Category Archives: Talks

My Early Years In The Merchant Navy — Brian Smith — 16th April 2018

Five months after he gave us a talk on part two of his career – as a sur­veyor for Lloyd’s Register – Brian Smith, a member of the Barrow upon Humber Probus Club, returned by pop­u­lar demand to give us part one, cov­er­ing his years as a ship’s engin­eer.

Brian’s career change was forced upon him when, after just over 18 years in the Merchant Navy, he was made redund­ant, largely as a result of con­tain­er­isa­tion. One con­tainer ship could replace half a dozen ordin­ary cargo ships in terms of load car­ry­ing capa­city, and today they are even bigger. One reason why Britain cannot com­pete in the build­ing of these huge ves­sels is that there is vir­tu­ally nowhere in UK waters where they can be launched.

Not that the ships Brian worked on were exactly tid­dlers. He sailed in 15 dif­fer­ent ves­sels, and at the peak of his first career he was chief engin­eer of a ship of 76,000 tonnes. He was away for up to nine months at a stretch, sail­ing the waters of the world with car­goes ran­ging from bana­nas to cars.

Brian, des­pite having no family sea­far­ing his­tory, was inspired to seek work in the marine world when, as a young boy being driven for days out at the sea­side with his par­ents to either Redcar or Saltburn, he would pass the large docks in Middlesbrough. He left school at the age of 15 in 1960 and obtained his first job as a mes­sen­ger boy at the local Furness shipyard.

An aerial view of Middlesbrough docks in the 1950s

As I walked around the docks area deliv­er­ing doc­u­ments I would see every aspect of the trade, from ship­wrights to port­ers, and being an inquis­it­ive type I would always ask them what they were doing.

I was soon inden­tured as an appren­tice, which involved two years in a fit­ting shop and three in a machine shop, oper­at­ing lathes and other equip­ment, and at 18 you were allowed to go out­side to work in the main­ten­ance depart­ment, work­ing on the ships.

One day I saw some­body who every­body was taking notice of – he was obvi­ously very import­ant – and I had it explained to me that he was the Lloyd’s sur­veyor inspect­ing the ship.”

Plucking up cour­age, Brian asked the man from Lloyd’s: “How do I get your job?” He replied: “Easy son, go to sea and get your qual­i­fic­a­tions,” and took a note of Brian’s name and address.

I didn’t really expect to hear any­thing, but one day I got a letter from the Board of Trade telling me that I would have to go to sea.” Brian told his man­ager that he wanted to leave his job ashore, and after ini­tially being refused because of his appren­tice­ship he was allowed to leave the fol­low­ing January to pursue his chosen career in what was then the world’s largest mer­chant navy.

He was told to report to his first ship at Avonmouth, and he star­ted work as a junior engin­eer in 1966.

Brian worked first for the Hain Steamship Company, which was estab­lished as a public com­pany in 1901 but could trace its roots back to 1816. The com­pany was acquired by the P&O Steam Navigation Company in 1917, con­tinu­ing to oper­ate as a sep­ar­ate entity, although Brian later worked for the P&O Tramp Company, based in London.

A ship engaged in the tramp trade is one which does not have a fixed sched­ule or pub­lished ports of call, as opposed to a freight liner.

After join­ing another ship sail­ing the North Atlantic, Brian came home on leave and went to col­lege to gain his Certificate of Competency as an engin­eer. He rejoined the ship as a fourth engin­eer, and cel­eb­rated his 21st birth­day off the coast of West Africa.

He returned to col­lege to gain his second engineer’s ticket and then joined the Tyne-built gen­eral cargo ship Trewidden, bound for the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean where, off the coast of South Africa, the cap­tain was mys­ter­i­ously lost over­board.

The Trewidden, which Brian joined as Second Engineer

Brian regaled us with col­our­ful stor­ies of his voy­ages around the world, ran­ging from the time a ship was left to pick up the tab when crew mem­bers vis­ited a house of ill repute in Mombasa, to his unwit­ting part in the so-called Great Grain Robbery of 1972 when the Soviet Union cov­ertly pur­chased 10 mil­lion tons of United States wheat and corn but were unable to use Russian ships to trans­port it.

Brian’s present­a­tion coin­cided with a very suc­cess­ful first meet­ing in our new tem­por­ary home at the Hallam Community and Youth Association hall while con­struc­tion work is due to get under way at the Fulwood Church Hall.

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.



Much Ado About Mothing — Ben Keywood — 26Th March 2018

Moths have a bad repu­ta­tion because most people think that they eat clothes.  In fact they do not.  It is the larvae of a very few moth spe­cies that eat clothes.  These larvae prob­ably fed on the lin­ings in birds’ nests before humans wore clothes made of nat­ural fibers.  Generally moths do not lay eggs on clothes made of man-made fibers or on  laundered clothes, but, if you have an item at the back of the ward­robe  that you haven’t worn for years, it might become infes­ted with moth larvae about 3mm. long.  Sometimes people think that their car­pets have been eaten by moth larvae but it was prob­ably varied carpet beetle larvae that were to blame.

There are 2,400  moth spe­cies in the U.K. but only about 60 but­ter­fly spe­cies.  There are two groups of moths: Micro and Macro.  These are not based on size but on fam­il­ies.  About 800 spe­cies are Macro, arranged in 56 fam­il­ies.  Both moths and but­ter­flies are Lepidoptera so they are closely related.  Most moths are noc­turnal (active at night) but some are diurnal (active in day­time) and some are both.

Ben explained that moths are con­sidered to be sci­en­tific­ally import­ant because:

  • They are highly sens­it­ive to very small envir­on­mental changes so they are a good indic­ator spe­cies.
  • They are pol­lin­at­ors.
  • They are at the bottom of the food chain and, as such, are a major source of food for birds and other anim­als.

The peppered moth is a good example of how changes in the envir­on­ment can affect the spe­cies.  It nor­mally has white wings peppered with tiny black spots.  In the past, when the atmo­sphere in Sheffield was full of indus­trial pol­lu­tion and build­ings and trees were covered in soot, an all-black form of the peppered moth was common.  It was thought that the black form dom­in­ated because the white form was easily picked off by birds, but  black form moths were cam­ou­flaged and sur­vived to breed more black form moths, an example of evol­u­tion.

Moths have amaz­ing cam­ou­flage.  Many moths mimic dead leaves when they close their wings.  Some look like bird drop­pings or sticks when their wings are closed. They are also good at pre­tend­ing to be dan­ger­ous to pred­at­ors.  Some moths have large ‘eyes’ on their wings which make them look dan­ger­ous.  Some have col­oured bodies that make them look like hor­nets.  One large moth flut­ters its wings rap­idly so that it looks like a hum­ming bird.  Another has a yellow head and upper body and a ‘beak’ so it looks like a canary.

People think that moths are brown and have furry bodies, but many spe­cies are beau­ti­fully bright col­oured with very com­plex pat­terns on their wings.  Many moths are just like but­ter­flies to look at.  The green carpet moth’s wings are emer­ald green with a pat­tern like a carpet.  It feeds on bil­ber­ries on the moors around Sheffield.

Some moths have cater­pil­lars that look like sticks or pieces of wood.  The ele­phant hawk moth’s cater­pil­lar is about 10 cm. long (and looks like an elephant’s trunk) but is col­oured with pat­terns and ‘eyes’ so it looks like a small snake.  The syca­more moth’s cater­pil­lar is about 5 cm. long and has bright yellow hairs stick­ing out all round.  This seems to put off pred­at­ors.  Some cater­pil­lars are tiny — the horse chest­nut leaf miner bur­rows between two sur­faces of a leaf, eating away in safety until it is large enough to pupate.  Another cater­pil­lar, only 2 mm. long, rolls up a leaf into a tube and eats away inside it.

Ben showed a photo of his moth trap (a bright light over a funneled box) which he used to catch moths in an area of well-mowed lawns near a University Hall of Residence.  He caught many moths but they were all of one type.  He said that this was because the avail­able food suited only this moth type.  He sug­ges­ted to the Hall res­id­ents that they let the grass grow and allow other plants like but­ter­cups, dais­ies and plantains to grow in the grass.  When he set up his trap some­time later he caught sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of moths.  He said that if we want a wide vari­ety of insects (he meant moths!) in our gar­dens then we need a wide vari­ety of plants and not to spray chem­ic­als at all.

At the end Ben was asked what is the dif­fer­ence between moths and but­ter­flies.  He admit­ted that, in fact, there is no real dif­fer­ence.           This was a fas­cin­at­ing talk with so much new inform­a­tion that I’ve only scraped the sur­face.

Fields to Houses — Early History of Stumperlowe — Anne Marples — 12 March 2018


Ann’s interest is Victorian local his­tory and she was sourced via UC3A. She runs her own edu­ca­tion busi­ness, spe­cial­ising in train­ing mater­i­als design, open learn­ing advice and dis­tance coach­ing and ment­or­ing.

For this talk she needed no IT aids (prob­ably for­tu­nate as the micro­phone packed up). She gave a beau­ti­fully pre­pared talk, delivered clearly from her index card notes. Her sub­ject was the his­tory and devel­op­ment of our own Stumperlowe.

Stumperlowe was rural and unchanged from medi­eval times, and sparsely pop­u­lated, until the start of relo­ca­tion between 1830–60 (“west­ern drift”) of the wealthy mid-Victorian indus­tri­al­ists towards the health­ier west­ern fringes of Sheffield, where pol­lu­tion and san­it­a­tion prob­lems of the city could be avoided due to its upland situ­ation and the pre­vail­ing unpol­luted south west­erly winds. There was clean water run­ning off the moors.

Before then, the area was sparsely pop­u­lated with a field struc­ture that had remained largely unchanged for cen­tur­ies. There was mixed small-scale farm­ing to serve the local sur­round­ing com­munit­ies (milk, beef, animal feed, grain, includ­ing barley for brew­ing, poultry, pigs and bee-keeping). Butter and cheese for local con­sump­tion was big busi­ness.

There were four sig­ni­fic­ant prop­er­ties: Stumperlowe Hall*, at the junc­tion of Stumperlowe Hall Road and Slayleigh Lane, Stumperlowe Grange, Stumperlowe Grange Farm and the smal­ler less import­ant Stumperlowe View Farm nearby. Stumperlowe Grange gen­er­ated income for the Hall. The other build­ings of note were a corn mill, smithy and a pub.

Large houses with rear stables were built in the area. No other trans­port was avail­able other than by horse or walk­ing. Then from the 1860s onwards until 1900 there was a 12 seat chara­banc ser­vice giving ready access “for a day out” from the city to savour the clean air of Crookes, Crosspool and Fulwood. By this time cot­tage gar­dens had become well estab­lished in the area. Fruit, veget­able and jam pro­duc­tion was prof­it­able. Tea and coffee were sold at the Fulwood Coffee House and Inn.

Fulwood School was built in 1836 in School Green Lane but became a private house shortly after­wards in 1840, when a new school was needed for pop­u­la­tion expan­sion in the area.

There was a tunnel at the foot of Stumperlowe Lane for sewage run-off and this can still be seen. Problems arose with rain and then over­flow of sewage. Fresh water wells were sunk and pumps installed as there was no mains water supply. Contamination by sewage over­flow was a real risk.

In 1858 the more eco­nomic steam plough was intro­duced and led to major changes in farm­ing prac­tice. The engine sat in the middle of a field, ropes were attached and the plough pulled from the field edges to the centre by means of a pulley system. The machine was hired out to sur­round­ing farms. Farms expan­ded and the smal­ler ones became uneco­nomic. Threshing and bail­ing machines were intro­duced; fewer labour­ers were needed who then went the city where there was better paid work.

Subsidized American corn imports under­cut local wheat prices lead­ing to pro­gress­ive decim­a­tion of the local farm­ing eco­nomy.

The Corn Laws were enforced between 1815 and 1846. These were tar­iffs and restric­tions placed upon impor­ted food and grain, when the landown­ers, who dom­in­ated Parliament, sought to pro­tect their own profits by impos­ing a duty on impor­ted corn. Grain prices were kept high to favour domestic pro­duc­tion. This was sup­por­ted and per­petu­ated by Members of Parliament, who were the landown­ers them­selves. The urban poor became worse off and the eco­nomy as a whole was depressed. There was a knock on effect in man­u­fac­tur­ing. The Corn Law Rhymer Ebenezer Elliott, poet and fact­ory owner, led the fight to repeal the Corn Laws which were caus­ing great hard­ship.

The intro­duc­tion of steam powered roller mills along the east coast res­ul­ted in more effi­cient pro­duc­tion of better qual­ity flour for white bread from impor­ted grain. Poor trans­port infra­struc­ture had long been a major prob­lem for dis­tri­bu­tion of local pro­duce which was cheap to pro­duce but expens­ive to dis­trib­ute. Expansion of steam power, canals, rail­ways and local coal enabled impor­ted grain and other raw mater­i­als and man­u­fac­tured goods to be dis­trib­uted more cheaply. Local mills fell into decline and unem­ploy­ment rose, the unem­ployed moving to better paid jobs in industry and exacer­bat­ing the prob­lem for exist­ing farms with labour­ers demand­ing higher wages.

In the 1880s the value of land increased and was sold for hous­ing devel­op­ment. Standards of living rose and vac­cin­a­tion was intro­duced, along with better san­it­a­tion. Infant and child mor­tal­ity declined from 50% before the age of 5. Immigration rose with an influx of Russians, Poles, Italians and Germans. This was offset by increased emig­ra­tion, par­tic­u­larly to the USA. The rural way of life col­lapsed.

One entre­pren­eur who cashed in at the right moment on the build­ing boom was Henry Elliot Hoole who owned the Green Lane Works at Kelham island. He man­u­fac­tured cast iron domestic products such as fire grates and kit­chen ranges. Sales increased dra­mat­ic­ally when he offered easy terms. Traditional trades (black­smiths, wheel­wrights) dis­ap­peared due to fall­ing demand. Gas engin­eers prospered. They had high status, as Anne Marples put it, equi­val­ent to that of today’s IT geek!

The pro­fes­sions, aca­dem­ics and intel­lec­tu­als moved to the west­ern fringes of Sheffield for better hous­ing, clean air and san­it­a­tion, and where they con­sidered there was a more exclus­ive life­style.

Housing at the time was mostly rental and that meant the ten­ants had no voting rights. There was there­fore an incent­ive to own prop­erty but there was no mort­gage system in place. Walkley, then Crookes, were the first areas to be developed after the Land Reform Society (LRS) was set up by Robert Eden Leader in the 1870s, a rad­ical non-conformist who bought up large areas of farm­land in a con­sor­tium and split it into lots. Those wish­ing to join the LRS paid a join­ing fee to allow pur­chase of a parcel of land for build­ing. The new owner then split the plot and sub-sold to fund the build­ing work and to obtain a mort­gage as a new landowner. Renting out provided funds for addi­tional plot pur­chases.

Although all the land was sold, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the land was fully developed.

Large scale change in Stumperlowe was mul­ti­factorial. It is now part of the urban sprawl with no defin­able “vil­lage” centre. Farming and hor­ti­cul­ture have gone and skills have been lost. Overdevelopment has sat­ur­ated the area with ongo­ing split­ting of plots to max­im­ise profit. However, cur­rent maps of the area, when com­pared with earlier ones, still show the ori­ginal farm­lands, and some his­toric infra­struc­ture such as wells and sewage chan­nels.

Following Anne’s excel­lent talk, there were numer­ous ques­tions and lots of dis­cus­sion. The intriguing deriv­a­tion of Stumperlowe remains unknown. Perhaps it’s related to the early English word “Low” indic­at­ing a Neolithic burial ground. There is a “stump” struc­ture higher up so per­haps the area means “below the stump”. Earlier OS maps how­ever refer to the area as “Stomperlowe”.

Jacko had the final word: “when I was a kid, this was all fields – now I know why!”



Police — Friends or Fascists? — Tim Hollis CBE — 5 March 2018

Militia being used in the Gordon Riots of 1780.

Tim Hollis is a retired Chief Constable of Humberside and has already talked to the Club about the Samaritans.  This talk has reflec­tions on 35 years of poli­cing start­ing with the Met. and con­clud­ing in Hull.  Since retir­ing Tim has taken a Master’s degree in his­tory at Sheffield University and the first part of his talk encom­passed a brief his­tory of poli­cing in England since Anglo Saxon times.

The nature of poli­cing has been defined as “the mono­poly of legit­im­ate viol­ence within a State”.  A state can range from the whole Roman Empire with part of its bound­ary defined by Hadrian’s Wall to a small city.  In 1755 Adam Smith wrote that to carry a state to the highest degree of opu­lence from the lowest bar­bar­ism requires peace, easy taxes and a tol­er­able admin­is­tra­tion of justice.

In Roman times the office of con­stable in the army had the import­ant respons­ib­il­ity for the horses.  In German cul­ture mar­shals had a sim­ilar respons­ib­il­ity.  For 367 years the Romans ruled Britain through their army.  There was no police force.  In Anglo Saxon times there were reeves who were super­vising offi­cials with local respons­ib­il­ity to the King within the shire.  They could hold court and try local civil and crim­inal mat­ters.  In Norman times these shire reeves became sher­iffs.

Today a police con­stable takes an oath to main­tain the sovereign’s peace.  In 1361 the Justices of the Peace Act made law the concept of keep­ing the peace.  A ” breach of the peace” is in every­day use and a person can be ordered by the Magistrates’ Courts to keep the peace or to be of good beha­viour.

It was not until 1689 with the English Bill of Rights that there was legis­la­tion for a stand­ing army and the first local mili­tia was cre­ated in 1707.  Tim explained how there are fun­da­mental dif­fer­ences between the mil­it­ary and a police force.  The latter should handle public dis­order situ­ations.  In 1780 a mili­tia was used in the Gordon Riots and 285 people were killed.

There has always been a prob­lem of who should pay for a police force and it was only after the Chartists move­ment that in 1856 it was agreed that every­where should have a police force.  It took until 1896 for Barnsley to have one.

In 1977 when Tim joined the Met. after a career in the Parachute Regiment, pay was low as were entry require­ments.  Things improved in the Thatcher era.  The ABC of poli­cing have not changed how­ever.  They are: Assume noth­ing; Believe nobody; Check everything.  Young con­stables on the beat are sub­ject to an enorm­ous vari­ety of prob­lems requir­ing mature judge­ment includ­ing sui­cide and domestic viol­ence.  The 3 P’s they warned about are: Prisoners; Prostitutes and Property.

For a Chief Constable the 3 P’s change to Politicians; Press and Public.  For fur­ther insights you must attend his talk!

Tim is a nat­ural and ener­getic  com­mu­nic­ator and without slides, he kept his audi­ence enthralled for over an hour on mat­ters best described are far reach­ing.

Forensic Sciences – Dr Stefano Vanin — 26th February 2018.

Dr. Stefano  Vaningave gave  a fas­cin­at­ing insight into the world of Forensic Science , stress­ing that its role is to  provide evid­ence by recon­struct­ing the crime scene for others to make their judge­ments.  He is a Reader in Forensic Biology at Huddersfield University.  He said that Forensic Science is the applic­a­tion of the sci­ences (from archae­ology to zoology)  to crim­inal and civil laws and can give evid­ence for the pro­sec­u­tion or the defence .   It covers all crimes from murders, rape, burg­lar­ies to less obvi­ous offences  such as art fraud, com­puter hack­ing and money laun­der­ing.  The sci­ent­ists col­lect, pre­serve and ana­lyse sci­entific evid­ence. They can travel to the scene of the crime or have a labor­at­ory role per­form­ing the whole spec­trum of ana­lysis.

A French sci­ent­ist, Edmond Locard , developed the prin­ciple that crime cannot happen without leav­ing a trace. He stated whenever two objects come into con­tact with one another mater­i­als are exchanged.   Wherever you stop, touch or step you uncon­sciously leave a silent wit­ness to your pres­ence . ( I now real­ise why the TV detect­ive pro­gramme was so called)  However, the prob­lem with sci­entific evid­ence is the human fail­ure to find it, study it and  inter­pret it cor­rectly, thus dimin­ish­ing its value. Again, Locard states that you are never alone. Your body is covered by bac­teria with each of us having a micro­bial cloud which dif­fer­en­ti­ates you from another. In short we are dis­pers­ing ourselves all the time a boon for the forensic sci­ent­ist to check our move­ments.

Everybody has a unique genetic pro­file called DNA and like fin­ger­prints can spe­cific­ally identify you.  DNA was first used in 1984 developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys who real­ised the vari­ation in genetic code could be used to identify  indi­vidu­als and tell one from another.  Sir William Herschel was  per­haps the first to see the bene­fits of finger print­ing and today it has been developed into the power­ful tool in the armoury of the forensic sci­ent­ist.

Stefano described sev­eral invest­ig­a­tions which demon­strated many forensic tech­niques includ­ing  the ana­lyse of plants, pollen, soil , bal­list­ics , decom­pos­i­tion of bodies, insects and a whole range of evid­ence at the crime scene acting as a silent wit­ness.  A most inter­est­ing and stim­u­lat­ing talk, prompt­ing many ques­tions from our mem­bers.