Unexpected circumstances may very occasionally cause a change of speaker at short notice.
3 APRIL – City of Culture – James Gorry from the Coventry team.
1 MAY – Professor Seaman, Oxford University – Shostakovitch. A return by an excellent speaker who last time held the audience spellbound by his account of his time in Russia, where Shostakovitch was one of his acquaintances.
MARCH 2020 – Sue Ablett gave an excellent talk and slide show based on her extensive global travels, with photos and with added stories about the places she visited. She told of those inspired by “Around the world in 80 days”, of Baedecker and Lonely Planet Guides, of her own experiences, such as sleeping at an airport for 7 days as she waited for a ticket. Other memorable sites were the toilet at Everest base camp and the North Korea Foreign Language Book Store which had no books in English.
FEBRUARY 2020 – Malcolm Stent gave an entertaining talk about his experiences as a proud Brummie in entertainment over many years. He performed on television, also for 27 years was a Dame in Christmas pantomimes, broadcast a daily road show on BBC WM, was an occasional playwright and won a British Empire Medal for his work in theatre and for charities. He told of his family history of craftsmen in Saltley, who built carriages for the elegant Orient Express.
JANUARY 2020 – Steve Cox gave a fascinating presentation about 3D printing. He is a consultant on this topic, brought a small 3D printer to demonstrate and told of the rapid growth of the topic since patents expired a decade ago. It now has an amazingly wide range of applications and materials, from prosthetic limbs that now cost the same as a McDonald’s meal, through spare parts made on the International Space Station, to assembly jigs for manufacturing. Items can be made of metal, resin or even concrete for small buildings. It has radically reduced cost and weight for custom items.
DECEMBER 2019 – Lorraine Hoskins, with the help of husband Paul, gave an excellently scripted and presented talk about the RNLI, with the help of some slides and some impressive videos of lifeboats and crews in action. She stressed that almost all RNLI workers are volunteers. She told of the RNLI beginnings, its many areas of work, its training facilities and the statistics of its operations. An estimated 140,000 lives have been saved since the foundation in the 19th century, there are 238 life boat stations in the UK and Eire and costs are almost £0.5 million a day.
NOVEMBER 2019 – Trevor and Katherine Pocock from the Salvation Army gave a polished but nontheless personal presentation about the history and work of the Army. The emphasis on military images has reduced over the years and the uniform now looks more official than military. We learned about the organisation’s wide range of activities, its international scope and even its finances.
OCTOBER 2019 – Andrew Lound gave an energetic video and Power Point presentation about APOLLO: A MOON ODYSSEY. It followed the history of space exploration from Yuri Gagarin’s first flight in 1961 to the race between America and Russia to land on the moon. We followed the various Apollo test flights to the successful Apollo 11 landing on the moon on 20th July 1969, piloted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the lunar module Eagle with Michael Collins in the mother craft. It was a very interesting talk.
SEPTEMBER 2019 – Alison Harris gave an excellent talk about her experiences as a journalist, which included at times almost every role in the production of free newspapers, plus experience in paid-for newspapers. She told of the transition through technologies and the poor pay, boosted significantly at times by freelance writing for national papers. She changed career to PR and still helps charities in that role and currently heads the Probus Magazine.
AUGUST 2019 – Peter Simpkin gave a most entertaining talk about his experiences in broadcasting. He worked in ITV and the BBC, as a sound engineer, cameraman, newsreader, producer and commentator. His activities included Pebble Mill studios and WM Radio and in his broadcaster role he tried his hand as a trainee bus driver and also met many celebrities. He regretted the passing of some of what he saw as the high standards of the old guard.
JULY 2019 – Sheila Woolf gave an excellent talk about the life of Sir Henry Parkes, who was born in what is now Canley, Coventry, and was evicted with his parents from their farm. He went on to achieve wealth and high government office in Australia. He was a man of great energy, becoming a parent several times in late life.
JUNE 2019 – John McCarthy, Crocus and Cornflowers 1936-47 – The Holocaust. This was a true story of events between 1936 and 1947 and dealt with two people who managed to escape the Holocaust. “The Crocus and a Cornflower” was a book originally written by John Macartney for the only daughter of one of the principal characters, Hans Koch.
MAY 2019 – Gerald Seaman gave a captivating talk about the lead up to his time studying and lecturing on music in Russia and many other countries. He learned Russian while doing National Service and after Oxford University he declined an invitation to become a spy, a decision which probably saved his life as Kim Philby was betraying British spies. Gerald told of his experiences living in Russia and of meetings with Khachaturian, Krennikov and Shostakovitch, about whom he is writing a book.
APRIL 2019 – Heidi Meyer: This was a return visit by Heidi, an excellent and interesting presenter. She spent five years in Kabul, working for the US government. She talked movingly about the present state of Afghanistan, told of its turbulent history since 1970 and discussed some of the US/allied forces decisions and their consequences.
MARCH 2019 – Toney Hadland gave us his very entertaining “Whistle Stop Tour” of 8 heritage railways in picturesque places in 5 countries, based on his own photos, videos and experiences of those trains. Even for those who have no particular technical interest in old trains, his talk gave us some fascinating history and facts about their role and survival.
FEBRUARY 2019 – Roy Smart, a regular and excellent presenter, talked of Amy Johnston, from Kingston Upon Hull to London where she qualified as a pilot and as the world’s first female aeronautical engineer. She flew single handed to Darwin, Australia where fame, fortune, marriage, divorce and misfortune followed. Finally came the war and her tragic death in the sea off the Thames estuary whilst serving in the Air Transport Auxiliary Squadron.
JANUARY 2019 – Max Hunt talked about the history of the Worcestershire village of Shelsley Walsh, about its still working historic water powered corn mill and its famous Hill Climbing Course, and especially about the great cars and drivers. He used illustrations from historic images and from photos taken by himself in his activities on the Course.
DECEMBER 2018 – Chris Arnott, well known local author and always an interesting speaker, talked about his latest book, “Larkin About”, on Philip Larkin and the Coventry locations that influenced him, including several very close to the Probus meeting place.
NOVEMBER 2018 – Pierre Valdenbray gave an excellent presentation about fracking, based on his long experience as a consultant to the industry in many countries. We gained a good understanding of the perceived risks and benefits of this sometimes controversial technology.
OCTOBER 2018 – Paddy Hannigan gave a delightful talk called “Boom and Bust, Wall Street”, about the political, social and economic events of the US after WW1. Events were brought alive with quotes in a good American accent, illustrating a country more appropriately thought of as the “Disunited States of America”.
SEPTEMBER 2018 – Roy Smart, formerly of the Fleet Air Arm, gave a beautifully crafted and entertaining presentation about “the English Icarus”, Percy Pilcher, the first Englishman to die in pursuit of flight, in 1899. Percy made many successful glider flights before crashing to his death in a public demonstration of horse powered flight – via a pulling rope and speed multiplier pulleys. This was at nearby Stanton Hall where a monument commemorates him.
AUGUST 2018 – Yvonne Penn described the day to day challenges met by the Society in bringing help to seamen who operate far from the bosom of home and family whilst being at sea for months or even years. Accounts of bullying, loneliness, drunkenness, corruption and poor
employer relationships are the order of the day for their Chaplains.
JULY 2018 – Robin Kenward of REMAP returned to give gave another uplifting account of how volunteers make bespoke solutions to disability problems and he showed many examples of ingenious ideas to help the disabled and their families.
JUNE 2018 – Tony Hadland gave an excellent and well researched talk about the first 125 years of the Raleigh cycle manufacturing company. He disposed of many myths while explaining the history of the company, its products and the famous heron badge.
MAY 2018 – Simon Topman, Managing Director of the Joseph Hudson company, gave a hugely entertaining talk about the thriving Birmingham manufacturer, the ACME Whistle company, that makes a variety of whistles. It has about 50 employees and holds its own against counterfeiting rivals in Asia, It originated the London police whistle and made the whistles on the Titanic.
APRIL 2018 – The planned speaker Kate McGory was replaced by a colleague who gave a deeply personal account of his reasons for being a keen supporter of the Marie Curie organisation. He very clearly described its origins and its work.
MARCH 2018 – Janice Wade spoke on My Policing Recollections from a Woman’s Perspective and gave a most entertaining talk about her experiences. They included her time as a Chief Inspector in West Midlands police stations, also in Special Branch, and her role in Lesotho in Africa. She also told of meeting Nelson Mandela on his visit to Birmingham and greeting him in his native language.
FEBRUARY 2018 – Martin Clarke, under the banner of “Wiggle and Giggle, the Worm Man”, gave a hilarious account of his experiences in setting up the largest worm farm in the UK, with tales of skulduggery, official incompetence, the unexpected behaviour of worms, and the help he had from an unexpected direction.
JANUARY 2018 – David Skillen gave a lively talk about the famous American battle of the Alamo, explaining also the events that surrounded it.
DECEMBER 2017 – Heidi Meyer, the new Master (and the first woman in that role) of The Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick, gave an account of the history and present status of the “Hospital” and especially its role as a residential establishment for deserving ex-servicemen.
NOVEMBER 2017 – Tony Hadland gave an illustrated talk about his family’s long connection with famous engineers, through over two centuries, from Trevithick to Barnes Wallis.
OCTOBER 2017 – David Nurse gave a talk on motor sport and racing.
SEPTEMBER 2017 – Robin Kenward of REMAP gave an uplifting account of how volunteers make bespoke solutions to disability problems and showed many examples of ingenious ideas to help the disabled and their families.
AUGUST 2017 – Tim Cooper-Cocks gave an informative and entertaining talk about the importance, the benefits and the process of setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney for both assets and health.
JULY 2017 – Georgina Hale skilfully told the story of her brush with death when her cruise ship sank off Antarctica after nudging an iceberg, how she and her husband and all the others narrowly survived, her dealings with the media, and her charity work in memory of her husband.
JUNE 2017 – Alan Winterburn presented a traditional slide show with fascinating commentary about Little Known Cotswolds.
MAY 2017 – Chris Arnott gave an entertaining talk based on his travels on UK narrow gauge railways and related in his book Small Island by Little Train.
APRIL 2017 – David Skillen gave a no holds barred account of the Battle of Townton in Yorkshire, probably the bloodiest battle on British soil and surprisingly little known.