All posts by Graeme Beck

A forgotten Antarctic explorer? – Tom Crean – Barbara Beard — 17 Aug 2020

This week we enjoyed a very inform­at­ive and well-presented talk on a for­got­ten Antarctic explorer

Barbara ori­gin­ally trained as a nurse then train­ing as a mid­wife first coming to Sheffield in 1971 she then worked in Switzerland and Canada return­ing to the city to work on the renal trans­plant pro­gramme after some time she then retrained and taught pal­li­at­ive care nurs­ing at Hallam University. She has been a volun­teer at St Luke’s for over 25 years. Barbara has had a long interest in Antarctica and her talk today gave us a detailed insight into the life of one of the main play­ers in the ini­tial explor­a­tion of this cold con­tin­ent in the early 1900’s —  one Tom Crean.

Tom was born into a poor farm­ing family in Southern Ireland on the Dingle pen­in­su­lar he was one of 10 chil­dren who lived a dif­fi­cult life during the potato famine. Much to his father’s dis­gust Tom who had no interest in farm­ing joined the navy. He was ini­tially posted on HMS Ringarooma sail­ing to New Zealand in 1900.

When docked in Christchurch an oppor­tun­ity arose to volun­teer to take part in Scott’s first Antarctic Exhibition. The ship on arriv­ing in Antarctica was marooned in the ice for 2 years. During this time the crew prac­ticed skiing and even­tu­ally set out on foot man haul­ing sledges for 149 days in an attempt to reach the South Pole. This attempt was ulti­mately unsuc­cess­ful and the party returned to their base and even­tu­ally home where Tom who had played a major role in the exped­i­tion party who made the bid for the pole Scott, Wilson, and Crean and Shackleton having been left behind as he was suf­fer­ing from scurvy.

Following this Shackleton determ­ined to reach the South Pole and set off on a fur­ther exped­i­tion along with Tom Crean and others, get­ting to within 97 miles of their target before having reluct­antly to turn back.

In the spring of 1909 Captain Scott out together an Expedition set­ting off in the Terra Nova from Cardiff trav­el­ling via Melbourne where Scott received a tele­gram telling him that Amundsen had set off on his attempt to reach the pole. Scott then set off but before set­ting off on his ulti­mately failed attempt had to over winter in the hut at base camp.

In April 1911 Scott chose his team how­ever Tom was not chosen to make the final push and was left at the inter­me­di­ate camp. Scott and his team as we know did not return, Tom and his com­pan­ions left to return to base requir­ing an ardu­ous trek of 730 miles, Evans who was part of this team got scurvy and had to be left with Tom making a solo bid to get help walk­ing 35 miles for 18 hours through bliz­zard con­di­tions with min­imal food i.e. 3 bis­cuits.

Evans was res­cued the her­culean effort by Tom being recog­nised on their return home with The Albert Medal (now The George Cross). In the summer of 1913 Tom returned to Ireland and bought a pub how­ever Shackleton was put­ting together the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–1917. Setting off in The Endurance via South Georgia arriv­ing in Antarctica once again the ship became ice bound. Tom as part of his duties was respons­ible for the dogs that they had been taking for sledge haul­ing and became very attached to them.

The ship even­tu­ally broke up and sank the party being left with only 3 life­boats. Shackleton knew that they had to search for help and rescue and a small party was put together and the three boats set off for South Georgia a mere 800 miles across open ocean with only basic nav­ig­a­tion equip­ment. They even­tu­ally landed but on the wrong side of the island this neces­sit­at­ing another long march in harsh sur­round­ings requir­ing steep and dif­fi­cult climbs and des­cents through water­falls arriv­ing at Stromness then via Port Stanley and Punta Arenas,  the Yelcho then set off  to recover the remain­ing crew in Antarctica. Most amaz­ingly no mem­bers of the party lost their lives and this is one of the most heroic res­cues of recent times.

When Tom got back home he re-joined the navy and in Sept 1917 mar­ried Nell with whom he had 3 chil­dren. Tom opened his pub but his heart was not really in it and it was run in large part by his wife, Tom spend­ing much of his time walk­ing in the hills with his beloved dogs. Tom also spent time build­ing his own tomb where he is now buried fol­low­ing his death in July 1937 of appen­di­citis. Nell his wife died in 1968.

A brave and heroic man whose story was excel­lently presen­ted by Barbara a talk that was much appre­ci­ated by all.

(Photos cour­tesy of Wikipedia.)

 

 

 

The History of Water the Sheffield Reflection  Dr Jenny Stephenson — 2nd March 2020

Dr Jenny Stephenson is an active GP prac­tising  at Stannington and author of three local his­tory books cov­er­ing med­ical his­tory, phar­macy and now water gave us a most inter­est­ing talk this week.

The talk was based on a book writ­ten by Dr Jenny Stephenson,  (see pic­ture) recently pub­lished, which is an easily read­able account of the above and many other issues, fully illus­trated in colour with her own pho­to­graphs and paint­ings. This book is sold entirely for WaterAid and Cavendish Cancer Care. Twenty books at £13 each would, for example, raise enough money to build a toilet in a school in Ghana. It can be obtained dir­ectly from Jenny at jenny@the-stephensons.demon.co.uk or from Waterstones in Orchard Square as well as sev­eral out­lets in the city; also from Amazon on the link below: https://www.amazon.in/History-Water-Sheffield-Reflection-civilisation/dp/1905278918

Jenny star­ted her present­a­tion with a declar­a­tion of interest given that water forms approx­im­ately 70 % of an adult body which needs con­stant replen­ish­ing, chil­dren about 1.75 litres per day at 7years and up to 3.3 litres by age 18. Jenny’s interest is also enhanced by her runs around many of the reser­voirs that sur­round the city and provide fresh clean water not just for Sheffield but a much wider geo­graph­ical area includ­ing Manchester, Derby,Nottingham together with parts of South and West Yorkshire. Runs which whilst nor­mally a great enjoy­ment occa­sion­ally did not end well such as the time she fell at the water’s edge whilst watch­ing a sand­piper, a moment now marked by a stone cairn to act as a memorial.

Sheffield, Escafeld in old English,became famous from the early 12th cen­tury for its cut­lery and later steel indus­tries and developed over time due in large part to the avail­ab­il­ity of a good supply of run­ning water for mills, the seven rivers and springs also sup­ply­ing a source of drink­ing water. The expan­sion of the city, espe­cially during the indus­trial revolu­tion, put pres­sure on drink­ing water pro­vi­sion and the lack of proper san­it­a­tion almost inev­it­ably led to infect­ive con­sequences that were not at the time anti­cip­ated or acted upon. Cholera first struck in 1832 and again in 1849 with over 400 deaths includ­ing the Master Cutler John Blake. This was des­pite the earlier pro­vi­sion of clean water from dams con­struc­ted in the 18th cen­tury in Crookes and else­where with water being dis­trib­uted, around what was a small town of 40,000 in 1737, via hol­lowed out oak trees. The pop­u­la­tion remained fairly static until 1800 but over the next 100 years bal­looned to 400,000+ with par­tic­u­larly sewage treatment/disposal not keep­ing pace with the increased demand.

The build­ing of reser­voirs was a time con­sum­ing busi­ness with each requir­ing a sep­ar­ate Act of Parliament the reser­voirs at Redmires and Hatfield being con­struc­ted in 1833 and 1836. The Sheffield flood dis­aster fol­low­ing the col­lapse of Dale Dyke dam in 1864 which killed 264 local res­id­ents and dam­aged over 600 build­ings caused con­sid­er­able delay in improv­ing the city’s water infra­struc­ture whilst repar­a­tion works were com­pleted.

It took more than 22 years for the author­it­ies to react to the prob­lems fol­low­ing the enact­ment of the Public Health Act 1848 and research under­taken by John Snow who iden­ti­fied water as being the trans­mit­ter of chol­era and Robert Koch who estab­lished the pres­ence of the chol­era bac­teria in con­tam­in­ated water. It was not until 1886 that the first efflu­ent treat­ment plants were con­struc­ted in the Sheffield area des­pite the fact that sewer sys­tems were in place in 1840 in Liverpool thanks to James Newlands and in London cour­tesy of Joseph Bazelgette.

Jenny then gave us an insight into the devel­op­ment of san­it­ary ware as we know it today start­ing with the first valve flush toilet inven­ted by Joseph Bramah, a toilet which can be seen at Butcher Works on Arundel Street, though this is in private hands and not gen­er­ally open to the public. Jenny also was able to show us a pic­ture of the toilet in Westminster Abbey installed for Queen Victoria and designed by the ever famous Thomas Crapper and one of the first taps on a public water foun­tain in Nottingham designed by Thomas Hawksley.

Jenny then took a look to the future with ques­tions as to how do we main­tain clean sup­plies for an ever grow­ing and demand­ing pop­u­la­tion world­wide, what do we do regard­ing what seems to be a rising tide of micro­plastics and what are the pos­sible impacts or cli­mate change on water and sewage pro­vi­sion? As food for thought one litre of water in a plastic bottle res­ults in the same emis­sions as a car driv­ing one mile and the estim­ated emis­sion of CO2 in the pro­duc­tion and trans­port of bottled water is some three mil­lion tons annu­ally.

Jenny then fin­ished on a dis­turb­ing stat­istic that even today 790 chil­dren die every day from the effects of dirty water and it is there­fore incum­bent on the respons­ible author­it­ies around the world to do as much as they can to alle­vi­ate this issue.

Following ques­tions Jenny received a very warm round of appre­ci­ation for what was an illu­min­at­ing and enter­tain­ing present­a­tion.

Funny Turns Returns Again  Dave Moylan 23rd December 2019 

Returning for the fourth time, Dave Moylan once again kept the assembled mem­bers of Stumperlowe Probus enter­tained and amused with his vari­ety act of songs, magic and humour, old jokes and new.

Dave gave an intro­duc­tion to his long life in the enter­tain­ment industry pre­dom­in­antly as a drum­mer sup­port­ing many well known acts and comedi­ans tour­ing around the coun­try from his home in Derby. Dave’s life as a drum­mer really took off how­ever when, as he said, he real­ised he had a voice like a lark a pil­lark (boom boom).

To warm up his audi­ence Dave sang his first ditty with audi­ence par­ti­cip­a­tion a real tongue teaser though the audience’s part was lim­ited to Oi Oi thank­fully. This was fol­lowed by a cun­ning rope trick ably assisted by David. There then fol­lowed a read­ing from news­pa­per reports or so we were told includ­ing the fol­low­ing  …

A man from Leicester who had recently had a ground break­ing pig’s ear trans­plant was asked if everything was now much improved who respon­ded that all was fine apart from a little crack­ling.

A Bradford man was found having eaten 12 packs of curry powder. He was not how­ever dead but was in a korma.

Reports of a shoot­ing with a start­ing pistol were being invest­ig­ated by the police, who thought it may have been related to a race crime.

A boat was found crashed into the Thames bar­rier police believed it may have been the start of ram a dam.

Dave then remin­isced over long estab­lished comedi­ans Max Millar, Al Reid, Bob Monkhouse, Mike and Bernie Winters and others, includ­ing a tale of when the Winters broth­ers were per­form­ing at the Glasgow Empire. Mike had just fin­ished his cla­ri­net solo and was fol­lowed on stage by Bernie only to hear from the back if the aud­it­or­ium: “Jesus Christ, there are two of them.”  The Glasgow Empire was the death of many a per­former.

Following this, Dave asked Glynn to help with a mind read­ing trick and to think of a number. When asked if he had a number he replied to much amuse­ment round the room:  “Yes, 88,” at which point Dave had to explain the nature of a mind read­ing trick. Glynn then thought of another number which Dave then guessed cor­rectly.

Dave then wound up his show with a bar­rage of jokes, one liners and anec­dotes too many to recall but includ­ing …

Rabbithole Johnson: His par­ents wanted to call him Warren, but were too drunk to remem­ber this at the Registry Office.

Lorry being flashed at for over two miles down the road even­tu­ally stopped to be told by a fol­low­ing Norwegian driver that he was shed­ding his load, to which the lorry driver replied: “No I am grit­ting the road.”

Man who watches his wed­ding video back­wards so it has a happy ending.

Man knocks at door. I’ve come from Everest you have not paid any­thing for three years, to which the house­holder replied: “You said they would pay for them­selves in eight­een months.”

Then with a final flour­ish Dave did an amaz­ing torn tissue trick fin­ish­ing his act in grand style and to much applause.

 

Dawn Rose: Building a wooden horse drawn narrow boat for the Chesterfield Canal. John Lower 11th November 2019

 

 

John who is a long stand­ing volun­teer in the Chesterfield Canal Trust was making a second visit

to Probus having pre­vi­ously given a very inform­at­ive talk on the work of the Trust in renov­at­ing

the canal which runs for some 46 miles from West Stockwith on the River Trent to Chesterfield

work which he explained is ongo­ing but today some­what hampered by inde­cision regard­ing the

pro­posed route of HS2 which was pre­vent­ing the Trust from making fund­ing applic­a­tions

par­tic­u­larly for the re-opening of closed sec­tions between Kiveton Park and Staveley.

 

Following a brief over­view of the canal’s his­tory was star­ted in1771 and com­pleted in

1777 util­ising horse drawn narrow boats the canal being  some­what nar­rower than wider

nav­ig­a­tion canals. These boats often referred to as Cuckoo boats remained unchanged through­out

the life of the canal which stayed open until 1940’s when it was even­tu­ally aban­doned.

 

John then gave an inter­est­ing insight into the nature of the boats them­selves, and the work

under­taken to build using only tra­di­tional meth­ods a new narrow boat. Traditional boats could

carry some 24 tons of freight pulled by a single horse , the equi­val­ent 24 wagons or 240 pack

horses. The boats had no soph­ist­ic­ated facil­it­ies only a basic cabin which offered little or no

pro­tec­tion to the crew. The last known example of these boats was unfor­tu­nately broken up  in

1976.

 

In about 2000 a group of volun­teers decided it would be a good idea to build the first new

Cuckoo boat, unique to the Chesterfield Canal, since the 1930’s this becom­ing The New Dawn

Project. A retired boat builder David Bownes was per­suaded to join the group and it is his

spe­cial­ist skills and enthu­si­asms that kept the pro­ject run­ning over the years of effort by the team

until launch in 2015. A model of the boat was built to raise aware­ness of the pro­ject and assist

with fund rais­ing and detailed plans were pre­pared though John told us the these were not    con­sul­ted on many occa­sions the build being com­pleted “by eye” in the main.

 

Wood for the boat was pur­chased at a cost of £7,000 in 2007 and seasoned in John’s garden

for 3 years, much to his wife’s dis­pleas­ure. A build site was loc­ated in Shireoaks in 2010

when the 4+ year build pro­gramme com­menced. Ninety planks for the bottom of the boat

were painstak­ingly laid on a raised frame then fixed side pieces were cut these being 28ft

long 10” deep and 2” thick. Prior to fixing the planks had to be steamed for 4 hours and then

with much elbow grease fixed in place and the hand caulked and water­proofed work which

involved the use of foul smelling mater­ial includ­ing horse poo, horse hair and tar, the interior

of the boat also having an addi­tional layer of pro­tec­tion using treated flannelette sheets.

The boat was now ready for fit­ting out fixing the rudder, side boards, mast and tiller all of which

were cut by hand from seasoned timber.

 

On com­ple­tion a cel­eb­rat­ory launch took place and the boat is now in use for dis­plays, sponsored

boat pulls and the Trust now had access to a trained horse to com­plete the pic­ture of what a

Cuckoo boat looked like on the water in the 18th and 19th cen­tur­ies.

 

The trust are now hoping to raise £200,000 to com­plete their works which I am sure they will

having head of the huge efforts on the New Dawn Project by the volun­teers.

 

A well presen­ted talk enjoyed by all.  Graeme Beck 13th November 2019

 

Steel City (An Illustrated History of Sheffield’s Industries) — Prof Ian D Rotherham — 12th Aug 2019

Professor Ian Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University’s Department of the Natural and Built Environment, gave us an enter­tain­ing and inform­at­ive talk on the his­tory and devel­op­ment of Sheffield’s indus­tries not restric­ted to cut­lery and steel but also incor­por­at­ing lost his­toric enter­prises such as lead smelt­ing, char­coal man­u­fac­ture, clog making and glass man­u­fac­ture.

Ian was born in Sheffield, and after his first uni­ver­sity degree returned to the city and uni­ver­sity to study for his PhD. He has remained here ever since. Ian is a pro­lific author of not only more than 400 aca­demic papers, but also many books and news­pa­per art­icles, and presents reg­u­larly on Radio Sheffield.

Pro Ian Rotherham. Photo credit Amberley Publishing

Ian star­ted his talk by taking us back to the meso­lithic period from when there is local evid­ence of hunter gather­ers who fash­ioned early tools in and around Deepcar. Later, as time passed, industry developed with Chaucer men­tion­ing tool man­u­fac­ture in the Sheffield area in the period between 1200 and1300. Sheffield how­ever remained a small com­munity of ham­lets until the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s, when smelt­ing of metals, par­tic­u­larly lead, com­menced, util­ising char­coal from cop­piced wood­land includ­ing Ecclesall Woods where there is a memorial dating back to 1786 to George Yardley who was found burnt to death after, it was sug­ges­ted, a night in the nearby Rising Sun.

During this time Ecclesall Woods were almost totally denuded of trees, the woods we see today having been replanted by Earl Fitzwilliam. Woodlands also provided mater­i­als for the pro­duc­tion of besoms (brooms), used for not only sweep­ing up but also in the steel industry for many years to remove slag from forged and molten steel until the intro­duc­tion of chem­ical products sourced from the USA in the 1960s.

As industry developed, the pop­u­la­tion of Sheffield exploded from a modest 30,000 in the 1800s to more than 300,000 by 1875 or there­abouts, the living accom­mod­a­tion for the major­ity being very basic, lack­ing amen­it­ies in cramped and dirty sur­round­ings with pol­luted rivers and smog. Added to that, poor diet and harsh work­ing con­di­tions led to ill­ness, dis­ease and much restric­ted life spans. Workers often had a life expect­ancy of 20 years in 1843. Employment com­monly star­ted at the age of eight, with appren­tice­ships start­ing at 13 and work­ing hours often being 70 hours a week with 12-hour shifts.

Sheffield at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Photo credit Alamy Stock Photos

The city did not enjoy a good repu­ta­tion in this time, being described by George III as “a damned bad place,” with George Orwell stat­ing that in his opin­ion “even Wigan is beau­ti­ful com­pared to Sheffield“ and “the ugli­est town in the Old World.” Things did not improve much until the latter part of the 20th cen­tury not­with­stand­ing the improve­ments in water supply and drain­age. Despite the first reser­voir in the city being built at Barkers Pool in 1631, the coun­try was swept by chol­era in the mid 1800s.

Ian described the expan­sion of industry being boos­ted by the pres­ence of a good water supply for power, before the steam engine, coal and min­er­als, the city attract­ing many innov­at­ive engin­eers and busi­ness­men such as George Wilson and James Brown who together with many others changed the face of the city across this period and through­out the 20th cen­tury. Ian also made the point that the pop­u­la­tion required sup­port from sur­round­ing farms and vil­lages for local food pro­duc­tion, there being no rail­ways or effi­cient trans­port infra­struc­ture.

A Sheffield Simplex motor car. Photo credit www.picturesheffield.com

Ian con­cluded his talk refer­ring to the more modern era includ­ing the Simplex motor car, the AMRC and the work he and his col­leagues are doing to con­tinue research into the city’s indus­trial and agri­cul­tural past. There was little time for ques­tions, given the extent of his talk which was enjoyed by all.

Sixties Britain: Social & Cultural Change. Dr Lucy Brown 3rd June 2019

Dr Brown a Teaching Associate in Modern British History firstly at Sheffield University where she came to study from her home town of Norwich. Having stayed in Sheffield to train she achieved an impress­ive haul of qual­i­fic­a­tions. Lucy explained that this was the first time she had addressed an entirely male audi­ence being more used to the mixed stu­dent body and reflec­ted on the fact that her third year group of 16 stu­dents had only two male mem­bers.

Lucy then com­menced her talk relat­ing to the 60’s by telling us that his­tor­i­ans looked at a wider date range when con­sid­er­ing the decade look­ing back to the mid 1950’s and for­wards to the early 1070’s. Her talk would look at three key themes :

Affluence – Permissiveness – Pluralism

2

The 60’s where heav­ily influ­enced by the impact of rising real wages, improved employ­ment pro­spects lead­ing to a trans­form­a­tion of living stand­ards, better health and the devel­op­ment of what is now known as con­sumer­ism with increas­ing avail­ab­il­ity of what we now see as every­day items such as wash­ing machines, fridges, even indoor toi­lets and bath­rooms, which were still not pre­val­ent in the years lead­ing up to 1960, this per­haps being per­son­i­fied by  Harold MacMillan’s   state­ment that we had “Never had it so good”

The impact of afflu­ence was not restric­ted entirely to the acquis­i­tion of mater­ial goods but also led to a more home centred life­style this being partly due to the influ­ence on tele­vi­sion making it unne­ces­sary to leave the home for enter­tain­ment. Greater spend­ing power also led to a rise in groom­ing products with the rise in indoor amen­it­ies lead­ing to improved per­sonal fresh­ness.

Affluence improve­ments also led to changes, in par­tic­u­larly, young peoples aspir­a­tions relat­ing to living arrange­ments ie. young mar­ried couples want their own homes rather than start­ing their new lives with one or other of their par­ents. Men became more hands on in the home under­tak­ing DIY and child­care respons­ib­il­it­ies with many more women now going out to work increas­ing house­hold incomes and buying power. Class dis­tinc­tions also became more blurred with a per­ceived move­ment to a broader middle class though there remained many still in poverty and not car­ried along with the wider improve­ment in living stand­ards. This being power­fully brought to the fore by tv pro­duc­tions such as Cathy Come Home.

The 1960’s gave rise the “The Permissive Society” though many who lived through this period may well have not noticed any great change in their life­styles with much of the well pub­li­cised changes in beha­viour being London centred. There can how­ever be no doubt that the lib­er­al­isa­tion of cen­sor­ship, pro­lif­er­a­tion of pornography,introduction of the pill,

the AbortionAct and decrim­in­al­isa­tion of homo­sexu­al­ity had a pro­found effect on gen­eral beha­viour and what became mor­ally accept­able when only a few years before such would have been looked as entirely unac­cept­able. The 1960’s des­pite the rel­at­ive freedoms achieved can how­ever be viewed as the Golden Age of mar­riage with more people than ever before get­ting mar­ried and at younger ages des­pite the rise in cohab­it­ing.

The 1960’s also saw a rise in plur­al­ism with increased mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism rising immig­ra­tion, though some saw this as a threat rather than an oppor­tun­ity such as Enoch Powell who gave his infam­ous speech in 1968.

Feminism also took hold with women gain­ing a more prom­in­ent place in soci­ety as a whole and gain­ing equal oppor­tun­it­ies, though there remains some way to go on this.

Not every­one was happy with many of the impacts of per­missive­ness such as

Mary Whitehouse who waged a long battle against pro­fan­ity and per­ceived por­no­graphy.

So how are the 1960’s inter­preted now? Lucy closed  pro­pos­ing three pos­sib­il­it­ies:

Cultural,Revolution, Happening Somewhere Else or Something in Between.

There fol­lowed  a lively ques­tion ses­sion with some mem­bers relat­ing their memor­ies to close an excel­lent present­a­tion by Dr. Brown.