Club report – Wetherby Retired Men's Forum

Wetherby Retired men's Forum

ON October 8, 51 members gathered at the Church Centre. Unfortunately the scheduled speaker had rung the previous evening to say he was ill. As no last minute replacements could be found the members were invited to give short presentations.

First on the floor was Peter Haddlesey who described finding some early photographs of Harrogate and his plans to locate the sites and re- photograph them.

Secondly Colin Gaden spoke of ‘Five Memorable Ladies’. The first lady was Barbara Windsor who married the son of one of Colin’s school friends. On the strength of this acquaintance Colin invited Barbara to open Wetherby Festival which she did with great success. The second memorable lady was Viv Nicholson who famously stated that she would “spend, spend spend” her husbands pool’s winnings. She spoke at a literary luncheon which was not a great success. The third lady was Princess Diana whom Colin met briefly at a Buckingham Palace garden party. The forth lady was Colin’s first girlfriend who was a wartime evacuee from Sunderland whom he met during the school holidays in Malton. Lastly Colin described taking part in the Wetherby Musical Theatre Group’s production of Chicago and a particular love scene which resulted in him being shot.

Cliff Johnson described his early experiences of teaching in County Durham, Shropshire and Norfolk. Bob Hall related stories from his earlier days in Wetherby and Ron Matthews and Jim Angus contributed amusing anecdotes. Peter Mullaly thanked all contributors for their efforts at such short notice.

l On October 15, 47 members met at the Church Centre. Colin Gaden introduced our speaker Don Metcalfe from Halifax, his subject being ‘The Harrison Clocks’. He followed the life and career of John Harrison, whose clock making skills solved the problem of seafarers establishing the longitude of their position. In 1714 a royal decree was issued offering a reward of 20,000 for the invention of a reliable method of establishing longitude at sea. This was a consequence of a number of sea disasters blamed on failure to establish a ship’s correct position.

John Harrison was a self-educated man who developed an interest in clock making, building his first clock in 1713 made completely from wood. This clock still exists and keeps excellent time. He made a number of important inventions including a design of pendulum unaffected by temperature. Eventually he became interested in the longitude problem and produced a clock (known as H1) which he presented to the Board of Longitude (a public body set up to adjudicate on the award). Accurate time keeping would enable longitude to be established.

Unfortunately the Board were biased towards a rival method based on establishing position by observation of the moon and stars. This was favoured by the Rev Maskelyne who became Astronomer Royal. This method failed in cloudy conditions.

Mr Metcalfe described the improved clocks produced by Harrison and the problems presented by the Board of Longitude and Maskelyne until he eventually spoke to King George III, which resulted in his clock H5 being accepted as the standard device for establishing longitude. There is, however, no evidence he received the reward and he died a broken man. John Roe thanked Mr Metcalfe for a fascinating talk.