Monday, 30 January 2012

The stories of our members

The talk on Zimbabwe has had a knock-on effect as we now find we have somebody in our midst - whose identity will be revealed in due course - who had a great, great, great grand father (I hope I got the number of 'greats' right) who was a surgeon in Wellington's army.   I do hope we will be allowed to cover this story as  I  would love to put that together on a DVD or memory stick, and promise I will resist the temptation to show pictures of the interior of a surgeon's tent after a battle.

Another good story is that among our members we have one whose family were responsible for the administration and upkeep of Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, for many years, and they lived on site.  From what I have heard this promises to be a fascinating story I know our members will want to hear, so I will have a word with the boss (The Rev. Robert) and see where we can slot that one in.

The programme now looks like this:

February:              The history and work of SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association)
This is being presented as there are people in our area who qualify for assistance from SSAFA, but are probably not aware of it.     We hope our presentation will help spread  the word.

March:                  The Mulberry Harbour's of WW2, in the construction of which it was Southampton who played the leading role.      This talk was originally scheduled for January but had to be  postponed due to the indisposition of the speaker.

April:                   The Story of Ordnance Survey.   The brilliant organisation whose head quarters are right here in Southampton.   I was amazed and greatly impressed to learn from a  TV  programme that a few years ago an exercise was carried out using the very latest equipment to check on the accuracy of measurements carried out - what was it,  a couple of hundred years ago -  using compass bearings, measuring chains, and good old  fashioned arithmetic as they built up a pattern of measured triangles covering the whole  of the UK, from which the Ordnance Survey maps were constructed.    And what did the  highly scientific instruments of the 21st century show? If you don't already know I think you can guess, and  our speaker will be telling us more about that, although it should be noted he was not one of those who tramped the land with a measuring chain all those years ago.

May:                    The first Annual General Meeting, for which notices will be sent out to all registere  members by the end of February,     The meeting will be preceded by a slide show of  what we have done during the past year.

  Members of the public are welcome at this meeting, but only registered members will be   allowed to vote.
   A note about 'Registered Members':  
   Upon completion, an 'Application for Membership' form  it is submitted by the Secretary  (That's me) to the committee for their approval.  Needless to say it would be a very rare thing for the committee to reject an  application, such is the high calibre of our members.       No membership fee is charged by our Society  simply an invitation at our meetings  to make a small donation towards running costs

 Perhaps the story of that great, great grand dad who served in Wellington's army.
 Perhaps some anecdotes and a good story about Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton
 Then again, we have another member who has a good story to tell about hiding and moving to safety Jewish people during WW2.
 At the AGM in May we will be asking people if they are getting the sort of programme they wanted when they completed a questionnaire on the subject  in March 2011, the answers to whcih have been our guide to date.     We  have a lot of new members since then,  so time to get an update on what is wanted.

Oh, and by the way - we have two 'field trips' planned, one in June to the western part of the New Forest, and one in September to Portsmouth Dockyard.   We hire a coach for these outings and a highly essential element of them is to ensure an interesting pub is handy, one that serves a good lunch.




Tuesday, 24 January 2012

'Experience and history teach' (G.W.Hegel 1770-1831)

I am told that following my talk about voluntary work in the rural areas of Zimbabwe somebody - who attended one of our meetings for the first time - asked. "What has that got to do with local history?"

The answer is "Absolutely nothing".   And whilst local history is a major consideration with us we are not confined to it.  To quote from the Society's constitution:

'The aims and objects of the Society shall be to encourage the study and practice of history and allied subjects, which shall include matters of historical interest, both indigenous and international...........'

We operate over a very broad field in accordance with the information obtained when, at our first meeting in March 2011 we asked members to complete a form which asked 'What do you want us to talk about'.  The input covered a wide range, from military history, tracing of ancestors, to the history of Southampton Football Club.  We do recognise there is a strong interest in local history, and have some talks lined up which will take care of that.   We are also keen to develop our members interest in Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, of which more in due course.

Another of our aims is to record the experiences and stories of our members, so when at short notice  we were stumped for a speaker at our January meeting I agreed to start this off, by throwing something together and talking about my experiences as a volunteer worker in Zimbabwe which included, but not exclusively, working with Scouts and Guides who came out from the UK to work on clinics and schools in rural areas - way out in the bush. a long, long way from the towns and cities.

I talked about how I was the 'Man on the ground' when the Scouts and Guides of Cleveland, U.K. built and equipped two double class room blocks at Dingani School, Dete, Matabeleland North, and among other things showed a picture of the bush pump, about 1 km from the school, which was its only source of water.

Although I am not too sure how many of our members here in UK read this blog,  I do know it is read in South Africa and in Australia. (I must remember to thank my daughters), and as a result of my posting about Dingani School on this blog I received an email from a gentleman whose home is right in Dingani Village, and who works on a major project in Hwange National Park in addition to doing much to help the local community.  A fantastic contact and I must ask his permission to use his name on this blog.

What I have learned from our Dingani contact is that the school now has piped water on an irregular basis and needs £500 to install a 5 000 litre water tank so as not to be reliant on that bush pump about three quarters of a mile from the school.

Just by discussion with others  we already have five people willing to donate to the cause before  even advertising  it, but  not having anything to do with history it is outside the remit of this Society to handle the donations, nor are we a registered charity, so we cannot handle the donations through our own bank account.   We are in contact with outside sources and will 'make a plan'

This will serve to illustrate how we are keen to assist our members in developing and furthering their personal interests in whatever subject it happens to be.   This is in line with our seeking to help alleviate the social isolation of elderly people in our area.   We want to hear about their experiences and interests, and get them involved again.

Not everybody is willing, or even able to stand in front of a meeting and hold forth on their pet subject.  The way we will handle this is to talk to them in advance, get the story down on a digital voice recorder, then write it up into a 'script'  (Our chairman, the Rev. Robert is very good at reading from scripts, improving on them as he ad-libs), put some pictures on a DVD, and 'interview' the member at a meeting.  We are an informal Society and very relaxed and friendly in our approach to things.

I do know of one of at least two of our members who have some interesting stories to tell about the old days in Hampshire, which I hope will appease those who ask 'What has it got to do with local history'

By the way, I took a line out of context as a header for this bit of blog'   What Georg Hegel said was:
"What experience and history teach is this - that people and governments never have learned anything from history.....".  
  I rest my case.

John G

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

News of Dingani School

It was great today to receive an email from Zimbabwe with the latest news on Dingani School, sent to me by a gentleman  who had read of us on this blog and had recently visited the school.

Dingani  School is still setting a high standard in education  and now has 300 pupils and 8 teachers, with the Cleveland class rooms being put to good use.

 Piped water has now been taken to the school, a great improvement on the 'Bush Pump' I photographed at the school a few years ago, where water was pumped by hand from underground into whatever containers were available,  but  I assume that pump is still in use on the days when piped water does not get through as it is not delivered on a daily basis, and the big drive now is for the school to try to raise enough money to have a storage tank installed.  I have asked for some more information on that.

Hwange District will always have a special place in my heart and it is great to get an update on Dingani School.  Thanks Dought.

The Bush Pump at Dingani School.
The metal pipe forming a bar was pumped up and down - one can just see a hand on it at the end of the pipe, and water brought up from below.

John G.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Supported by Southampton City Council

I am delighted to tell you we have received a grant of money from the Southampton City Council Community Chest, which will enable us to buy the equipment we need to be able to take our presentations to other sheltered housing units in the area.

It also means we are much more flexible in our choice of meeting place, no longer being reliant upon the well equipped TV Room at Manston Court, which our membership has now grown too big for.  We have no wish to leave Manston Court, particularly after the way we are so well looked after by the staff there;  and are working on that one.

We are now allowed to display the Southampton City Council Logo, and the narration 'Supported by Southampton City Council'.    It is something we are proud of.

John G

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Full House

 Monday 9 January  saw such a good turn-out of people for our meeting the room was packed to capacity. I would like to think they flocked there to hear me talk, but as I was a last minute substitute as a speaker, then I have to admit they were there to hear my good friend Ryan Cooper talk about the Mulberry Harbours in WW2, a presentation now scheduled for the March meeting.

In spite of what must have been a big disappointment at Ryan not being there,  we did get three new members sign up, so at least I did nor scare everybody away, for which I am most grateful, and a big welcome to Lynda, Vivienne, and Joan.  (Edited to add:  Welcome also to Mavis - completed form now received by post)

Fact is we have outgrown the capacity of the TV Room at Manston Court, and at a committee meeting later this month we will have to urgently consider our options.

With the grant of money now being made available to us  by the Southampton City Council Community Chest we will, among other things, be able to purchase our own DVD projector and will not be reliant on the equipment in the TV Room at Manston Court.   This means we will be more mobile and able to take our talks to other sheltered housing units in Lordshill, which is one of the objectives of the Society - helping to alleviate the social isolation of elderly people.  It also means we can look for bigger premises for our monthly meetings.

It would be great to be able to stay at Manston Court, and perhaps we will be able to 'make a plan', but the day best suited to us is a Monday, on which day the main lounge at Manston Court is used for other activities.  Robert is looking into that one and I am weighing up Kinloss Court as an alternative.

Kinloss Court has a number of advantages, and now we will be better equipped it is a strong contender as an alternative venue.  We will see what we can come up with and will bounce it off our members to get their opinions.

The February meeting will be on the history and work of SSAFA (Solduers, Sailors, Airmen, and Families Association) at which we look forward to the presence of Bruce Hartnell, Secretary of SSAFA Southampton Division.

Bye for now

John G.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Dingani School, Dete, Matabeleland

In the blurb about the revised programme  for 9 January I showed a picture of Dingani School, Dete.  If you would like a pre-view of the children at that school - with the completed and painted Cleveland classrooms  in the picture -  log on to Dingani School, Dete, for a You Tube production.

Sorry to have had to move the talk on the Mulberry Harbours to March, but that was due to circumstances entirely beyond our control, and, well never mind - we still have that one to look forward to, delivered by a speaker who really knows his subject.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Programme for 9 January

We now have it sorted.

Some pictures screened and a short discussion on whether or not Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing were the first to climb to the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, or did Mallory get there first in 1924.

Then will be a talk, given by me, on my years as a volunteer worker - the 'Man on the Ground' for projects in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, which to a great extent involved working with groups of Scouts and Guides who came out from England for three weeks at a time and worked on community based projects way out in the bush, mainly on building and equipping school class rooms, and on clinics.

 Dingani School, Dete, Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe
The two classroom blocks  nearest camera were built and equipped by the Scouts and Guides of Cleveland, U.K.
  Photo copyright John Gurney 2001

We are in the process of receiving a grant from the Southampton City Council Community Chest with which we will, among other things, be able to buy our own portable DVD projector and a digital voice recorder.  This equipment will enable us to seriously get out into sheltered housing complexes in Lordshill, taking talks to  residents and recording their stories.    I will start it off with a spiel about Matabeleland.

I was given the answer as to how to finish  the programme when I was in the Lordshill Library and spotted a book on the history of Heinz Baked Beans*, which brought back a memory of a few months in 1960 when I was in London, on leave from Australia (I never did get back there - I went to Africa instead).  I had taken a temporary job with a company who operated barges on the River Thames, and with those barges they moved hundreds of tons of raw beans on a daily basis, I continue to be amazed at the sheer volume of all those beans.  So it was with some interest I picked up that book and soon became absorbed in the fascinating history of the Heinz company.

On getting home I telephoned the publishers of the book, Octopus Publishing Group, explaining who we are, and please may we have permission to use material from the book.   An exchange of email followed and we were readily given permission to use copyright material, for which we are very grateful.

I have prepared a talk on the history of the Heinz Company and if there is time we will run it on 9 January, if not it will keep for another time......oh, and by the way, there are some excellent recipes in that book for using Heinz Baked Beans, and the book is available at a very reasonable price from Amazon.  I lost no time in buying a copy, which will cheer up my breakfast beans on toast no end.


*'Heinz Baked Beans.  Recipes, History, Trivia and More'
Copyright: Octopus Publishing Group Ltd 2006

Change of Programme

A quick note to tell you the talk on the Mulberry Harbours has been rescheduled to the March meeting.  I am in the process of putting together a new programme for Monday 9 January from material I keep handy for just such a late change.

Happy new year.