All posts by Stan Hirst

Sheffield’s Women at Work in World War 1 — Dr. Sylvia Dunkley — 2nd October 2017.


Doctor Sylvia Dunkley moved to Sheffield in 1982 and was involved in run­ning an atom­ising sys­tems busi­ness with her hus­band.  She had a pas­sion for his­tory and even­tu­ally took a his­tory degree.

Before the war, the main female occu­pa­tion in Sheffield was 32.3% domestic and 22.4% in man­u­fac­tur­ing metal goods.  When the war com­menced many women became unem­ployed because of the col­lapse of the tra­di­tional indus­tries due to men leav­ing for the war.

In London, Queen Mary’s work­rooms were star­ted in order to give women employ­ment.  They knit­ted, darned and made rugs.

Sheffield became a large centre for the hos­pit­al­isa­tion of wounded sol­diers.  There was a huge demand for nurses and the army took over many places in Sheffield and changed their use to hos­pit­als.  The base hos­pital was centred on Ecclesall Road, in all 4,600 beds were estab­lished. Apart from  this, beds were provided at Carter Knowle School (115); Lydgate (130); Greystones (150).  Other affil­i­ated insti­tu­tions provided another 2,000 beds for less ser­i­ous cases.

Due to the short­age of man power, women were trained in cler­ical posts in banks and busi­nesses. Teachers, who once had to leave their jobs on mar­ry­ing, were allowed to stay on.

As trans­port was needed to ferry women work­ers to the factor­ies and the fact that 1,500 men had left to join the army, the tram ser­vice was severely stretched.  Women were  trained as conductors/drivers and, with agree­ment from the unions, were employed under the same wages and con­di­tions as men, who would get their jobs back on return from the war.  By the end of the war there were over 1000 women tram work­ers in Sheffield.

The postal ser­vices were also taken over by women.  73% of sort­ing office staff and most of the tele­gram and postal work­ers’ jobs were taken by women. Post Office tele­gram girls were recruited and based in sub-post offices around the city and would deliver tele­grams by hand by walk­ing or catch­ing a tram to each address.

Women were also employed as window clean­ers, crane drivers, meter read­ers and street cleaners.

In 1915 there was a short­age of shells at the front.  Lloyd George (head of muni­tions) con­ver­ted factor­ies to make muni­tions.  He called them “National Projectile Factories”.  Hatfields and Thomas Firth were examples of such factories.

Making shell cases involved 25 dif­fer­ent oper­a­tions and  each woman would do one stage only. Most import­ant were the shell exam­iners whose job it was to ensure that the cal­ibre was per­fect (oth­er­wise the shell would misfire/explode).  Newton Chambers made over 14,000 shell cases per week.  Only the shell cases were made in Sheffield, the task of filling them with explos­ives was done in more remote parts of the coun­try for obvi­ous reasons.

At the end of the war the men took back their jobs that they had left and the women returned to their pre­vi­ous employ­ment.  Thus, Sheffield women  played an essen­tial part in the war effort.

Sylvia was thanked for her present­a­tion which we all agreed was very informative.

Resuscitation and defibrillation

Helen Till, a retired clin­ical nurse, now has a new role as a resus­cit­a­tion officer in the hos­pital environment.

She men­tioned that in the UK every year, 30,000 cases of sudden car­diac arrest (SCA) occur.

  • Survival rate is less than one in ten
  • Death is inev­it­able unless SCA recog­nised promptly, CPR com­men­ded and defib­ril­la­tion performed


  • What is a car­diac arrest?  The heart has stopped pump­ing blood to the body and brain, the person will fall uncon­scious and stop breath­ing.  Without CPR the person will die within minutes
  • How does CPR help?   By per­form­ing chest com­pres­sions (and rescue breaths) this pumps blood and oxygen around the body.
  • Is a car­diac arrest the same as a heart attack?  No — they are not the same — a heart attack can lead to a car­diac arrest but both are med­ical emer­gen­cies and it is neces­sary to call 999

Most SCA cases are due to abnor­mal heart rhythm.  The major factor lim­it­ing sur­vival is that SCA and AED (defib­ril­lator) are used within the crit­ical time (con­di­tions are optimal only for a few minutes after the onset but can be exten­ded by effect­ive CPR.

Defibrillation helps by deliv­er­ing a high energy elec­tric shock to the heart through the chest wall  and chest com­pres­sions also help.

Survival of an SCA is pos­it­ively asso­ci­ated with:

  • Witness col­lapse
  • Early CPR by bystanders
  • Presence of shock­able rhythm
  • Short time from col­lapse to start of CPR
  • Short time from col­lapse to AED

Do CPR until ambu­lance arrives.

Helen demon­strated on a man­nekin how to apply CPR and use a defib­ril­lator. The AED, when activ­ated, gave recor­ded instruc­tion at every step.  It told how and where to place the pads which had to be applied to bare skin.

Members of the club volun­teered to per­form the tech­nique on the man­nekin and were amazed at how much effort was required to do the CPR.

There were mul­tiple ques­tions from the floor and Helen answered them all.  She was thanked for her invalu­able talk and demonstrations.

Rotten Boroughs — Paul Humphries — 5th June 2017.

(This blog will be short and con­densed, as to refer to names men­tioned in Paul’s talk, could be to the det­ri­ment of the club!)

Paul gave us an inter­est­ing talk into “behind the scenes activ­it­ies” in many local coun­cils, and how the media has been involved in expos­ing malpractices.

Some local coun­cils work hard and others  have been involved in cor­rupt prac­tices and should have been brought to account.

Paul men­tioned that the “Private Eye” pub­lic­a­tion was report­ing many cases of alleged cor­rup­tion but the stor­ies were not taken up by the national press and thus the prac­tices were allowed to continue.

Accounts of misuse of coun­cil money were many, accord­ing to Paul. It has been known for coun­cil­lors to arrange expens­ive trips to places such as Chicago, Japan and Africa on the pre­text of attend­ing meet­ings which would have little impact on the lives of people in their constituencies.

Paul was a freel­ance journ­al­ist for The Guardian news­pa­per and repor­ted the “Donnygate Affair” in full.  To demon­strate how some coun­cils abused funds there was much abuse of small amounts. For example, Paul related that he knew of one coun­cil­lor in Doncaster who had been to a con­fer­ence in Torquay, then moved on to a con­fer­ence in Bournemouth, and then yet another con­fer­ence, this time in Eastbourne, and had run out of clean shirts. The solu­tion to the prob­lem was that a member of Doncaster coun­cil staff was instruc­ted to deliver a clean shirt to him in Eastbourne.  Thus he trav­elled to the South Coast with the said shirt and had an overnight stay all at the tax­pay­ers expense!  (Why didn’t the coun­cil­lor buy a new shirt in Eastbourne?)

The Donnygate scan­dal was the worst case of gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion since the Poulson scan­dal in the 1970’s.  With Donnygate, two former coun­cil lead­ers, two former mayors and twenty-one coun­cil­lors were con­victed of fraud.  The unrav­el­ling of the scan­dal owed a lot to Ron Rose, a local res­id­ent and former coun­cil­lor.  He approached the media and a three-year police enquiry was launched.  Senior civil ser­vants had to be brought to Doncaster to run local government.

In Lincolnshire (a Conservative-run coun­cil), the leader of a county coun­cil had the route of a £25 mil­lion road scheme redrawn to boost the value of his land was jailed for 18 months.

Paul men­tioned how a coun­cil­lor in Rotherham spent money from an anti-poverty fund set up to alle­vi­ate poverty in the former coalfield areas.  This money was spent on tick­ets to race meet­ings, foot­ball matches, pros­ti­tutes and, in all, £172,000 was taken from the anti-poverty fund to be spent on coun­try jaunts and booze binges.

Andrew Norfolk, chief invest­ig­at­ive reporter of The Times, received “Journalist of the Year 2014” award for his invest­ig­a­tion into the wide­spread exploit­a­tion of teen­age girls in north­ern England.

Thus many wrongs can be righted by good journalism.

Paul answered many ques­tions from the floor and was thanked for his inter­est­ing account.


That’s Your Lot by Michael Dowse

Michael sur­veyed the assembled audi­ence and came to the con­clu­sion that none of them were likely to fetch much at auc­tion, so he com­menced his lec­ture about the real antiques trade.

Michael Dowse ori­gin­ally hailed from Scunthorpe.  His grand­father was Arthur Edward Dowse, his father was Edward Arthur, but his mother defied the family tra­di­tion and called him Michael.

His father sent him to col­lege to train as a chartered sur­veyor how­ever, Michael’s girl­friend lived 40 miles away so he spent much of his time trav­el­ling back and forth to see her.  Subsequently he failed his exams.

He was then sent off to Sotheby’s in London as an appren­tice, and spent most of the time clean­ing silver.  He left after four weeks and was then art­icled to Bolton and Cooper auc­tion­eers  who had offices in Malton.  They auc­tioned prop­erty, fine arts and also live­stock and agri­cul­tural machinery.  After a move to their Scarborough branch he returned to Sheffield as his father was unwell.  He bought his father’s busi­ness of E.A. Dowse off him, and developed the busi­ness by making con­tacts with soli­cit­ors and pro­bate depart­ments which offered a way into obtain­ing items for auc­tion.  He related a tale of a lady soli­citor who was to value the house of a deceased woman, he wondered if there were any items in the house that he could sell.  The soli­citor greeted him wear­ing a mask!  He wondered why? On enter­ing the house he was over­come by the dread­ful smell.  The deceased woman had cared for stray cats and when she died the cats still gained access through a broken window.  The smell was unbear­able.  He took only two items of fur­niture to the sale­room which he washed down out­side for over four weeks but the ingrained smell was still obvi­ous when the items were even­tu­ally sold.

At one clear­ance house they found a safety deposit box which was empty.  It did, how­ever, have a list of instruc­tions to where a cache of £3000 gold coins would be found.  The instruc­tions read like a treas­ure map — so many paces left, right, upstairs, etc. which led them to a remov­able floor­board. Underneath the floor­board were the coins.  These were sold for £25,000.

Michael stressed the import­ance of having proven­ance of items for sale.  He quoted the sale of seven medals awar­ded to Squadron Leader Clayton.  The medals were accom­pan­ied by photos and details of all the 145 mis­sions he had flown, first as a nav­ig­ator and then as a pilot.  He was regarded as a hero and a dare­devil.  The medals on their own would have fetched £3–5000 but, with the accom­pa­ny­ing proven­ance, fetched £28,000.

Another find was a paint­ing found in a toilet.  In those days there was no inter­net so Michael had thou­sands of post­cards of the pic­ture made and posted them all over Europe to museums and art gal­ler­ies in the hope that it could be iden­ti­fied. The paint­ing was authen­tic­ated as being by Jerome.  It was put up for auc­tion with an estim­ate of £3–5000 but was sold for £160,000.  (Michael still has hun­dreds of post­cards left!)

Michael gave us an insight into “deal­ers’ rings”.  Three or four deal­ers would col­lab­or­ate on the pur­chase of an item, three of whom would refrain from bid­ding against each other in the hope that they could stop higher bids on the item.  Later, amongst them­selves, one of them would pur­chase it.

The club mem­bers then retired to Hall Golf Club for a lunch to cel­eb­rate forty years of Stumperlowe Probus Club.  Michael Dowse had brought five items for the diners to exam­ine and to estim­ate the age, use and value of each object.  This pro­duced wildly dif­fer­ent answers — only a few being near to the mark.

Michael came to the con­clu­sion that our mem­bers, apart from being “unsale­able” were use­less as valuers!

The mem­bers much appre­ci­ated Michael’s enjoy­able and enter­tain­ing present­a­tion and he was warmly thanked by everyone.




Sir Robert Jones — the father of orthopaedic surgery in the UK by David Stanley

David star­ted his talk with an account of the life of Robert Jones, who was a sur­geon in Victorian times. He was born in 1857 in Wales and left to study medi­cine at Liverpool University under the guid­ance of Hugh Owen Thomas. In 1881 he was assist­ant sur­geon at the Stanley Hospital, Liverpool and estab­lished him­self as a teacher and thinker.  He pub­lished art­icles in The Lancet and was the first person to use X-Rays, and the first to use the “Thomas Splint”.  This was a device that held the frac­tured leg firmly in an open frame thus allow­ing treat­ment of wounds and ulcers to be per­formed whilst the leg was still immobilised.

He was totally com­mit­ted to the care of crippled chil­dren and was  involved in the cre­ation of Royal Liverpool Hospital for Children.

During the con­struc­tion of the Manchester Ship Canal he was med­ical officer and set up three hos­pit­als en route and treated over three thou­sand patients.  During the first world war he was hor­ri­fied at the treat­ment given to cas­u­al­ties and he set up Shepherds Bush Military Orthopaedic Centre. He believed that no sol­dier should be dis­charged from the army until everything had been done to make him a healthy and effi­cient cit­izen.  He thus began modern day rehab­il­it­a­tion services.

Robert Jones became pres­id­ent of the British International Orthopaedic Surgeons, and trav­elled to the USA where he met William Mayo (founder of the Mayo Clinic).  It was said of Robert Jones that he was a modest man entirely unaware of his great ability,

David Stanley then changed the focus of the talk to tell us about the chal­lenges for today in Patient  Safety in Caring, Sharing and Innovations.  This involved :

  • being inspired by teachers
  • the abil­ity to per­form modern ortho­pedic sur­gery safely
  • being appro­pri­ately trained to allow for future innovations

He  men­tioned that the NHS is always under fire by the press and great pub­li­city is given to prob­lems like the Mid-Stafford shire invest­ig­a­tion where it was found that fin­ance took pre­ced­ence over the care of patients.

There is a prob­lem with 7,300 patients per year com­plain­ing about adverse events e.g. post­pone­ment of oper­a­tions, drugs not given and gen­eral lack of care etc. The cost of lit­ig­a­tion in 2010 was £863 mil­lion.  15% of claims were of an ortho­pedic nature rising to 60% in the last three years. Common com­plaints included unsat­is­fact­ory out­comes 48%, dia­gnostic error 33%, nerve damage 32% and incor­rect oper­a­tion site 16%.  The bed­side manner given to patients greatly influ­ences whether a com­plaint is made.  Time spent with the patient and a friendly approach result in less claims. An abras­ive approach and less patient inter­ac­tion is likely to increase the number of complaints.

David Stanley stressed that sur­geons need to know their lim­it­a­tions and, if in doubt,  to phone a col­league for advice.  Surgeons should know their own com­pet­ence, improve their skills, tech­niques and be will­ing to train other people.  Surgeons should be spe­cial­ists in a lim­ited field i.e. knees, ankles, feet and just spe­cial­ize in those operations.

To achieve qual­i­fic­a­tions con­sult­ants have to undergo rig­or­ous exam­in­a­tions. The aver­age pass rate is 70% with more women passing than men.  For stu­dents study­ing abroad there is a European Board of Orthopedic and Trauma Examination.

The Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, holds a trauma con­fer­ence each day when all the X-Rays of trauma patients are dis­cussed.  Those attend­ing include ortho­pedic sur­geons, radi­olo­gists, anes­thet­ists, neurosur­geons and theatre staff.  A pre-assessment clinic decides if a patient is fit enough for an oper­a­tion. Before an oper­a­tion a World Health Organization check list is used to ensure that name band is in place, the cor­rect equip­ment is ready, whether the patient has any aller­gies and the site of the oper­a­tion is well marked.

The talk stim­u­lated numer­ous ques­tions and was well received by the audience.

Thanks to David  Stanley.


Spence Broughton and The English Terror — Rob Hindle — 3rd October 2016.

In 1867, when the found­a­tions for a build­ing were being excav­ated at Clifton Street, Rotherham, the remains of a gibbet post were found.  It was of solid oak and had been embed­ded since 1792.  It attrac­ted a lot of sight­seers who, three years earlier, in 1864, gathered to gawp at the remains of the Dale Dyke Dam which attrac­ted 10,000 rubber-neckers.  The fas­cin­a­tion of the macabre in those days drew large num­bers of sight­seers which was good busi­ness for the local hostelries.

This gibbet was erec­ted for the remains of Spence Broughton whose tarred dead body was sus­pen­ded from it in an iron cage for 35 years.

Why did Spence Broughton meet this fate?  He was bap­tised in 1744 in Sleaford.  He came from a well-to-do family and, at 22 years old, had his own farm and three chil­dren.  However he turned his back on this “homely” exist­ence and found him­self another woman and became engaged in cock-fighting, cards and petty crim­inal activities.

On his travels he met up with John Oxley, the latter being acquain­ted with John Shaw who was a receiver of stolen goods. Shaw said that Oxley and Broughton should hold up the mail from Rotherham to Sheffield.  The next even­ing, 28th January, 1791, George (the mail boy from Wentworth), was ambushed by the two men.  He wasn’t hurt but they tied him to a  tree leav­ing his horse nearby.  They took his saddle bag con­tain­ing the mail.  Broughton and Oxley rode to Sheffield and, on open­ing the bag, found a French Bill of Exchange made out to J. Walker of Rotherham (an indus­tri­al­ist) value of £123.  They went on their way to London and split the money.  Numerous other rob­ber­ies ensued includ­ing a £10,000 haul  in Cambridge.  Oxley and Broughton were even­tu­ally caught.  Oxley escaped and Broughton was sent to York Assizes.  He was brought before Judge Francis Buller.  Shaw turned King’s Evidence and Broughton was found guilty and con­demned to be executed.  Hanging, draw­ing and quar­ter­ing had been abol­ished by then so Broughton was to be put to death by hanging.  He was hanged on the 14th of the 4th, 1792 at York.  A gibbet was erec­ted at Attercliffe and 40,000 people came to view the body, making the land­lord of The Arrow pub a very rich man.  The body was covered in tar, lifted and placed in a riv­eted iron cage.  The body was thus dis­played as a deterrent to anyone think­ing of crim­inal activity.

Events influ­en­cing the gibbet display

Thomas Paine “Rights of Man” was, at the time, a sup­porter of the French Revolution. What with that, the Irish rising in 1798, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Peterloo Massacre, the estab­lish­ment was fear­ful of a sim­ilar coup in England.  Thus the dis­play of the tarred body was to dis­suade poten­tial rebels.

After 35 years Broughton’s body was taken down because a local land­lord said it was unset­tling for the fam­il­ies living in the area.

It was a very inter­est­ing and inform­at­ive talk.