 days later, very much alive and well, at the Hydro Hotel in Harrogate (now the Old Swan), having caused huge embarrassment to her errant husband, whom she divorced shortly afterwards.

Agatha Christie became known as the ‘Queen of Crime’ and is the best-selling novelist of all time, her books being outsold only by The Bible and Shakespeare. Stephen’s enthralling talk not only outlined her incredible career as a writer but also described how the film adaptations of her books have entertained huge audiences over the years, and continue to do so. An excellent presentation, complete with archive photos, film clips and music, added to our enjoyment of this excellent talk.

If you missed Stephen’s talk it can be viewed by following this link

February 2021

What did the Spartans do for us? Quite a lot it seems!

The first ever A&O u3a Zoom Speaker Meeting took place on 4th February 2021, when author and historian Julia Clayton transported us back 2500 years to Sparta, the largest of 2000 separate city states in the region now known as Greece. In an enthralling talk, we heard how Spartan ideas, attitudes and culture such as constitutional monarchy, token money, team sports and the welfare state, form the basis of our modern society.  In her illustrated talk, Julia vividly described the unique social and economic system in operation at the time, where there was a ‘national curriculum’ of education for boys aged 7-30 and where the decision making was only done by people over 60 years of age. Julia commented that the Spartans would have approved of the u3a, conforming as it does to their philosophy of life long learning.

Julia’s blog can be found at:


[Speaker Meetings were paused during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.]

March 2020

On 5th March we welcomed Natalie White, Community Banker for NatWest bank. Natalie’s talk was based on the Friends Against Scams initiative, which through organisations such as the U3A, aims to contact one million people by the end of the year, raising awareness of scams and how not to fall victim. We heard about many different scams: postal, phone, doorstep and online, and of how scammers are trained in befriending and grooming techniques in order to gain trust. 43% of people over 65 have already been targeted, resulting in huge financial loss and emotional impact. Natalie summarised her talk by suggesting 5 things to remember: Never disclose security details, don’t assume everyone is genuine, don’t be rushed or forced to make a decision, listen to your instincts and stay in control.

(Since the outbreak of the corona virus there have been reports of scammers attempting to take advantage of people’s vulnerability – please be extra vigilant).

February 2020

The first Speaker Meeting of the year took place on 6th February, when a very appreciative audience heard U3A member Jane Sheehan speak on the subject of Foot Reading. After an introduction describing Jane’s career path to Reflexology and Foot Reading via Avionic Engineering and the Foreign Office, we were invited to remove our shoes and socks in order to be able to ‘self read’ our feet. We heard how wide feet indicate a hard-working mentality, whereas narrow feet suggest someone who is good at delegating. High arch? You are independent, self-reliant and enjoy time to yourself. A very long second toe suggests leadership qualities (or bossiness!). Members were invited to ask questions, all of which were competently answered by Jane. Altogether a most enjoyable and entertaining talk.


November 2019

A large audience gathered on a cold, wet morning in November to hear John Winter speak about his book: Blame it on the Beatles – and Bill Shankly. John was studying medicine in Liverpool during the 60s when he became involved in the burgeoning music scene as a singer and songwriter, and his fascinating and entertaining talk brought back many memories of that time for those present. We were taken back to the early days of the Beatles (who at one time considered calling themselves The Raving Texans), and to Liverpool in the 60s, still recovering from the devastation of the war but nevertheless boasting over 300 groups. We heard about the famous Cavern Club, the Casbah in West Derby and Litherland Town Hall, where the Beatles played for the first time in December 1960. The poster for this event read ‘Direct from Hamburg’ and everyone thought they were German!

John is a keen fan of Liverpool FC, and readers of his book will note that the sky on the front cover is red, not blue! We heard how Bill Shankly joined Liverpool as manager from Huddersfield in 1959 with a mission to take his team to the top. He famously once said: ‘Football isn’t a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that’, and under his leadership the team went from strength to strength. By the mid 60s, through music and football, Liverpool transformed its image and the Beatles had the world at their feet.

September 2019

A large audience gathered in the Ministry Centre on 5th September to hear a talk by Harold Hoggarth on the Civil War in Lancashire. Illustrated by maps, paintings and illustrations and based on the writings of 19thcentury historian Ernest Broxap, Harold’s talk described how Lancashire at the time of the Civil war was divided into 6 regions, or ‘hundreds’, of which only 2 were on the Parliamentary side. The 2 armies were a combination of professional soldiers and ‘clubmen’, or local vigilantes, and towns quickly changed allegiance back and forth. We heard about the use of the musket, and how it was just as likely to kill the user as the enemy when the gunpowder exploded. Between 1642 and 1644 our region saw a number of conflicts, one of the most notable being the Battle of Whalley at Read Bridge, where 400 untrained men defeated 5000 Royalist soldiers. We also heard about the famous Siege of Lathom House, when the Countess of Derby, Charlotte de la Tremouille, held off the Parliamentarians for 3 months before being relieved by Prince Rupert, nephew of the King, in May 1644. The Battle of Marston Moor, west of York, was the largest battle of the Civil War, resulting in victory for the Parliamentarians and the abandonment of Lancashire by the Royalists.

Note: The Battle of Ormskirk (August 1644) was fought in our local area. More details can be found here.

June 2019

On Thursday 6th June, a large audience welcomed local resident, writer and photographer, Peter Rimmer,  who presented a fascinating and informative talk on Morecambe Bay. 

Peter is a freelance writer and photographer from Southport, now living in Ormskirk. He was awarded a Master’s Degree in Photography by the University of Bolton in 2013, and has self-published a Photo Book “The tide’s the very devil” about Morecambe Bay and its shrimp fishermen. Peter specialises in Paralympic and disability sports as a photojournalist.

Peter writes

The illustrated talk is based on my Photobook “The tide’s the very devil: Morecambe Bay in photographs” describing the hazards, dangers and isolation of the Bay; some of its rich history; crossing the sands; shrimp fishing – the catch, landing, boiling and picking of shrimps; and the men and women involved. Shrimping is a family business where the traditions are handed down, and remain largely unchanged from one generation to another. The opportunity to use old family photographs enables me to compare and contrast the practices of today with what went before, showing similarity and difference.

The title of the talk comes from the first line of the chorus of On Morecambe Bay, a folk song written by an old school-friend from Southport and recorded by Irish folk singer Christy Moore. Kevin Littlewood was inspired to write the lyrics following the tragedy in February 2004 when 23 Chinese cockle pickers died after becoming trapped by rising tides at Hest Bank. It is a poignant reminder that the tide dictates every move on the sands.

The solitude, isolation and scale of Morecambe Bay were apparent on my first venture out on the sands sitting on the back of Michael’s tractor. I wanted to capture the feeling of isolation and show the wide open spaces. I also wanted to illustrate some of the features of the Bay such as myrings, footprints and tracks in the sand. Including aerial shots from a balloon. I discovered a rich history of literature and painting which under-score the story of life on the sands, and provide an external context largely unchanged today.

April 2019

Our next Speaker Meeting was in April, when Carolyn Kirby spoke about her debut novel ‘The Conviction of Cora Burns’. Carolyn’s novel has attracted considerable favourable comment in the press and online – more details here.

Carolyn writes:

My novel ‘The Conviction of Cora Burns’ will be published in the UK and USA in March 2019. This is a historical thriller set in 1880’s Birmingham about a troubled young woman, Cora Burns, who was born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse. Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of a scientist, Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora?

The novel is inspired by some real Victorian lives and events. My talk will give an insight into the research that underlies the fictional narrative of the novel and will highlight three controversial Victorians: Arthur Munby, W. T. Stead and Francis Galton. This will be followed by Q and A’s and a chance to buy a signed copy of the book.

February 2019

Many thanks to Andrew Thwaite, who kick-started the 2019 programme in February with an entertaining and informative talk on the history and manufacture of chocolate. A great many people braved the elements that wet and windy morning and were rewarded with a most enjoyable talk and freshly made chocolate!

Last Updated on May 22, 2024