All posts by Michael Clarke

The Great Central Railway East Of Sheffield — Stephen Gay — 9th April 2018

Sheffield Victoria to Kiverton Park

It seems there is some­thing about rail­ways in the genes of gen­tle­men of our age group which is rather more than nos­tal­gia.  Our speaker this week, Stephen Gay, is a master of this vast sub­ject, coming on his nine­teenth visit.  Having taken us to far flung Cornwall only a few weeks ago, this time our excur­sion  was to be rather nearer to home and a jour­ney of rather shorter distance- about ten miles.

It is easy to focus on the west­ern side of our city with its obvi­ous attrac­tions; Stephen invited us look east where there is much of over­looked interest.  Opening up his usual cor­nu­copia of slides we were to be treated to scenes largely for­got­ten or neg­lected during a pho­toghrapic tour of a short part of the old Great Central Railway (GCR): Sheffield Victoria to Kiverton Park.  Most of the 36 slides came from unused mater­ial from his book “Through Kirton Tunnel”, pub­lished in 2004.  We were reminded that there was no ‘direct’ route into Sheffield until the Midland Railway provided this in 1870.  The GCR and its pre­de­cessors  ori­gin­ally ran ser­vices into King’s Cross via Retford but added, from 1899 Marylebone, the year it opened it’s ‘London exten­sion’ via Aylesbury and the Metropolitan line.  The Company sprang from the ambi­tious Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway which aspired not only to rival the Midland and Great Northern but to run ser­vices to Paris.  Hence its con­struc­tion to ‘Berne’ gauge and strict  align­ment and grad­ing stand­ards allow­ing, from 1903, a three-hour timing non-stop from Sheffield to London (163 miles).  Direct ser­vices were offered to sev­eral des­tin­a­tions to the East and South, includ­ing Bournemouth (via Banbury) and Harwich and Immingham/New Holland to con­nect with Continental boats.

Sheffield Victoria, as seen in 1957

The GCR system was to reach peak traffic in the 1950s, which at one point was so intens­ive (over 400 train move­ments per day) that elec­tri­fic­a­tion via a new Woodhead Tunnel was under­taken between Wath and Manchester.

Sheffield Victoria rail­way sta­tion, September 1969

A vast auto­matic mar­shalling yard was built at Tinsley.  Much of the track was quad­rupled and given multi aspect sig­nalling.  But the impact of the private car, lor­ries and motor­ways in the early 1960s rap­idly took their toll and this, with the later demise of the steel and coal indus­tries, removed its raison d’etre.  The later was ser­viced at Annersley, which provided a col­lec­tion hub for col­lier­ies in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Now only the stretch between Sheffield, Lincoln and Cleethorpes sur­vives Dr Beeching’s ration­al­isa­tions.

So what remains of this once busy and mod­ern­ised route?  We star­ted our jour­ney east­wards at Sheffield Victoria and the Wicker via­duct with its penny lift (opened 1851, finally closed 1983 when ser­vices to Huddersfield were diver­ted to start at Midland).  Engineered by Sir John Fowler of Forth Bridge fame, we pro­ceeded to view shots of the line and its adjoin­ing envir­on­ment.  These included the modern Nunnery Supertram depot, a June only weed-killing train in action, Bernard Road and Woodburn Road depots.  Parkway market sid­ings came next with a photo of the last rail deliv­ery van in 1983.  Then a shot of the now demol­ished Craven’s Engineering works which pro­duced everything from mil­it­ary equip­ment to the city’s ori­ginal trams.  Next stop was to inspect the unsightly and, at night, unsafe bus shel­ter at Darnall which replaced the ori­ginal four can­op­ied plat­form premises that more than once won the “best kept sta­tion” award.  A pit stop fol­lowed, where we were shown the remains of a sig­nal­mans’ toilet block –last flushed in 1971!

The lin­eside post-industrial coun­tryside was now begin­ning to open out. Slag heaps had now been removed and ‘greened’, inter­spersed with fields of yellow rape­seed.  We pro­ceeded via Orgreave of miners’ strike infame (1983).  We were pleased to learn that one of the few ‘double Pavilion’ style GCR sta­tions at Woodhouse has been restored, a sur­vival in a sea of destruc­tion. We con­tin­ued past the site of Beighton sta­tion (opened 1849 closed 1954) and its level cross­ing, the scene of a bad acci­dent involving a mil­it­ary train in 1942, when steel sheets, dis­lodged from wagon, caused derail­ment. (See poem at end)  Our next stop was the site of the Beighton track main­ten­ance yard built by German POWs in 1942. Stephen worked here as a yard­man between 1979 and 1992, when he was made redund­ant. He was thus able to take and share pic­tures of when the yard was oper­a­tional with its steam crane, piles of sleep­ers and 60ft lengths of track. There was a happy shot of a rotund Polish col­league ‘Ted’ and a sad one of 1920s wooden car­riages being des­troyed –how con­ser­va­tion­ists would have liked to have acquired those!

We were then shown an aerial photo of the area sur­round­ing what is now the Rother Valley Country Park with its lakes and river diver­sions.  A whole miss-mash of lines of com­pet­ing lines squeezed (and fre­quently cross­ing over each other) through the valley which in future will also take the HST2 ser­vice towards Leeds. The area also hosts Beighton Junction where the GCR divided east­wards towards Worksop and Southwards towards Annersley and the London Extension via Nottingham Victoria. The remain­ing rival  Midland Railway goods line is still used as a relief route.

Approaching the end of our jour­ney we still had sur­prises in store.  We were shown the remains of a buried tunnel, which had once provided a time saving short cut for Grimsby fish trains. Next came a recent nat­ural dis­aster: shots of the rail­way embank­ment col­lapse near Waleswood, due to a com­bin­a­tion of rabbit war­rens and flood pres­sure in 2007.  This left an unusual ‘sus­pen­sion’ bridge of track over a fifty foot gap which for­tu­nately was repor­ted by an alert driver. The line was out of action for six months.   And so to our final whistle stops: the ‘new’ (1929) sta­tion at Kiverton Bridge and Kiverton Park. By now at risk of run­ning late we regret­fully had to call a halt.

Stephen included examples of his own rail­way poems in  his most inter­est­ing and enjoy­able present­a­tion includ­ing:

 A Soldier Down The Line
(Click on the link to down­load the poem.)

Like a change from the Peak District?  Kiverton Park Station (with pub oppos­ite) is the start of a delight­ful three mile flat walk along the Chesterfield Canal to regain the rail­way at Shireoaks.  There is an hourly ser­vice to/from Sheffield which enables you to see many of the sites men­tioned in this blog.  It’s espe­cially pleas­ant during the blue­bell season.




Edale Mountain Rescue Team, cour­tesy of Edale Mountain Rescue.

We are lucky to live on the edge of one of the most beau­ti­ful parts of the coun­try.  Many  mem­bers who enjoy walk­ing, biking or just motor­ing through the Peak District were famil­iar with the Edale Mountain Rescue team (EMRT) facil­ity loc­ated at the foot of Stanage but knew less about its ori­gins, activ­it­ies and the expert­ise required to man the local arm of this vital national ser­vice.

Our (Stand-in) speaker this week, Andy Cass, had been a member of EMART for over 30 years.  He divided his talk between out­lining the Charity’s his­tory loc­ally and demon­strat­ing samples of the wide range of always ready pre-packed equip­ment tailored for dif­fer­ing emer­gency situ­ations and weather con­di­tions.

EMART roots go back to the 1950s and the form­a­tion of the Peak District National Park.  The increase in rights of way, signed foot­paths and the motor car were to give easier access to often wild and remote coun­try expos­ing the grow­ing num­bers of vis­it­ors to both its delights and dangers.   In response, the Peak Park Planning Board and local rescue volun­teers met in 1956 to estab­lish the present organ­isa­tion. In the early  years equip­ment was kept in a damp hay loft at North Lees moving to the cur­rent site in 1986 owned by the then  Blue Circle Cement Co.  Various improve­ments have been made, gradu­at­ing from two ex NHS por­takabins to the present pur­pose built facil­ity opened in 2007.  This can securely house all the team’s modern equip­ment and 3 Land Rover ambu­lances.

EMART cur­rently has 48 team mem­bers plus one dog. 15 mem­bers are qual­i­fied medics includ­ing junior doc­tors. They respond to an aver­age 120 ‘call outs’ annu­ally, mostly in North Derbyshire but occa­sion­ally fur­ther afield such as the Carlisle flood emer­gency, major motor­way acci­dents and more than one crashed hang-glider. A repor­ted air crash at Ladybower turned out to be a false alarm.  In these they called upon to assist the Emergency Services. IN dif­fi­cult cases the team can call on Helicopter assist­ance from East Midlands and Humberside Airports.  About 60% of cases are deal­ing with trau­matic injur­ies (espe­cially falls from rock faces etc, frac­tures, cyc­ling acci­dents), 25% are other med­ical con­di­tions (inc Cardiac, hypo­ther­mia epi­leptic fits, dia­betes incid­ents) and 15% miss­ing per­sons. People are often found ini­tially by the team  dog having no map, com­pass, suit­able cloth­ing or foot­wear.  Despite poor recep­tion in some areas, the mobile phone has trans­formed team assembly, con­tact and hence speed and effi­ciency of response. On receiv­ing a call, the rota team leader makes an assess­ment of the man­power, expert­ise and equip­ment required and alerts mem­bers who are often on scene within 30–40 minutes.  Great emphasis is given to pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the use of rescue and first equip­ment with fre­quent famil­i­ar­isa­tion and updat­ing of expert­ise which is extern­ally assessed.  The team par­ti­cip­ates in civic emer­gency exer­cises such as a sim­u­lated crash in Totley rail­way tunnel.  EMRT has an annual budget of £60000 but receives no Government fin­ance. Some equip­ment, drugs and med­ical dis­pos­ables are provided by the NHS.

Andy then moved on to show us some of the equip­ment used in the field.  This is typ­ic­ally car­ried in ruck­sacks etc which can weight up to 15  Kilogrammes.  An amaz­ing array of good­ies emerged, some­how squeezed into the bags: a radio hand­set, a loc­a­tion com­puter, vari­ous types of splint (both low and high tec) vacuum bags and pumps, a pulse reader, a defib­ril­lator not men­tion vari­ous gas can­is­ters, band­ages, emer­gency rations and what looked like drug phials.

In con­clu­sion, while such jaunts may now be a bit much for some of us,  Andy gave us some tips on how to pre­pare and sur­vive our next foray into the wild world beyond Ringinglow. These included:

  • Get the fore­cast: If Snow on the Snake avoid Kinder!  Always go pre­pared for the expec­ted and unex­pec­ted weather: con­di­tions can rap­idly change. Take warm, vis­ible water­proofs and foot­wear suit­able for the ter­rain
  • Take map and com­pass and learn how to use them includ­ing provid­ing ref­er­ences. Put likely loc­a­tion area ref­er­ence on your mobile. Give police mobile no before set­ting out
  • If you need to guide a heli­copter, wave a red coat, your back to the wind, hands raised in the ‘Y’ pos­i­tion. (Diagonal Arms for not required)
  • Take Elastoplast, Mars Bars and drink.

This most inter­est­ing ses­sion drew to a close with a wide range of ques­tions and obser­va­tions.  It was clear that many people owe a great debt of grat­it­ude this this small band of volun­teers who give of their time and expert­ise, turn­ing out 24/7, no matter the weather.  On such was a member who shared with us that he owed his life to the splen­did folk who make up EMART.  More inform­a­tion on the organ­isa­tion can be found at

Sheffield Street Names — David Templeman — 6th November 2017.

Our Speaker this week, David Templeman, has given us sev­eral most inter­est­ing talks on the local his­tory of our city and this was to be no excep­tion.  His present­a­tion was to cover a broader pic­ture than its title.  As we were to dis­cover, Sheffield’s street names encap­su­late and bring us into touch with so much of our city’s his­tory.

If you click here a map of Sheffield in 1771 will appear on a sep­ar­ate tab and you will be able to flip to and from the map using your tabs at the top of your browser.

David began his talk by sketch­ing out the ori­gins of our street names.  In many instances these are obscure but are thought to be adap­tions of earlier names.  While Sheffield does not share (with example, York) Roman influ­ences or a defin­ing sur­round­ing wall it did share Viking (eg ‘thorpe’ and ‘toft’ Danish names for farm­stead and out­build­ings), Norman and medi­eval aspects includ­ing a castle (at four acres the fourth largest site in England), narrow streets and over­hanging build­ings.   Some his­tor­i­ans think there must at some time been set­tle­ment from the Celtic fringes as some street names have Gallic deriv­a­tion includ­ing Fargate (Fuaran) and Balm Green (Beum).   In common with many towns, Sheffield has its fair share of names derived from local prom­in­ent people (Eyre, Fitzwilliam, Matilda, Norfolk, Howard) from its sur­round­ing coun­tryside and agri­cul­ture products (green, field, mill, pond, pool, nurs­ery, orch­ards, hay, milk, peas, sheaf) all fea­ture.  The cur­rent con­tro­versy over remov­ing trees reminded us that Sheffield has a his­tory of parks and tree lined streets planted to beau­tify, to combat pol­lu­tion and to com­mem­or­ate the fallen in wars (eg Western Road). Did we know that off the High Street there were once tree lined ‘crofts’ sur­round­ing fine houses? While there is no lime street (the most common street tree (eg Rivelin Valley Road has a two mile avenue) our arboreal friends are rep­res­en­ted by the humble holly, syca­more, fig and mul­berry.

Our speaker moved on to take us on a tour of “old” pre 1700 Sheffield. This was a com­pact area bounded by the Don and castle on the north-east, the Sheaf and ponds to the east, Moorhead to the south, the (now demol­ished) cross at the junc­tion of Townhead and Church Streets to the west and West Bar to the north. The town was to soon out­grow this area with the pop­u­la­tion rising from around 1500 people in 1600 over 500,000 by 1900 with most of the growth after 1850 as the steel industry (now ser­viced by rail­ways and steam power) expan­ded from the con­fined (water powered) val­leys to the flat East End.

We com­menced our tour at Barker’s pool, a reser­voir fed by one of the many fresh water springs to be found in cent­ral Sheffield.  This facil­ity, much safer than a pol­luted well, provided drink­ing water and a supply in the event of fire. Every quarter, water was released to flush the streets clear of animal drop­pings and detritus. The depos­its were flushed down the hill formed by what is now the High Street (the best area to live) via the Castle and into the Don near Lady’s Bridge-the poorest area.  We were shown photos of some of the narrow streets nearby includ­ing Balm Green with small cot­tages still in place as late as 1900.  We then moved along Coal Pit Lane ( since 1857 named Cambridge street after a Crimean War General). Coal was once dug to a depth of 60 feet in this loc­a­tion.  Progressing via Holly Street where there was graz­ing, Pinfold Street (animal com­pound), Trippet Lane (with another water source named after a local family) to Paradise Square  (mean­ing ‘enclosed place’) the home to a pros­per­ous, pro­fes­sional com­munity with access to fresh air. We looked at pic­tures of old Fig Lane, narrow as today, Hartshead with its deer hunt­ing con­nec­tions and Sheffield from Kelham Island show­ing orch­ards in the fore­ground and bucolic  hedge-rowed coun­tryside behind now covered by hous­ing around Manor.

The Wicker (Viking Viker) area, once much more the centre of grav­ity than today, Waingate and site of Castle market were the next points of interest.  Apparently there has been a cross­ing at Lady’s Bridge since 1486 (named after the chapel of Our Lady demol­ished in 1760) the bridge being widened in that year and 1864 and 1909. The ori­ginal bridge is still there.  This was also the site of a duck­ing stool for unruly women as well as a bear bait­ing pit. Moving past the site of Sheffield Castle (also demol­ished in 1760) and Market (demol­ished 2015) we traced the now under­ground River Sheaf to Ponds Forge where the was another bridge across a fre­quently flooded area (now Midland Station) lead­ing up to avenue of walnut trees towards what became Norfolk Park.

The Duke of Norfolk was to become, and remains, the largest landowner in the Sheffield area having been gran­ted land rights by James Ist in 1617. His suc­cessors  began develop the area (known as Allsopp’s fields) to the south east of what is now the Moor from 1771 onwards, set­ting the grid pat­tern of streets we see today and bequeath­ing many street and pub names.  We returned to the city centre via the romantic sound­ing Truelove’s Gutter (now Castle street) Tudor Square and Chapel Walk.  Our last port of call was Cutlers’ Hall of which there have been three, the cur­rent build­ing dating from 1852. The Cathedral, oppos­ite, deserves a talk in its own right.

In con­clu­sion, our Chairman warmly thanked David Templeman for another fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion leav­ing us much better informed on our city’s his­tory and nomen­clature.  What better way for work­ing up an appet­ite for our annual lunch which was to follow!



My Life in Specialist Steels — Bryan Peters — 4th September 2017

With so many mem­bers having been involved dir­ectly or indir­ectly in Sheffield’s indus­trial scene, there was a palp­able fris­son of expect­a­tion as our Chairman intro­duced this week’s speaker, Bryan Peters. We were not to be dis­ap­poin­ted.

Bryan was to take us on a jour­ney through a career span­ning fifty-five years and, in so doing, remind us of a world before Meadowhall and Leisure Centres: of com­pan­ies, products and places now in many cases no more (but not for­got­ten). At times we could almost sense vibra­tions from the forges, sniff the smoke of pol­lu­tion and inside, machine shop cool­ing liquid, see the sparks flying from grind­ing wheels and feel the heat of the fur­naces. It was a world where men, typ­i­fied by Bryan, worked their way up and acquired skills and know­ledge through appren­tice­ships and prac­tical exper­i­ence.

Having com­pleted his edu­ca­tion at Owler Lane Technical and Abbeydale Grammar School. Our speaker’s career com­menced in 1958 when he joined, aged 17, Brown Bayley as a Works Trainee. The firm, based on what became the Sheffield Arena site, at the time employed over 3500 employ­ees. It pro­duced a wide range of both fin­ished products -such as rail­way tyres –to spe­cial­ist sheet, ingot, rod and bar steels which provided the raw mater­i­als for everything from the aero­naut­ical to sur­gical instru­ment indus­tries. Brown Bayley proved to be the ideal com­pany to train, provid­ing a solid found­a­tion for his future career. Over the next six years under the care of Harry Kelford — Training Manager Bryan gained, in six month stints, expos­ure to each of the main pro­duc­tion pro­cesses and to the metal­lur­gical labs (where there was a large pic­ture of Harry Brearley to inspire) test house and creep test­ing lab. He con­tin­ued his edu­ca­tion through day release and even­ing classes, study­ing metal­lurgy at Sheffield Tech. It was Harry Brearley who set up the Freshgate Trust in 1941. Bryan won a place on it in 1963 and vis­ited Mannesman and Mercedes in Germany. In 1964 Bryan was pro­moted to assist­ant to the Chief Inspector, work he found inter­est­ing but his aspir­a­tion was a career in sales.

In 1965 Bryan joined Kayser Ellison & Co to sell tool, high speed, stain­less and engin­eer­ing steels. This was to be his start in tech­nical selling and valu­able fur­ther exper­i­ence. The Company had a strong repu­ta­tion for its tech­nical assist­ance to cus­tom­ers in such areas as alloy selec­tion and heat treat­ment.. In 1966/7 He helped to set up a new ware­house for KE in west London which pro­cessed, stocked and dis­trib­uted tool steels to this import­ant and grow­ing market with its con­cen­tra­tion of spe­cial­ist man­u­fac­tur­ers. In early 1972 KE formed a group sales team. Bryan was expec­ted to sell fin­ished products as well as steel. He had to handle an inquiry for hack­saw blades and files for the work­shop in a large regional prison. One prob­lem: the cus­tomer spe­cified that his order should be packed in saus­age rolls!

Deciding that selling fin­ished products was no longer for him, Bryan seized an oppor­tun­ity later in 1972 to join Detroit based Rolled Alloys Inc , major sup­pli­ers of wrought heat res­ist­ant alloys (espe­cially for applic­a­tions in the 600‑1200 degrees C range) to the US car industry. After six weeks train­ing in America, He became “their man” in UK and Europe. Over the years, ware­houses and offices were to open or relo­cate as the busi­ness expan­ded. The com­pany was to enhance its repu­ta­tion as a pro­vider of tech­nical advice and solu­tions.

In 2000 Bryan left his facil­ity man­age­ment pos­i­tion to work dir­ectly for the owners who had plans to grow the busi­ness in Europe and SE Asia by acquir­ing other com­pan­ies and new start- ups. Locations were to stretch from the UK to Singapore. Bryan’s activ­it­ies mainly centred around assist­ing with acquis­i­tions, train­ing new sales staff, resolv­ing prob­lems in com­pan­ies that had been acquired and giving tech­nical present­a­tions at con­fer­ences.

In the later stages of his career Bryan began to spend more time in areas where the present was giving way to the future. Power gen­er­a­tion and waste incin­er­a­tion were present­ing inter­est­ing tech­nical prob­lems and busi­ness oppor­tun­it­ies. We were shown illus­tra­tions of examples of these. A cus­tomer in France called one day to ask about alloys for use in equip­ment for the incin­er­a­tion of an inex­haust­ible supply of goat’s dung!

In 2013 Bryan gave a paper on nickel alloys at the Harry Brearley Centenary Conference held at Sheffield University. Now at the age of 72 and after over half cen­tury in the spe­cial steels busi­ness, retire­ment was beck­on­ing. Having star­ted his career under a pic­ture of the great man Harry Brearley this seemed as good a time as any to call it a day on a fas­cin­at­ing career. It was a story of which mem­bers much enjoyed as clearly shown by the range of ques­tions and obser­va­tions made at the con­clu­sion of a most inter­est­ing and enter­tain­ing ses­sion.

Heavy Goods Vehicles And Stuff — Peter Jackson — 27th February 2017.

Our Speaker this week, our very own member Peter Jackson, clearly had a spring in his step.  His daughter-in-law, Julia, had just given deliv­ery to a baby boy, Albert Joseph, weigh­ing in at 5lbs 4oz.  But proud Granddad was about to cap­tiv­ate us with a talk about some­thing rather weight­ier: Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) weigh­ing up to 40 tonnes together with their lighter sis­ters (all Stobart vehicles have female names).

Peter com­menced his talk by giving us a brief resume of his jour­ney through life so far. A Sheffield lad born in the Old Jessop’s Hospital on the 3rd July 1948.  Educated at Wrekin College on the Welsh border. He felt that his aca­demic education-especially chemistry- had been ‘good’ but the careers advice ‘could do better’.

As the motor­way system developed during the ‘six­ties freight was shift­ing from rail to road and vehicles becom­ing larger. Moving with the times, Peter was inspired to become not a train engine driver but an HGV driver, an ambi­tion encour­aged neither by his school or his par­ents.  After one or two minor jobs –includ­ing one in a brewery- Peter found his milieu.  He secured employ­ment in 1975 with DAF Trucks GB Ltd which was to absorb Leyland Trucks in 1987 and become the DAF organ­isa­tion we know today where almost all DAFs in the UK are built at the Leyland plant. Over the next 25 years he worked his way up from what he described as a ‘Tea boy’ to Bus, Military and Government Sales Director.

During these years Peter absorbed both tech­nical and com­mer­cial know­ledge equip­ping him for a higher aspir­a­tion: he was to start his own driver train­ing busi­ness econoDrive in 2000. With the road trans­port industry facing increas­ing envir­on­mental, safety, effi­ciency and legis­lat­ive require­ments demand was grow­ing (and con­tin­ues to grow) to improve both driver com­pli­ance and com­pet­ence oper­at­ing increas­ingly soph­ist­ic­ated and expens­ive vehicles.

Our speaker moved on to the meat of his talk: the vehicles and their fuel.  Was the Diesel car dead? He asked.  Peter thought that depended on its applic­a­tion: The size and weight of vehicle, the dis­tances to be covered and the type of use.

The Controversy over par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion (soot) was grow­ing along with the number of diesel vehicles on the road.  The issues were con­fus­ing: encour­aged by legis­la­tion in the 1990s 50% of new cars are now powered by diesel and vir­tu­ally all HGVs.  But while cars had increased from 4 mil­lion in 1970 to over 36 mil­lion today, there are, thanks to greater effi­ciency, actu­ally a third less (at 450K) HGVs (exclud­ing buses).  The shift from petrol had been offi­cially encour­aged by tax incent­ives (to be with­drawn from April when most vehicles will have to pay a min­imum of £140 annu­ally) to address con­cerns over burn­ing fossil fuels and Carbon Dioxide emis­sions cre­at­ing a hole in the ozone layer.

There was increas­ing sci­entific evid­ence which showed these were con­trib­ut­ing to global warm­ing while the issue had become the sub­ject of International agree­ments. But the debate had shif­ted to the impact of soot from burn­ing Diesel and the asso­ci­ated Oxides of Nitrogen (known col­lect­ively as NOx)  on air qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly in con­ges­ted cities,  a sub­ject high­lighted by the VW scan­dal.   All this was to lead to the present devel­op­ment of hybrid (usu­ally petrol/electric) and elec­tric bat­tery powered vehicles. Leaving aside cur­rent (highly sub­sid­ized) cost even these had their dis­ad­vant­ages: their depend­ence on Lithium (a mater­ial in very short supply and with lim­ited sources) bat­ter­ies which required reg­u­lar and access­ible char­ging facil­it­ies, aside from their as yet unknown life cycle.

Peter went on to out­line the the­or­ies behind vari­ous types of engine and their fuels. I am afraid that pos­sess­ing, I am ashamed to admit, only an ‘O’ Level in General sci­ence the chem­ical equa­tions show­ing the molecu­lar con­struc­tions of fuel com­pounds were rather beyond me!  Peter had had to con­sult his old Chemistry teacher (still alive) to under­stand them.  We were showed a number of video clips which  includ­ing one which explained the tech­nic­al­it­ies of vari­ous types of engine and espe­cially how fuel is con­ver­ted into the horse power which thrust a vehicle.  Another showed the effects of adding “Ad Blue” to diesel fuel to reduce NOx.  One video showed lighted matches being dropped into bowls of petrol and diesel to illus­trate their dif­fer­ent com­bus­tions: not to be tried at home!  Another explained how diesel is vapor­ised under pres­sure to encour­age com­bus­tion, and yet another the devel­op­ing scene in self -con­trolled or driver-less vehicles.

Finally, we came to the crunch when shown the effects of a ser­i­ous col­li­sion which radar con­trol (Autonomous Emergency brak­ing System – AEBS) is seek­ing to pre­vent.

All this research has been stim­u­lated in recent years by a series of six European dir­ect­ives, in turn driven by envir­on­mental and, at times, fuel sourcing con­cerns. Developments, both now and in the future, such as the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Advanced Emergency Breaking (AEBS) and other research has had much of its ini­tial applic­a­tion to heavy vehicles but is being increas­ingly applied to cars, driver-less or oth­er­wise.

Peter help­fully con­cluded by giving some advice to mem­bers think­ing of buying a new car:

  • Diesel, with its higher mpg,  for fre­quent long or con­tinu­ous run­ning which keeps the exhaust system hot and there­fore cleans the emis­sions
  • Hybrid  or petrol for medium dis­tances
  • Electric for short or stop start jour­neys round the town

Peter was warmly thanked by our Chairman for his most inter­est­ing talk which, as stand in, he had fin­ished pre­par­ing at 4am.  Perhaps Eddie Stobart should give the boy(s) some recog­ni­tion and name one of his vehicles Peter Jackson!


WHY POLITICS” — Dr John Kingdom — 12th December 2016


By any stand­ard in living memory, 2016 has been an excep­tional year.  The Queen’s 90th birth­day, Andy Murray’s second Wimbledon, GB’s per­form­ance in the Rio Olympic Games. But it’s likely that all this will be over­shad­owed by what has been a year of polit­ical tur­bu­lence, which has shattered the estab­lished order.  Brexit, Farage and Trump will have the greater his­tor­ical and polit­ical impact in both the US and UK, where so many long held expect­a­tions have been over­turned.  Our speaker find­ers’ pres­ci­ence  invit­ing John Kingdom to present our pen­ul­tim­ate talk of the year was per­fectly timed.

John Kingdom, a retired Lecturer in Political Science in both the Sheffield Universities and the author of sev­eral books, set him­self the seem­ingly impossible task of trying to distil what seemed like a three year under­gradu­ate course into just over an hour. Drawing from polit­ical quotes and philo­soph­ers from the ancient Greeks to Marx and Maggie,  our speaker began by review­ing the recent polit­ical scene where, for once, politi­cians could not com­plain of apathy by their elect­or­ates.  The recent European Referendum (72% turnout) and US Presidential elec­tions had res­ul­ted in “peoples ver­dicts” which had been unpal­at­able to many in the estab­lish­ment, who con­tinue to be reluct­ant to accept the result. Last week’s Sleaford by elec­tion pro­duced a more normal 32% turnout with a return to what John termed the “demo­graphy of apathy” among the group with the most reason to have an interest in the future –the young.  He quoted from Martha Gellthorn, an American com­ment­ator: “ People will say  “ I’m not inter­ested in polit­ics” but they might as well say “I’m not inter­ested in my stand­ard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, or my future” (1984).

To many, the answer given to the ques­tion “why polit­ics?” is “why bother?” For Aristotle, involve­ment in polit­ics was the essence of the good life because, “man by nature, is a polit­ical animal”.  Centuries later, English philo­sopher Thomas Hobbes ima­gined  life without polit­ics as reduced to a  state  of nature “nasty, bru­tish and short” (Leviathan 1651), when con­flict would be inev­it­able over self-interests and the con­sump­tion of resources.

So why are polit­ics neces­sary?  To R A Butler, polit­ics is the “Art of the Possible” (Title of his auto­bi­o­graphy 1971).  To Bernard Crick, polit­ics encap­su­lates “ A way of ruling divided soci­et­ies by a pro­cess of free dis­cus­sion and without viol­ence” ( In Defence of Politics 1964).  Not all would agree.  To Margaret Thatcher, com­prom­ise was a sign of weak­ness.  “If you just set out to be liked, you would be pre­pared to com­prom­ise, and you would achieve noth­ing.”  Yet others saw polit­ics as the exer­cise of author­ity: the right of a King or Government to make decisions apply­ing to a com­munity.  Military dic­tat­or­ships soon seek the appear­ance of civil­ian rule.  The German Sociologist Max Weber (1854–1920) dis­tin­guished three types of author­ity: tra­di­tional (con­ferred by his­tory, reli­gion, or inher­it­ance); cha­ris­matic (where per­sonal qual­it­ies of the leader inspire con­fid­ence: Churchill, Hitler, Mandela) and Legal ( bestowed by con­sti­tu­tional rules and elec­tions).  In recent times John thought that gov­ern­ment author­ity has been weakened by the per­ceived role of ‘Spin Doctors’ and media expos­ure of such mat­ters as  MPs’ expenses, and ‘Cash for Questions’.

John Kingdom con­tin­ued to take us through more of the attrib­utes of polit­ics includ­ing the exer­cise of power, decep­tion and viol­ence. Members enjoyed the ref­er­ences to Shakespeare’s ‘scurvy politi­cians’ and Enoch Powell’s “ the stage used to be called the Court, now they call it the Cabinet, but all the char­ac­ters are in Shakespeare…. Only the cos­tumes date”(1958).  We went on to appre­ci­ate obser­va­tions from the likes of de Toqueville and Machiavelli  “Who the act accuses, the end excuses”.  “Politics is the art of pre­vent­ing people from taking part in affairs which prop­erly con­cern them” (Paul Valery) and “…”the art of gov­ern­ing man­kind through deceiv­ing them” (Disraeli).  John roun­ded off this sec­tion with con­tri­bu­tions from the likes of Karl Clausewitz “War is noth­ing more than the con­tinu­ation of polit­ics by other means”, Chairman  Mao “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun and Plato’s “Might is right”.  While Mrs Thatcher was con­cerned about the “Enemy within” Churchill opined that “Jaw- jaw is better than war- war”.

So do we need polit­ics? There is a con­stant refrain from some quar­ters that we should get polit­ics out of Education, Health and Infrastructure pro­vi­sion. John Kingdom sug­ges­ted that such areas could, as in the past, be provided on a free market or “lais­sez faire” basis. But most people still expect mat­ters of State secur­ity, defence, edu­ca­tion, wel­fare and man­age­ment of the eco­nomy should remain as public con­cerns –as with the cur­rent Southern trains dis­pute. “They should do some­thing about it”.  Someone has to be the “They”.  While experts cannot be relied on to cor­rectly pre­dict polit­ical out­comes, no Minister worth his salt would make  com­plex tech­nical and account­able decisions without ref­er­ence to com­pet­ent people. But as George Bernard Shaw observed “If all the eco­nom­ists were laid end to end, they would not reach a con­clu­sion”!

On that note of humour our speaker con­cluded his talk by draw­ing some of its many  threads together.  He con­cluded that the term ‘Politics’ has many dif­fer­ent mean­ings, that there were many ways of living together and that soci­et­ies varied in their res­ol­u­tion of public issues.  History showed that politi­cians did fail if only due to human frailty, power did tend to cor­rupt and that all men are liable to error or to be vic­tims of events.

Our speaker was thanked for his thought pro­vok­ing talk by David Shaw.  Members can now watch “Yes Minister” with better informed interest!