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Reports 2019

January 2019 meeting

Member, Bill Shier, gave us a preview of a Gordano Open Days event that he is organising as part of the Nationwide Heritage Open Days that will take place on the weekends 14th/15th and 21st/22nd of September 2019.

All of the venues will be open to the public and entry is free to all.

The venues will include local churches and pubs as well a lighthouse and a standing stone thought to have been part of stones designed for Stonehenge, but abandoned on the journey from the quarry. At each venue it is hoped that there will be a range of exhibits and historical information and at some venues refreshments will be available.

Printed brochures and maps showing locations are being prepared and details will be made available in hard copy and online.

To keep informed consult website  -     

February 2019     150 yrs of Clevedon Pier

Abbie Edbrooke gave Gordano Probus an enthusiastic talk on Clevedon Pier illustrated with slides, video and sound. She covered the history of the pier from how it came to be built to serve the steamer trade, with Brunel’s redundant broad gauge wrought iron rail section, to being described by poet Betjeman as “the most beautiful pier in England”. There have been many technical and financial challenges involving false starts, bankruptcy, rework of the pier head to make docking less hazardous, storm damage and the ignominious collapse of a main span during safety testing. This collapse could have been the end of the pier had it not been for the enthusiasm, drive and money raised by volunteers who formed the Preservation Trust.  Money is always needed for the maintenance of this historic structure. This year is the 150th celebration year with many special events including those at the Tiffin restaurant and Heritage centre. See for more details.

5 March 2019 - Lunch with our Ladies at The Grove, Weston College

Some 24 members of Gordano Probus Club and their ladies enjoyed an excellent lunch at The Grove restaurant, which is part of Weston College. We had a choice of three options for each of the three courses which was followed by coffee all beautifully prepared, presented and served by catering students of the college. As senior persons it is so warming to see young persons in action setting out on their first steps towards their chosen careers. The Grove is a realistic workplace environment for Catering and Hospitality students, who offered us amazing dishes at amazing prices. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxing, and we felt that we had been given special attention which made it a memorable occasion. At the end of the meal our Chairman, Jack Lewis, gave a vote of thanks to all of the gathered staff and our members responded by clapping enthusiastically. Why not visit their website below for your next meal out?

See for more information

March 2019 - Brabazon over Filton

Our speaker on Weds 13 March was Chris Biggs. Chris gave a fascinating talk entitled Brabazon over Filton. Chris had a fascination for aeroplanes since he was a young boy growing up in the late 1940s early 1950s. His favourite comic was The Eagle and he would go straight to the pages depicting cutaway drawings of aeroplanes etc. He also made model planes from construction kits with some 35 models hanging from his bedroom ceiling! He recalled that the earliest aeroplane book he ever had was The Observers book of aircraft circa 1958. Now he has hundreds of aeroplane books in his growing collection. He admitted that one of his early school reports showed D+ for metal work which as yet did not identify him as a potential plane maker!
Chris’ first job was as an apprentice at The Bristol Aircraft Company where he earned £2-18s-10p per week. He was further educated at The Bristol Aeroplane Tech College. He later worked for The City of Bristol College where he trained students to NVQ standard.

The Brabazon aeroplane was named after Lord Brabazon of Tarah who was the owner of the first flying licence. A site at Filton was selected for the construction of the enormous “Brab” hangar where the plane was to be built. This was in 1946. The enormous plane had 8 engines set within the plane’s wings with contra rotating props. The first flight of Bristol 167 now named The Brabazon was on 4th September 1949.
The plane design had taken many years to come to fruition at an eventual cost of £6.5 million for the plane itself and a further £5.5 million for the hangar and extension of the Filton runway.
A new plane was by then hot on the heels of the Brabazon, it’s name..The Comet and in 1952 due to market pressures the Brabazon flew for the last time.

For more detail see links........

Thatchers Visit 25th March 2019

A group of Gordano Probus members had a guided tour and lunch at the Thatchers Cider farm and Railway Inn. Thatcher's first started making cider in 1904, primarily to satisfy the thirst of their farm workers but quickly progressed onto supplying local pubs in the 1920s. From the end of the 20th century expansion has been rapid, animals no longer being farmed and land turned over to apple orchards. Today, Thatchers have some 600 acres in apples and twice as many acres are under contract from farms in Devon, Dorset and Herefordshire as well as nearby local farms. Whilst some more traditional and specialised ciders are still matured in large 100 year old oak barrels, the majority of production is under strict control in stainless steel vessels and packaged for retail sale by modern high specification automated canning, bottling and packaging plant for reasons of product quality and consistency. This £100m turnover business is still family controlled. There are some 458 varieties of apples, including heritage, grown on farm. We sampled Katy, Rose, Vilberie, and 458, each had their own character beautifully crafted and it was more like drinking wine, than the common farmhouse cider we knew from years ago. Afterwards we enjoyed an excellent meal at the Railway. You too, can enjoy a meal and a Thatcher’s tour by visiting the website.

May 2019 - 60 Years of Radio

John Penny gave an interesting talk on “60 years of Radio”. The British Broadcasting Company started in 1922 and at that time transmissions were limited to a radius of about 25 miles, if you had a crystal set costing about £5 and maybe 125 miles with a 2 valve receiver costing £17 (a tradesman might be on just £2 per week). Battery accumulators were needed for powering sets. In 1927 the BBC (corporation) was formed under Royal Charter. Bristol originally received its transmissions from Cardiff and Whiteladies studios opened in 1934. London programmes moved out to Bristol at the beginning of the WW2 and even they had to take refuge in Clifton Rocks railway tunnels, when Bristol came under air attack. The Natural History Unit started in Bristol in 1957 and even Clevedon had its own transmitter for MW in 1939. Much to its dislike the BBC did not have radio to itself. Radio Luxembourg 208 started in 1933 transmitting on LW but as many may remember reception could be hit and miss, however it did pioneer developments like advertising and Popular Music charts. Many will remember jingles like the Ovaltineys and Horace Batchelor “that’s K.E.Y.N.S.H.A.M”. In 1990 Luxembourg switched over to the Astra satellite for which one needed an Amstrad receiver, but was short lived. After the war popular radio programmes included Workers Playtime, Housewives Choice, Mrs. Dales Diary, The Archers, Dick Barton, The Goon Show, Beyond Our Ken, Take it from Here, Life with The Lyons, Listen with Mother, Round the Horn, Journey into Space. Radio was used for propaganda both at home and from abroad. William Joyce (alias Lord Haw Haw) transmitted German propaganda from Berlin in an attempt to weaken the British resolve but instead became ridiculed and was hanged for treason in 1946.

June 2019 - Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA screening)

Mr Steve Seaton and Shona gave Gordano Probus a talk on NHS screening for an abnormal abdominal aorta. The aorta is the main blood vessel in your body. If it should burst you only have a 15% chance of survival. There are no warning symptoms of a weakness. The screening service is available on demand for men aged 65 and over and it is recommended that you should have one. The check is a simple gel and ultrasound scan, like pregnant ladies have. It takes just 10 mins and the result is immediate as the size of your aorta is measured there and then. If your aorta is less than 3cm you are normal and do not need anything further. If your aorta is between 3 and 4.4cm it is classed as small and you will be invited to have 12 monthly scans. If your aorta is between 4.4 and 5.4cm you have a medium aneurysm and you will require 3 monthly scans to check for any changes. Should you be unlucky (applies to only 1 in a 1000) and have an aorta 5.5cm or above you will be referred to a specialist for further checks and advice. Men are 6 times more likely to suffer with this problem compared to women of a similar age. The probability of an aneurysm increases with age, and if you are or have been a smoker, if you have high blood pressure, or if aortic aneurysms are within your blood relatives history. The probability of you having an aneurysm is small and if found early and monitored reduces the chances of you having a serious problem later. Just do it - you know it makes sense. To find out more go to

For a scan appointment - tel 0117 414 8610  or email

For further interesting talks go to our Website or Facebook “Gordano Probus Club”

July 2019 Musical memories of the 50’s by Paul Williams

For the second year in succession Paul Williams entertained some 30 members and partners and attempted to jog the old grey matter by playing songs we all knew, after he had had a wrestling match with the technology. 

Most of the introductory music was difficult to recall however once we had heard the words sung the memories came flooding back, but still we struggled to remember the name of the artist, or group, who were singing. He set the audience a challenge and at the third attempt a bottle of wine was won by member’s wife, Jane Stokes, who recalled Tab Hunter as the artist.

The entertainment provided members with the opportunity to digest lunch in a relaxed mood and afterwards Paul was warmly thanked by chairman, Chris Parsons, and applause from members.

August 2019  Bravest of the Brave

Ret’d Brigadier Bruce Jackman OBE MC gave an excellent, lively and passionate talk to Gordano Probus on the history, actions and plight of the Gurkhas. Son of a Gurkha, he was born in India, became a Gurkha himself, served for 33 years and is now followed by his own son. His talk was full of interesting detail, personal recollections and anecdotes delivered with enthusiasm and flavoured with humour. Gurkhas have served in almost every British conflict since they first supported the East India Company in 1817. Over the 200 years they have earned their fearsome reputation which has contributed to their successes in combat. A notable but little known achievement was when in 1962 they flew into Brunei, at just 48 hours notice without earlier reconnaissance and rescued the Sultan and protected the Shell installation. Some 2,000 Gurkas still act as his protectors today at his own cost. Most of us do not realise that Gurkhas are retired after 15 years service and some 10,500 were retired, or made redundant with service cutbacks, without compensation or pension and this led to the setting up of the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) charity in 1969.  It is the principal UK charity dedicated to the provision of aid to Gurkha ex-servicemen and their dependants in their homeland of Nepal, and increasingly in the UK and elsewhere. Nepal has limited industry, agriculture, infrastructure and healthcare. Landslide disasters are frequent. Young Nepalise men still strive to become Gurkhas. Competition is fierce. Just 400 being selected from 10000+ applicants. Only the best of the best are selected based on their intellect, education, physical fitness and bravery. The Gurkha memorial in Whitehall reads

Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you.

They served us in our hour of need, now in their hour of need, it is our turn to help them.  Some £20million is needed annually.     For further information go to the GWT website  

Chairman, Chris Parsons, gave a vote of thanks and members responded with enthusiastic applause.

September 2019 The Samaritans

There for anyone who needs someone to listen

“Andy” and “Mac” from Weston super Mare Samaritans gave Gordano Probus a talk on how they operate. Suicide today is not a subject that we talk about, but it is a more widespread in the UK than many of us imagine. It happens to some 6500 persons a year (or 18 per day) and many more attempt it, but fail in their cry for help. There seems to be no indication of a falling trend. To put that into perspective, by contrast motor accident fatalities have decreased to about a quarter of what they were in the 1960s with around 1700 deaths annually. Men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women and their most vulnerable age is 45-50. Under 25s suicides are growing at their fastest rate.

The Samaritans was founded by a vicar called Chad Varah, in 1953 in London, but the Samaritans is not a religious charity. Today some 20,000 volunteers operate from 200 branches. They are not professionals, but do undergo 10 weeks of training and further mentoring before they are allowed to man the phones.

The Samaritans aim is to lower the number of people who would otherwise commit suicide. They are there for anyone who needs someone to talk to. They exist to listen, no judgement, no pressure, but to help people work through what's on their mind. They will never tell them what they must do, however, if appropriate, they may inform them of professional organisations who may be able to help.

They do this by exploring feelings to alleviate distress and help people to reach a better understanding of their situation and the options open to them. Everything said is in the strictest confidence for when people feel safe, they are more likely to be open about their feelings.  They want people to be able to talk to them without fear of prejudice or rejection. People are helped to make their own decisions whenever possible. They believe that people have the right to find their own solution and that telling people what to do takes responsibility away from them.  Most important of all they give people their time, their undivided attention and empathy to meet a fundamental emotional need to try to reduce distress and despair.

Some calls may last up to 2 hours, some just a few minutes. Demand is such that the caller may be many miles away from the Samaritan who cannot identify the caller or know of any outcome. Any notes made are destroyed.

Today contact with the Samaritans can be made by many methods in addition to the phone. If you, or anyone you know, is in need of help from the Samaritans you can call free on 116 123, or email  , or call at a Branch,  or write a letter. For more detailed information go to

October 2019 Vesuvius AD79

Gary Gowans gave Gordano Probus an excellent detailed account of life in Pompei and Herculaneum just before Vesuvius erupted in AD79. The excavated remains reveal relatively sophisticated living in this Roman luxury area from high hygiene standards with baths and water flushing toilets, albethey communal activities, to graffiti revealing political commentary. Some 15,000 persons are thought to have been living in Pompei of which 50% might have been servants or even slaves. The speed and severity took occupants by surprise and any initial noises and ejections would have been accepted as their god, Vulcan, at work. Why live near a volcano? The area was exceptionally fertile from earlier eruptions which were outside living memory.  This enabled multiple crops per year to be grown. The eruption was in a series of escalating phases and calms. Millions of tons of debris would extend 11 kilometres up into the atmosphere held up by ejection forces and hot gasses. Collapses of these columns would take place which would result in a pyroclastic cloud consisting of very hot gasses and debris rolling down the mountain at speeds of 200 miles per hour. If you had not been killed by hot falling debris or masonry then you would have been suffocated or incinerated by the pyroclast. During early excavations cavities were found in the pumice and some of these were filled with plaster of paris to reveal the shape of humans and animals in their final resting place. It is now nearly 2000 years since this eruption. Will it happen again? Whilst we hope not, we cannot control, or even accurately predict such an event, even with all of our modern technology. We can only hope that the Italian authorities have effective evacuation procedures in place for such an event, but one has to be a supreme optimist to believe that there will not be any casualties.

Report November 2019 Aerospace Bristol visit

Anyone who is at all interested in transport history and particularly as to how it has affected Bristol and been influenced by the people of Bristol must visit Aerospace Bristol museum.

The museum covers the period with exhibits from horse drawn trams right up to modern day Airbus A380 and of course the highlight is the iconic Supersonic Concorde which has a hanger all to itself. There are many exhibits that are animated to explain the principles involved in flight which appeal to both children and their grandparents.

Probus members tended to wander through the exhibits at their own pace, following their own particular interests and in small groups. The writer was particularly privileged to be conducted around by Gordano Probus member, Ted Talbot, who was Chief Design Engineer on the Concorde project. It was also interesting to see how many former colleagues recognised him and came up to pay their respects.Ted Talbot has written a book about his experiences entitled  Concorde: A Designer's Life: The Journey to Mach 2  which is readily available from the museum and all good booksellers. 

Access is easy as is carparking and your entrance fee includes for repeat visits throughout the next 12 months.

Report November 2019 - Electrical appliances of old

Peter Lamb (Senior archivist of the Museum of Electricity - Bristol) took us on an illustrated electric journey from the early 1800’s through to the end of WW2.  Starting with primitive arc lamp lighting by DC generators (invented by Humphrey Davy in 1809) to the beginning of modern domestic appliances like heaters, cookers, washing machines, vacuums, toasters and hair dryers. In Portishead in the 1890s a coal gas plant (Gas House Lane) was built for night gas lighting in the town. Rival electricity followed in 1911 in the same lane, established by Frank Christy, generating 200/400v DC from two 50hp Petter diesel engines, later upgraded to AC after a series of amalgamations. The building is still there.

The museum has many early examples of the appliances and these reflect the materials and production techniques available at the time. (starting with Cast iron, aluminium, copper, and on to pressed steel and electroplating). His talk was rounded off by showing some of the publicity of the time.  One in particular had amusing connotations.

“Don't kill your wife with housework - Let Electricity do it.”

Report December 2019 - Christmas Lunch

Some 42 members and their ladies enjoyed a Christmas 3 course lunch, of their choice, at Clarence House on 11th December. The event was rounded off with a Grand Raffle organised by Chairman, Chris Parsons, who closed the event by thanking the Clarence House staff for the excellent meal and ended by conveying his best wishes to all for Christmas and the New Year.