Category Archives: Talks

The Lost Woodhead Tunnel” Stephen Gay 4 Feb 19

Steven Gay has an encyc­lo­paedic know­ledge of the English rail­way system and is a reg­u­lar speaker at the Club.  His talk about the Woodhead Tunnels is the 19th jour­ney he has taken the Club on.

This was a pho­to­graphic jour­ney that star­ted on the Trans Pennine Trail to the east of Hatfield.  The Trail is on the bed of the old Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway.  In 1837 work began on the Woodhead 1 tunnel.  This was a dif­fi­cult tunnel to con­struct using hun­dreds of nav­vies and was only wide enough for a single track.  In 1845 the tunnel was opened for pas­sen­ger traffic and was the main link between Manchester and Sheffield.  It brought coal from the South Yorkshire Coal Fields to the Lancashire indus­trial belt and was soon found to be inad­equate for the traffic.  It was always thought that a second tunnel might be needed.  A second tunnel run­ning along­side Woodhead 1 was cut and in 1853 Woodhead 2 was opened allow­ing trains to flow in both dir­ec­tions without delay.

The Trail takes the public to the sta­tion at the west­ern end of the tun­nels and then diverts over the top of the tun­nels through glor­i­ous scenery look­ing down on the reser­voirs along the Woodhead Pass.  Steven always adds many inter­est­ing asides often promp­ted by the pho­to­graphs.  One such was when he noticed smoke rising from a chim­ney at the end of what he thought was a row of derel­ict rail­way men’s cot­tages in a very isol­ated part of the moor above the tun­nels.  He went up to the door and gave it a knock.  The occu­pant had worked on the rail­ways for over 50 years and a friend­ship star­ted that lasted for years.

The tun­nels were over­used with 250 trains each way using them each day.  In 1953 a new tunnel was opened.  Woodhead 3 was designed for the first elec­tric rail­way in the UK and the other tun­nels were closed.

In 1970 this line was closed to pas­sen­ger traffic and in 1981 the line was closed com­pletely.  Woodhead 1 was then used to accom­mod­ate elec­tric cables.  Woodhead 1 & 2 were finally sealed and new cables were laid in Woodhead 3.

It is a moot point whether any of the tun­nels might find a use as a part of the regions trans­port system in the future.  As always the pho­to­graphs and the dia­logue were excel­lent.

A Dirty Night Out — Roger Hart — 28th Jan 2019

Roger Hart spent his career in vari­ous guises as an envir­on­mental health officer in the public health sector. His was a world of lice, bed bugs, dust mites, cock­roaches, infest­a­tions, mice, rats and muck. Adapting the saying “Where there’s muck there’s brass,” to a more appro­pri­ate “Where there’s muck there’s vermin“ sums up the situ­ation.

A sense of humour surely is a valu­able asset in this work and Roger, clearly, demon­strated this in his present­a­tion, bring­ing light relief to the many rather dis­taste­ful cases. Apparently, in his work there is an often repeated saying “It may be s**t to you but it is our bread and butter,” which again sums up the humour nicely.

Personal hygiene is crit­ical for us all, but many neg­lect to follow simple dis­cip­lines. He was train­ing domestic staff in a hos­pital and posed the ques­tion: “How many of you wash your hands after going to the toilet? “ Over 50 per cent admit­ted they didn’t, which repeated across soci­ety would have health con­sequences for all of us. Unclean hands and mucky habits spread germs.

The present­a­tion was illus­trated by images of filthy, chaotic scenes in homes where clearly the occu­pants had no regard for clean­li­ness or their own well­being. The reas­ons for this gross neg­li­gence could be total indol­ence or ill health, or a mix­ture. Many times the envir­on­mental health officers worked in tandem with the police and fire bri­gade, par­tic­u­larly when there was risk of fire. Personnel were employed to clean these dread­ful places – a job not for the squeam­ish but some­body has to do it!

A brown rat, aka the Norwegian rat

Sheffield has many food and eating estab­lish­ments but sadly the city is severely under­staffed to audit that food hygiene stand­ards are being met. Restaurants are inspec­ted and awar­ded “scores on the doors” to sig­nify their hygiene rating. All new res­taur­ants must apply for a hygiene rating at least six weeks before they open. Sadly, many do not. One gets the impres­sion that audit­ing res­taur­ants and the fast food world is a never ending battle in keep­ing the hygiene stand­ards high. Roger admit­ted he eats out on occa­sions but his wife insists he sits with his back to the kit­chen. Staying in hotels – beware of bed bugs. Eating out – beware of grease traps and poor food stor­age.

Roger had a varied career and at one stage was man­ager of a mor­tu­ary with the obvi­ous hygiene implic­a­tions with dead bodies and autop­sies. Again, work­ing in mor­tu­ar­ies was not for the faint hearted.

It was a most inter­est­ing talk presen­ted in a humor­ous, enga­ging style with uncom­fort­able view­ing and listen­ing in parts which the gen­tle­folk of Stumperlowe took in their stride.

What do Councillors do all day? — Cliff Woodcraft — 21st Jan 2019

The title of this talk was in the form of a ques­tion which I could have partly answered before the meet­ing, having watched our Lib Dem coun­cil­lor Cliff Woodcraft trudging round the neigh­bour­hood in all weath­ers, at all hours, deliv­er­ing party polit­ical flyers and news­let­ters.

Whatever your polit­ical per­sua­sion, there could be no doubt­ing this man’s dogged determ­in­a­tion, but of course there is much more to being a coun­cil­lor than doing leaf­let drops.

Cllr Cliff Woodcraft

Cliff has been one of our three Fulwood coun­cil­lors since 2013. With 28 wards, Sheffield City Council is made up of 84 rep­res­ent­at­ives – 53 Labour, 22 Liberal Democrats, six Green Party and three UKIP mem­bers. He is deputy chair of the Children, Young People and Family Support Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee, and also a member of the Licensing Committee, Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, and Planning and Highways Committee. He has an attend­ance record of 88.5 per cent.

Cliff showed us a photo shoot of him and a group of Lib Dem col­leagues out­side the threatened Broomhill Library, where a passing local voter asked: “Why aren’t you at the coun­cil, debat­ing this?” Cliff explained that only around one day a month was spent in the coun­cil cham­ber at the Town Hall, and most of his time – for which he receives a sti­pend of £11,000 a year – is spent deal­ing with issues in the local com­munity.

Sheffield Town Hall

A full meet­ing of the coun­cil can be split into four cat­egor­ies – peti­tions from the public, ques­tions from the public, ques­tions from coun­cil­lors and debates. If a peti­tion regard­ing a local issue receives 5,000 sig­na­tures or more, it auto­mat­ic­ally qual­i­fies for a half-hour debate. If the busi­ness of the meet­ing over­runs, items coming towards the end of the meet­ing are voted on without being debated.

Sheffield City Council is a big busi­ness, with a budget for 2018–19 of £1,344 mil­lion. Education accounts for £319 mil­lion and adult social care for £229 mil­lion, while the cost of bor­row­ing alone is a stag­ger­ing £43 mil­lion a year, part of that down to the fact that we are still paying for the 1991 World Student Games.

Cliff did not pull his punches when it came to the city’s fin­an­cial affairs, describ­ing the Town Hall exten­sion which was built in 1977 and demol­ished 25 years later as “a waste of money and resources.”

He is proud of Sheffield’s record in keep­ing fam­il­ies together through the efforts of the Children, Young People and Family Support com­mit­tee. “We have a better record than most coun­cils,” he said.

Main coun­cil cham­ber

Day to day mat­ters which the Licensing Committee has to over­see include taxis, alco­hol and late-night enter­tain­ment, street trad­ing, food regis­tra­tion, animal wel­fare, char­ity, gambling and sexual enter­tain­ment. “If there is no objec­tion to a pro­posal, then it will be handled by a case officer, but if there is an objec­tion there would be a coun­cil debate,” he explained.

On Planning and Highways, reas­ons for turn­ing down plan­ning applic­a­tions include over­de­vel­op­ment, lack of park­ing, pri­vacy and poten­tial dis­turb­ance.

Cliff engages with his local voters through meet­ings, can­vassing, sur­veys, let­ters and leaf­lets. He is not a fan of sur­ger­ies – “If people have an issue, they will con­tact us,” he says. “There is no need to wait for a monthly sur­gery. I aim to see people within a couple of days.”

If you take that as an invit­a­tion, Cliff’s con­tact details (and these are all in the public domain) are Cllr Cliff Woodcraft, Sheffield City Council, Town Hall, Pinstone Street, Sheffield S1 2HH. E-mail: Phone: 0114 230 3627.

Lead Poisoning in Sheffield 1885–1920 by Mike Collins on 14th January 2019

A lot of Sheffield water ori­gin­ates from Redmires Reservoir, which was built in the 1830’s.  Iron ore pipes were laid in the streets and lead pipes con­nec­ted to houses.  There were also lead-lined cisterns.

Sinclair White, in 1886, drew the author­it­ies’ atten­tion to the fact that lead pois­on­ing was more pre­val­ent from houses sup­plied by Redmires (i.e. those in Broomhill, Broomhall, Sharrow and Heeley) than those sup­plied from Strines, Agden, Dale Dike Reservoirs (Penistone Road, Wicker and Brightside).

M.O.H. Sinclalir White advised people not to drink water that had been stand­ing in lead pipes and cisterns but to flush the water before drink­ing.  Redmires water was very acidic and he advised that it should be brought into con­tact with lime­stone to reduce the acid­ity which was dis­solv­ing the lead from the pipes.

Various enquiry com­mit­tees were set up in 1890, and though the evid­ence that lead from the pipes caused lead pois­on­ing. It was opposed by Edward Eaton, an engin­eer of the Water Board.  The result of the enquiry was that the res­id­ents using Redmires water were liable to pois­on­ing and that cal­cium car­bon­ate, in the form of chalk, be added to the reser­voir water.  There was a delay, due to mis­com­mu­nic­a­tion, vested interests and a change of the M.O.H.  This res­ul­ted in a peak of 169 patients with lead pois­on­ing being treated in hos­pital and it was thought that around 2000 people in Sheffield had got lead pois­on­ing.  The birth rate and fer­til­ity in Sheffield was at an all time low and the increase in pois­on­ing cases was due to a number of factors i.e. use of cheaper Spanish lead (more likely to dis­solve) and an explo­sion in house build­ing.

In recent times, 2014/15 a place called Flint, in Michigan, decided to save money by using water from the local River Flint instead of a more expens­ive supply from Detroit.  The Flint River water was very acidic and led to 10,000 cases of lead pois­on­ing and 12 deaths from Legionnaires dis­ease.  Phosphates were added and the supply of water rever­ted to that from Detroit.

The effects of lead pois­on­ing included:  blind­ness, kidney fail­ure, wrist-drop, mis­car­riages, abdom­inal pain and con­stip­a­tion.  The gums took on a blue shade (one third of people sup­plied by Redmires had blue gums.)

Another source of lead pois­on­ing was in cider making, lead being added as a sweetener.  In recent times the lead in paint was a hazard, tod­dlers chewed paint off lead-painted cots, caus­ing ill­ness.

In the early 20th cen­tury, pills con­tain­ing lead were advert­ised to women to pro­duce abor­tions. Lots of adverts in news­pa­pers were used to encour­age the sale of these pills.  Diachylon, a plaster made from plant juices and lead, was used to treat wounds but was com­monly used by women to bring on a mis­car­riage.

Thus lead in water was a primary cause of dis­ease in many cases during the period between 1890 and early 1900’s.

It is still estim­ated that 300,000 people around the world the world die from lead pois­on­ing.

The talk was very well received and many ques­tions put to the speaker who was thanked for his inter­est­ing present­a­tion.




BRITONS & BREXIT” Professor Anthony Taylor 7th January 2019


Our speaker this week, Antony Taylor, was Professor of Modern History at Sheffield Hallam University, a spe­cial­ist in polit­ics and cul­ture.  His topic could not have been more top­ical, as the cur­rent Brexit debate raged around us in Parliament and the media.

Tony emphas­ised from the start that his talk was not about the pros and cons of leav­ing the European Union and that he would try to give an even handed inter­pret­a­tion of events.  The present impasse, he argued, owed much more to long term traits in our (four) coun­tries’ char­ac­ter­ist­ics than to more recent con­cerns such as back­stops and con­trol of bor­ders. Brexit raised mul­tiple issues around British iden­tity and cul­ture and promp­ted ques­tions about the forces that shaped it.  It could even be argued that British atti­tudes to Europe go back to the events of 1066 and the Norman Conquest; the influ­ences from which still res­on­ate on Britons today.

Brexit had emphas­ised the frac­ture lines between London, its met­ro­pol­itan elite, and the rest of the coun­try, between cities and towns, sea­side and inland, the Celtic nations, young and old, gradu­ates and non-graduates.  There was now a crisis of ‘Britishness’ and con­fid­ence in many British Institutions had waned.  Many of our national insti­tu­tions com­manded the respect they once did.  The BBC, the Civil Service and the NHS were  under scru­tiny and even the Monarchy had had its dif­fi­cult moments.  At the same time we have wit­nessed the rise of Celtic nation­al­ism.  The 2015 General Election saw the SNP sweep the board in Scotland while the two main national parties emerged weaker with their pos­i­tion more fra­gile and divided.

At the same time there has been a revival of ‘Englishness’ if not entirely of the ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ or rose-covered cot­tage, Morris dan­cing vari­ety.  A recent poll showed 70% of those who self-identity as English voted for Brexit; 70% of those who self-identify as British voted remain, espe­cially people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic back­ground. Englishness, Tony thought, was a more vis­ceral iden­tity than Britishness, quot­ing from Daniel Defoe’s ‘Trueborn Englishman’ :  “From this ill-born amphi­bi­ous mob began/that vain, ill-natured thing, an Englishman” and less the left felt neg­lected, from George Orwell and Billy Bragg.

Nothing has become of a pro­posed Yorkshire Parliament that could argue its case along the lines of those in Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast.  Tony thought that the absence of bind­ing, gov­ern­ing insti­tu­tions that could be described as truly ‘English’ were a factor in Brexit voting and issues of regional con­cern were not being addressed in devolved Government agen­das: there had been a rebel­lion against power­less­ness.

Having com­pared the impact ‘Englishness’ and ‘Britishness’ on Brexit, Tony Taylor turned to events in our own life­time.  The present crisis of British nation­hood, he argued, began in the 1950s and 1960s. Again, there were ref­er­ences to lit­er­at­ure of the period which our speaker con­tras­ted to that writ­ten only eighty years earlier.  Sir John Seeleys “Expansion of England” (1883) and Joseph Chamberlain’s speeches with their pat­ri­otic talk of ‘Imperial fam­il­ies and mis­sion’ and ‘sons of Britain and Empire’ were matched against an era of with­drawal and decline, depic­ted in such offer­ings as John Manders “Great Britain or Little England?” and Kingsley Martins’s “Britain in the Sixties: The Crown and the Establishment” (both Penguins cost­ing 17.5p!).  The sun was set­ting and winds of change were blow­ing Union Jacks down, not just over Suez but in over 40 colon­ies around the world. Aden in 1967 was the last ‘colo­nial war’. It is unlikely today that any Dominion Prime Minister would declare him­self, like Sir Robert Menzies, ‘British to the boot­straps’. But it was, per­haps, an American, Dean Acheson, who summed it all up in 1962 “Britain is a coun­try that has lost an Empire but not yet found a role”.

And so we arrived at post-imperial Britain along with nos­tal­gic ‘Dad’s Army’ and Bruce Forsyth’s “Backing Britain” (both 1968). On the polit­ical front, Britain saw its future in Europe’s then Common Market finally join­ing in 1973.  It has always been a frac­tious rela­tion­ship with a ref­er­en­dum pro­du­cing the narrow ’Brexit’ vote of 2015.  Tony con­sidered that neither Europe nor the Commonwealth had been a sub­sti­tute for Empire, inter­est­ingly its loss of oppor­tun­it­ies being felt dis­pro­por­tion­ately in Scotland which could no longer feel part of the imper­ial endeav­our. Several prom­in­ent UKIP mem­bers such as Douglas Carswell, had an Imperial back­ground. Post-imperial Commonweath per­spect­ives how­ever, never entirely dis­ap­peared.  Michael Shanks, in “The Stagnant Society” (1961) believed that entry into the EEC had to be coun­ter­bal­anced by con­tinu­ing pref­er­en­tial trade with the Commonwealth.  That view per­sisted to this day but the world has moved on.

Tony Taylor con­cluded his talk with a brief resume of other factors which might have impacted on the Brexit vote.  These included broader and emer­ging trends in the modern world. Despite recent Russian resur­gence, the end of the Cold War in 1990 has led to a weak­en­ing of the old Atlantic view and the ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’. The US is now strug­gling to con­trols its interests and, in common with Europe, the rapid rise of China is an emer­ging threat.  National cul­tures are being washed away by glob­al­isa­tion lead­ing to enfeebled state sys­tems that struggle to con­trol mil­it­ant region­al­ists from Spain to Scotland.

Professor Taylor con­cluded his present­a­tion at that point and invited ques­tions. A ses­sion of about 30 minutes fol­lowed when a ride range of issues were dis­cussed, many being of the ‘how do we get back con­trol of our borders/money/laws’, ‘where do we go from here’ and ‘what hap­pens if’ ‘vari­et­ies.  It was a most stim­u­lat­ing and inter­est­ing morn­ing, for which our speaker received warm applause.





















































Funny Turns — Returns” Dave Moylan 17th December 2018

How do you write a blog on a magi­cian? Well. Here goes.

This was Dave’s third end of year talk to us in suc­ces­sion, (which speaks for itself), put­ting us well and truly in the hol­i­day mood, with another, and dif­fer­ent, enter­tain­ing per­form­ance of magic, comedy and music.

As a Jeremy Corbyn look-alike, he star­ted with some magic involving cards, money and sleight of hand. Awesome!

Max Miller songs and jokes fol­lowed :-

- The boy who was told to stop biting his nails, or else he would get fat. He met a preg­nant lady and stared at her, and she said ‘What’s the matter with you?’. He replied ‘Nothing, but I know what you’ve been up to!’

- He was on Countdown once with the girl in the short skirt, who has taken over from Carol Vorderman. He got excited – a seven letter word.

The sum of the num­bers in three of the mem­bers birth dates didn’t quite tally with Dave’s pre­dic­tion, but he said he didn’t want to appear too pro­fes­sional! We should have low expect­a­tions, then we would enjoy it.

There were Charlie Chester songs, ‘Rainy Day’ and ‘Down in the Jungle’ and remin­is­cing over Ken Dodd, Chic Murray and Bob Monkhouse :-

  • A man with a long stick walked into a pub and the barman said ‘Are you a pole vaulter?’ He replied ‘ No I’m German, but how did you know my name was Walter?
  • A man bought a talk­ing dog. He took it into a pub and wagered the barman that he could talk, but the man couldn’t get the dog to talk, so he lost his money. When the man took the dog out­side, he said ‘Why didn’t you say some­thing?’ The dog replied ‘Just think how much more we will make when we go back inside tomor­row and take bets’
  • We’ve just had the 2 worst win­ters on record – Mike and Bernie!
  • A Chinese cook made a man an omelette. When he asked him how it was, he said ‘It’s rub­bery’. The Chinese cook replied ‘Thank you very much, I’m glad you liked it’
  • What’s the dif­fer­ence between a Chiropodist and a Drummer? Can you remem­ber? I can’t read my notes as I was laugh­ing too much!
  • During WW2 a couple were in bed when the air raid siren went. He couldn’t find his teeth, to which his wife said ‘We’re dodging bombs not eating pies’
  • A recruit for the army was having his med­ical, and the Doctor said ‘You’re not very well endowed’ to which he said ‘I thought we were only sup­posed to be fight­ing the Germans’.

Comedians have any­thing, includ­ing nuts and bolts, thrown at them, if they are not being well received. And who goes to the trouble to take a dead cat to a show, to throw at the enter­tainer? However, they can retali­ate with put downs :-

  • 2 rather large ladies heck­ling in the front row, to which Dave said ‘When is Cinderella coming?’
  • To another large lady giving him some grief he said ‘I know it’s rude to ask a lady her age, so how much do you weigh?’
  • Once he saw a lady crying her eyes out at his per­form­ance, so Dave said ‘Madam, I’m glad you are moved by my act’, to which she replied ‘Why don’t you…………!’
  • Dave had a mince pie once dir­ectly in the face. He thought ‘Either they are get­ting more accur­ate, or I’m get­ting slower’.
  • After a rous­ing couple of songs accom­pa­ny­ing him­self on the guitar, a lady was crying in the front row. He said ‘I’m glad you enjoyed that’. She said ‘I didn’t. I’m a musi­cian’.

Dave involved some unsus­pect­ing Probus mem­bers, seem­ingly des­troy­ing their £20 note, bam­booz­ling them with sleight of hand, and get­ting Graham to blow a bazooka! You should take it up pro­fes­sion­ally Graham! Only joking.

Some double-entendres were sprinkled in amongst the humour, magic and singing. I didn’t get any of them!?*

A very enter­tain­ing morn­ing, which sent us home smil­ing.