General Meeting Events: 10:30am until 12:00 noon
16th December, 2019: Coleshill and District U3A’s Christmas Celebrations
20th January, 2020: ‘The Real Dads’ Army’ – Ray Sturdy
Ray Sturdy will be relaying some real memories of our wartime Home Guard. As working civilians, they had a demanding and eventful time training to defend Britain from the enemy.
17th February, 2020 Coleshill and District U3A’s Annual General Meeting
21st October 2013: ‘Back door to Beijing by bicycle’
Chris Smith gave a very informative and philosophical talk about his journey from Bewdley to Beijing by bicycle.
He set his sights on cycling 80 kms a day and titled his book Why don’t you fly? after many of his friends asked him this question.
On his mammoth journey he cycled through France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Pakistan. Looped around India back to Pakistan. Through the Gobi desert. Finally making Peking.
He battled leg-pumping mountains, strength-sapping winds, maniacal drivers and curious locals.
And enjoyed it tremendously.
18th November: ‘Christmas decorations’
The members were treated to a beautiful demonstration of Christmas decorations by Geoff Croft. He made a Christmas wreath and hanging basket, the latter being raffled at the end of the meeting.
16th December: This was our Christmas Celebration. Each member brought a plate of food which made a delicious buffet. The table was decorated with bunting made by the Fabric and Woolcrafts Group. After the buffet the members were serenaded by the Music Group with carols and poetry readings. The piano was played by Brian Nicholson and the words choreographed on PowerPoint by Hugh Sharpe. It was a wonderful start to Christmas.
20th January 2014: Our first meeting of the New Year kicked off to a good start with 59 members present. Peter Maidment gave a very amusing and interesting talk on a topical subject – Electricity. The members were shown how electricity is made and how power stations were developed in this country ending with the largest power station in Europe – Hams Hall – being built close to Coleshill. Unfortunately, the cooling towers have since been demolished and alternative sources of power are needed to satisfy the high demand.
Rita Flowerday also gave details of the format for the Annual General Meeting
17th February: Annual General Meeting
This was well attended by 46 members and visitors. Rita Flowerday agreed to stay as Chair for the next year only.The existing members of the committee were re-elected, with the addition of Cathy Mills and Hilda Brookes. Special thanks were given to Nina Pemberton (Publicity Officer) and Paul Chiswick (for setting up and managing the web site). There are 17 thriving groups and reports were given to the meeting of their yearly activities.
13th March: Dr. Caroline Ramsey – ‘Ageing Well’
The members were treated to a very entertaining talk by Dr. Ramsey. She gave us many pointers on how to look after ourselves, include diet, exercise, mental health and regular check-ups. She advised us to follow instructions on medication to the letter. Regarding diet, she informed us the one followed in the Second World War was excellent!
28th April: Frieda Baker – ‘The Man Who Was William Shakespeare’
The talk this month was a very interesting topic – The Man who was William Shakespeare. The speaker, Frieda Baker, a retired English Teacher, put forward a powerful argument that it was Christopher Marlowe who had written the plays and not Shakespeare. Marlowe was a scholar who had been to university. Also he was recruited into the Elizabethan ‘Secret Service ‘and had travelled abroad several times.No documents exist that prove Shakespeare was at school in Stratford or at Cambridge University. He never travelled abroad. Although Christopher Marlowe died in a fight, the speaker said that the Coroner’s report showed him to be with several secret agents at the time and although a man was convicted he quickly received a pardon from Queen Elizabeth l. After Marlowe’s alleged death Shakespeare’s plays became very popular. Frieda proposed that the plays were written by Marlowe who could have been in exile in Italy to avoid arrest for political intrigue. In conclusion, she listed the plays that showed characters living in exile and being caught in rough seas. Plenty of information to consider in making up one’s own mind – Shakespeare or Marlowe?
Susan Shaw brought a collection of books to be distributed by Coleshill U3A members following on from World Book Night (UK and Ireland) which took place on 23rd April 2014. Thank you, Susan, for a convincing submission and for all your hard work.
19th May: Martin Cross – ‘Spring and Summer Birds’
Martin’s talk was very interesting featuring two videos which took us through Spring and Summer. It was a revelation to see how much wild life exists in Water Orton. Martin has a very keen eye
16th June: Andy Holding – ‘Airport Hits the Road’
The talk this month featured Birmingham Airport. Andy Holding gave us some useful information on the airport which is on our doorstep. Birmingham airport is number 7 in the league table which reflects the excellent road and rail service which enables people in the Midlands to choose any airport they wish to travel from. The new runway was discussed which will cater for large aircraft from China.
21st July: Raymond Pierce – ‘The rogues I have known ‘
The talk this month was from a very animated speaker, Raymond Pierce, a retired Bank Manager. He told us of the rogues he had encountered in his working and private life. For his talk he accepted a donation to ‘Help the Heroes’ charity.
18th August: Duncan Strachan – ‘Working with Alligators!’
Duncan Strachan is one of our Coleshill members. He told us about his past experiences working with these high risk reptiles.
15th September: Carol Hadwen – ‘Can Earthquakes Be Predicted?’
Carol Hawden, a retired Physics teacher, gave a very interesting talk about whether earthquakes can be predicted. She spoke about the earth’s formation and its seismic plates. Her talk was well illustrated with an impressive PowerPoint display
20th October: Geoff Croft of the Walnut Nursery in Shustoke – ‘Apple Time’
Geoff Croft gave us a very interesting talk about the different varieties of apples spanning a number of years. He had some samples from his own nursery. Ending his talk with a demonstration of apple juice making, enthusiastically assisted by Steph Robinson. Geoff also brought bedding plants and potted plants which he sold to members.
17th November: Malcolm Evans – ‘Participating in the Round the World Yacht Race 2014′
Malcolm Evans gave us an interesting glimpse into crewing for the Round the World Yacht Race 2013. It began on the 1st September 2013. Malcolm sailed the last quarter of the total race. He spoke of the cramped conditions, the food (plenty of rice and pasta), cleaning the bilges and struggling into wet clothing for 4 and 6 hour watches, but it was all worth while when the boat came 5th out of 12 boats.
19th January 2015: Steve Record – ‘The hidden world of container shipping’
A very interesting and well presented talk by one of our members Stephen Record about his career in Container Shipping. If you haven’t seen it there is an account of this talk with a picture in January’s Gazette. Thank you Steve.
15th February: AGM
16th March: Derek Clarke, ‘The work of a conservation architect’
This was the first meeting this year chaired by our new Chairperson, Peter Maidment. The speaker Derek Clark, who entitles his talk ‘The work of a conservation architect’, was both informative and entertaining, adding the occasional anecdote. I am sure his talk will have more significance when the History Group visit the ‘Back to Back Houses’ in May.
20th April: Andy Smith, ‘A Life in the Music’
Andy Smith was our speaker and entertainer last month. He brought along several instruments which he played and added in several anecdotes about himself and his family. Members really appreciated his visit. Thanks, Andy!
18th May: ‘Compton Verney, Past, Present and Future’
Compton Verney in south Warwickshire is now famous for its award winning art gallery. This talk will take the form of an historical introduction to the Verneys of Compton Verney, and to the family’s house and estate. We’ll also be looking at the working of the Art Gallery today, and its future plans.
15th June: Stephanie Butlin, ‘The work of Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance Team’
We had a very interesting speaker from the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance service. This service does need money and are prepared to pick up old clothes etc. if you have three or more bags. It also gets a lot of support from volunteers.
20th July: Ian Cawood, ‘Astley Castle – history on our doorstep’
The talk from Ian Cawood. Head of History at Newman College, was very informative and entertaining. The history and details of the construction of a new building inside the ruins of the Astley Castle by the Landmark Trust, was most pertinent because it is so near to our U3A.
17th August: ‘Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary’
This was a very interesting talk from a representative of the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Trust. Several animals that the Trust had saved were brought along for members to see and handle.
21st September: Lee Dent ‘The Messines Village Model’
A very interesting talk about the trial and tribulations of restoring the Messines Village Model on Cannock Chase. We also stood in silence in remembrance of Anne Strachan who will always be remembered for her welcoming smile.
19th October: Colin Such, ’30 Years on the Rostrum’
Colin Such from Warwick and Warwick Auctioneers let us into how much stamps, posters, medals and post cards increase in value according to the event and age. I am sure it sent some of our members into their attics to see if they had anything of interest and value. Shows it pays not to throw everything away.
16th November: David Swain, ‘Life in Nelson’s Navy’
David Swain gave an interesting talk to the members on the life of Nelson and his ship Victory. We learned that Nelson came to Birmingham and there is a statue of him in the Bull Ring. Also explanations of certain naval terms.
14th December: General Meeting
This meeting was our last before Christmas and consisted of a play reading of Almost a Fair Lady based loosely on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and carol singing by the Music Group. The food was excellent as always with members contributing ‘bring and share’. Thanks you to everyone who contributed in any way to make it a very enjoyable and festive meeting
18th January 2016
Hugh Sharp gave a very informative talk about Lord Byron who was a very colourful character. Hugh illustrated his talk with some wonderful slides he had taken and researched on the internet.
15th February 2016: A.G.M.
Xiaomin Pang, a journalist for independent media, gave a fascinating talk on the cultural history of her homeland. Now a resident of the UK, her mission is to help the world develop a better understanding of China and to help Chinese to know the real world. She does this by giving people a better understanding of Chinese traditions and history.
21st March 2016: ‘Birmingham Cathedral’ – Stephen Record
We had an interesting presentation for our March meeting about Birmingham Cathedral. It was given by Stephen Record, a visitor chaplain and a member of the U3A Coleshill Group. The Cathedral was originally built as a church 300 years ago, becoming a cathedral in 1905. It is famous for its Burne-Jones windows, three depicting the Nativity, Crucifixion and Ascension. A fourth window added later depicts Hope and Reconciliation.
We held our own EU ‘In/Out’ Referendum as a matter of interest. The majority voting out. Another vote is planned nearer to the official one in June to see whether opinions have changed.
18th April 2016: ‘Titanic – the Midlands Connections’ – Andrew Lound
For our April meeting we had an interesting presentation ‘Titanic – The Midlands Connections’ by Andrew Lound. This gave us an insight into the important role of industries around the Birmingham and surrounding area in supplying the marine industry. Birmingham was noted as a manufacturing area supplying the home market and the export market. Brass and iron manufacturers supplied many parts such as anchors, cable chains, steam boilers, screws, light fittings, door furniture and more for the building of the Titanic.
16th May 2016: ‘A Traveller’s Tale’ – Ed Shore
For our May meeting we had an entertaining presentation from Ed Shore. This was the story of a journey he made with his wife to India in 1993, towing his caravan across remote desert land and through various borders where they were sometimes locked in a police compound overnight for their safety.
20th June 2016: ‘Tales from a Farmer’s Wife’ – Jane Barnes
Jane Barnes gave an enlightening talk titled ‘Tales from a Farmer’s Wife’. Jane’s family are dairy farmers in Somersby, between Melton Mowbray and Oakham. Jane outlined the life cycle of a cow from conception to a milking cow. All of the 850,000 litres per of milk produced per annum is sold to a dairy where it is made into blue cheese. We were able to purchase some of the cheese produced.
18th July 2016: ‘The History of Potting’ – John and Annette Christophers
John and Annette gave us an entertaining and informative talk about the history of potting going back to six thousand BC. when early settlers discovered that clay from riverbanks could be shaped to make toys and other items. They also discovered that when items were heated in the fire it gave them extra strength and durability therefore making useful cooking pots. We were all provided with a lump of clay and following a demonstration we were invited to make a disk adding our initial and something to represent a hobby. These were collected and John continued the talk. John and Annette bought with them a selection of their pottery for sale and we were told that it takes five to seven years of intensive training to produce saleable pottery. At the end of the presentation we saw that our artistic endeavours had been magically transformed into a bowl by Annette. John and Annette will fire this and present it to Coleshill U3A together with another bowl that will be made out of the remaining discs not used for the original. They suggested that we consider using them to raise money for charity.
15th August 2016: ‘Old Coleshill’ – Dr. Andrew Watkins
Our speaker Dr. Andrew Watkins was introduced and gave an informative, illustrated talk incorporating new research about Coleshill. We were shown some historic maps of Coleshill and heard about the names and locations of different areas of Coleshill.
17th October 2016: ‘The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ – Hugh Sharp
Hugh’s talk included a brief history of the founding of the Friendly Society by six agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle. The Society was founded to try and improve workers pay and rights following cuts to their wages. In 1832 only the more highly paid workers were eligible to vote. This excluded most agricultural workers who were paid so poorly that they did not qualify. The six swore on oath to the society and were sentenced to transportation to Australia on charges of felony. They were pardoned in 1836 and most of them eventually settled in Canada. Hugh then went on to entertain us with a three related stories about the growth of Sydney in Australia where the martyrs were sent, pictures of one of the workers cottage and facts about Tolpuddle today, and a picture and explanation of the significance of a sycamore tree in Tolpuddle believed to be where the men used to meet.
21st November 2016: ‘The Secret Life of the Magician’ – Neil Roberts
Neil gave a brief history of the inception of the various Magic Societies that exist. The first one being founded in Birmingham in 1905 and still in existence today. We were also treated to a few tricks.
16th January 2017: ‘Bletchley Park’ – Brian Teall
Our speaker this month was one of our members, Brian Teall, who gave us an interesting talk about the origins of the Enigma Codes and the development of the Colossus machine used to help decipher German radio messages at Bletchley Park during the second world war.
20th February 2017: Coleshill and District U3A’s Annual General Meeting
20th March: ‘Chatsworth – A Personal View’ – Christine Robinson
Our speaker this month was Christine Robinson who gave us an entertaining talk about her life as Head Housekeeper at Chatsworth House, telling us that all maintenance at the house is done in-house. Christine gave us some personal accounts of her time there and also bought along some artefacts for us to view.
10th April: ‘Magical Mechanical Music’ – Kevin McElhone
Our speaker this month was Kevin McElhone : Magical Mechanical Music. This was an entertaining talk about early music boxes with demonstrations of tunes played on them and various related items were passed around for us to look at.
15th May: ‘Growing Fuchsias’ – ‘H’ Williamson
One of our members,. ‘H’ Williamson, gave a demonstration and talk on the cultivation of fuchsias, including taking cuttings, growing on and shaping, ie standards, half baskets and bonsia fuchsias. ‘H’ and his wife Ann also brought some rooted fuchsia cuttings for sale.
19th June: ‘Judge, Jury, Judgement… Justice?’ – Alan Cutler
Alan’s talk ‘Judge, Jury, Judgement and Justice?’ was a dramatised Edwardian murder trial in which he acted as judge, prosecuting and defence counsels using material taken from transcriptions of a trial. Once all of the facts had been given the jury (U3A audience) passed a verdict of not guilty. Twenty-six people found the defendant guilty of poisoning his wife with arsenic and forty-six gave a not guilty verdict. At the trial in 1922 a verdict of guilty was passed and the defendant was hung.
17th July: ‘Mr. Gayton’s Diary for 1940′ – Glynis Gayton
We were taken through the diary for 1940 chronicling everyday life in a local bakery during the Second World War There were many amusing comments but it reminded us that we should never forget the hardships caused by war. We had an insight to the cost of living, rationing caused by the war and how everyday life carried on. We heard how bread was delivered to surrounding villages despite very heavy snow and eventual flooding. All without the benefit of snowploughs and gritting we expect today. The number of eggs laid by hens, rows of vegetables planted and harvested, children swallowing whistles, extra bread and cakes being baked for special occasions, repairs to the delivery van it was all mentioned.
21st August: ‘Birmingham Samaritans’ – Pam Rutter
Peter introduced our speaker for this month Pam Rutter a volunteer for the Birmingham Samaritans. Most people have heard about the Samaritans but few realise the extent of the support that they provide. It was founded sixty years ago by Chad Varah a Church of England Rector although the organisation is not a religious group. As a curate one of Chad Varah’s first tasks was to conduct a funeral for a fourteen year old girl who had taken her own life because she had not had any guidance about the changes to her body that puberty bought. Chad Varah decided that decided that offering the chance for anyone with problems to be able to discuss them in a non judgemental way could be of benefit. In 1953 when Chad Varah became Rector of St. Stephen’s in Walbrook he set up a telephone line, believed to be the first telephone helpline in the world, for anyone to ring and talk about their problems. From these beginnings the organisation now has 201 branches around the United Kingdom and although a lot of the work is still done by telephone contact can be made by letter and newer methods of contact such as email or text. The organisation does not offer advice but concentrates on allowing people to talk and hopefully evaluate their problem. Samaritans also give training to prisoners to enable them to help fellow inmates with problems. They also offer training and talks to schools, groups for young people, visit festivals and offer a presence following major disasters such as the recent Manchester Arena and London tower block disasters. Each branch is run as a small charity and raises funds for the running costs. The fund raising varies in different areas, some obtain charitable donations others might have coffee mornings or other fund raising events. All volunteers are given initial training and then follow up training at intervals.
18th September: ‘A Visit from the Medieval Tailor’ – Sarah Thursfield
Sarah gave us a brief history of how the construction of clothes has evolved over time. Samples of linen and woven worsted material that would have been available in medieval times were passed around. We were shown how pattern making for clothes evolved progressing from one straight piece of fabric folded with a hole for the neck and then belted to fit in medieval times to the development of armholes and sleeves and methods of shaping items to fit. Padded linen to wear under armour was shaped by pinning the material directly to the wearer to form a closely fitting shape that was then used to make the final garment. Sarah wore a medieval dress and illustrated her talk with several garments that she has made.
16th October: ‘Shipwrecked in Antarctica’ – Georgina Hale
Our speaker was Georgina Hale who spoke about being shipwrecked in Antarctica. Georgina and her husband were on an exploration icebreaker ship bound for the Antarctic Peninsula in 2007 when the ship was struck and holed by a spur of ice. Her talk included the wonderful places visited during the early part of their trip, and the ordeal they then faced in open lifeboats in one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet.
20th November: ‘Birmingham Royal Ballet’
Jessica Armson gave us the potted history of the Ballet from its origins by Sadler’s Wells in 1931 to 1999 when it became the Birmingham Royal Ballet and through to the day in the life a member today.
15th January – ‘Every Child Matters’ – Alan Cutler
Alan gave a thought provoking talk about a scheme that matches individual volunteers to a child in care. This is a one to one relationship with a child to provide regular support, outings and activities outside official care. In Coventry and Warwickshire it is run through Dr Barnardos. There were leaflets available for anyone who would be interested in becoming involved. Training is given and volunteers are requested to provide support on a regular basis and to sign up for at least two years.
19th March – ‘The Man Who Creates Invisible Art’ – Graham Short
A fascinating talk about the smallest hand engravings in the world.
16th April – ‘Remembering the Swinging 60’s’ – Mike Watkins
A light hearted look at the people, things and events of the 1960s. With audience participation encouraged, it’s an hour of laughter and fun. Remember the 60s? Of course you do!
Mike gave us an interesting tour through the sixties, covering fashion, radio and television programmes and famous people associated with them, Mods and Rockers, Medical advancements (first heart transplant) , gadgets, world events (assassination of John F Kennedy, first moon landing), disasters and events in the UK (Aberfan pit disaster, sinking of the Torrey Canyon, Great train robbery, the Big Freeze, death of Churchill, development of the Boeing 747, Concorde, England won the World Cup) and BBC2 showed the first colour television in Europe.
18th June – ‘The Little Black Dress’ – Molly Murray
Our Speaker this month was Molly Murray who gave a talk entitled The Little Black Dress. This was an amusing account of venues she had attended and people from Young Farmers to Royalty she had met whilst wearing her dress as a Silver Service waitress. She also included some of the hazards and disasters that occurred during this time.
16th July – ‘Think Like a Genius’ – Peter Walker
Coleshill and Distric U3A member, Peter, talked on the subject of ‘brain power’.
20th August – ‘The Eiger and Other Climbs’ – Roger Hateley
Coleshill and Distric U3A member, Roger, gave us an interesting illustrated talk about his climbing exploits and bought along various items of equipment used for us to look at.
17th September – ‘Motorcycle Funerals’ – Rev. Paul Sinclair
“Would you be seen dead in a sidecar?” asked the Reverend Paul Sinclair. A humorous and eye-opening talk on this unusual choice of funeral arrangement.
15th October – ‘Napoleon’ – Patrick Hayes
With some audience participation, Patrick took us through the life of Napoleon and his various battles and exploits.
19th November – ‘Bee-Keeping and Its History’ – Julian Rouse
Julian gave us a fascinating glimpse into the history of bee keeping with evidence of apiaries being found in Iran in 950 BC. Bee keeping in Britain is recorded in the Domesday Book.
21st January, 2019: ‘Unknown Iran’ – Dr. Javad Hashemi
Dr. Hashemi gave us an insight into how Iran has developed since ancient times into the country it is today. We were given a brief history of the geographical area and countries surrounding Iran and how people from these countries have settled in different areas of Iran influencing the culture, language and architecture of Iran over centuries. We were also shown how the landscape of Iran varies across the country from desert to fertile land, gardens and mountains.
18th March, 2019: ‘Back-stage Stories from Birmingham REP’ – Linda Hisgett
Linda and her colleagues gave us a light-hearted, behind-the-scenes look at some lesser known incidents in, and aspects of the history of Birmingham Repertory Theatre (‘the Rep’).
15th April, 2019: ‘The Work of the RSPB at Middleton Lakes’ – Nick Martin (RSPB Site Manager)
Nick Martin from RSPB at Middleton gave a very detailed and informative talk about the site, from when it started to how it is today. We learnt a lot about the wildlife it attracts and how it is continually improving.
20th May, 2019: ‘Local Rogues, Villains and Thieves’ – Vanessa Morgan
Vanessa Morgan gave us semi-dramatised excerpts from her collection of factual stories from the 19th Century which feature local murders, bank robberies, train robberies and other crimes.
17th June, 2019: ‘The Trial of King Richard III’ – Eddie Smallwood
King Richard III has often been accused of the murder of his two nephews, the princes in the Tower. Eddie Smallwood asked us to become involved in a fictional dramatisation of ‘The Trial of Richard III’ so that we could weigh the evidence one way or the other. Unanimously, we agreed that Richard was innocent of the charge!
15th July, 2019: ‘Tunes from the Appalachian Mountains’ – The Harvesters Trio
The musicians in The Harvesters Trio play about 10 different instruments between them. They brought us some tunes, traditional songs and dances ‘from the back porch’ in the Appalachian Mountains of North America, as well as telling us something of the history of music from this area.
19th August, 2019: ‘Spaced Out in the Sixties’ – Andrew Lound
Andrew Lound first came to us in 2016 with a talk on ‘The Titanic’. He returned to tell us about another of his research interests – the space programme of the 1960’s. He showed us ‘a wonderful soundtrack, stunning images and amazing video’ as he recounted the development of space exploration.
16th September, 2019: ‘The Restoration of Middleton Hall’ – BrianTeall
Brian told us more about discoveries at this unique site, where no fewer than five houses from different periods have been found.
21st October, 2019: ‘There’s Nothing Like a Good Conspiracy’ – Mike Watkins
Mike Watkins gave a humorous talk on conspiracy theories.
18th November, 2019: ‘The Life of Alfred Wainwright and what he inspired Hugh Sharp to do’ – Hugh Sharp
Hugh Sharp gave a talk on the life of Alfred Wainwright, who devoted thirteen years of his life to writing, ‘The Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells’. Hugh told the story of Wainwright and included the long distance footpaths he himself has walked since 2000.
Thanks to Paul Chiswick, who manages our PR and who designed and maintains our website.