All posts by Peter Clarke

Lloyd’s Register – Brian Smith C. Eng, C. Mar. Eng, F.I. Mar. Est. – 13th November 2017

For most of us, the unini­ti­ated, Lloyd’s imme­di­ately con­jures up vis­ions of the vast insur­ance giant. The other aspect of Lloyd’s is the part known as Lloyd’s Register. Brian has worked for LR which is a well-respected con­glom­er­ate derived from the same ori­gins.
It is owned by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a UK char­ity ded­ic­ated to research, edu­ca­tion and sci­ence. In par­tic­u­lar, they pride them­selves on know­ledge, integ­rity and tech­nical excel­lence. Their cli­ents are given con­fid­ence that their assets and busi­nesses are safe and depend on LR’s com­pli­ance and tech­nical know-how.

LR’s turnover is £1.3 bil­lion, and they employ 9,000 staff. It star­ted from the ori­ginal coffee house concept as Lloyd’s Insurance in 1688. LR was the first, in 1760, to ensure that ships were built and main­tained to an appro­pri­ate stand­ard for safety and effi­ciency. John Angerstern, a mech­anic and engin­eer, was appoin­ted the first Chairman of LR, and 16 sur­vey­ors – either master mar­iners or ship­wrights – were employed for inform­a­tion and advice. The first register of ships was soon pro­duced, con­tain­ing inform­a­tion on 4,118 ships from 16 dif­fer­ent ports.
Thomas Chapman was appoin­ted the first sec­ret­ary of LR in 1834, estab­lish­ing new sys­tems which are still in use today, such as for­eign bases around the world which were estab­lished with dis­cip­line and cred­ib­il­ity.
Suirius was an early iron steam­ship cer­tki­fied by LR. Lizzie Leslie was the first iron sail­ing ship clas­si­fied as ‘100 A1’ in 1870. The 19th cen­tury saw the intro­duc­tion of com­pos­ite mater­i­als for ships such as the Cutty Sark, and A. Cornish was a sur­veyor between 1900 and 1909 who con­duc­ted research for the Cunard Line on the Mauritania and Lusitania.

An excerpt from Lloyd’s Register of 1874–75, with details (the last vessel shown) of the SS Princess Royal, owned and oper­ated by Capt John Husband, great great uncle of our sec­ret­ary Graham Snowdon!


The Mirex, a tanker for trans­port­ing crude oil from the Black Sea to the UK, was registered for Shell Oil in 1892, and the Bakin was the first modern oil tanker.
From 1920, LR began inspec­tion of oil stor­age tanks, built for use in the Middle East. The inspec­tion of elec­trical gen­er­at­ing plants, par­tic­u­larly boil­ers, came within LR’s remit .
Also in 1920, Joseph Isherwood over­saw the con­struc­tion of SS Fullgar, the first all-welded seago­ing tanker to be registered 100 A!. The Beldis, built in 1924 by Armstrongs for the Norwegians, was the first heavy-lift ship.
LR were appoin­ted inspect­ors of the Americas Cup yachts in the 19th cen­tury, and they still inspect luxury yachts. In the 1930s they were the inspect­ing author­ity for air­craft, although this work was later taken over by the Civil Aviation Authority.
During World War II, LR assisted ship­build­ers in recon­struct­ing their mer­chant fleet after many losses during the con­flict They were also involved in the invest­ig­a­tion into many marine dis­asters, such as explo­sions on bulk car­ri­ers, and their scope now also covers the design and inspec­tion of oil rigs.
Our speaker, Brian Smith, con­tin­ues his involve­ment today to re-establish mer­chant navy appren­tice­ships in Hull. This, hope­fully, will re-establish Great Britain’s place in the naut­ical world. It was an excel­lent present­a­tion, by a gen­tle­man who knows his busi­ness.

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.

Born Prematurely — Dr Neil Chapman — 2nd July 2017                

Why an early birth­day goes wrong.’

Dr Neil Chapman, is Group Leader and non-Clinical Lecturer in Reproductive Medicine at Jessops Hospital , Dept. of Oncology & Metabolism. If anyone was in doubt as to the value of Sheffield’s Hospitals, Dr Chapman soon dis­pelled any uncer­tainty.  Fortunately no-one in my family has had to call on the skills and know­ledge at Jessups but some of my acquaint­ances have.   Gratefully so, I might add.

A round figure of some 15,000,000 people around the world are born too soon.  This res­ults in many pos­sible com­plic­a­tions and long-term damage.  Of these, one mil­lion will die as a result.  A major­ity of the deaths will occur in babies born  very pre­ma­turely,  between 28 and 30 weeks gest­a­tion.

Jessops Maternity Wing man­ages 7,000 deliv­er­ies per year.  As yet, doc­tors do not have suf­fi­cient know­ledge to pre­vent them when prob­lems involving pre­ma­ture birth arise.  Surprisingly there are com­par­at­ively few medi­cines to pre­vent pre­ma­ture labour.  Those medi­cines that do exist may be counter pro­duct­ive and can cause prob­lems for mother and child.

The cells in the wall of the womb con­tain nuclei and DNA or gen­omes, which con­trol womb con­trac­tions.  They can be com­pared to a lib­rary of instruc­tions.  Each book rep­res­ents an indi­vidual gene.  The basic genes are described as A,T,C and G which inter­act between them­selves func­tion­ing as an instruc­tion book.  Somehow, during preg­nancy the womb changes from an inflex­ible organ, to a softer pli­able one as labour approaches.  Despite the com­plex reac­tion between A,T,C and G how it works is still not com­pletely under­stood.  The com­par­ison Dr Chapman made to a Land Rover’s ser­vi­cing sched­ule, is a doddle it seems to me, com­pared with our friends A,T,C and G and what they get up to.

I am amazed at the  degree of study and know­ledge the med­ical spe­cial­ists have acquired.  Yet, it appears that there are vast tracts of unknowns out there.

We were reminded that it was only as recently as 1860 that Darwin was study­ing embry­ology and the origin of spe­cies.  Wouldn’t he be amazed at the present state of advanced know­ledge?  Birth and death was in his eyes an example of sur­vival of the fit­test.



Bacteria and their Viruses — John Guest — 22nd May 2017

Our speaker, John Guest, described him­self as a reformed bio-chemist, who has become a self-confessed genetic engin­eer.
It is appar­ent that over the years we are living in an age of increas­ing spe­cial­isa­tion; as a con­sequence, more of us seem to know more and more about less and less.
He has been work­ing on the sub­ject for 40 years or more. As a result, since the days of the crack­ing of the com­plex human genetic code or DNA in 1953 by Crick and Watson at Cambridge (for which they received the Noble Prize for Medicine and Physics), which was far in the past but very worthy none the less.

The thought of bac­teria and vir­uses, of which I have a vague and passing know­ledge, are it seems beset by prob­lems of DNA theft and trans­fer­ence. The old maxim of ‘big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them’ is true it seems. John was able to make a very com­plex sub­ject just about com­pre­hens­ible, if you paid atten­tion, that is.

It’s obvi­ous we should know more about these little crit­ters as they, the bac­teria and vir­uses, rep­res­ent some­thing like 70 per cent of the earth’s bio­mass. I bet you did not know that! They have been around for about 4,000,300 years. We human beings, on the other hand, a mere 200,000. You must excuse me for quot­ing so many facts and fig­ures but they are per­tin­ent to the points John was making. For example, he reckoned that there was some­thing like one kilo­gram of e-coli in each of our bodies. He spoke about the vari­et­ies of bac­teria, includ­ing our old friends e-coli and sal­mon­ella and thou­sands of others. Both of these I assumed, mis­takenly, were bad­dies. But no, we need them. What I can’t fathom out is why at times they become patho­genic and cause us all sorts of pain and grief com­batting them. Edwina Currie, MP as was, and the sal­mon­ella saga scare of a few years back caused prob­lems. At the time I was involved to some extent with this, and the hue and cry it cre­ated in almost caus­ing the col­lapse of the whole poultry industry. Our guest speaker said she was right. Perhaps she was, but it didn’t seem so from where I stood.
The sub­ject of bac­teria and vir­uses and how they inter­act bio­lo­gic­ally has pro­duced sev­eral prom­in­ent researches by Cant Woese in 1976, Fred Sanger, a Nobel Prize Winner 1980 and many others.
It is thought that bac­teria can be and were in the past cre­ated in the hot thermal vents fol­low­ing tec­tonic plates in the deep oceans and pos­sibly from inter­stel­lar seed­ing. The sub­ject is cer­tainly not exhausted, and our thanks to John Guest who made a com­plex sub­ject under­stand­able and inter­est­ing.



A wide sub­ject you would think, but Patrick Harding did more than justice to it.

Oak trees seem to be as famil­iar in Great Britain to the Ancient Britons as they are to us today. A local giant oak is situ­ated in Worsborough, which is about 1,120 years old. Estimates sug­gest that oaks have grown here for at least 10,000 years, and earlier still before the ice age when they tem­por­ar­ily dis­ap­peared.

Pliny, a Roman writer, men­tions ‘goose barnacles’ grow­ing on oaks, which he said even­tu­ally turned into barnacle geese.

The Green Man appeared as a myth­ical male head sur­roun­ded by oak leaves in medi­eval carvings situ­ated in churches — such as at High Bradfield — and cathed­rals.

Stag headed oaks, Patrick explained, are phe­nom­ena of age. It takes 300 years to grow, 300 years to con­sol­id­ate and finally 300 years to die. In those last years, fewer nutri­ents are sup­plied to the top of the tree so dead branches are left.

Royal Oaks are so named because the future King Charles II hid in an oak tree whilst escap­ing cap­ture in 1646. Scottish oaks were men­tioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: ‘until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill.’

In earlier times oaks were felled whilst still quite young. Apparently, the lack of strong axes didn’t allow for felling when larger. And cop­picing was used extens­ively for pro­duc­tion of fuel and char­coal. Because of oak’s dur­ab­il­ity, it was used in the build­ing of houses and barns. And oak pegs were used in cruck joints instead of iron nails because mature oak is too hard to bang nails into. This method is still in use in cathed­rals and churches.

Oak is used in the man­u­fac­ture of bar­rels, tubs and vats. Natural wood tannin acts a pre­ser­vat­ive in the stor­age of whisky. It is also used in leather tan­ning and for strong wheel spokes. Early 19th cen­tury car­riages used oak as a pre­ferred mater­ial. The pro­duc­tion of char­coal, the smelt­ing of iron and glass making all used oak.

Ships of all sorts were con­struc­ted for trad­ing, fish­ing and pleas­ure, and the Royal Navy relied on oak for strength and endur­ance. The wood lent itself to provid­ing nat­ur­ally shaped knee joints, ribs, keels and deck­ing. I wonder how many tons of oak were con­sumed in large ‘men of war’ ships and, of course, in the lesser craft.

The number of para­sites, insects, fungi and dis­eases which afflict oak trees is aston­ish­ing. Changing cli­mate tem­per­at­ure and rain­fall also afflict oak growth, unless you may be like some who deny cli­mate change and global warm­ing, in which case you can forget the warn­ings.

Kerracher Gardens -Peter & Trish Kahn — 9th January 2017

Two quite extraordin­ary people set out to create a garden in an area 58 degrees North, in what can only be described as the most remote garden in the United Kingdom.  It is situ­ated only 20 miles from Cape Wrath, N.N. Sutherland.

Describing them­selves as ‘fit’,  which to my mind is a bit of an under­state­ment, they appar­ently ran every­where, includ­ing up and down moun­tains car­ry­ing 56 lbs haver­sacks. The remote cove they chose was set off from one of the many lochs, which seemed to slice into the west­ern coast­line of Northern Scotland The cove’s greatest asset was an area of about 2 acres of rel­at­ively flat land, sur­round­ing a mall croft. The whole of this area has its back, so to speak, facing North. This ‘back’ is high, over a hun­dred feet, pro­tec­ted by con­i­fer­ous woods at the top of the escarp­ment, this area was the place for the garden they decided. And the great adven­ture began. It was going to take huge drive and energy from these two, with local sup­port. The first prob­lem was drain­age, fol­lowed by wind-breaks, deer proof fen­cing, soil struc­ture etc. etc.

They had the site but no access by any road! This was solved by get­ting the cooper­a­tion from a gen­tle­man run­ning a 25 ton cruiser for public trips up the nearby loch. The next step was to build a land­ing stage  for mem­bers of the public to land from the boat. The fish farm fur­ther up the loch had a flat bot­tomed land­ing barge, together with a few strong young men. This was made avail­able for shift­ing heavy goods and machinery, such as digger for con­struc­tion work. A large timber barn and a hun­dred foot poly-tunnel for propaga­tion pur­poses were also built.

After a year or so, the day arrived for the grand open­ing.  The Director of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens did the hon­ours at a large gath­er­ing of guests. Within a short time  10,000 vis­it­ors per year were call­ing. With two ini­tial gar­dens estab­lished, plants from around the world were grow­ing with great suc­cess. Specimens from New Zealand, South Africa,Australia, the Mediterranean coun­tries and many others flour­ished. Their last ven­ture was a Darwin garden, designed to cel­eb­rate his birth. The theme was Tierra del Fuego, which Darwin had vis­ited on his trip in the Beagle. Most plants cur­rently grow­ing on that island were planted, together with a spe­cially cre­ated mosaic depict­ing the local iguanas and the Beagle.

It is impossible to convey the incred­ible achieve­ment which they had made, but as is the way of all endeavors, anno domini played its part. To con­tinue to run it required a huge com­mit­ment in time and energy, so the decision to retire was made. The croft and gar­dens are now back in the hands of a McCleod, the ori­ginal owners. Peter and Trish are now back in Sheffield and employed in propaga­tion work at the Botanical Gardens, which seems very appro­pri­ate. A remark­able story indeed.