Category Archives: Talks

The Silver Screen — Mike Gildersleeve — 9th October 2017.

Mike Gildersleeve, a reg­u­lar vis­itor to our Probus, was brought up in Wembley in the 1950s, in a house with no Mod. Cons., but, they had a ‘wire­less’, then a Radiogram (ini­tially wind-up gramo­phone) and also they were within easy access of 24 cinemas, all now closed.

In 1950 there were only 300,000 TVs in the UK, so Mike reminded us of how he listened to The Goons, Dick Barton, Educating Archey, the Archers, and 78s of Mario Lanza…..

1953 was the water­shed for the TV revolu­tion, with the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Then came Muffin the Mule, the Flowerpot Men, ….. , etc, but the cinemas con­tin­ued to com­pete ever­more vig­or­ously, trying to under­mine the advance of TV.

In the USA in the early 1950s there were many more TVs in peoples’ homes, than in the UK, as they were not so affected by the cost WW2, but the chan­nels were always com­mer­cially influ­enced, with the advert­isers decid­ing what pro­grammes would be put on, to ensure the watch­ers didn’t switch off. The pro­grammes also were strictly cen­sored on sub­jects such as race, sex, viol­ence, drugs, reli­gion, and lan­guage etc.

However, films at the cinema tackled these taboo sub­jects, and cre­ated, bigger and bigger screens and better and better pro­duc­tions and present­a­tions, with Cinemascope, Technicolor and  Toddao, a really big screen inven­ted by Mike Todd, who was mar­ried to Liz Taylor.

Mike Todd made the most watched film ever, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ with David Niven and Robert Newton, who died 2 weeks after film was compled due to alco­hol­ism. Other films tack­ling the taboos were ‘The Robe’ by 20th Century Fox, star­ring Jean Simmons, Victor Mature and Richard Burton. Other not­able films were ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’ (Burt Lancaster), ’12 Angry Men’ (Henry Fonda), and films with Frank Sinatra, Bill Haley, Glenn Ford, Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, tack­ling race issues, booze, rock and roll and drugs.

James Stewart and Jeff Chandler were in a film which depic­ted the Indian not being the baddie for the first time. Up to that point they had always been the villains.

Although 1957 saw the first decline in num­bers of cinem­a­goers, cinema held its own until Howard Hughes, who owned RKO Radio Pictures, sold all his lib­rary of RKO films to TV. Up to that point, the only films on TV had been films spe­cific­ally made for TV. The film stars in the cinema at that time were con­trac­ted to one studio, (hence the 24 stars around the ‘Paramount’ trade mark, they rep­res­en­ted the 24 stars on con­tract), and so they did not appear on TV, until Howard Hughes let the genie out of the bottle.

All the big stu­dios of the time (MGM, Universal, Warner, United Artists, Columbia, RKO) have today morphed into other groupings.

The biggest British studio at the time was J. Arthur Rank with the famous Bombardier Billy Wells on the paper mashie gong. Ealing Studios became syn­onym­ous with comedy and actors like Peter Sellars.  Pinewood Studios was built by Charles Boot, the father of Henry Boot of civil engin­eer­ing fame. They made ‘The Lady-killers’ and ‘I’m alright Jack’ amongst other not­able films.

The 1950s was also the golden era of cinema music­als like ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, and ‘7 Brides for 7 Brothers’. War films and cowboy films aboun­ded. ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ (Alec Guinness), ‘The Dam Busters’ and‘Reach for the Sky’ (Kenneth More), ‘High Noon’ (Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly who was everybody’s friend, except James Stewart).  ‘The Ten Commandments’ was the only film not to dis­play ‘The End’, but fin­ished by, ‘So it was writ­ten, so it shall be done’. ‘Ben Hur’ (Charlton Heston) was an epic film which cost $145m, whereas ‘From Here To Eternity’ cost $1m and was made in 6 weeks.

Mike then took us down memory lane, men­tion­ing a whole host of actors and act­resses who appeared on the cinema screen.   Marilyn Monroe in ‘Some Like It Hot’ with the immor­tal last line, “No one is per­fect.”) who died in1961.  Jack Hawkins who fought in WW2 and appeared in ‘The Cruel Sea’.  Dirk Bogarde who ori­gin­ally appeared with Jack Warner (Evenin’ All).  Norman Wisdom who was Knighted at 90. Maureen O’Hara who was John Wayne’s best friend because she was the only person who could drink him under the table. Montgomery Clift who had a crash, then took to booze and drugs.  Paul Newman, mar­ried to June Woodward, and got the indus­tries rasp­berry (Rassy) award with his first film, but 4 years later began to make hits and sub­sequently gave a lot of money to char­ity. Robert Mitchum who was a crim­inal. Shirley Maclean, still going, and whose brother is Warren Beatty. James Dean who only made 3 films and only ever saw one of them before he died. And many , many others……

Mike had to be stopped when he ran out of time. We hadn’t noticed.


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.

Particle Physics — Understanding the Universe’s ‘LEGO Bricks’. — Professor Lee Thompson — 25th September 2017.

One of the reas­ons for research­ing the make-up of atoms is that look­ing closely at the smal­lest things can tell us much about the largest things, such as suns, stars and galaxies.

Only 5 or 6 types of ‘bricks’ can make lots of dif­fer­ent things.

A clearer under­stand­ing of the atom was made by Thomson in 1897 when he dis­covered that cath­ode rays are elec­trons, and that elec­trons exist at the ‘edge’ of atoms and are not tightly bound to the atom.

In 1909 Rutherford, Geiger and Marsden, made an appar­atus that would fit on a desk top.

It was a cyl­in­der, sur­roun­ded by pho­to­graphic film, with a small gold foil taget in the middle.  They dir­ec­ted a beam of alpha particles at the thin sheet of gold and the photo film would detect the alpha particles.  As it was thought that the interior of atoms was mainly empty space they expec­ted that the beam would pass through the foil without devi­ation.  However some of the particles were scattered and some even appeared to bounce back.

In 1911 Rutherford con­cluded that there was a very tiny, very dense centre to the atom.  He called this the nucleus.

Nowadays we want to look inside the nuc­leus and to do this we need a lot more energy so we use particle accelerators.

The largest accel­er­ator is at CERN on the Swiss/French border.

This is housed in a large cir­cu­lar tunnel that is 27 km in cir­cum­fer­ence and is 150 metres under­ground.  In it particles are accel­er­ated to near light speeds and are smashed into each other to find out what comes off so soph­ist­ic­ated particle detect­ors are required.

Four dif­fer­ent types of detector are used made up of gas, liquid and plastics.

The ATLAS detector is enorm­ous and weighs over 70,000 tons and is 44 metres wide.

Phenomenal com­put­ing power is needed to ana­lyse the particles given off after collision.

At school I was taught that atoms were made up of elec­trons orbit­ing the nuc­leus, which con­tained pro­tons and neut­rons.  If elec­trons were stripped of the atoms they were called beta particles.  A helium nuc­leus, con­sist­ing of 2 pro­tons and 2 neut­rons, was an alpha particle.

Now we have:

  • Electrons
  • Muons — heav­ier electrons
  • Tau — even heav­ier electrons

Inside Protons and Neutrons we have Quarks, iden­ti­fied as Up Quarks and Down Quarks. Quarks come in pairs or threes — Protons have 1 Up Quark and 1 Down Quark, Neutrons have 1 Up Quark and 2 Down Quarks.

Other particles, called nutri­nos, have been detec­ted and  there are sev­eral sources of these particles — the Sun, nuc­lear power sta­tions and CERN.  Earth is con­tinu­ally bom­barded by showers of nutri­nos, but they pass through us and pen­et­rate the Earth without appar­ently caus­ing us any harm.

The Japanese are research­ing nutri­nos.  They aim a beam of nutri­nos at a research centre 293 km away, which has a detector con­sist­ing of  a huge spher­ical tank con­tain­ing 50,00 tons of water.  The tank roof is lined with a huge number of light detect­ors cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars.  If a nutrino hits and reacts with atom in the water a tiny flash of light is emit­ted and detec­ted.  This is a very rare event.

The point of all this research at CERN and Japan is that it has brought many advances to the man in the street.

The World Wide Web was devised at CERN to allow inter­na­tional com­mu­nic­a­tion for phys­i­cists. High per­form­ance com­put­ing hand­ling large data volumes. Medical phys­ics has developed dia­gnostic tools for NMR and PET treat­ments and Hadron ther­apy and the pro­duc­tion of isotopes.

Cosmic rays inter­act in the atmo­sphere to gen­er­ate muons, which can be used to detect illegal imports of terrorist-owned nuc­lear mater­i­als in con­tain­ers at our ports. Also muons  tomo­graphy can be used to exam­ine the interi­ors of pyr­am­ids and magma cham­bers and volcanoes.

It was an inter­est­ing talk, con­tain­ing masses of mater­ial, that Prof. Thompson made as straight­for­ward as he could for the non-physicists!


Keith Booker, making his fourth visit to Stumperlowe, brought with him greet­ings from his home club of Dore, and explained that his latest selec­tion of pho­to­graphs from around the world was put together by request after he gave us Part One just over two years ago.
“I’ve gathered together a new selec­tion of pic­tures taken on a few of our adven­tures fea­tur­ing some less seen sub­jects, and others better known, which my wife and I found absorb­ing, sur­pris­ing and some­times amus­ing,” he explained. “You and I all have one thing in common today,” he added, “and that is that we are seeing this latest com­pil­a­tion for the first time!”
The cynics amongst us per­haps thought we were in for a slideshow of hol­i­day snaps, but this was a travelogue with a dif­fer­ence. Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days has noth­ing on Keith Booker’s Around the World in Fifty Minutes.

From the ancient city of Petra …

The open­ing theme was the Ancient World, and we star­ted off in the city of Petra, in Jordan. At its peak Petra – which trans­lates as ‘rock’ — was home to 20,000 people who, in the midst of the desert, built an ingeni­ous system of water­ways and a huge amphi­theatre. Next stop was the Great Pyramid of Giza, which at 480 feet was the tallest man­made struc­ture in the world for nearly 4,000 years, con­struc­ted out of 2.3 mil­lion stone blocks. The Great Sphinx of Giza, which meas­ures 238 feet from head to tail, is estim­ated to have been built earlier than 2500 BC.

Time to move on, and the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (now actu­ally in modern day Turkey) was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Olympia, site of the ori­ginal Olympic Games, The Temple of Posiedon, near Athens, and Old Corinth, famous as a trad­ing centre, were next on the itinerary.
Back on the magic carpet, and Rome was our next stop. The Colosseum, built in 72 AD, could seat more than 50,000 spec­tat­ors and it is thought that half a mil­lion people and twice as many anim­als were killed in the man versus beast contests.
Versuvius looms over both Herculaneum and, more fam­ously, Pompeii, the city which was des­troyed by vol­canic ash in 79 .
On now to India. Traditional house­boats can be hired on the Kerala back­wa­ters near Cochin, or Kochi. They are related to the dhow and were ori­gin­ally designed as spice trad­ing ves­sels. Today, spices are mainly trans­por­ted by road, giving the boats a new lease of life as leis­ure vessels.
We saw sim­ilar scenes in Thailand and Vietnam before ringing the bell for the next stop, Venice, where today there are still 400 gon­dolas ori­gin­ally used to trans­port goods from the mar­kets to the palaces along the canals.
North now to Lake Garda, where we saw part of the hull and bow of the Italian naval cruiser Puglia, launched in 1903, installed in a garden high above the lake and bring­ing a new slant to the craze for decking.
Across the Atlantic now for a look at the impress­ive bridge of the Queen Mary, which oper­ated between 1936 and 1967 and is now pre­served as a hotel and con­fer­ence centre in the har­bour at Long Beach, California.
Its suc­cessor the QE2 was launched in 1969 and retired in 2008, having sailed a greater dis­tance than any other vessel of any type, and Keith cap­tured it in Hong Kong har­bour for his photo col­lec­tion. In an instant, Keith then whisked us off to Scandinavia for the QE2’s last visit to Norway and her appear­ance at an annual steam­ship fest­ival, which in 2008 was held in Stavanger.
Continuing the mari­time theme, the Titanic’s first and (as it tran­spired) only port of call on her ill-fated maiden voyage from Southampton was Cork, in Ireland, where we saw an appro­pri­ate memorial. A number of the Titanic vic­tims have their final rest­ing place at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Keith was on hand with his camera there, too, to show us the grave­stones laid out in the shape of a ship’s bow.
On next to New York, worth a whole show in its own right, and then to Greenland, the largest island in the world but with a pop­u­la­tion of just 56,000.
From basalt form­a­tions in Iceland we flew as if by magic to the sim­ilar Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, and then headed north via Tromso and its Arctic Cathedral to the North Cape, the most north­erly point in Europe.
The old com­mer­cial dis­trict of Quebec has some remark­able murals, giving it a link with Cannes, in the South of France. Soon we were back in Ireland, and Dublin in par­tic­u­lar, and the North Yorkshire fish­ing vil­lage of Staithes also had its moment of fame before we jetted off to Australia, and the Sydney Opera House.

… to the iconic Sydney Opera House

After a stop-off in Bangkok, it was time to board Japan’s famous bullet train for a dis­tant view of Mount Fuji.
Then it was back towards home, call­ing in at Istanbul, the ori­ginal ter­minus the Orient Express. Keeping to the rails, we saw the Blue Train in South Africa and the Panama Express, which runs along­side the canal.
We didn’t go to Zywiec, in Poland, so Yalta – scene of the famous post­war powwow between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin – was a good place alpha­bet­ic­ally to wind up our magical mys­tery tour.
Keith was asked which places he would still like to visit, and his reply was Machu Picchu and Easter Island. He has no plans to turn this present­a­tion into a tri­logy but, as they say, watch this space …

* Keith kindly donated his fee to St Luke’s Hospice.

Music Education — Does it Matter? — Mary Heyler — 11th September 2017

None of us were quite sure if we would appre­ci­ate just what kind of talk was to come. However, we soon knew and learnt a great deal. Mary Heyler is an American, ori­gin­at­ing from California. She star­ted her musical life at a young age, train­ing to become an oper­atic singer. On qual­i­fic­a­tion she joined the Metropolitan Opera Company. After a period of years her musical dir­ec­tion changed and she fin­ished up in Sheffield as Director of Music for Children and Young Adults. It soon became clear to her that adequate train­ing and sup­port was lack­ing in both local and national gov­ern­ment. No sur­prise there you might think. Trying to oper­ate in such a neg­at­ive atmo­sphere didn’t seem prom­ising, it was a case of having to do your best with what you’ve got.

As the talk pro­gressed I real­ized that the fund-raising group for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, to which I belong, had used the facil­it­ies of her organ­isa­tion when we worked together with a number of public con­certs where they provided young musi­cians in groups or small orches­tras. Their train­ing, and often instru­ments, were provided by this school ser­vice. This gave an oppor­tun­ity to per­form in public and for the Bluebell Wood team to bene­fit. To these con­certs, all the great and good, such as the Lord Mayor and Master Cutler, were invited, in addi­tion to the paying public. This of course, raised the pro­file of the per­form­ing groups and benefited the chil­dren of the Hospice. These groups were many and vari­ous, includ­ing, in one instance,  a flute orchestra.

Musical edu­ca­tion was first estab­lished fol­low­ing the 1944 Education Act, which together with the grow­ing NHS devel­op­ments decreed that pro­vi­sion should be made for musical edu­ca­tion. This was the first time music was con­sidered for the school cur­riculum. Free tuition had made its first appear­ance. The degree of sup­port by local and national gov­ern­ment fin­an­cially varied widely over the years. Mary became involved with a new organ­isa­tion which seemed to show more sup­port and dir­ec­tion for chil­dren and young people — known as Sheffield Music Hub. Its major interest is stated in their object­ives, which are that every child, regard­less of race, gender, back­ground or income is entitled to the best musical edu­ca­tion avail­able. This sounds clear enough to me. All inform­a­tion regard­ing The Hub is avail­able on their website.n

Music, in all of its con­ceiv­able vari­ations, was provided by the BBC Promenade Concerts this year, ran­ging from clas­sical, ethnic, jazz, pop and even the sta­ging of the musical Oklahoma together with dis­cus­sion and cri­ti­cism. We wish Mary Heyler and the Music Hub every success.

My Life in Specialist Steels — Bryan Peters — 4th September 2017

With so many mem­bers having been involved dir­ectly or indir­ectly in Sheffield’s indus­trial scene, there was a palp­able fris­son of expect­a­tion as our Chairman intro­duced this week’s speaker, Bryan Peters. We were not to be disappointed.

Bryan was to take us on a jour­ney through a career span­ning fifty-five years and, in so doing, remind us of a world before Meadowhall and Leisure Centres: of com­pan­ies, products and places now in many cases no more (but not for­got­ten). At times we could almost sense vibra­tions from the forges, sniff the smoke of pol­lu­tion and inside, machine shop cool­ing liquid, see the sparks flying from grind­ing wheels and feel the heat of the fur­naces. It was a world where men, typ­i­fied by Bryan, worked their way up and acquired skills and know­ledge through appren­tice­ships and prac­tical experience.

Having com­pleted his edu­ca­tion at Owler Lane Technical and Abbeydale Grammar School. Our speaker’s career com­menced in 1958 when he joined, aged 17, Brown Bayley as a Works Trainee. The firm, based on what became the Sheffield Arena site, at the time employed over 3500 employ­ees. It pro­duced a wide range of both fin­ished products -such as rail­way tyres –to spe­cial­ist sheet, ingot, rod and bar steels which provided the raw mater­i­als for everything from the aero­naut­ical to sur­gical instru­ment indus­tries. Brown Bayley proved to be the ideal com­pany to train, provid­ing a solid found­a­tion for his future career. Over the next six years under the care of Harry Kelford — Training Manager Bryan gained, in six month stints, expos­ure to each of the main pro­duc­tion pro­cesses and to the metal­lur­gical labs (where there was a large pic­ture of Harry Brearley to inspire) test house and creep test­ing lab. He con­tin­ued his edu­ca­tion through day release and even­ing classes, study­ing metal­lurgy at Sheffield Tech. It was Harry Brearley who set up the Freshgate Trust in 1941. Bryan won a place on it in 1963 and vis­ited Mannesman and Mercedes in Germany. In 1964 Bryan was pro­moted to assist­ant to the Chief Inspector, work he found inter­est­ing but his aspir­a­tion was a career in sales.

In 1965 Bryan joined Kayser Ellison & Co to sell tool, high speed, stain­less and engin­eer­ing steels. This was to be his start in tech­nical selling and valu­able fur­ther exper­i­ence. The Company had a strong repu­ta­tion for its tech­nical assist­ance to cus­tom­ers in such areas as alloy selec­tion and heat treat­ment.. In 1966/7 He helped to set up a new ware­house for KE in west London which pro­cessed, stocked and dis­trib­uted tool steels to this import­ant and grow­ing market with its con­cen­tra­tion of spe­cial­ist man­u­fac­tur­ers. In early 1972 KE formed a group sales team. Bryan was expec­ted to sell fin­ished products as well as steel. He had to handle an inquiry for hack­saw blades and files for the work­shop in a large regional prison. One prob­lem: the cus­tomer spe­cified that his order should be packed in saus­age rolls!

Deciding that selling fin­ished products was no longer for him, Bryan seized an oppor­tun­ity later in 1972 to join Detroit based Rolled Alloys Inc , major sup­pli­ers of wrought heat res­ist­ant alloys (espe­cially for applic­a­tions in the 600‑1200 degrees C range) to the US car industry. After six weeks train­ing in America, He became “their man” in UK and Europe. Over the years, ware­houses and offices were to open or relo­cate as the busi­ness expan­ded. The com­pany was to enhance its repu­ta­tion as a pro­vider of tech­nical advice and solutions.

In 2000 Bryan left his facil­ity man­age­ment pos­i­tion to work dir­ectly for the owners who had plans to grow the busi­ness in Europe and SE Asia by acquir­ing other com­pan­ies and new start- ups. Locations were to stretch from the UK to Singapore. Bryan’s activ­it­ies mainly centred around assist­ing with acquis­i­tions, train­ing new sales staff, resolv­ing prob­lems in com­pan­ies that had been acquired and giving tech­nical present­a­tions at conferences.

In the later stages of his career Bryan began to spend more time in areas where the present was giving way to the future. Power gen­er­a­tion and waste incin­er­a­tion were present­ing inter­est­ing tech­nical prob­lems and busi­ness oppor­tun­it­ies. We were shown illus­tra­tions of examples of these. A cus­tomer in France called one day to ask about alloys for use in equip­ment for the incin­er­a­tion of an inex­haust­ible supply of goat’s dung!

In 2013 Bryan gave a paper on nickel alloys at the Harry Brearley Centenary Conference held at Sheffield University. Now at the age of 72 and after over half cen­tury in the spe­cial steels busi­ness, retire­ment was beck­on­ing. Having star­ted his career under a pic­ture of the great man Harry Brearley this seemed as good a time as any to call it a day on a fas­cin­at­ing career. It was a story of which mem­bers much enjoyed as clearly shown by the range of ques­tions and obser­va­tions made at the con­clu­sion of a most inter­est­ing and enter­tain­ing session.