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Season 2018-2019

Meeting Reports

The Stray

For our second weeks’ meeting on Thursday, 10th October, we enjoyed an excellent, illustrated talk by Stuart Ward entitled “Islay and Jura – The Forgotten Islands”. Stuart is a keen amateur photographer and his photographs perfectly complemented his talk which covered aspects of Islay’s whisky production, a number of ship disasters, the wildlife - birds, otters, seals - and the Celtic history of these lovely islands. He also told us about George Orwell’s connection with Jura on which he wrote his famous work: “1984” Altogether a riveting and well received presentation


On the 17th October our speaker was Robert Bolton who gave us a fascinating talk entitled ‘The Story of Diamonds

He described the different categories of diamonds and as part of his talk he circulated samples of uncut diamonds,

solitaires and other kinds of diamonds. He also highlighted the cutting procedure for diamonds talking about the most

famous and valuable examples such as that bought by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor. Also of particular note was

Robert’s mention of the Cullinan diamond from Kimberley, South Africa which became part of the Crown Jewels after

being cut into nine pieces. This was an excellent talk from a speaker clearly well versed in his subject.


On 24th October we welcomed the return of David Morris with a talk entitled “Crossing the Pacific by Balloon “.

He spoke of the plans by by Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand of a balloon crossing over the Pacific Oceanfrom Japan to

the United States. He then referred to the construction at ICI Fibres in Harrogate of the fabricthat was necessary to enclose

the balloon. It was necessary to wait for the Jet-stream to be in a suitable position and at the second attempt the balloon

successfully took off with the aim of travelling at a height of 32,000 feet towards California. Unfortunately the Jet-stream

changed direction and seemed to be heading for the Rockie Mountains. Although

it eventually cleared these mountains, it landed in a frozen lake and both Branson and Lindstrand were only saved by

wrapping pieces of the balloon material round themselves. This was a very informative and

interesting talk.



On Thursday 31st October we welcomed the return of David Davies for a talk relating to the relationship of the

UK with Europe entitled “UK & Europe-Awkward Neighbours“ . After World War II and the devastation of Europe

Jean Monet realised that most countries were unable to provide essential services and he had a vision to unite.

Although Britain was alone, it had the stature to support such a venture but was more interested in global issues.

We then heard of the Berlin Air-Airlift which continued the supply of Berliners by air with the aid of UK and US

thus thwarting the aims of Russia. Following this we heard of the Marshal Plan under which Europe was

encouraged to pump billions of dollars to regenerate war ravaged countries. David then spoke of the creation of

NATO. It was realised that economically the UK was performing poorly compared particularly to Germany and

France. After two unsuccessful attempts, the UK joined the EU in in 1973 and a subsequent Referendum confirmed

That  the UK should remain. We then heard of the later history of Britain’s relationship with the EU and the

subsequent decision to leave following the 2006 Referendum.

This was a well-illustrated, detailed and well-researched talk.



At our meeting on Thursday, 7th November, we were treated to a fascinating and detailed talk by archeologist, Alex Sotheran entitled “Battlefield Archeology” .

As the title suggests, Alex took us to the battlefields of the 1st World War and, in particular, to the Thiepval, Bullencourt and Serre offensives. To accompany his excellent talk he showed us pictures of some of the items that had been found during archeological digs - clothing, helmets, bayonets, cutlery, guns as well as the remains of both German and British soldiers. Some of the remains were accompanied by personal possessions such as identity discs, watches and shaving kits which made it possible to identify the soldiers in question, something that was not often the case in Alex’s archeological speciality. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the talk there were numerous questions which indicated how much our members had enjoyed it.  

On Thursday 14th November we received a talk from Roger Oldfield, one of our members, on the Eden Valley,

one of the lesser-known parts of Cumbria but nonetheless of considerable historical and geographical interest.

Initially we heard of the influence on the area of the famous Clifford family notably Lady Anne Clifford. The

area also often bore the brunt over the years of fighting between Scottish and English armies. Also the

region suffered as a result of raids from Border Reivers and the existence of pele towers and castles is

evidence of this. Finally we heard about the main centres of population in the region including Kirkby Stephen,

Appleby, Penrith and Carlisle