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Reports 2021

Jan 13th 2021 -  Freewheelers Blood Bikers

Our first Zoom meeting was a talk by Paul Millard on the Freewheelers EVS, more commonly known as the Blood Bikers.  Some 15 Probus members were able to participate. The Freewheelers is a charitable voluntary organisation that serves the Bristol/Bath area. Their sole purpose is to provide a transport service free of charge to the National Health Service carrying anything of an emergency that can be transported by motorbike particularly blood, drugs, equipment, records, etc, 

It started back in 1990 as a very small operation carried out by keen experienced motorcyclists.  Today some 30 years later, still with keen experienced motorcyclists, they have grown substantially.  They now handle over 7000 calls per year. In particular, they deliver fresh blood everyday from the hospital to the air ambulance helicopters.  Road ambulances do not carry blood. Only Air ambulances are authorised to give blood at the scene of a serious accident.   Bloods that are not used are returned to the hospital for recycling. Currently, some 5 bikes are available at all times, primarily in the periods 7 pm. to 7 am. and all weekend.  The cost of running the Freewheelers is some £150,000 per year which has to be raised by charity.  No funds are provided from the NHS or other government bodies.  There are no paid staff, everyone is an unpaid volunteer. It is estimated that the service provided saves the National Health Service some £400,000 per year.    The charity has been awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service which is the equivalent of an MBE, the highest award available for voluntary organisations. 

Paul Millard gave lots of details about the equipment, the service and its history. His presentation was very professional being audiovisual.  He is available to give talks to other bodies and can be contacted on   website 

They are always looking for donations that can be given via their own website or the Justgiving website below. He was warmly thanked by our chairman, Chris Parsons.

Feb 10th 2021 Policing in Uganda  Zoom Meeting Report

Allan Parsons gave Gordano Probus an excellent talk, with many anecdotes, of his life experiences in Africa.  As a serving Welsh Chief Police Inspector he volunteered to be posted to Uganda through the Overseas Development Agency to assist with the establishment of a renewed Ugandan Police Force. This was following the disastrous reign of Idi Amin, known as the “Butcher of Uganda”. Uganda was  formerly referred to as the “Pearl of Africa”. 

No doubt you will recall that he threw out anyone he didn’t want, at short notice, particularly Ugandan Asian peoples who were the backbone of the trading organisations. When Allan arrived there he found a country where basically nothing worked.  His first role along with colleagues, three Land Rovers and a helicopter was to check on the Police training facility. Some 1000 men were billeted in a building with no windows, or doors and sleeping facilities consisted of using the floor.  

There was no transport for the officers so he ordered 1000 bicycles from the UK, but when they arrived and the containers were opened they were found to be in basic pieces, even down to individual ball bearings.  250 were assembled by prison inmates and the newly mounted police force paraded in front of the President.  Unfortunately one rider, in the centre of the group, fell over causing a domino effect. Not a good start.  

Allan’s anecdotes were too numerous to relay here, but involved going to a disco in Kampala even though he had had death threats and traveling at night was considered dangerous. Experiencing a night in a Bugishu tribal village and finding himself going through a marriage ceremony with the chief’s daughter.  He came across a man lying in the road near a leper colony and was told not to stop as it was “wet” leprosy, but later he became convinced that it was not to be feared. He was ambushed by the Army in the jungle. He visited the source of the Nile at Jinja, saw the Mountains of the Moon and the Murchison Falls National Park with its 5m crocs catching fish in open jaws. 

These were just a few of his stories. The 13 viewing members showed their appreciation in the normal way and Chairman, Chris Parsons, gave a vote of thanks, to his brother, adding that he knew little of these experiences and wanted to learn more.  If you would like to join us on our Zoom talks then contact the Secretary Jim Bougnague on 01275 842259  or

March 10th 2021  St Peter’s Hospice    Zoom meeting report

Esther Hall gave an illustrated talk on the activities of St Peters Hospice by Zoom to 15 Gordano Probus members. The Hospice was founded In 1978 to give care to those with life limiting illnesses in and around Bristol; the area being covered is some 500 square miles and has around one million occupants. The hospice's first building was in Knowle but as demand grew, bigger facilities were needed, so in 2018 a new hospice was built in Brentry. There are some 15 individual fully convenienced rooms for patients. There are many other facilities there including family lounges, quiet rooms, garden rooms and a cafe.  Most patients are suffering from some form of cancer (much of which is asbestos related) or dementia. Many other services are offered in addition to nursing like an advice line (4300 calls per year), nursing specialists like therapy, day service, faith, social and emotional support, family support, education, home visits (14000 hours /yr) and virtual day services via Zoom.

Funds this year have been curtailed by the restrictions due to Covid. They have had to take 5 rooms out of operation. They are facing a £2 million funding gap this year and from their 48 shops they would normally have a £2.5m income and a further related “gift aid” income of £0.5m from the taxman. 

Without the activities of some 1500 volunteers the hospice could not function properly as they provide those now essential extras like transport for patients, maintaining the gardens, catering help, flower arranging and most essentially fundraising. Fundraising takes many forms like quizzes, coffee mornings, auctions/raffles, handicrafts, meal gatherings, Lotto, etc.

A question and answer session followed Esther’s talk, which was followed by members giving a virtual clapping and a warm vote of thanks from our chairman, Chris Parsons. Our next Zoom meeting will be our AGM.

If you would like to support this worthwhile cause you can donate via or contact by email to volunteer or fundraise.  A video on their activities can be found by following the link -

May 12th 2021 Macular Society Zoom meeting report

Sheila Round gave 13 members of Gordano ProBus a very professional and informative talk on the work of the Macular Society (MS).  Its aims are to make the Public Aware, Give Support and Fund Research into the disease.

Sheila herself first became aware of Macular Degeneration when she noticed something strange nearly 20 years ago whilst holidaying in New Zealand. Fortunately for her it was recognised early and she was able to get immediate treatment to minimise its progress. As a result of her experiences she felt determined to pass on her knowledge and started a Support Group in her hometown of Backwell.

Macular Degeneration (MD) occurs when a small area of cells at the back of the retina become damaged usually through aging and central vision becomes impaired.  Commonly known as AMD that affects persons aged 55 and over, but MD can occur at any age.  There are two types, Dry and Wet. Dry is usually first noticed by your optician not you and why it is essential to visit your optician for regular check ups. There is no reversible treatment for it.  Wet occurs when blood vessels in the eye leak and there are treatments available to arrest this and minimise the impact on your life. The symptoms are that one loses one's central vision and has to adapt by learning to become more reliant on one’s peripheral vision. In Sheila's case she first noticed a dip in the centre of the horizon when looking out to sea, followed shortly by a distortion in the appearance of window frames and lampposts, etc. The Macular website illustrates a comprehensive range of a number of different symptoms.

Sheila’s advice would be, if you suspected that you had the symptoms of MD, to go straight to A&E rather than following the usual GP and referral route, but take someone with you. Days matter.  Apart from Age there are a number of other factors that are thought to contribute to the condition like Smoking, a Low fruit and vegetable Diet (Lutein deficient), being Overweight, high Blood Pressure, high Alcohol intake, and of course your Inherited Genes. Overexposure to UV and Blue light also worsen the condition.

Support Groups covering both the physical and mental effects of MD are available from local MS centres.  

Portishead is served by Hazel on 845238 operating at the Folk Hall.  Low Vision Clinics like the Weston super Mare one at 3, Neva Road, near the station - 01934 419393 - can also help.

The Macular Society strives to raise funds to support research into new ways to treat the condition and would welcome donations.  

Our chairman, Chris Parsons, gave a vote of thanks and complemented Sheila on her presentation. Members responded warmly with virtual clapping.

9th June 2021 - Great Western Air Ambulance  Zoom meeting

Ian Cantoni of Great Western Air Ambulance (GWAA) gave 11 members of Gordano Probus a detailed talk with anecdotes on the workings of their charity. Most of us assume that the purpose of an air ambulance is to find persons in difficult to access places and whisk them off to the nearest hospital. This is only a 1% of their work and their primary function is to “take the hospital to the patient needing it”. Invariably the normal ambulance will be on scene first. The helicopter is an EC120 Eurocopter built by Airbus. It is crewed by a pilot and a paramedic, (trained to take over the safety of the helicopter should the pilot become incapacitated), sitting in the front with a specialised trauma consultant surgeon on a swivelchair behind and a casualty bay behind him. Many of the crews are volunteers giving up their free time. The aircraft carries specialised equipment and supplies that are not allowed to be carried in land-based ambulances. Items for critical care such as ‘O neg’ blood, plasma, anaesthetics, strong pain relief with associated equipment for resuscitation like the Lucas auto chest compression machine, blood warmers, ultrasound, and surgical equipment to enable emergency heart, respiration and amputation procedures to be carried out. The helicopter is supported by three specialised GWAA ambulances and most patients are suffering from cardiac arrest, are victims of an RTA or have fallen from height. The helicopter is based at Almondsbury and can get to any part of its operational area in 20 minutes having been instructed by control.  The pilot may land anywhere he considers to be safe and unrestricted, without the landowners permission. If one can identify the precise location of the patient, such as using the App “What 3 Words”, the pilot may be able to land as close as possible to the patient.  The helicopter's travel will take precedence over all other air movements. When the patient no longer needs the helicopter it is released to be able to travel immediately to the next emergency. The recent Covid PPE use has caused significant limitations for the crew making it difficult to operate and communicate. The service operates as a charity and is not supported by the Government.  Fundraising of £4million is needed annually and donations have fallen substantially during Covid.  Some 2,000 incidents are handled each year and basic costs alone are £2k per flight. The survival rate for a cardiac arrest patient is said to decline by 10% for each minute that the heart is stopped. One patient was kept alive and resuscitated by the service after a record 68 minutes and lives to tell the tale and gives his support to the GWAA today.

If you would like to know more or support this valuable service charity then please visit website

Several questions were asked by members and the Chairman gave a vote of thanks to which members responded with virtual handclaps.

14th July - Fred E Weatherly

Gordano Probus member and former Chairman, Paul Williams, gave 7 members and 2 visitors a talk on the life and works of Portishead’s famous son Fred Weatherly.  Frederic Edward Weatherly, KC (4 October 1848 – 7 September 1929) was an English lawyer, author, lyricist and broadcaster.  He was the eldest son of a medical doctor, born in Woodhill, Portishead. Educated at Hereford Cathedral School, he won a scholarship to Oxford and graduated with a degree in Classics aged 23. A year later he married Anna Maria Hardwick from Axbridge and they had a son and two daughters. His interest in writing started from an early age. He wrote 50 children's books, a book of verse and thousands of song lyrics.  Beatrix Potter even did the illustrations for one of Fred’s childrens books “A Happy Pair” .  It should be remembered Fred was born at a time when every middle and upper class home had a piano for family entertainment. There was an appetite for the latest songs as sheet music. This was followed by the gramophone at the turn of the century and well in time for the first world war when many of Fred's songs were sung.   Many of his songs are still sung today.  Paul took us through a few of these, sung by well known singers, and challenged us to say who the singer was.   

     His first commercial success was “The Holy City” which starts, “Last night I lay a-sleeping    There came a dream so fair,  I stood in old Jerusalem,,    Beside the temple there…….  And is followed by the well known chorus  “Jerusalem! Jerusalem   Lift up your gates and sing,   Hosanna in the highest   Hosanna to your King” 

    “The Old Brigade” is the march of the Chelsea Pensioners. Fred penned the words “Where are the boys of the old Brigade,   Who fought with us side by side?   Shoulder to shoulder, and blade by blade,  Fought till they fell and died......”  

     WW2 made  “Roses of Picardy” the love song of many a soldier, ending with the impassioned words,  “Roses are flow'ring in Picardy,  But there's never a rose like you  And the roses will die with the summertime,  And our roads may be far apart,  But there's one rose that dies not in Picardy'  Tis the rose that I keep in my heart”.  

     Whilst all this writing was going on, Fred studied law, became a lawyer, then a barrister as well as giving talks and lectures and radio appearances.

      The most well known of Fred’s songs must be “Danny Boy”, which has been and still is sung by many famous singers including  Andy Williams,   Katherine Jenkins,  Tom Jones,  Elvis Presley,  Des O'Connor,  Daniel o’Donnell.  Fred wrote this several years before he found the best tune for it. As luck would have it, his sister in law living in America, heard a folk song being sung and notated it. It is now known as the Londonderry Air and the rest is history.  Fred died in Bath at the age of 80 and is buried in Smallcombe Cemetery.

A Vote of Thanks was given by Chris Parsons and members gave the now normal zoom clapping.

For further information try Wikipedia and Gordano Society’s Posset Pages

Great Western Air Ambulance Great Western Air Ambulance