Moonraker Probus Club of Devizes

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Nov 2012 Fashion and the House of Dior Louis Atkinson
Oct 2012 Narrowboat Art Jane Clements
Sep 2012 Great Western Railway Archives and Records David Colcomb
June 2012 Saga Travel Mike Redman
May 2012 Red Cross in Wiltshire Helen Owen
April 2012 Cruising Industry Alistair Greener

Nov 2012 - Fashion and the House of Dior

Louis Atkinson a past Director of the House of Dior gave a fascinating talk of the history of the House of Dior, from its founding until his retirement in the 1980's.

The son of a North country cloth manufacturer, one of whose products was the famous Van Huesen collars for men's shirts, he made his own way in the fabrics and fashion business via France, India, America, Russia and many other countries until he joined Dior. He was a major player in the setting up the first factory for the manufacture of Dior fabrics in Perugia in Italy. The key was  the purchase of a company with the' know- how' for the dying of various fabrics, wool, cotton and silk, to the same colour shade. He described the financial, physical and general problems in getting permissions and starting a factory in Italy with a deadline opening date.

Louis talked of the exiting early days of getting new fashions and collections into the major London and other City stores- 'Mix and Match', the 'New Look' and  the successful launch of Harrods 'Miss Dior'' were highlights of a high pressure career in which deadlines, advertising,and dedication were keys to overwhelming success.

With many amusing stories, starting with his joining Dior, he highlighted  the psychology of successful selling and brought to life the high fashion marketing industry.

There was an active discussion, including how to get into the fashion industry, and the meeting closed with a well acclaimed vote of thanks from Carol Creed.

Oct 2012 - Narrowboat Art

On Oct.4th. Jane Clements gave a very interesting talk on Narrow Boat Art, which she illustrated by painting a small panel during her talk and which she completed in around 45 minutes.

In her introduction Jane talked about the people and dress of the first boat people who did not originally live on their boats but often in canal-side cottages but eventually due to economic pressure were forced to make the boats their floating homes.  From the start narrow boats and barges were identified by their name, owners, number to which there were varying amounts of secondary decoration. However with the demand for minimal living space and multifunctional boat furniture such as stools, cupboards etc increased, canal boat painting became an important skill and led eventually to Waterways Craft Guild.

Jane outlined and demonstrated the basic painting methods, and the elements within most fo the flower and scenic pictures, which in discussion related them to Romany art. She illustrated the various brush strokes, and basic colours and the stylized form of flowers, castles, bridges, trees etc which are common elements, and starting often with various coloured circles.  Jane illustrated the progressive technique of painting a scene or flowers and talked of the need for paintings to be completed within tight time limits and the use quick drying mainly lead paints and white spirit solvents.

Individual paintings were made mainly on pine boards, although various composite material boards were now used. After painting varnish was applied to give water protection.

A large selection of every day items such as milk and water containers, mugs, teapots, lanterns were exhibited, which included much of her own work was on show on 

Sep 2012 - Great Western Railway Archives and Records

At the Sept.6th meeting David Colcomb talked about the ’Great Western Railway Archives and Records’ and brought to life the great impact this railway had on the lives of the people employed and the communities it served prior to the ‘Beeching Era.’ He talked about the training and apprentice schemes, the social services and employee benefits which encouraged ‘railway families and the status within the community of engine drivers and stationmasters.

David gave a brief history of the project, planned in 1830, by the Berkshire and Hampshire Railway to bring the railway to Devizes, from the initial concept to the completion in 1857 and of the delays which related to land ownership and vested interests in the canal. At that time the line was part of the Bristol to London route, but in 1900 it reverted to a branch line from Holt Junction to Pewsey.

The Devizes Branch line and all its stations closed in 1966 under British Rail’s modernization  programme  and apart from a few bridges and tunnels there is little evidence of an  important  project which included Devizes station and two other stopping places and was important in the history of Devizes.,

In his intensive research David traced the careers of hundreds of employees, including recorded misdemeanours, pay, attendance records etc and he highlighted the progressive apprentice schemes run by the railways.

June 2012 - Saga Travel

The speaker for the meeting was Mike Redman an ambassador for Saga Travel who gave an interesting and tempting summary of the many Saga cruise programmes on the Saga Rose and Ruby, and also their special interest holidays on the Spirit of Adventure, and on the extended range of river cruises and coach trips. The door- to- door travel arrangements, the flexibility for single travellers and the ‘all-in’ cost of the trips and the quality of accommodation make holidays with Saga an easy and competively priced approach. Their programmes range from round- the- world cruises to short stays in University cities, and many culture programmes including Oberammergau Festival in 2010.

Mike outlined some of the other Saga services including various insurances and specifically travel which is getting difficult to obtain for the elders. After the presentation there was an active discussion and questions and there is no doubt that many present will take a new look at cruising.

May 2012 - Red Cross in Wiltshire

Helen Owen gave a comprehensive review of the activities of the Red Cross going back to 1870, its association with the Order of St.John, and the formal naming in1927 as the Red Cross Society in Geneva in1927. It has been active in one form or another for 162 years and the Wilts and Gloucester branch, one of the most active in the UK, celebrates its Centenary in 2007.

Helen started as a Cadet with the Red Cross in 1933, became a Probationer in 1936.After qualification she became a specialist nurse in 1939, working as a District Nurse and Midwife in the Lincolnshire Fens for the war period. Her description of travelling this area during the blackout with shrouded car headlights and trying to find isolated farms made midwifery a multi- skilled occupation. Roads were narrow and the dykes were wide and deep.

Helen re-located to Wiltshire in 1947 and was appointed Commandant Devizes in 1980. She described the work of the Red Cross giving support services to all branches of society, filling many gaps and giving extensive support to the Heath Service in ambulance support, patient  transport, first aid courses, stroke rehabilitation and even teaching make-up for blind girls.

The work of VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) in the last war was covered with pictures and anecdotes and a number of Probus members had experienced, at first hand, some of these services. The work of the Red Cross in critical relief and in supporting various agencies at National Disasters, in the Falklands War, in medical support to famine areas has been extensive. Well known, and highly appreciated by so many, has been the support for war prisoners. Maintaining lines of communication for the families of POWs was a vital contribution to the physical and mental well-being of both prisoners and families. The neutrality of the Red Cross has enabled its representatives to gain access and give services to both sides in disputes.

Helen stressed the need for ongoing public support and financial aid. She has devoted over 70 years to this service and the award of the Society’s Badge of Honour and many service medals has recognized her work.

April 2012 - Cruising Industry

Alastair Greener, formerly a Cruise Director with Cunard gave an amusing and informative talk on various aspects of the Cruising industry. He covered the historical and current methods for the building of the super Cruising ships, their launching and naming, the history of the Cunard line and their famous Queens.

Alastair started his talk by reviewing some of the aspects of the recent sinking of the Concordia, especially the responsibility of the Captain during the critical period prior to the abandonment . In this he reviewed current navigation practice, the use of charts and modern GPS navigation aids and their value and limitations in critical coastal locations. The timing of passenger lifeboat drills particularly on cruise ships and the adequacy, manning, etc of lifeboats and life rafts on the current multi-decked ships and the order of alarms and launching particularly with seriously heeled ships. 

The investigation of actions during the critical period would be helped by records from the 'Black Box' on the bridge.

Surprisingly cruise booking have risen since the event in which over 99.9% of all passengers and crew survived .

Alastair reviewed some of the statistics, relating to food and wine consumption, the average age of passengers was 45 and the very varied entertainment and other facilities which made cruising of increasing popularity particularly for family groups. His oldest passenger was 104 and he told many amusing stories in his personal experiences.

He covered the history of the launching and naming of the Queens starting in 1934.

He talked of the excitement of entering harbours and named his 10 favourites, which included Venice, Sydney, New York and Hong Kong.