The Probus Club Weston-Super-Mare

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Programme Reports

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Catching Rogues and Dips at Thiefrow - Andy Lucker

Posted on November 21, 2019 at 8:00 AM

The final meeting of the year today, was celebrated for being number 800.

Our speaker was Andy Lucker, who before retiring, headed up an undercover team at Heathrow Airport to police the area for 'bag snatchers', 'pickpockets', etc.

The presentation started with a BBC documentary film about this team and included some real 'live' arrests.

Andy then took questions from the members and also told a few more interesting tales.

A really interesting and enjoyable talk to end the year.

150 Years of History at Clevedon Pier - Abbie Edbrooke (Ladies Invited)

Posted on November 7, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Today we welcomed the ladies to join us for our meeting.

Abbie Edbrooke gave 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 had been many technical and financial challenges involving false starts, bankruptcy, rework of the pier head to make docking less hazardous, storm damage and the 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.

Audio Visual Sequences - Brian Fish

Posted on October 17, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Our Speaker today was one of our own members, Brian Fish.

Brian has given presentations to us before, using photographs and images on a range of topics.

Today was no exception, with sets including, East Brent Harvest Home, Weston Sand Sculptures and Flowers.

As always, the quality of the photographs were exceptional and Brian's commentary entertaining.

Thank you Brian.

Charles Dickens - Dr. Keith Hooper

Posted on October 3, 2019 at 8:00 AM

This meeting's speaker was Dr. Keith Hooper who spoke on the life of Charles Dickens.

Commended by his examiners, for his extensive knowledge of Dickens’s work, Keith Hooper was awarded a Doctorate from the University of Exeter in July 2009. Two years later, his first published article appeared in The Dickensian. 

Dr. Keith injected humour & an understanding of the personality of one of our most famous authors.

For most of us, Dickens' novels are somewhat "dry" but Dr John through his insight & understanding of Dickens' underlying personality, was able to offer us an interesting critique of how Charles Dickens created the personalities in his books.

Dr. Keith outlined Dickens' upbringing in Portsmouth & the difficulties that ensured when his father was imprisoned for embezzling the Royal Navy.

Despite no formal education Dickens edited a journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels as well as lecturing & campaigning for many aspects of social reform.

More information about Dr. Keith Hooper can be found:

The History of the Cross Manufacturing Company - Rodney Cross

Posted on September 19, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Rodney Cross was welcomed today who gave a great insight into the 'family' business.

In the Early Days of 1900s, a young Roland Cross, whilst still at school, was appointed Secretary and Treasurer of the Bath Model Aeroplane Club. On leaving school Roland secured an apprenticeship with the Arrol Johnson Motor Works in Dundee.

In the 1910s, Roland joined the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company in Bristol where he designed parts for the Bristol Fighter biplane. After the war he moved to Vickers Aeron to increase his engineering experience.

In the 1920s, the Cross Rotary Valve Engine was invented. Roland designed his innovative rotary valve engine which proved to be superior in power output and torque to the conventional poppet valve equivalent. The first Cross company was set up to develop the concept.

Immensely powerful and widely used Centaurus and Hercules sleeve valve engines suffered from excessive oil consumption. The Cross Sleeve Contracting Ring solved this problem and over 300,000 were eventually manufactured.

In the 1950s, the well-known Cross Wire Thread Insert range was produced in large quantities. Other new products included Spring Washers, Retaining Rings and Circlips.

Eventually, a second factory was opened in Devizes to separate Aerospace and Automotive industry products, as annual turbo ring production climbed to 60 million

Automotive industry activity became more important, beginning with the manufacture of piston rings for Formula One racing cars, followed by high temperature sealing rings for the new breed of turbocharged cars.

In the 1960s, sealing ring manufacturing included four-foot diameter aluminium rings designed for Concorde and seals that were critically important for the performance of the ground-breaking Harrier jump-jet.

Cross is a world leading manufacturer of precision engineered high temperature metallic seals and retaining rings for aircraft engines, gas and steam turbines, vehicle turbochargers, control valves and many other challenging environments.

An extremely interesting insight into this 'local' Company.


Route 66 and All That - David Addis

Posted on September 5, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Today we welcomed David Addis from Long Ashton Probus Club.

David has given a presentation to us before and again didn't disappoint.

The talk was about a trip he and his family made along the famous Route 66 in America.

Although David kept referring to it as an 'educational trip' for his children, it is certain that whole family found it 'educational!'.

The journey took 21 days with many stop off points along the way. These were elaborated on by way of a slide show and included many fascinating and comical stories.

David was thanked in the usual manner by the members.

Great Western Air Ambulance - Ian Cantoni

Posted on July 4, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Today we welcomed Ian to give a talk on the Great Western Air Ambulane charity.

Ian included slides with his talk, discussing all aspects of GWAAC.

The web site address is below which includes comprehensive details of the organisation.

It is hoped that later in the year, a visit to their new operating base will take place.

At the end of the presentation, Ian was handed a donation cheque from the Club which was the Chairmans Charity choice this year.

Bristol Buses - John Penny

Posted on June 20, 2019 at 1:00 PM

We thank John for standing in at short notice today to present one of his many talks, this one about Bristol Buses.

With the use of projected film, a pottaged history of Bristol's buses was shown.

Some rare unseen footage was included along with John's sometimes 'humerous' narrative.

Hopefully John will visit us again with another of his entertaining talks.

Food To Die For - Mike Hogan

Posted on June 6, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Our past Chairman led the floor today with a very interesting talk on the subject of sea fishermen.

As a 'mariner' Mike told the story of the risks to their lives that the fishermen take just to provide us with this food type.

A slide show accompanied the talk which was interspersed with some fascinating facts.

What we take for granted will put a whole new view on the fish on our table.

An excellent talk, thank you Mike.

Andrew Cross and the Mite that Shocked the World - Brian Wright

Posted on May 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM

 Taunton author and historian Brian Wright has written a biography of Andrew Crosse, who was born in 1784 and grew up to be a pioneering scientist, eccentric, republican landowner and poet.

Today we welcomed Brian to give his account of Andrew Crosse.

An eccentric scientist who scared the locals with the bangs and flashes from his experiments reckoned he accidentally created a life form.

Andrew Crosse installed 3,000ft of copper wire from poles and trees at Fyne Court, Broomfield, on the Quantock Hills, where he was born.

While neighbours were terrified by the sounds and lights emanating from the house he had turned into a laboratory, it had the added benefit of keeping poachers off his estate.

His main, but by no means only, interest was in electricity and many of his discoveries in that field are still valid today.

He once startled guests at a dinner party in 1816 by telling them: “By means of the electric agency, we shall be enabled to communicate our thoughts instantaneously with the utmost parts of the earth.”

While we owe a lot to the early scientists who laid the foundations of our modern comfortable existence, we often know little about their private lives.

This is not the case with Crosse and Brian has uncovered a lot about him, including odd facts like he was involved in an armed rebellion as a schoolboy, and accompanied the great scientist Michael Faraday to a seance.

The book also explains what sparked Crosse’s interest in electricity from the age of eight, which lasted until his death in 1855 in the same bedroom in which he had been born.

However, most people know of Crosse because of the belief that he inspired Mary Shelley to write her book Frankenstein, and that he accidentally created life in the form of mites during an experiment, which brought him to wide attention in Britain, Europe and America, and shook the world of science to its very foundations.

The story of the mysterious mites is detailed for the first time, and an attempt made to explain what they were. 

The book includes the many ups and downs of his life, with much humour and a bit of scandal.

The last years of his life were his happiest after he married his second wife, who was 43 years younger than him.

Thanks to Brian for an unusual and interesting talk.