13th June 2018
At the opening of the Annual General Meeting of the Northumbria Club, held on 13th June 2018, the club chairman, Ian Graham, paid tribute to club member David Boll, who died last month. David was a long-standing, loyal, and active member of the club and a former chairman. His last contributions to club life had been to give a talk on County Durham author Robert Surtees in October 2017 and toparticipate in the club’s Christmas entertainment by reading Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”. The chairman noted that the club had been well represented at a memorial eventorganised by David’s family to celebrate his life.
The chairman reviewed the club year and noted especially the great success of the guest night, held at the Army and Navy Club, and the great impact made by the guest speaker on that occasion Professor Peter Styles. The chairman thanked the club secretary, Michael Robson, treasurer Simon Sefton, and website manager, Tim Bittlestone, for their hard work on behalf of the club during the past year. The secretary and treasurer presented their reports, the treasurer noting that the club was showing a healthy financial surplus year on year.
The members present (including two new members) dined together after the meeting. After dinner club member Ian Cooper entertained the members with an interesting and often amusing account of the unusual places he had visited and the unusual characters he had sometimes met during a career of international travel.
7th March 2018
The Northumbria Club met for its annual guest night on 7th March at the Army and Navy Club in London, hosted by club member Alex Hira. The chairman of the club, Ian Graham, was in the chair.
After dinner the chairman welcomed the club’s guest of honour and speaker, Professor Peter Styles, Emeritus Professor of geophysics at Keele University. Prof. Styles began by outlining his own Northumbrian origins in Broomhill and Amble, where his grandfather was a miner. He went to the Duke’s School and, having won the Headmaster’s Prize for outstanding academic achievement, then went to study physics at Wadham College Oxford. A doctorate in geophysics from Newcastle University followed and then teaching jobs at Swansea and Liverpool Universities before becoming Professor at Keele.
The theme of Prof. Styles’s talk was climate change and energy. He spoke of the reality of climate change and put a 14 year time frame on certain changes becoming irreversible. He also spoke about sources of energy and the consequences of continuing to use certain sources of energy, particularly gas, which we have come to take for granted. He advocated that “fracking” might well be a way forward and pointed out that if the countries of western Europe continue to import so much energy then they must accept some of the ethical dilemmas that are thrown up as to the sources of that energy.
Prof. Styles was always erudite and engaging but was also challenging and at times provocative. It was a most stimulating evening with lively discussions between the professor and club members. At the end of his talk a vote of thanks was given by club member Ian Cooper and Prof. Styles was presented with a club tie by Victoria Cooper.
6th December 2017
The Northumbria Club held its annual Christmas Dinner at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 6th December.
After welcoming members and guests club chairman Ian Graham reported on the memorial service for recently deceased club member John Entwisle. The service was at St Bride’s Fleet Street and had been an excellent tribute to John’s memory with rousing hymns (two of them associated with the Duke’s School), lovely music from the choir, and eulogies from his nephew Joseph and a work colleague from Reuters. The chairman was particularly pleased that the club was so well represented at the service.
After dinner there was Christmas entertainment in the form of carols and Christmas songs led by the chairman. David Boll read Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”. Although better known in its musical settings the poem was originally published without music in 1872. It was not until 1906 that Gustav Holst composed the setting for congregational singing and it was five years later that Harold Darke wrote his beautiful choral setting, recently voted by musicians and critics the greatest Christmas carol of all. The chairman read “The Bethlehem Charabanc Trip” by Gary Hogg. This humorous poem imagines what the first Christmas might have been like if Mary and Joseph had been Geordies.
The evening ended with the chairman reminding members that the club’s next meeting will be a guest night on Wednesday 7th March at the Army & Navy Club (courtesy of club member Alex Hira). The guest speaker will be Professor Peter Styles, old boy of the Duke’s School and Professor Emeritus of Keele University.
11th October 2017
The Northumbria Club started its autumn meeting in solemn mood as the Chairman Ian Graham recalled the recent death of Club Member John Entwisle. John was an old boy of the Duke's School and his Northumbrian roots went back much further as his maternal grandfather had been a teacher at Edward VI School in Morpeth. After qualifying as an archivist, John spent most of his career as archivist at Reuter's news agency a job that gave him enormous personal and professional satisfaction. He had an extensive knowledge of the architecture of Lutyens as well as social history and novels of the Victorian era. He was a long-standing and loyal member of the Club and the Chairman paid tribute to him.
After dinner the Chairman welcomed guest Gavin Doig, barrister and Head of New Park Court Chambers in Newcastle.
There was then a talk by club member David Boll about the nineteenth century writer Robert Surtees. Surtees came from a well-to do County Durham family whose seat was at Hamsterley Hall. He was a second son so never expected to inherit the estate and after a brief flirtation with a career in the law he turned to writing. His books very much reflected his own country interests, particularly hunting, and he poked gentle fun at those in country society. He created the character of “Jorrocks” and also the more dubious “Mr Sponge” and his work was said to provide the inspiration for Charles Dickens's “Pickwick Papers”. He did in fact inherit the family estate following the death of his father and elder brother and never published under his own name thereafter. David illustrated his talk with readings from more than one of Surtees's works, demonstrating his light and witty style of writing.
David was thanked by the Chairman who reminded members that the next meeting would be the pre-Christmas gathering on 6th December.
The Northumbria Club held its AGM on 7 June at the National Liberal Club in London.The AGM elected His Honour Ian Graham as Chairman, Simon Sefton as Treasurer and Michael Robson as Secretary. The chairman thanked Chris Dean the previous secretary for his many years of service to the club..
The AGM was followed by a dinner and a talk by Ian Graham which was entitled Sir Edward Grey the longest serving Foreign Secretary in British history.
The talk started with the shocking fact that Edward Grey was not born in Northumberland but in London on 25 April 1862 entering the House of Commons in the 1885 General Election as the Liberal MP for Berwick upon Tweed which he held until his retirement in 1916.
Edward was given his first government post as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in 1892 which he held until 1895. In 1903 he was appointed Foreign Secretary and played an important role in trying to mediate to prevent the outbreak of war.His most famous remark " the lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time" followed the invasion of Belgium by Germany and the entry f Britain into the First World War.
He resigned in 1916 and never returned to government although he held a number of positions outside of government including Chancellor of Oxford University in 1928.
Sir Edward Grey died on7 September 1933 and his ashes are buried in the grounds of Fallodon Hall.
The Northumbria Club held its annual Guest Night at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 15th March. Club Chairman Ian Graham was in the chair.
The Guest Speaker was Steve Hails, who is Director of Health and Safety for the Thames Tideway Tunnel project.
Steve was born and brought up in Tynemouth before joining the Royal Navy as a submariner. Subsequently he worked for Proctor & Gamble and Siemens before being recruited to the Crossrail Project.
He spoke about the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which is a project to renew large sections of London's sewers. The capital is still served by a sewerage system devised by Joseph Bazalgette in 1860 and it is a tribute to his brilliant engineering that the system can still service a population that has increased in number fourfold.
It is hoped that the new system will be operating by 2023. It is the UK's largest ever wastewater project, with a £4.2bn budget (all raised from private finance) and 24 construction sites. It is planned that the new system will serve London for the next 150-200 years, dealing with an annual quantity of sewage that would fill the Royal Albert Hall 450 times over.
Following a lively question and answer session, Steve was thanked by the Chairman and presented with a Club Tie.
The Northumbria Club held its Christmas Dinner at the National Liberal Club on 7th December 2016. The Club was happy to welcome a new member and several guests. Members enjoyed a meal of traditional Christmas fare.
After dinner the members entertained themselves with Christmas songs and readings. The songs and carols were led by Club Chairman, Ian Graham. John Entwisle read King John’s Christmas from “Now we are Six” by AA Milne (written in 1927) and the last few pages of “the Good Master” by Kate Seredy (from 1935). David Boll read a poetic evocation of winter.
The Northumbria Club held its autumn meeting and dinner at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 5th October.
After dinner, Club Chairman Ian Graham introduced the evening’s guest speaker, Clive Osborne. He noted that Mr Osborne is a barrister by profession and had spent his career in the government legal service, acting as a legal advisor to the Home Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Northern Ireland office. For six years he was legal advisor to the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Now retired, Mr Osborne sits as a Justice of the Peace and is a Bencher of Gray’s Inn.
The title of Mr Osborne’s talk was “The Other Newcastle” for he is a native of Newcastle under Lyme in Staffordshire, rather than Newcastle upon Tyne. He traced the origins of the town back to the twelfth century but pointed out that Newcastle had resisted becoming one of the Pottery Towns. The Wedgwood family had exerted considerable influence nonetheless, with one of that family being MP for Newcastle, first as a Liberal and then as a Labour MP.
A literary name associated with Newcastle was Arnold Bennett and the town appears (as “Oldcastle”) in at least one of his novels. The original Duke of Newcastle was associated with Newcastle upon Tyne but when that line died out a Dukedom of Newcastle under Lyme was created. That lasted for several generations but that line too has now died out. Newcastle had been a stronghold for the parliamentary side in the Civil War and provided one of the judges at the trial of Charles II and one of the signatories to his death warrant.
Following questions which ranged from the reluctance of Newcastle to accept the railway to whether its inhabitants think of themselves as northerners or midlanders, the evening concluded with the Chairman thanking Mr Osborne for his talk.
The Northumbria Club AGM, which was held in the National Liberal Club in London on the 8th June 2016 , was presided over by Ian Graham Chairman of the Northumbria Club.
The AGM was followed by a dinner with the after dinner speaker being Mark Skilbeck on the topic of the Yetholm Common Riding.
Mark's talk covered the history of the ride and in particular the influence of the gypsy community in the early years. Marks talk was supported by various brochures and memorabilia from different years of Common Ridings in which he had participated. The ride being led by the Bari Gadgi and Bari Manushi, both good old Northumbrian words, who are chosen each year. Mark described the ride via the Stob Stanes, which used to mark the border between England and Scotland, and Bowmont Hill Farm and the return to Yetholm.
Members of the Northumbria Club and their guests welcomed the Rt Hon. Lord Shipley of Gosforth OBE as their Guest of Honour at their annual Guest Night, held at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 9th March.
John Shipley had been a member of Newcastle City Council for 36 years and its leader for five, before his elevation to the House of Lords in 2010.He has been a member of the Board of “One North-East”, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Advisory Panel of the Regional Growth Fund, and Chairman of the Prince's Trust North East.
Speaking of his own family origins, Lord Shipley was able to trace ancestors back to Newcastle and Glanton, and pointed out that there is a Shipley Village just four miles from Alnwick. He spoke often amusingly about his time in House of Lords, some of its arcane procedures, and almost getting his hand caught in an (apparently very necessary) mouse trap in the House of Lords dining room.
Lord Shipley also spoke of the North East and the changes he had seen during his time in public life there. He spoke of a changing economy, with the decline of heavy industry and an economy now much more geared towards tourism, service industries, and education. He even had some warm words about Greggs sausage rolls, which have now reached as far as Essex.
At the end of his talk, Lord Shipley was thanked by the Club Chairman, Ian Graham, and presented with a Club Tie as a memento of the occasion.
The Northumbria Club held its Christmas Dinner at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 9th December. After a traditional Christmas meal: turkey, particularly fine Christmas pudding, and mince pies, members provided the entertainment,as has become the Club's tradition. Club Chairman Ian Graham and Tim Bittlestone led the singing of Christmas carols and songs ranging from "White Christmas!" through "Hark the herald Angels Sing" to "The Twelve days of Christmas".
There were also recitations of prose and poetry. John Enwisle read from Dyaln Thomas's recollection of his childhood Christmases. Fred Taylor gave a humorous story about Geordie facility with mathematics. Edith Robson brought a wintry ghost story about Jacobitism in North Northumberland. David Boll read a poem entitled The Oxon by Thomas Hardy. Colin Welsh rounded off the entertainment with a humorous poem about a Northumbrian man shopping for a Christmas present for his girlfriend. First of all he wanted to buy her a partridge but then also fancied the perch it was on. 'That's not a perch', said the shopkeeper, 'that's a pear tree'. Worried that the partridge is very quiet the shopper asks if the shopkeeper has any birds that make a noise. Funnily enough he had: two calling birds. And so it went on...
The Northumbria Club held its autumn meeting on Wednesday 14th October 2015 at the National Liberal Club. After dinner the Club Chairman, Ian Graham, introduced the Guest of Honour, the Very Reverend Nicholas Henshall, Dean of Chelmsford, who was accompanied by his wife Christine (who was born and brought up in Ryhope).
Dean Henshall spent the early years of his ordained ministry in the Diocese of Newcastle, having been ordained by the Bishop of Newcastle. He spoke of being a curate in Blyth before his appointment as Vicar of Scotswood.
His time in Scotswood was the main theme of his talk. He arrived to find a large Edwardian Church but with only twelve people attending regularly on Sunday. He found an area blighted by long term unemployment and loss of hope. The vicarage was burgled five times in their first year. He said the key was to see his ministry as not just to the Anglican parishioners but to the community. He and Christine began to be accepted; they sent their children to the local schools. He found somewhat to his surprise that evensong was quite a draw for the local children. He was able to give support to efforts to create local business initiatives. And he spoke of the many wonderful Tyneside characters he encountered in this challenging ministry.
As well as progress there were setbacks, and he was clearly disenchanted with the City Council's plans for the redevelopment of Scotswood, which he saw as destroying rather than rebuilding the community to which he ministered.
It was a fascinating talk: at times funny, at times moving, at times almost tragic, yet always engaging and stimulating.
The Northumbria Club held its Annual General Meeting in the National Liberal Club in London on 10 June 2015. The meeting was well attended with 2 new members attending for the first time.
The Chairman, His Honour Judge Ian Graham gave a resume of the years events, including our Guest Night dinner with Sir Alan Beith, and thanked the Secretary and Treasurer fo another years hard work.
The Treasurer,Chris Dean, presented the accounts and confirmed that the club was in good financial health and that he saw no need to increase subscriptions for the following year.
The Secretary, Michael Robson, gave his report and commented that the Northumbria club website at www.northumbriaclub.com was still receiving a number of enquiries.
The Chairman,Secretary and Treasurer, who were all due to retire this year, were elected unaminously for a second two year term of office..
The formal AGM was followed by a talk on the Stephenson family by club member John Wheatley.
John Wheatley’s talk started with the life of George Stephenson and his upbringing in Northumberland at the start of the industrial revolution. This was followed by details of how his son Roberts career developed through steam pumping engines in the pits to the building of steam locomotives with the building of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the locomotive Locomotion, this was followed by Robert winning the Rainhill trials in 1829.In addition to building locomotives they also built complete railways and whilst few of their locomotives now survive their feats of engineering are landmarks in the Northumberland e.g. The Royal Border Bridge at Berwick and the High Level Bridge at Newcastle.
The Stephenson family were not only locomotive engineers they also developed the miners safety lamp, called the Geordie Lamp which was used in the north east for most of the 19thcentury and which saved countless lives.
The talk was followed by a buffet supper.
The Northumbria Club was delighted to welcome Berwick upon Tweed MP Sir Alan Beith as its principal guest of honour on 4th March. The guest night is always one of the highlights of the club’s year and this evening attracted more than 40 members and guests who enjoyed a private dinner at the National Liberal Club. Other distinguished guests included Lady Beith (Baroness Maddock) who is a working peer in the House of Lords and a former councillor on Berwick upon Tweed Borough Council.
Sir Alan was welcomed by club chairman Ian Graham, who recalled Sir Alan’s long and distinguished service as MP for Berwick upon Tweed and pointed out that he is now the longest serving MP for a Northumberland seat since the introduction of universal adult suffrage.
Sir Alan spoke warmly and wittily about his time as MP for Berwick, recalling changing economic and social conditions that had arisen during his time and highlighting some of the issues on which he felt he had been able to make a difference. He explained some of the particular difficulties in representing such a large and rural constituency, with 120 villages and hamlets all with their own special problems.
At the conclusion of the evening Sir Alan was presented with a club tie by Catriona Robson, daughter of the club secretary Michael Robson. Sir Alan, in accepting the tie, recalled dancing with Catriona’s grandmother in Alnwick 40 years ago as a newly elected MP.
The Northumbria Club held its' Christmas event ,on the 10 December, at the National Liberal Club in London. The event was attended by 23 members and their guests who enjoyed an excellent evening of readings and carols.The carols were led by the Northumbria Club Chairman, Ian Graham and were interspersed with recitals from Northumbria Club members Edith Robson,David Watts,David Boll,John Entwisle along with a description of Christmas in South Africa from guest Victor Nene.
The Northumbria Club had its first meeting of the 2014/15 session on 8th October at the National Liberal Club. The Club Chairman, Ian Graham, took the chair and 21 members and guests attended.
The Guest of Honour and speaker after dinner was Her Honour Judge Deborah Taylor. In introducing her, the Chairman noted that her father, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, had prosecuted both Jeremy Thorpe, whose portrait hangs in the Smoking Room of the National Liberal Club, and associates of T Dan Smith, a former chairman of the Northumbria Club.
Judge Taylor’s subject was “Music in Prisons” but she started by speaking of her own Northumbrian background, having been born and brought up in Newcastle and attending Central High School. She also spoke of her parents and their own deep loyalty to Tyneside.
It was following the death of her mother over 20 years ago that the Taylor family set up the Irene Taylor Trust in her memory to facilitate the use of music in prisons as a tool of rehabilitation. And two decades on, this important work still continues and flourishes. It has been found that teaching music to prisoners can generate a feeling of self-worth in people who have often never succeeded at anything in their lives. It is also a pointer to the better things that can be part of life. And the act of creating music and writing lyrics for that music can teach a powerful tool of self-expression. Music in Prisons can boast notable success stories, some of which Judge Taylor told us about, including some ex-prisoners who are pursuing a career in the music world.
It was a fascinating and uplifting talk and the evening was much enjoyed by the club members and their guests.
1 Whitehall Place, London, United Kingdom
The Club's next meeting will be our Christmas Meeting at the National Liberal Club on the 12th December 2018 at 1800 for 1830.
The dates for 2019 are as follows;
13th March 2019 - Guest Night - Army and Navy Club
19th June 2019 - AGM -
9th October 2019 - Autumn Meeting
27th November 2019
10th October 2018
Surprising career changes was the title of club member Tim Bittlestone’s talk to the autumn meeting of the Northumbria Club, held at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 10th October.
Tim spent his early years in Warkworth, before moving to Durham when a teenager. From Framwellgate Moor School he went to Nottingham Law School and he qualified as a solicitor in Sunderland in 2002. After three years practice as a solicitor (and despite becoming one of the youngest partners in the country) Tim’s first career change took him away from the law and to Africa to work with under-privileged children.
After a year’s break Tim returned to criminal law this time working in London. He highlighted the increasing pressures that legal aid lawyers face. After representing some high profile clients in some particularly unpleasant cases, Tim resolved that another career change was called for. He obtained a master’s degree in internet law from Strathclyde University. He still maintains his criminal practice but also works now for Transport for London.
He was able to give a wide-ranging description of how that organisation works, especially as to how underground train drivers (of which there are more than 3,500) are selected, trained, and operate. After a fascinating, and often very personal, talk Tim answered question from club members and then he was thanked by the Club Chairman Ian Graham.