Moonraker Probus Club of Devizes
Mike Wallace gave a lively and amusing talk on ‘Old Time Music Hall’. Accompanied by music and the strong and mainly melodious vocal efforts of members he brought back memories of old music hall favorite songs and performers.
He started his talk with a brief history of the original pub/club entertainment, starting in the early 1830’s when the ‘artists’ had to compete with the social activities of eating and drinking and the audience in fact sat with its back to a make-shift stage.
However, in time, the increasing popularity of both local and national entertainers gradually established the Music Hall into a social event and ‘stars’ were born. Harry Lauder, Marie Lloyd, George Formby Senior and many others became household names well known for their songs, repartee and catch phrases. Many of the best known war-time songs started in the music halls and many of the entertainers became national figures.
Probus members showed familiarity with both songs and performers and vied to identify both.
Zena Robson, professional gardener and landscaper gave a humorous talk on “Garden Mistakes & Related Ramblings”. She started with her early triumphs and failures on window ledges in a London flat and then about gardening in the larger gardens and activities with which she is now involved.,highlighting seeds and plant selection, plant and bush growth, fertilizers and manure and then to garden pests.
On the selection of seed suppliers and the reliability of their products she highlighted the need to use reputable sources and that, when selecting trees and shrubs, more consideration should be given to their eventual size, both height and spread, as well as the 5 or10 year growth estimates usually given.
She tested our members on the pronunciation of the names of garden plants and highlighted the north and south divide.
The relative value of various growth compounds, mulches and types of manures gave scope for an earthy appreciation of their secondary properties - odour and neighbour friendliness being a not insignificant aspect of choice.
Zena dealt with the identification of garden pests and their impact, both short and long term, on both foliage and roots as well as being a food source for birds and hedgehogs. The Crunch! technique of dealing with beetles of various types was dramatically illustrated – no prisoners taken.
Knowle Gardens was mentioned for its selection of Ornamental grasses, and Zena talked of the various types and their space requirements. Their skin irritant properties and the use of various treatments, including the faithful bluebag, were mentioned.
There were many questions during and after the presentation and Chairman Michael Green gave a warmly appreciated vote of thanks.
David Sweet gave an illustrated talk on ‘The American Dust Bowl’. This area known also as the ‘Panhandle’ is larger than Britain and was owned and farmed originally by Indian tribes. They lived off vast herds of bison and until the departure of temporary Spanish occupiers, who left their horses behind, the Indians had farmed these prolific grasslands on foot.
However in the early 1800s there was a massive ingress of American settlers from the East which led eventually to the ‘Land Act of 1820’ and restricted the new settlers to a maximum of 160 acres with a deposit of around $1.50 per acre. Despite some control by the 1820 Land Act, the introduction of Manifasts in 1842, and the Homestead Act of 1862, the Indians were driven into reservations. In 1867 General Grant appointed Sheridan to oversee the area and soon millions of bison were killed and ranch farming for grain became dominant.
During the early1900’s the exploitation of grain continued and the great wealth ended with 10years of drought which in turn led to serious soil erosion and a dramatic fall in grain production. The consequential fall in land values leading to individual and bank failures. The drought was made worse by 8 years of extensive black dust storms, locust and rabbit plagues. The black dust was accompanied by high static and severe temperature drops. Some 250,000 premature deaths resulted from the direct and indirect effects of the black dust.
The consequential mass move of farmers to California began in 1939 and attempts at land restoration did not begin until with the establishment of the Resettlement Administration and the ‘New Deal’ with grass and tree planting programmes.
Our meeting on 5 September was entitled ‘Building a Bridge’. Charles Slater, a Chartered Civil Engineer, gave a most interesting talk with photos, ranging from the Iron Bridge in Telford to trailblazers in design and length in Hong Kong, Sydney & China. He illustrated how engineers needed to provide solutions to the complexities of an architect’s design to enable the building of structures in many varied locations. He then told us about his involvement in the construction of the suspension bridge linking Turkey with Europe. With simple aids and his photographs taken during the building of this bridge, he conveyed the amazing techniques and magnitude of the building operation as well as the off-site work and substantial imported sections some of which had to be hoisted into position high up on the towers. Apart from their technicality and skill, the main requirements for those working on the project was a head for heights and the physical ability to climb to high places. We will never look at these huge structures in the same way again!
At the July
4th meeting Angie Grist supported by Debbie gave an illustrated talk on
the history and work of the Mercy Ships from the time of founding in
1978 by Don Stephens. With support from Lord Ian McColl MD, one of the
UK's foremost surgeons who, as well as being a joint initiator of the
Mercy Ships project, has been an outstanding contributor to its medical
services and projects.
Emily Knight gave a talk on the work of Dorothy House in which she highlighted its history, the broad spread of its activities from residential care at all stages of illness to extensive support and care in the community. Founded in a private house in 1976 by Prue Dufour the foundation extended its activities to include outpatients in 1979 and then its facilities and buildings. It moved to Winsley in 1995 and had extra wings built in 2006.
Dorothy House gives residential care for around 230 in-patients annually, many during the terminal stages of their illness, and supportive care for over 700 in the community.
The treatment of patients with dignity and the support of their families is the highlight of the Dorothy House Foundation. It has a Chapel, and strong supportive religious links. Outside care is supported by trained careers. The accommodation and counselling services for patients, and their families when required, helps to give a high quality to the end of life.
Psychological aid, Occupational Therapy, Hydro pool facilities, breathing techniques, confidence building, and many other activities support patient aid and recovery. An advice line manned by nurses gives 24hr. telephone support.
Dorothy House supports 23 nurses in four teams in the specialized nursing service covering a large area Wiltshire and treating over 700 patients annually.
Dorothy House requires £6.25 mill. to cover its services with 25% provided by the NHS. Financial support comes from Gift Aid, Legacies plus income from 22 shops. In addition some 90 volunteers save around £1.2 mill./ year.
There was an active discussion and many present spoke of their personal gratitude for the services of Dorothy House.
Jan 2013 - Post Haste
On Jan 3rd. Ann King gave a splendid illustrated presentation on the subject of Post Boxes, a subject she, and her husband Brian had recently researched. Her talked covered the 'pre- post-box time', going back to the Mail Coach deliveries and the various methods and locations for the dispatch and collection of mail.
Her talk showed the wide variety in shapes,colours and locations for mail boxes- going back to the early 5 London boxes of 1855., and the earlier Post Box in Guernsey. Embracing some 100.000 boxes of maybe 150 designs, with colours ranging from black to red, with shades of green and other colours and most recently golden boxes to commemorate the Olympics. Post boxes have shown ingenuity in design and location, to include trams, shops, pubs, and garden walls.
Ann talked about the first adhesive stamps which preceded the formal post boxes and the earlier postal services and local franchises.