All posts by David Corns

In Pursuit of a Peak District Pensioner Criminal — Tim Knebel — 2nd Sept 2019

Tim is a pro­ject co-ordinator with the “Peak into the Past“ local his­tory organ­isa­tion and gave an inter­est­ing talk on a rather unusual topic. Normally, you would expect a talk on the his­tory of the Peak District to be con­cerned with mining, canals, mills and archae­ology, but this was about the life and crimes of an eld­erly woman who was an habitual crim­inal within the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area.

The woman was Annie Burke, also known as Annie Monks, but she had many other ali­ases and was described vari­ously as a hawker, beggar, itin­er­ant and vag­rant. Details of her life are shrouded in mys­tery because she had numer­ous ali­ases. She led a nomadic life and was an accom­plished liar able to spin the most heart-breaking yarns for sym­pathy. She was born in Oldham in 1843. Or was it Hunslet, Leeds, in 1851? Or 1853? Prison records were hazy to say the least. What made her stand out in the crim­inal fra­tern­ity of the time was that she was female and eld­erly, which was not the norm.

She was mar­ried in 1879 to a George Monks and they had eight chil­dren, four of whom died prob­ably when young. They lived in slum dwell­ings in the Narrow Marsh area of Nottingham, which was dan­ger­ous and rife with dis­ease. The mar­riage was not happy with both hus­band and wife appear­ing in court on vari­ous assault charges against each other. The chil­dren were taken into care. Perhaps, this is when Annie became a vag­rant, living by her wits in a chaotic life­style.

Her pat­tern of crim­inal activ­ity was mainly to call on large coun­try houses and vicar­ages and spin the story of her piti­ful plight which invari­ably involved the fate of her hus­band, chil­dren or any other rel­at­ive which could pull the heart strings. Good natured house­hold­ers or ser­vants would give her clothes, food and money but she would take the oppor­tun­ity to scan the house and grounds and steal any­thing of worth. In modern crim­inal par­lance she often dis­trac­ted the vic­tims to select the loot. Also, she would ask for the loan of cloth­ing for a spe­cial occa­sion like a funeral or christen­ing, but the clothes were never returned. Invariably, she would sell the stolen goods in public houses for money which was spent on food or drink .

Clearly, Annie liked her drink which would result in many con­vic­tions for brawl­ing and assault. Her defence in court was often “I was very drunk and don’t remem­ber any­thing.” Her steal­ing and lies invari­ably res­ul­ted in con­vic­tions with hard labour in prison. It was notice­able that many of the con­vic­tions were for the theft of small items like a carpet, a basket of clothes, a bottle of beer and table clothes. Compare that with sen­ten­cing today! At one court appear­ance she explained to the judge that she had 65 con­vic­tions and was going for the cen­tury. She led a chaotic life and one won­ders if her reg­u­lar spells in prison gave her some form of struc­ture with shel­ter, food and dis­cip­line des­pite the pro­spect of hard labour.

Tim was asked why he chose to study the life and crimes of Annie Burke (Monks) and replied that when research­ing prison records he was amazed at the shear number of con­vic­tions she had amassed and was intrigued to know more about her. He came to have a sneak­ing regard for her and, although she was a crim­inal with many vic­tims, she was feisty, hardy and resource­ful. She was a sur­vivor, although there seems to be no record of her where­abouts after 1915, or of her death. Certainly, Annie Burke led a sad, chaotic life and she would never have ima­gined that her life would have been researched and presen­ted to the gentle folk of Stumperlowe Probus Club in 2019.

Apartheid and Racial Segregation.     Alan Zinober 22nd July 2019

Alan Zinober gave us a most inter­est­ing talk mainly on apartheid in South Africa but touched on examples of racial segreg­a­tion through­out the world. Alan was born in South Africa but emig­rated to England in the early 70’s so exper­i­enced the apartheid regime first hand and was well qual­i­fied to give us his thoughts.

Apartheid was a polit­ical and social system in South Africa during the era of white minor­ity rule under pinned by legis­la­tion intro­duced by the National Party in 1948. It enforced dis­crim­in­a­tion against non-whites mainly focus­sing on colour and facial fea­tures. The word apartheid means ‘sep­ar­ate­ness’ in the Afrikaans lan­guage.  South Africa was not alone in having segreg­a­tion. The USA has a long his­tory of segreg­a­tion with the Ku Klux Klan ( KKK) inflict­ing many thou­sands of lynch­ings and beat­ings on black cit­izens.  The Civil Rights Act – 1964 was passed to see the end of racial segreg­a­tion, although sadly it is still common in the USA.  Today segreg­a­tion is still common through­out the world in one form or another whether it be through slavery, the caste system, reli­gion, racial pre­ju­dice or simply the master/servant rela­tion­ship.#

The National Party took over in 1948 and imme­di­ately passed a whole host of ‘ Apartheid Segregation Acts’ which were aimed at for­cing dif­fer­ent races to live sep­ar­ately from each other. The system was used to deny many basic rights to non-white people., mainly black in South Africa.   People were defined by colour – white, black, col­oured and Indian , being Chinese caused con­fu­sion it appears !   Your colour defined where you lived , where you worked, whether you needed a pass to access cer­tain areas, whether you could vote, where you sat on the bus, which beaches you could visit, whether you could vote.  etc, etc.

Interracial mar­riage was banned.  Often it was dif­fi­cult to decide who was black, white, col­oured and all shades in between which res­ul­ted in at least one hardly sci­entific test being used called the ‘pencil test ‘ where a pencil is run through Afro tex­tured hair to decide on the eth­ni­city . The Acts and their enforce­ment were extremely com­plic­ated and often ludicrous caus­ing misery and hard­ship. People rebelled with protests in Sharpeville (1960) and Soweto ( 1976)  but were aggress­ively put down.  There was grow­ing inter­na­tional cri­ti­cism of the regime and coun­tries boy­cot­ted South Africa in terms of trade, sport­ing and music events in order to isol­ate South Africa and bring apartheid to an end.

In 1989, F.W.de Klerk became President of South Africa and set out to reform the system.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) was lifted. The first mul­tiracial elec­tion was held on 27th April 1994 when all races could vote.  ANC was vic­tori­ous and Nelson Mandela was elec­ted President of South Africa. This date is con­sidered the end of apartheid.   Today, black cit­izens are in pos­i­tions of power, in the pro­fes­sions and have wealth but there is still a large major­ity of them who live in poverty. Apartheid lasted for over 40 years and it will take fur­ther dec­ades for the soci­ety to change and have a better dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth.

 

 

 

 

Fracking – Fact and Fiction —   Roger Vernon — 25th March 2019

Energy con­sump­tion is ever increas­ing to keep up with the demands of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. Many believe the increased demand could be met by the extrac­tion of shale gas through the pro­cess of frack­ing which is a tech­nique to recover gas and oil from shale rock. Drilling com­pan­ies have estim­ated that tril­lions of cubic feet of shale gas lay beneath us await­ing extrac­tion.  However, there is a great deal of public hos­til­ity towards the pro­cess of frack­ing and protests have delayed pro­gress on many drilling sights. Clearly we need more gas to meet our grow­ing require­ments and cur­rently we must import sup­plies from USA , Norway, Middle East and others.

Shale is a simple clay based rock con­tain­ing molecules of gas and oil. A short video clip was played illus­trat­ing how easily a piece of shale rock could be set on fire to show its burn­ing qual­it­ies. To release the gas and oil molecules , the pro­cess of frack­ing is used which involves drilling ver­tic­ally into the earth to the strata of shale rock and then gradu­ally chan­ging the dir­ec­tion of the drill to bore hori­zont­ally.  A mix­ture of water, sand and chem­ic­als is dir­ec­ted under high pres­sure into the rock . The pres­sure opens up fis­sures in the rock which are held open by the sand.  The pro­cess is reversed and water now dirty flows to the sur­face fol­lowed by oil and gas which are sep­ar­ated and trans­por­ted away. The recov­ery of the gas takes place over a lengthy period.

Reserves of shale gas have been iden­ti­fied in large swathes of the UK par­tic­u­larly in north­ern England. More than 100 licences have been awar­ded by the gov­ern­ment allow­ing firms to explore for gas and oil.  Planning per­mis­sion must be received from the rel­ev­ant local coun­cil before pro­duc­tion can pro­ceed.. Here is where the dis­putes arise with organ­ised protest. The com­pany Cuadrilla was gran­ted a licence to drill and extract gas and oil near Blackpool but were forced to sus­pend pro­duc­tion after earth­quakes of 1.5 and 2.2 mag­nitude  on the Richter scale hit the area. It was deemed “ highly prob­able “ that the tremors were caused by the frack­ing.  Using the government’s “ traffic light system “ for frack­ing , pump­ing has to pro­ceed at a reduced rate after tremors are exper­i­enced below 0.5 and stop for 18 hours after a tremor of 0.5 or over.

The risks of earth­quakes , noise and water pol­lu­tion are major con­cerns to the public and this fear has escal­ated into mass protest, ham­per­ing and stop­ping the pro­gress of  drilling and extrac­tion of shale gas.. However, the prob­lem remains — as the pop­u­la­tion increases the demand for gas grows. Over 80% of the UK has access to gas and over 45% of elec­tri­city is gen­er­ated by using gas.. The irony is that the very people who are protest­ing are most likely users of gas.  However, the threat to the envir­on­ment is real and cannot be under estim­ated , par­tic­u­larly when using a pro­cess and tech­no­logy which are largely new and untried in this coun­try. The shale gas industry may be strug­gling in the UK but in the USA it is boom­ing and a net exporter.  There the pro­cess is long estab­lished ori­gin­at­ing in Oklahoma in 1949 and a fur­ther major advant­age is that the drilling and pro­duc­tion occurs in vast open spaces away from the popu­lace. A luxury we do not have.

These are inter­est­ing times.   The pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing – we need more energy.  Roger gave us a most inter­est­ing talk giving us the facts and con­front­ing the myths which sur­round frack­ing.

A Dirty Night Out — Roger Hart — 28th Jan 2019

Roger Hart spent his career in vari­ous guises as an envir­on­mental health officer in the public health sector. His was a world of lice, bed bugs, dust mites, cock­roaches, infest­a­tions, mice, rats and muck. Adapting the saying “Where there’s muck there’s brass,” to a more appro­pri­ate “Where there’s muck there’s vermin“ sums up the situ­ation.

A sense of humour surely is a valu­able asset in this work and Roger, clearly, demon­strated this in his present­a­tion, bring­ing light relief to the many rather dis­taste­ful cases. Apparently, in his work there is an often repeated saying “It may be s**t to you but it is our bread and butter,” which again sums up the humour nicely.

Personal hygiene is crit­ical for us all, but many neg­lect to follow simple dis­cip­lines. He was train­ing domestic staff in a hos­pital and posed the ques­tion: “How many of you wash your hands after going to the toilet? “ Over 50 per cent admit­ted they didn’t, which repeated across soci­ety would have health con­sequences for all of us. Unclean hands and mucky habits spread germs.

The present­a­tion was illus­trated by images of filthy, chaotic scenes in homes where clearly the occu­pants had no regard for clean­li­ness or their own well­being. The reas­ons for this gross neg­li­gence could be total indol­ence or ill health, or a mix­ture. Many times the envir­on­mental health officers worked in tandem with the police and fire bri­gade, par­tic­u­larly when there was risk of fire. Personnel were employed to clean these dread­ful places – a job not for the squeam­ish but some­body has to do it!

A brown rat, aka the Norwegian rat

Sheffield has many food and eating estab­lish­ments but sadly the city is severely under­staffed to audit that food hygiene stand­ards are being met. Restaurants are inspec­ted and awar­ded “scores on the doors” to sig­nify their hygiene rating. All new res­taur­ants must apply for a hygiene rating at least six weeks before they open. Sadly, many do not. One gets the impres­sion that audit­ing res­taur­ants and the fast food world is a never ending battle in keep­ing the hygiene stand­ards high. Roger admit­ted he eats out on occa­sions but his wife insists he sits with his back to the kit­chen. Staying in hotels – beware of bed bugs. Eating out – beware of grease traps and poor food stor­age.

Roger had a varied career and at one stage was man­ager of a mor­tu­ary with the obvi­ous hygiene implic­a­tions with dead bodies and autop­sies. Again, work­ing in mor­tu­ar­ies was not for the faint hearted.

It was a most inter­est­ing talk presen­ted in a humor­ous, enga­ging style with uncom­fort­able view­ing and listen­ing in parts which the gen­tle­folk of Stumperlowe took in their stride.

Joined up Heritage Sheffield – Jon Bradley – 19th November 2018

Sheffield, from its begin­nings as a small market town through to today, is a city with an inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion for industry, com­merce and sport steeped in his­tory. It has a her­it­age to be proud of and envied by many. Heritage can be seen as a series of step­ping stones to where we are today, but sadly we don’t make the most of ourselves in com­par­ison to our noisy neigh­bours like Bradford, Leeds and Manchester.

The Botanical Gardens

Joined up Heritage Sheffield is an organ­isa­tion chaired by Jon Bradley and launched in October 2017 with a major aim of making sure our her­it­age is cel­eb­rated loc­ally, region­ally and nation­ally. A broad range of organ­isa­tions and indi­vidu­als rep­res­ent­ing Sheffield’s very diverse her­it­age sector have come together to explore ways to develop a better resourced, better con­nec­ted and better com­mu­nic­ated her­it­age offer to a wide range of audi­ences.

The Bishop’s House

Heritage is big busi­ness, with over 75 per cent of adults vis­it­ing his­tor­ical sites, and it is estim­ated that it is respons­ible for put­ting £20.6 bil­lion into the UK eco­nomy. Tourism is a grow­ing industry, and Sheffield must take full advant­age of its his­tory and repu­ta­tion. History along­side modern set­tings make desir­able places for people to live and work, also attract­ing indus­tries and start-ups. Preserving our her­it­age and his­tor­ical sites also pre­vents the growth of identical, con­crete cities with high rise flats and modern, bland archi­tec­ture.

Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

Joined up Heritage Sheffield brings together her­it­age part­ners or stake­hold­ers in a co-ordinated and stra­tegic fash­ion. Funds are lim­ited but applic­a­tion has been made to the Charities Commission. The city’s her­it­age must be pro­moted far and wide, and Jon and his asso­ci­ates will need all their pas­sion, com­mit­ment and mar­ket­ing skills to do justice to the his­tory of Sheffield and to achieve any degree of suc­cess. However, there is plenty to cel­eb­rate includ­ing Kelham Island, Bishops’ House, the Botanical Gardens and Abbeydale Industrial Museum, as well as knife, cut­lery and tool man­u­fac­tur­ing, water power, rivers and canals. Beauchief Abbey, the General Cemetery, the Cathedral, Sheffield Castle, Manor Lodge are other examples to inspire and attract vis­it­ors.

Good com­mu­nic­a­tions will be vital, and Joined up Heritage Sheffield is using all means avail­able includ­ing the web­site www.joinedupheritagesheffield.org.uk, news­let­ters, com­munity forums, local his­tory fairs, con­fer­ences and stake­holder (part­ners’) meet­ings to spread the mes­sage. This is a big but worth­while chal­lenge to ensure Sheffield’s his­tory is not for­got­ten but used in a very pos­it­ive way to pro­mote it along­side the vir­tues a very modern city. Today’s Sheffield can be traced back through those step­ping stones to its past. Clearly, Jon and his asso­ci­ates have plenty of her­it­age to join up and mem­bers of Stumperlowe Probus Club wish them suc­cess and await the res­ults with great interest.

Creative Sheffield — Prof Sally Wade — 24th September 2018

Sheffield – known as the ‘Steel City’ — has built its repu­ta­tion on man­u­fac­tur­ing, but sadly over the years this has declined. However, look­ing to the future, Sheffield is determ­ined to re-establish itself as a major centre for the cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive indus­tries.

Professor Sally Wade, Chair of the Sheffield Culture Consortium, gave us a most inter­est­ing talk on the aims of the Consortium and the pro­gress made in enhan­cing Sheffield’s national and inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion for cre­ativ­ity and innov­a­tion. The Consortium is rep­res­en­ted by all the inter­ested parties in the city includ­ing the uni­ver­sit­ies, museums, theatres, Millennium Gallery and the dance net­work. Its prime aim is to speak with one voice for Sheffield, bid col­lect­ively for fund­ing , pro­mote the cul­tural aspects of the city and estab­lish key object­ives.

The ‘our­fave­places’ web­site

Nationally, man­u­fac­tur­ing has declined, the ser­vice indus­tries have grown and the cre­at­ive and innov­at­ive indus­tries are fast becom­ing a major and influ­en­tial group in the wealth of the coun­try. So what sec­tors can be grouped under the creative/innovative banner? Sally listed 12 which include advert­ising, archi­tec­ture, engin­eer­ing, pub­lish­ing, enter­tain­ment, dance and video gaming. The national pic­ture for this industry shows it as a key player rep­res­ent­ing 5.3 per cent of the eco­nomy and employ­ing one in 11 of the work­force of whom 35 per cent are self employed and over 98 per cent are small micro busi­nesses.

‘What’s On’ at the Millennium Gallery

But what of Sheffield? The city is fast gain­ing a repu­ta­tion for cul­tural activ­it­ies. The Crucible, Lyceum and Studio theatres attract nation­ally acclaimed pro­duc­tions with over 700 per­form­ances a year, attract­ing over 400,000 vis­it­ors to Sheffield with all the com­mer­cial spin-offs that brings. Sheffield holds numer­ous fest­ivals includ­ing Off the Shelf, Tramlines, Doc/Fest , Art Sheffield, Festival of the Mind, Sheffield Design Week and International Concert Week present­ing wide ran­ging activ­it­ies, all very well sup­por­ted and bring­ing many vis­it­ors to the region. The city has long been cel­eb­rated for its music and has 460 bands work­ing cur­rently, 65 record­ing stu­dios with 24 labels oper­at­ing.

The Crucible Theatre

The visual arts are well rep­res­en­ted with three major gal­ler­ies (Graves, S1 and Site) and 23 smal­ler gal­ler­ies. Street Art is sponsored with large strik­ing murals not to be con­fused with the illi­cit, tacky graf­fiti which blights our build­ings.

Sheffield is a vibrant city and making great strides in becom­ing a centre for cul­ture, innov­a­tion and cre­ativ­ity, and gain­ing a grow­ing national and inter­na­tional repu­ta­tion. Clearly, more needs to be done to spread the word and shout the suc­cess from the roof tops.

The Lyceum Theatre

There is a web­site called “Our Favourite Places” (www.ourfaveplaces.co.uk) with the strap line “a dif­fer­ent sort of guide to a city of cre­at­ive spirit, uncon­ven­tional beauty and DIY cul­ture, nestled within seven hills.” Clearly, every res­id­ent and every poten­tial vis­itor needs to read the web­site to ensure that the wide range of cul­tural activ­it­ies are sampled and enjoyed. In short — pro­mote, pro­mote, pro­mote our city of cul­ture.

It was a most inform­at­ive talk which promp­ted many ques­tions and sev­eral sug­ges­tions from our mem­bers – always a good sign of a suc­cess­ful morn­ing.