All posts by David Corns

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.

 

Typhoid in Croydon 1937 — “Who Dun It?” — Peter Watson — 23rd July 2018

We take for gran­ted a clean, safe water supply. Infected and pol­luted water can kill. This was the crux of the account of the typhoid epi­demic in Croydon, the out­break first recor­ded on 27th October 1937 res­ult­ing in 43 deaths and 341 con­tract­ing the bac­teria. Symptoms include extreme lucid­ity, delu­sion, intense fever, loss of appet­ite, insom­nia and a rose pink rash with spots.

Positive proof of the origin of the out­break was not given, but the con­clu­sion was that it was caused by pol­luted water from a chalk well in Addington, a suburb of Croydon, from which water was sup­plied to between 36,000 and 40,000 inhab­it­ants. The well, 10 feet in dia­meter and 250 feet deep, was built in 1888. Essential main­ten­ance work was needed on the pumps, fil­ters and brick­work. From the begin­ning of the work until 15th October the water was pumped to waste but there­after, until 3rd November, it was pumped to supply. The repairs were car­ried out by 18 volun­teers who were sewer work­ers with no exper­i­ence of water supply. The men were lowered into the well on a plat­form which also served to trans­port tools, mater­i­als and rubble. To cater for their ‘calls of nature’ a bucket was lowered and raised to the sur­face on the plat­form for urine dis­posal and they were instruc­ted to come to the sur­face for ‘bowel move­ments.’ Clearly, the men were trus­ted to obey these simple instruc­tions. Subsequently, it was dis­covered that one of the work­ers was a car­rier of the typhoid bac­teria.

At the top level enquiry led by Mr H.L. Murphy, all work­ers stated on oath that they fol­lowed the cor­rect pro­ced­ures for dis­pos­ing of urine and faeces, and did not pol­lute the water supply. Filters and chlor­in­at­ors play a major role in the puri­fic­a­tion of water. The fil­ters, eight feet in dia­meter, were removed for clean­ing and main­ten­ance, with the unin­ten­ded con­sequence that the chlor­in­at­ors did not func­tion. The water supply was neither filtered nor chlor­in­ated.

The enquiry under Mr Murphy looked at the roles of senior man­age­ment and in par­tic­u­lar the Borough Engineer and the Medical Officer for Health for Croydon. It found that the remit of the Borough Engineer was too wide for one person and respons­ib­il­ity for water was only one of his many import­ant duties. The Medical Officer believed food was more of a health hazard than water. It appeared that these two officers had little or no con­tact or com­mu­nic­a­tion with each other. It was no wonder the water supply was neg­lected, res­ult­ing in no pro­ced­ures or doc­u­ment­a­tion for water samples, chlor­in­a­tion and the gen­eral qual­ity of the water supply.

The need for a public inquiry was dis­cussed in Parliament. This was the account from Hansard on 18th November 1937

The enquiry con­cluded that the infec­tion was caused by a com­bin­a­tion of factors coming together, namely that the well was under repair, that one of the work­ers was a typhoid car­rier and that the supply water was not chlor­in­ated. Management was implic­ated and cri­ti­cised for not suf­fi­ciently man­aging the water supply and for not having adequate com­mu­nic­a­tions and backup pro­ced­ures and records. This was a major turn­ing point in the gov­ernance of the water industry, with the intro­duc­tion of codes of prac­tice res­ult­ing from a High Court case. Croydon was a major incid­ent in the water industry with fatal­it­ies prov­ing to be a form­at­ive event in making the public and author­it­ies aware of the crit­ical import­ance of a clean and safe water supply. It was a most inter­est­ing talk which promp­ted many ques­tions from our mem­bers.

A Surprise Ringside Seat in History — Anthony (Tony) Favell — 18th June 2018

Tony was there ring­side to see the spar­ring and the blows. He recalled a period of polit­ical his­tory as he described his days in the House of Commons whilst serving as a Conservative MP for Stockport from June 1983 to April 1992 when he lost his seat to Labour. There is no doubt this was one of the most inter­est­ing and influ­en­tial peri­ods in British polit­ics.

Tony was edu­cated loc­ally at Birkdale School and Sheffield University where he stud­ied law. After gradu­at­ing he set up his own legal prac­tice which he con­tin­ued to run when he was an MP. He lives in Edale in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire, and admit­ted to our mem­bers he was an ardent Sheffield Wednesday sup­porter which pleased one third of the audi­ence, dis­pleased one third, with the remainder pre­sum­ably sup­port­ing another team or they may have pre­ferred rugger!

Tony Favell

He main­tains he had no thoughts of going into polit­ics but caught the bug when he became a coun­cil­lor on the local coun­cil in Edale. He stood for par­lia­ment in 1979 for Bolsover but was defeated by the now legendry Dennis Skinner. He was elec­ted as a Conservative MP for Stockport on 9th June 1983 under Margaret Thatcher’s gov­ern­ment which held office from 4th May 1997 to 28th November 1990.

Margaret Thatcher

With Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister, these were indeed excit­ing and troub­ling times with the miners’ strike, the riots and battles at Orgreave, troubles in Northern Ireland, wide­spread union unrest and a fal­ter­ing eco­nomy. Tony’s ring­side seat on his­tory became much clearer as he touched on all these major epis­odes in the life of the gov­ern­ment and the coun­try.

John Major was very much in the ascend­ancy in this gov­ern­ment, hold­ing pos­i­tions of Chief Secretary to the Treasury , Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Later Major suc­ceeded Thatcher as Prime Minister. Tony became John Major’s per­sonal private sec­ret­ary, enjoyed work­ing for him but resigned in 1990 when he dis­agreed with Major over the join­ing of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Clearly he knew Mrs Thatcher well, always refer­ring to her affec­tion­ately as Margaret in the talk and describ­ing her as an extraordin­ary woman. Mrs Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister in 1990, although Tony and others tried to per­suade her oth­er­wise.

John Major

Tony clearly rubbed shoulders with the good and the mighty. This period of British polit­ics saw many heavy­weight politi­cians and char­ac­ters slug it out in par­lia­ment includ­ing the likes of Lamont, Howe, Hailsham, Heseltine, Hattersley, Kinnock, Heath, Banks, Currie, Portillo, Benn, Boothby, Jenkins, Tebbit etc etc. — clearly a ring­side seat to die for. It was a most inter­est­ing talk which promp­ted many ques­tions from the floor about cur­rent polit­ics and the period when Tony was in Parliament.