Category Archives: Talks

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.

The Fraud Awareness Roadshow.  Andy Foster 5th August 2019

Andy Foster is the Fraud PROTECT Officer work­ing in the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit of South Yorkshire Police.

His dual role is to sup­port vul­ner­able vic­tims of fraud and to work with other sup­port groups.

He also does road shows and other events to bring fraud­u­lent scams to public notice.

Operation Signature’ is the S.Y. police’s cam­paign to help sup­port vic­tims of fraud.

He began by show­ing a slide of facts about fraud, but there were so many I could not  note them all!

However:

  • Men lose 3 times more money than women.
  • Loneliness makes (par­tic­u­larly eld­erly) people vul­ner­able to fraud.
  • Only 5% of defrauded people make a report.
  • In some cases defrauded people have con­sidered, attemp­ted or com­mit­ted sui­cide.
  • 79% of house­hold waste con­tains items that could con­trib­ute to iden­tity theft.
  • Fraud costs people in the U.K. bil­lions of pounds annu­ally.
  • Once anyone is caught by a scam­mer they go on a ‘sucker list’ which is sold to other scam­mers who will inund­ate the ‘sucker’ with more frauds.

Action Fraud is a body that accepts reports about scams from vic­tims.

However, they have about 700,000 calls per year and simply register each call.

They do not invest­ig­ate crimes but send details to the National Fraud Intelligence Centre.

The NFIC decide if there are enough details to take fur­ther action, but on over 80% of reports no action is taken.  This is because crim­in­als are abroad and use phones or emails and there is not enough veri­fi­able detail.

One of the meth­ods fraud­sters use to hide stolen money (so that the banks do not become sus­pi­cious of money going in and out of their accounts) is to approach stu­dents and ask if they can put £5000 into the student’s account for a few days.  They give the stu­dent £100.  The money is soon moved on to another account.

Romance scams.

On dating sites the scam­mer gets the victim to believe they are in love and uses this to extort money.

Social media is used to set up a false pro­file and the scam­mer grooms the  vul­ner­able victim over months or years to scam them.

Telephone scams.

An eld­erly man that Andy met was phoned and per­suaded to invest in shares by paying into an account.  Then he was told that the bank wanted fees that were late.  He said he would not pay because he had not received a dividend.  The scam­mer sent him a £75 ‘dividend’ because he had still £182,000 that he had to invest, but told him that the bank would have to take legal action if he did not pay the fees.

When Andy went to see him about a pos­sibly fraud­u­lent roof repair the man’s stairs were stacked high with unopened mail sent by scam­mers.  Andy removed 17 bin bags full of mail from the house then installed a call blocker phone to keep him safe.  That same day a letter arrived telling the man he

had won £147,000 but to claim it he must send £35 into an enclosed pre-addressed envel­ope to Austria!

Authorised Push Payment Fraud.

This is when you have author­ised pay­ment from your bank.

A 30 year-old man sent £17,000 to his new ‘girl friend’, who lives in Kenya, to help chil­dren with polio.

In 2018 there were 84,624 APP frauds and 78,215 cases of per­sonal account fraud.

Miracle Health Cure Scams.

Calls to eld­erly people to sell health cures.

Other types of fraud were dis­trac­tion burg­lar­ies where someone at the door says they are from the Water Board and need to access the prop­erty.  They get in and steal, and ‘case’ the house so that they can come back later.

Andy gave us advice.

B.T., Sky and TalkTalk have a free call-blocking ser­vice that they will install for you if you con­tact them.

An altern­at­ive is to let all calls go to your answer machine after telling friends and rel­at­ives to always leave a mes­sage for you to call back.  You can then pick up to take the call.  Nearly all scam­mers will hang up when the answer machine cuts in.

Another altern­at­ive is to get a phone that you can pro­gram to block calls.

Probably the most effect­ive method is called ‘trueCall Secure’ which con­nects to your exist­ing phone.  It costs about 120 pounds.

A very inform­at­ive talk, which has aler­ted all of us to be care­ful, and to hang up the phone if we are not sure of the caller’s hon­esty.

River Don – One of England’s finest salmon rivers  by Chris Firth MBE   29th July 2019

Chris Firth was born in Doncaster close to the banks of the River Don and early in life developed a pas­sion­ate interest in the river.  In 1975 he took up a post as a Fisheries Bailiff work­ing in the Lake District. In 1977 he moved to Beverley where he began work with the Yorkshire Water Authority as a Fisheries Inspector.  In 1983 he was pro­moted to Fisheries Officer based at Doncaster and, amongst his other duties, began work on the rehab­il­it­a­tion of the River Don and its fish­ery. In 1999, fol­low­ing dra­matic improve­ments in the envir­on­ment and eco­logy of the Don system, the Environment Agency pub­lished his book ‘Doomsday to the Dawn of the New Millennium’ an account of the demise and recov­ery of the fish pop­u­la­tions of the river. In 2000 he was awar­ded an MBE for ser­vices to Fisheries and the Environment.

In the six­teenth and sev­en­teenth cen­tur­ies there was so much salmon in the River Don that only poorest people ate salmon.  An indic­a­tion of this is that there were more otters along the river than any­where else in the north of England.  During the indus­trial revolu­tion, it became one of the most pol­luted rivers in England, but its decline star­ted much earlier.  To provide water power, low weirs were con­struc­ted across the river and these interfered with salmon move­ment.

In 1626 the Dutchman Cornelius Vermuyden star­ted the drain­ing of Hatfield Chase to the west of Doncaster.  The work involved the re-routing of the Rivers Don, Idle and Torne, and the con­struc­tion of drain­age chan­nels. It was not wholly suc­cess­ful, but changed the whole nature of a wide swathe of land includ­ing the Isle of Axholme and caused legal dis­putes for the rest of the cen­tury.

In 1732 a Parliamentary Act made the River Don a nav­ig­a­tion.  This encour­aged indus­trial devel­op­ment and bigger weirs were con­struc­ted that could not be tra­versed by salmon.  By 1790 there were no salmon reach­ing the river’s head waters.  By 1884 largely due to the surge of people to work in the new factor­ies, the river was grossly pol­luted and remained so for the next 120 years.

In 1975 Yorkshire Water took over the river but was mostly con­cerned with clean water supply.  In 1989 the organ­isa­tion was split into Yorkshire Water plc and the National Rivers Authority.  The latter was very con­cerned with improv­ing the River Don and began stock­ing the river with fish to act as indic­at­ors of pol­lu­tion and was more active in pro­sec­ut­ing pol­luters.  Work also began on con­struct­ing fish passes along the river system to permit salmon to reach fur­ther upstream.  £3m has been raised over 10 years for this work and last winter for the first time in cen­tur­ies, salmon were caught near Meadow Hall.  Funding has been alloc­ated for a fish pass for Masborough Weir in Rotherham and upon com­ple­tion of this pro­ject, all obstruc­tions for salmon below Sheffield will have been addressed.  It is hoped and expec­ted that the River Don will again sup­port a siz­able pop­u­la­tion of salmon in the near future.

Apartheid and Racial Segregation.     Alan Zinober 22nd July 2019

Alan Zinober gave us a most inter­est­ing talk mainly on apartheid in South Africa but touched on examples of racial segreg­a­tion through­out the world. Alan was born in South Africa but emig­rated to England in the early 70’s so exper­i­enced the apartheid regime first hand and was well qual­i­fied to give us his thoughts.

Apartheid was a polit­ical and social system in South Africa during the era of white minor­ity rule under pinned by legis­la­tion intro­duced by the National Party in 1948. It enforced dis­crim­in­a­tion against non-whites mainly focus­sing on colour and facial fea­tures. The word apartheid means ‘sep­ar­ate­ness’ in the Afrikaans lan­guage.  South Africa was not alone in having segreg­a­tion. The USA has a long his­tory of segreg­a­tion with the Ku Klux Klan ( KKK) inflict­ing many thou­sands of lynch­ings and beat­ings on black cit­izens.  The Civil Rights Act – 1964 was passed to see the end of racial segreg­a­tion, although sadly it is still common in the USA.  Today segreg­a­tion is still common through­out the world in one form or another whether it be through slavery, the caste system, reli­gion, racial pre­ju­dice or simply the master/servant rela­tion­ship.#

The National Party took over in 1948 and imme­di­ately passed a whole host of ‘ Apartheid Segregation Acts’ which were aimed at for­cing dif­fer­ent races to live sep­ar­ately from each other. The system was used to deny many basic rights to non-white people., mainly black in South Africa.   People were defined by colour – white, black, col­oured and Indian , being Chinese caused con­fu­sion it appears !   Your colour defined where you lived , where you worked, whether you needed a pass to access cer­tain areas, whether you could vote, where you sat on the bus, which beaches you could visit, whether you could vote.  etc, etc.

Interracial mar­riage was banned.  Often it was dif­fi­cult to decide who was black, white, col­oured and all shades in between which res­ul­ted in at least one hardly sci­entific test being used called the ‘pencil test ‘ where a pencil is run through Afro tex­tured hair to decide on the eth­ni­city . The Acts and their enforce­ment were extremely com­plic­ated and often ludicrous caus­ing misery and hard­ship. People rebelled with protests in Sharpeville (1960) and Soweto ( 1976)  but were aggress­ively put down.  There was grow­ing inter­na­tional cri­ti­cism of the regime and coun­tries boy­cot­ted South Africa in terms of trade, sport­ing and music events in order to isol­ate South Africa and bring apartheid to an end.

In 1989, F.W.de Klerk became President of South Africa and set out to reform the system.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) was lifted. The first mul­tiracial elec­tion was held on 27th April 1994 when all races could vote.  ANC was vic­tori­ous and Nelson Mandela was elec­ted President of South Africa. This date is con­sidered the end of apartheid.   Today, black cit­izens are in pos­i­tions of power, in the pro­fes­sions and have wealth but there is still a large major­ity of them who live in poverty. Apartheid lasted for over 40 years and it will take fur­ther dec­ades for the soci­ety to change and have a better dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth.

 

 

 

 

WaterAid”    Peter Watson 15th August 2019

 “ Clean Water, Decent Toilets, Good Hygiene”

 In the Gents’ toilet at our venue, Christ Church Fulwood, there is a notice show­ing the facil­ity we use is ‘Twinned’ with a rather charm­ing thatched lat­rine in Zambia.  It is a reminder that we tend to take our clean­wa­ter supply for wash­ing and cook­ing, san­it­a­tion, and sewage dis­posal for gran­ted. All is provided con­veni­ently and reli­ably to our house­holds at probably-if metered and paid by Direct Debit- less daily cost than the price of Costa Coffee.

Our Speaker this week, Peter Watson, gradu­ated in Ecology from Bristol University in 1973.   He worked as a water and san­it­a­tion engin­eer for number of Water Authorities and com­pan­ies includ­ing Edinburgh, Yorkshire and Anglia.  For the last ten years of his career Peter delivered water and waste water train­ing courses, and the National Hygiene train­ing and assess­ment require­ments to water com­pan­ies’ and allied staff. 

After retire­ment, Peter wondered how he might put his work­ing life­times exper­i­ence to bene­fit others. He went on to share how his interest was aroused and how he in turn now volun­teers as a speaker to arouse, inform and update others.

Lala and her water­bucket” 

Peter con­tras­ted our lives in the UK –where we use an aver­age of 138 litres of water per head each day- with com­munit­ies  in the third world. Our speaker gained our atten­tion with a number of har­row­ing photos of urban slum and rural priva­tion. People using prim­it­ive lat­rines or earth holes which fre­quently foul water sources spread­ing such con­di­tions as Cholera and Dysentery.  On the encour­aging side, we were shown what a dif­fer­ence the install­a­tion of decent sus­tain­able if some­times low tech facil­it­ies can make (see photo at top, taken in Nigeria).  We were amused by the pic­ture of a bicycle adap­ted to pump water!   But it was the photo and story of Lala  in Zambia  which I will always recall. This young child was only four years old and one of seven sib­lings.  She had to walk four miles twice a day to carry twenty litres of water that her family needs every day. Think of the impact of all that weight, borne for per­haps two hours or more per day, on her young body. And the time wasted that could have been put to more pro­duct­ive use such as early edu­ca­tion and when older, eco­nomic activ­it­ies and skills.

While a number of agen­cies such as Oxfam had earlier involve­ment in hand­ling emer­gency situ­ations there was, by the 1980s, a grow­ing need for a more coordin­ated inter­na­tional approach with a strategy and resources to deal and find solu­tions to mat­ters on a long term basis.  It was clear that the world’s pop­u­la­tion was grow­ing and urb­an­ising rap­idly: 3 Billion in 1980 has grown to 7 Billion today. Growth for the remainder of this cen­tury was likely to be greatest in parts of Asia, Latin America and espe­cially, Africa.  Water usage was grow­ing as living stand­ards rise together with irrigation/agricultural output to feed the expand­ing pop­u­la­tion. Even today one in nine of the world’s pop­u­la­tion has no clean water, one in three has no decent toilet and one child in two dies because of unhygienic con­di­tions.

Poverty and lack of food and basic facil­it­ies can, of course, affect both men and women: but it’s the latter that seem to come off worse. Peter emphas­ised that men­stru­ation is a key area where pro­jects by his char­ity assist girls and women.  Privacy provided by a decent toilet, along with edu­ca­tion and raised aware­ness. Both can make the dif­fer­ence to encour­age a girl to stay at school.

These con­cerns about water supply and its impact on health and eco­nomic growth in an increas­ing number of third world coun­tries were the sub­ject of the ‘Thirsty World’ London Conference in 1981. WaterAid was set up as a char­ity shortly after­wards involving sev­eral UK water com­pan­ies who offered both resources and expert­ise to provide sus­tain­able pro­jects in needy nations such as Ethiopia, Zambia, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, and others. While many pro­jects are small, some are large, such as the Dolaka enter­prise in Nepal which bene­fits 30000 people.  The land­scape is moun­tain­ous.  It might be good for sight­see­ing but not so good if you have to climb a dif­fi­cult ter­rain and the carry it back to your house!

 Under the Presidency of Prince Charles, the ‘Wateraid’ concept has spread to sev­eral other ‘giving ‘coun­tries includ­ing Australia, Canada Sweden and USA.  In 2010 the organ­isa­tion became a fed­er­a­tion work­ing with 34 ‘receiv­ing’ coun­tries. WaterAid receives its fund­ing from Water Companies’ (in response to a ques­tion vol­un­tary levies from cus­tom­ers), dona­tions, fun­drais­ing events (includ­ing Glastonbury) and gov­ern­ment aid grants.

Looking to the future, WaterAid is one of the part­ners with the United Nations Millennium Development ini­ti­at­ive which is seek­ing to improve the lives for dis­ad­vant­aged peoples by 2030. While it is estim­ated that 1.4 bil­lion have benefited to date from there are many chal­lenges ahead.

 

 

 

 

Cheers’ Barry Starmore 8thJuly 2019

Today’s talk by Barry Starmore, was an intro­duc­tion to wine and spir­its.

Barry has been in the wine busi­ness over 25 years, during which time he has been a Sommelier at the Savoy Group, and worked for ‘Odd Bins’ and the ‘Wig and Pen’ (both no longer in exist­ence). He is now a Director of ‘StarmoreBoss’ in Sharrowvale Rd. where they offer tast­ings of wine and whisky, and talks on how they are made.

 

An Overview.

Distillers and wine makers must have exper­i­ence, and a pas­sion for what they do, as the para­met­ers are ever­chan­ging – cli­mate, loc­a­tion, farmer, vit­i­cul­tur­al­ist etc

A gen­er­a­tion ago, wines were mainly from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Portugal, Italy, Spain, but now they are from all over the world, but, nev­er­the­less, wines from tra­di­tional sources are still very import­ant.

The UK is the biggest importer of wines which come from Japan, Georgia, Holland, South Africa, South America etc……… Australian wines first came to the UK in 1986. However, research is ongo­ing world­wide to locate new ter­rains, grape types and how to farm them.

In the UK there are 503 vine­yards and 133 winer­ies. The most north­erly vine­yard in the UK is at Junction 46 on the M1 at Leventhorpe (near Leeds) and the nearest one is at Renishaw Hall.

Sales of wine in the UK topped £10bn last year and sales of Spirits were sim­ilar. The duty on a bottle of wine is £2.80 plus 20p for the label and bottle, whereas whisky has a duty of £7.50/bottle.

Big retail­ers import wine by the tanker load and bottle in the UK, which is all strictly con­trolled, so it is still good, even when ‘’bottled’’ in mag­nums or boxes.

 The Grapes –There are 5 noble main grapes but 10000 vari­et­ies of grapes in total. Italy uses 2000. The rest of the world diver­si­fies on vari­et­ies to suit their situ­ation.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon with a black­cur­rant fla­vour is the most pop­u­lar as it is slow­est to ripen but good in dif­fer­ent soils. Malbec grapes have medi­cinal prop­er­ties!
  • The soil is treated with manure and the vines allowed to trail, rather than being trained, with, some­times, roses added to the lines of vines, for help­ing the pro­cess. Less chem­ic­als are now used as there are new meth­ods of get­ting rid of bugs.
  • In the Northern hemi­sphere the grapes are har­ves­ted from late August to October, in the even­ing, which stops oxid­a­tion of the grapes. If the fruit is ripe and the sugars high, then they may be picked earlier. They are then put in a cool tank or vacuum for 10 to 12 days to sta­bil­ise them.
  • The pro­cess then includes adding yeast and sugar to the unfer­men­ted grape juice (the must) plus a bit of sul­phur (min­imal nat­ural sul­phur if pos­sible, to reduce the effects on head­aches and pan­cre­atic prob­lems that some drink­ers suffer from).
  • Oak bar­rels are import­ant for fer­ment­ing or stor­ing, as they take out the tan­nins and allow long time devel­op­ment. For Beaujolais Nouveau the grapes are not pressed hard, they are stored and pro­cessed in neut­ral stain­less steel, clay or con­crete tanks and bottled quickly so that they have less tan­nins and more fla­vour.

The Cork

Cork tree bark is har­ves­ted only every 7 to 10 years to allow the tree to recover. The cork must be washed in clean spring water, so as not to leave a taste and to allow it to last longer before drying out. Wine matures better with a cork than with a screw top. Plastic stop­pers are OK but shrink after about 5 years. Glass stop­pers are used by the Australians.

General

Wine should be drunk within 3 or 4 days of open­ing. Some wine brought back from Europe which was good drunk in Europe when fresh, is only designed to last 2 weeks, so it is never as good at home.

Keep wine at 8 to 10 degrees a long time before open­ing. There is no need to turn the bottles during stor­age. Stand the bottle up 2 days before open­ing and decant and filter reds before drink­ing.

Ice wines are made from grapes left on the vine and picked after they have been frozen. They have less juice as they are shriv­elled, and pro­duce a sweet wine.

There were com­ments from the mem­bers about the descrip­tions of wine, writ­ten on the bottles. The palette is most sens­it­ive in the morn­ing, so see if you can taste the wet grass and goose­ber­ries then!

This was a very inter­est­ing and inform­at­ive insight into the appre­ci­ation and making of wine, but there is obvi­ously a lot more to learn.

CHEERS.