A brief report of past lectures

A brief report of past lectures will be posted here. Please re-visit throughout the season.

The society would love to hear from any member who would like to write a two to three hundred word summary of a lecture. If you would like to write a blog and have it published here please send an email to johnfagge@aol.com in advance of your chosen lecture(s) to register your interest.


A big thank you to all of you who have read the blogs and for your pleasant comments.

1st November 2016 Speaker: Peter Barratt

A Suffragette in the family

Report by John Fagge - Society Blogger

The story of Alice Hawkins, and her important role in the Womens‘ Suffrage movement was a story of determination and sacrifice which the women were prepared to undergo in the pursuit of the right to vote.

Peter Barratt’s story of his great grandmother’s efforts in support of the cause, was told with enthusiasm and was well supported with power-point images of photographs and memorabilia, which Alice had collected during her adventures, which included 5 short gaol sentences, in Holloway and in Leicester.

‘As a young boy in the 1960s my grandfather Alfred would often tell me stories of his mother Alice and her fight for the vote, for Alfred saw first- hand the opposition that Alice and other suffragettes met in their fight to be treated equally in the society of the day’.

Working for an early workers co-operative venture ‘Equity Shoe Company’ in Leicester in 1886, Alice joined the suffragette movement in February 1907, when  attending an early suffragette gathering in London.

Alice’s contacts with the Pankhursts, and husband Alfred’s heckling of Winston Churchill were brought to life in this moving story.

Alice led the Leicester branch in the search for the vote during the period 1907 – 1914, at which point with the onset of the war, they abandoned their cause to take up the essential tasks in manufacturing and agriculture vacated by the men, now fighting In Europe.

This was a captivating story, of Alice’s part in the fight for ‘votes for women’, which led to some voting rights being granted in 1918 and ultimately to full  universal suffrage in 1928.

25th October 2016 Speaker: John Hare

Three Wild Camel Surveys in the Gobi Desert

Report by John Fagge - Society Blogger

The Gobi desert looks a desolate and hazardous place, but not sufficiently so to deter John Hare in his quest to determine where the Wild Bactrian Camel lived and in what numbers.

This wild camel, wild in temperament and able to survive in such alien conditions, by consuming saline water, an almost unique characteristic amongst land animals, is the eighth most endangered large animal on the planet, with around 600 now believed to live in the southern part of the Gobi desert.

The wild camel has a 1.9% divergence in DNA from the domesticated Bactrian camel indicating a divergence date of around 1 million years, a long time prior to the domestication of the Bactrian camel, and it has therefore classified as a distinct species.

John’s interest was sparked by a Russian scientific team who, in 1993 were planning a visit into the Gobi desert areas of Northern China and Mongolia.

Abandoning his civil service work he sought permission to join this study, and has continued his visits and conservation efforts since that time.

His efforts led to the creation of the LopNur nature reserve, a 155,000 square kilometre area of the desert, similar in size to Bulgaria or the state of Texas.

Despite the obvious challenges the area presented, being a former nuclear testing area, with minimal resources for animal survival, and threats from the poisonous effluent of itinerant gold miners, the wild camels have survived.

A captive breeding station, at Zakhyn Us in nearby Mongolia, is strongly supporting the fight for the survival of this endangered species.

18th October 2016 Speaker: Peter Higginbotham

Gruelling Experiences - Three Centuries of the Workhouse

Report by John Fagge - Society Blogger

The work-house evokes the grim Victorian world described so vividly by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, and several other of his novels.

In this second talk of the season we were entertained by a detailed review of the centuries of the work-houses, which developed from the 1601 Act for the Relief of the Poor.

In this act, all church-wardens of every parish were made responsible for providing hand-outs to the poor, the infirm and unprotected children, funded by a levy on households, which was called the poor-rate, (the start of property taxation).  Failure to pay the poor-rate could result in a fine, seizure of property or even imprisonment.

Peter followed the emergence of actual work-houses from 1647, to the more formal arrangements established by the1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, when Poor Law Unions were established across England and Wales, enabling work-houses serving groups of parishes or urban areas to be constructed.

Focussing on the status of work-houses in East Yorkshire, Peter covered the conditions, the rules, the boredom, the male / female segregation and the meagre diets which were imposed on families who had no other way of staying alive.  The system was intended to be a deterrent, to minimise the cost to the rate-payers.

With gruel ( half-strength porridge) or bread and cheese the staple meals and with meat only twice a week, the food for workers, children, the infirm and the aged alike was particularly grim.

A few old rare photographs of inmates strongly reinforced the nature of the work-houses  in our minds, and the progressive transition of the infirmaries into hospitals for the new NHS in 1948, and the work-house buildings into Old Peoples’ Homes were a relief to all.

11th October 2016 Speaker: Nigel Thorley

Jaguar Heritage

Report by John Fagge - Society Blogger

In our first lecture of the 2016 /17 season we were highly entertained by Nigel Thorley, founder, and now Director of the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club.

Nigel took us through the entire history of Jaguar Company from its humble beginnings when William Waulmsley and William Lyons set up Swallow side-cars in 1922.

This was a comprehensive exposition of the incredible Jaguar story, as the company forged ahead with great drive and enthusiasm, from building upper bodywork onto an Austin 7 chassis, progressing to the SS Swallow Sports-car based on a Standard Chassis in 1931, and then leaping forward when Harry Wesley developed their own engine, a 6 cylinder 2 .5 litre in 1935, which with their streamlined sports-car design, sold 20,000 cars in 3 years.

In a temporary interruption during WW2, they reverted to sidecar manufacture for the army, before developing again with their 3.5 litre XK engine, which developed 160 bhp.   In special trials in a stripped-down model, the vehicle reached 172.9 mph in 1953.   They advertised it as ‘Grace, Space and Pace’.

Nigel didn’t falter, covering Le Mans success, the famous Mk 2 of Inspector Morse fame, the Daimler Company acquisition, the Malcolm Sayer designed E-type, the XJ6, the XJ12, the XJS, etc., right though to the newly announced F-pace.

Packed with technical information, sales volumes and personalities, this was an exciting and fast-paced trip through the 94 year Jaguar story, by some-one who was clearly an expert on his subject.  It was well-supported by photos, at every stage, with the two Williams, the founders shown on motorbike and side-car in their earliest vehicle.

A very entertaining evening, particularly for the car enthusiasts, but perhaps a little too much technical content for the casual driver.

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