The Northumbria Club met at the Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, on Wednesday 25.10.23. There were 16 members in attendance and 4 distinguished guests. The Club’s new Chairman, Ian Grainger, was in the chair for the first time.
The events planned for the forthcoming year were outlined. Dates of the planned meetings are on the website, with the possible exception of the AGM. The Chairman explained that a possible trip to the North East was being considered, to mark the fact that this year is the Club’s 50th anniversary. Whether, when and where such a trip occurs will depend in part on feedback from members. If a trip does happen and with a sufficient attendance by members, then the AGM might also be held during that trip.
After an excellent dinner, Ian Grainger spoke on “G.M.Trevelyan – A passion for walking in Northumberland and Italy”. The first part of the talk involved a brief overview of Trevelyan’s family background and personal achievements, both in the writing of history (Italian and British) and in wider spheres of public life, including among many other things his extensive work for the National Trust and his presidency of the Youth Hostels Association. Attention was also given to his volunteering during World War 1 to command the first British Red Cross ambulance brigade in Italy, on the Isonzo and later on the Piave front, an experience lasting over three years about which he wrote Scenes from Italy’s War. The second part of the talk was a consideration (largely using Trevelyan’s own words) of his compulsive need to walk, often for distances which would now be thought demanding. Various passages were read from various essays, covering his experiences in and his response to walks on both sides of the Scottish Border and in different parts of Italy. The talk allowed the new Chairman to share with members two of his own personal passions, namely Northumberland and Italy, matching those of the great historian from Wallington.
The Annual General Meeting of the Northumbria Club was held at the Army & Navy Club in Pall Mall, on 28 June 2023, with His Honour Judge Ian Graham in the chair. As explained below, this was the last meeting to be chaired by Judge Graham.
After more routine business, including the approval of the Accounts, the chair reported on a successful year of meetings. The first was a dinner in October 2022 addressed by Christopher Dorman O’Gowan on matters military, legal, Northumbrian and Irish. The Christmas meeting had no speaker but members and officers read or performed seasonal and other convivial pieces, both prose and poetry. The Annual Guest Night in March 2023 was an extremely successful occasion, both in terms of the number of members and guests present and because of the excellent talk on Sir Edward Grey by Professor Thomas Otte. (All of the above events are already reported in detail in the Archives section of the Club’s website.)
Two further matters of substance were on the agenda of the AGM. The first concerned the issue of where the club would hope to meet in future, inflation and the pandemic both having had an unfortunate effect on the cost of appropriate venues. There was a full discussion in the light of views expressed at the meeting and of opinions expressed by other members by email beforehand. The general (and essentially unanimous) outcome was that it is hoped that the Army & Navy Club, which has always been a venue, will play an even greater role in future.
The election of officers then fell to be considered. Judge Graham had already expressed a desire to step down after 10 years as chairman. He expressed his gratitude to Michael Robson and Simon Sefton for their sterling help as Secretary and Treasurer in this and earlier years. They were both elected by acclamation for a further term of 2 years. His Honour Ian Grainger, a retired Circuit Judge and a member since 2018, had indicated his willingness to be chairman for a similar 2 year term. There being no other candidate, he too was elected by acclamation.
Finally, Michael Robson made a short speech in tribute to the role played by Ian Graham over the last 10 years. As a mark of the club’s gratitude and affection, Judge Graham was presented with a fountain pen.
A dinner then took place, after which Ian Grainger gave a brief account of his own history and enthusiasms by way of introduction to his new chairmanship. He explained that at the next meeting (on 25th October at the Army & Navy), he would himself speak after dinner on “George Macaulay Trevelyan – a passion for walking in Northumberland and Italy”. A new attendance book was first used tonight.
More than twenty members and more than a dozen guests assembled at the Army and Navy Club for the Northumbria Club's Annual Guest Night on Wednesday 8th March. The chairman of the club, His Honour Judge Ian Graham was in the chair. The Vice President of the Club, Lord Beith of Berwick, was in attendance.
The meeting started on a sombre note as the chairman reported the death of Jean Bell since the club's last meeting. She was the last of the club's "honorary lady members" from a time when the club did not admit women to full membership. Jean continued to attend guest nights as long as she was able and retained an interest in how the club was doing.
After dinner the chairman introduced the guest speaker Professor Thomas Otte. He is professor of diplomatic history at the University of East Anglia, with his specialist academic interest being the history of great power relations from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. His most notable recent work is a biography of Sir Edward Grey (Viscount Grey of Fallodon), which won the New Statesman book of the year award in 2020 and a similar award from the Spectator in 2021.
Sir Edward Grey, whose Northumberland home was at Fallodon, north-east of Alnwick, was MP for Berwick upon Tweed 1885-1916 and Foreign Secretary 1905-1916. Professor Otte gave not just the narrative of Grey's career but was able to place it in the context of domestic politics at the time (and a fraught relationship with Lloyd George) and of international diplomacy in the years leading up to the First World War. He also highlighted Gray's progressive views (on the role of women for example) and even his interest in environmental issues.
At the end of his talk Clive Osborne gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the guests and proposed a final toast - to the Northumbria Club.
The Northumbria Club met for its Christmas Dinner at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 8th December. Club Chairman Ian Graham was in the chair. A traditional Christmas meal was served followed by mince pies. After dinner the chairman in his remarks was pleased to record that a member of the club had had a part in the funeral arrangements for her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Christian Mannsaker had represented the Royal Navy in a Guard of Honour at the beginning and end of the Queen's lying in state.
The evening's entertainment was provided by club members who were asked to provide readings suitable for a Christmas party. Peter Cocks read the anonymous poem "The Race"; Edith Robson read "A Child's Christmas" by George Mackay Brown: an account of his childhood Christmases in the Orkneys. The chairman read the account of the Fezziwig's ball from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. The entertainment ended with Mary Marggraf's spirited reading of Harvey Ehrlich's highly amusing "A Politically Correct Christmas Poem".
The entertainment and the evening were enjoyed in festive spirit by a good turnout of members, new members and guests.
A goodly number of members and guests attended the Northumbria Club's autumn meeting at the National Liberal Club on 12th October. The meeting was chaired by Club Chairman Ian Graham.
The Chairman was proud to note that there had been a significant Northumbrian presence in the funeral arrangements of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. One of the young men carrying her coffin during the London ceremonies was David Sanderson, a Grenadier Guard, who is an old boy of King Edward VI School Morpeth.
After dinner the Chairman introduced the evening's guest speaker, Christopher Dorman O'Gowan. Christopher started his career as a professional soldier, serving as a captain in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and seeing active service in Northern Ireland. He then qualified as a barrister and practised out of chambers in Newcastle until his recent retirement. He specialised in criminal work, with a particular interest in courts martial and firearms law. In retirement he gives lectures on military history, particularly on the battle of El Alamein in which his father played a significant role.
Christopher told the club that his connection with Northumbria went back to before his birth. His father had served in the First World War with both the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Durham Light Infantry and formed a high opinion of the men from the North East. Christopher felt he should follow his father's lead when it came to choosing the place where he should make his life and career. So he joined chambers in Newcastle and has lived most of his life in Northumberland. He shared with the club a few selections of Northumbrian dialect that he had first found impenetrable, then found rather charming, and now just regarded as perfectly normal.
Christopher was warmly thanked by the Chairman, who noted that they had started at the bar in Newcastle together in the same year - 1979.
The Northumbria Club AGM was held on 7th June at the National Liberal Club in London under the chairmanship of His Honour Judge Ian Graham.
Ian opened the meeting by reporting the recent sad death of club member Professor Fred Taylor.
Fred was born in Amble and his mother was head teacher at the infant school on Windsor Gardens Alnwick.
Fred was an old boy of the Duke's School. He won the Headmaster's Prize before going on to Liverpool University to read physics. From Liverpool he moved on to Jesus College Oxford to do a doctorate and that is where his interest in space exploration developed. That inevitably took him to the USA where he spent some years before returning to Oxford in 1979. He eventually became head of the Department of Atmospheric Physics and professor in 1984. He retired as professor in 2011. He wrote 12 books on atmospheric and planetary physics.
He was a keen supporter of this club although the travel from Oxford increasingly made it difficult for him to attend meetings. He always played a full part when he did attend and he enjoyed the "zoom " meetings during lockdown.
This AGM marks the completion of a full year of "normal" meetings after the various restrictions caused by Covid.
In October 2021 I spoke about the MPs for Berwick upon Tweed and this meeting was open to the members of the National Liberal Club in an attempt to build on our nearly ten year relationship with that Club.
December 2021 saw seasonal (and other) readings from members after dinner including a recitation from the secretary of "The Laidley Worm of Spindlestone Heugh".
March 2022 brought our annual guest night at the Army and Navy Club. This was a well attended and most enjoyable evening. Our guest speaker was Philip Benham, chairman of the friends of the National Railway Museum, who gave an illustrated talk about Robert Stephenson.
My thanks to the secretary Michael Robson, treasurer Simon Sefton, and our website controller Tim Bittlestone for their work and support during the year.
And finally... I was very pleased to note during Her Majesty the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations that "The Keel Row" was used for one of the quick marches during the Trooping of the Colour.
Members of the Northumbria Club entertained sixteen guests at the club’s annual guest night on Wednesday 9th March 2022. The guest night was held at the Army and Navy Club in Central London.
After dinner the guest speaker was Philip Benham. Philip had spent his career working in railways, mainly working on the east coast line between London and the North-East. He is now Chairman of the Friends of the National Railway Museum in York and Chairman of the Gresley Society which promotes interest in the work of Sir Nigel Gresley who was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the original London and North-Eastern Railway.
Philip’s illustrated talk was entitled “From Willington Quay to Westminster Abbey” and his subject was Robert Stephenson. Robert, who was the son of George Stephenson, was educated at school in Newcastle and then at Edinburgh University. From an early age he worked in his father’s locomotive business on Tyneside and soon acquired a formidable reputation as an engineer himself. From locomotive engineering he branched out into civil engineering and an early project was the first railway between London and Birmingham. His reputation was such that his work was sought abroad and he took on projects in South America and Canada. He even found time to be MP for Whitby from 1847 until his death in 1859 at the age of just 55. He was granted a grand funeral at Westminster Abbey, where he is buried. He has been hailed as the greatest engineer of the 19th century.
Following Philip’s talk a vote of thanks was proposed on behalf of the club by Michael Robson, club secretary. His Honour David Owen-Jones offered thanks for the evening on behalf of the club’s guests.
Wednesday 15th December 2021.
After a traditional Christmas meal members entertained each other with seasonal readings.
Club Secretary Michael Robson read traditional Northumberland folk ballad The Laidley Worm of Spindlestone Heugh. Club member Malcolm Smailes read "A Visit from St Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore. Guest Deborah Smailes read "King John's Christmas" by AA Milne, partly as a tribute to the late John Entwisle. Club Chairman Ian Graham read "Talking Turkeys" by Benjamin Zephaniah, and "On the thirteenth day of Christmas" by Dave Calder.
Wednesday 13th October 2021
After dinner the club chairman His Honour Judge Ian Graham gave a talk entitled "The MPs for Berwick upon Tweed 1885-1973".
The first MP was Sir Edward Grey (later Viscount Grey of Fallodon), foreign secretary at the time of the First World War and who remains the longest serving foreign secretary in British history. Another distinguished and influential figure who was MP for the seat was William Beveridge, widely regarded as father of the welfare state.
A particularly poignant story was that of George Grey. who was at both Dunkirk and the Normandy landings. He was MP from 1941-1944 and was killed in action in France in 1944 and buried by his men where he had fallen. He was only 25 years old.
Judge Graham’s favourite MP was Mabel Philipson, who was a former actress and gaiety girl. She stood for the seat in 1923 when her husband was disqualified because of an irregularity in his election expenses. She proved to be a very effective campaigner, although by the end of the by-election campaign she had lost her voice. There was such a crowd of people at the declaration of the result that she ended up with a black eye inadvertently caused by a policeman. She turned out to be a popular and successful MP in the constituency (twice re-elected), and an effective MP in the House of Commons. She steered through parliament a private members bill to provide for the licensing and inspection of nursing homes. She was only the third woman to sit in the House of Commons.
Lord Beith of Berwick, who was Berwick upon Tweed’s longest serving MP, is vice-president of the Northumbria Club.
4th March 2020
The Northumbria Club held its annual guest night at the Army and Navy Club on Pall Mall on Wednesday 4th March, presided over by club chairman Ian Graham. The club welcomed 14 guests, including Guest of Honour Sally O'Neill who is Deputy Treasurer to the Queen at the Royal Household.
Sally O'Neill is an accountant by profession but has spent most of her career in the world of arts or heritage. She worked at the National Theatre before becoming Finance Director of the Historic Royal Palaces. Shen then became Finance Director of the Royal Opera House before taking up her present post in 2018.
After dinner Sally spoke of some of the particular accounting issues in her area of work. She introduced the club to the concept of “segregation” in accountancy, tracing it back to the Jesuits in the 16th century and the idea that the cash box must have two keys, both of which were needed to open it and each of which must be held by a different person. She also expanded on the idea of “purpose”, particularly in relation to arts organisations: keeping a constant eye on what it is that the organisation is there to do. She spoke of the particular responsibilties of organisations that receive public subsidy and highlighted the “outreach” work (workshops with young people, cinema broadcasts of live performances) carried out by the Royal Opera House.After Sally's talk there was a lively question and answer session which pursued some of these themes. The evening ended with a vote of thanks to Sally from Walley Turnbull on behalf of the guests and a more formal vote of thanks from the chairman.
27th November 2019
The Northumbria Club held it's last dinner of the year, on the 27th November, at the National Liberal Club in London ,with Ian Graham in the chair.
The chairman welcomed the members and their guests to the dinner and was pleased to announce that Lord Beith of Berwick upon Tweed had accepted the position of Vice President of the Northumbria Club.
The after dinner speaker was David Watt, a Northumbria Club member, who continued the tradition of club members speaking at one of our meetings during the year.
2nd October 2019
Quizzes on radio and television were the subject of an after dinner talk at the Northumbria Club’s autumn meeting.. The club met at the National Liberal Club and club Chairman Ian Graham was in the chair. The Chairman started by welcoming an unusually large number of guests, some of whom were making their first visit to the club.
After dinner the Chairman introduced the evening’s speaker club member Bill Muir, who spoke about his passion for, and active participation in, television and radio quizzes. Bill was brought up in Consett and attended the Royal grammar School in Newcastle before going on to Wadham College Oxford. It was while at Oxford that his interest in quizzes started with participation in “University Challenge” in the days when quiz-master was Bamber Gascoigne (still alive and well in his 80s and now hosting Grange Park Opera at his country estate in Surrey). From there Bill moved on to individual quizzes, notably “Mastermind” with Magnus Magnussen, and “Brain of Britain” with Robert Robinson. Bill shared with the club behind the scenes insights into these programmes, including challenges to answers given as ‘correct’, and he gave members some of his favourite questions and answers.
At the end of his talk Bill was thanked by the Chairman and members were reminded that the club’s winter meeting will be on Wednesday 27th November when our speaker will be David Watt.
18th June 2019
The Northumbria Club held its Annual General Meeting at the National Liberal Club on 19th June 2019. Treasurer Simon Sefton presented the club's accounts, which continue to show a healthy balance. The chairman, Ian Graham, presented his review of the club's year. He first noted with sadness the death of longtime and loyal club member Chris Emmerson. On a happier note the Chairman congratulated club member Linda Turnbull on her recent election as a bencher of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn: a signal honour within the legal profession. The chairman reviewed the club's year which had seen talks by club members Ian Cooper (on international meetings he had attended), Tim Bittlestone (on a career that had ranged - so far - from being a solicitor to driving a train), and Udo Marggraf (on the World Bank). The chairman looked forward to welcoming a very special guest at the October meeting: LJ Ross, author of Northumbrian murder mysteries.
The meeting saw the three officers of the club (including Michael Robson as secretary) re-elected for another term of office.
After dinner the club treasurer Simon Sefton gave a talk on the London School of Economics, where he had worked in the finance department. The LSE had been founded in the late nineteenth century by Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Wallas and George Bernard Shaw who laid the foundations of its reputation for radical politics. It had always been especially attractive to students from overseas, a pattern that continues today. It has a long list of distinguished alumni that includes 55 heads pf government and 18 nobel laureates. Its alumni include characters as diverse as Bernard Levin and Monica Lewinsky.
Simon was thanked by the chairman, who looked forward to seeing club members next on Wednesday 2nd October.
13th March 2019
The World Bank was the subject of an after dinner talk at the Northumbria Club's Guest Night held at the Army and Navy Club on Pall Mall.
Members welcomed fourteen guests to the evening, which was chaired by Club Chairman Ian Graham. After dinner the Chairman introduced the speaker, club member Udo Marggraf. Udo told members of the foundation of the World Bank in 1944 as a result of ideas from American Harry Dexter White and Englishman John Maynard Keynes. The Bank now represents 188 countries: the principal voting power in its governance still rests with the USA but other significant countries now include Japan, China, and India.
The main function of the Bank is to provide loans to countries all over the world for capital projects. The attraction of such loans is the low interest rates that the Bank is able to offer. The Bank will always however retain a supervisory role in the carrying-out of the practical projects. And it was that aspect of the Bank's work that had brought Udo into it.
His background was as a railway engineer in Germany, where he had worked on the Frankfurt Regional Rapid Transport system. Having the requisite experience he sought a secondment to the World Bank. Initially joining for three years, he ended up staying with them for 22. Railway projects he became involved in took him around the globe including China, Mongolia, North Africa, and the Middle East. In Jordan he worked on reconstructing a railway in the area of Aqaba and saw the very railway lines that had been blown up by Laurence of Arabia.
After an always informative and often highly amusing talk, the Chairman proposed a formal vote of thanks to Udo Marggraf. This was followed by Clive Osborne proposing an impromptu vote of thanks on behalf of the guests.
12th December 2018
The Northumbria Club enjoyed its pre-Christmas meeting at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 12th December with Club Chairman, His Honour Judge Ian Graham in the chair.
The Chairman started on a sombre note as he remembered those club members who are no longer with us as another year comes to an end, particularly those who were regular and valued contributors to the club's Christmas entertainment.
The club members enjoyed a traditional Christmas meal followed by mince pies. After dinner the Chairman led the singing of traditional Christmas songs and carols. Ian Johnson read a humorous poem about "Old St Nick" and Edith Robson read some winter poetry from Orkney.
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.
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.
Army and Navy Club, 36-39 Pall Mall, St James's, London, SW1Y 5JN
The next meeting of the Northumbria Club will be the Guest Night on 13.3.24 at 18.00 for 18.30. The meeting will take place at the Army & Navy Club. After dinner, there will be an illustrated talk on The After-Life of St Cuthbert by Dr Lesley Milner FSA, an architectural historian who previously lived in Corbridge for many years.
22 May 2024 AGM venue to be confirmed
9 October 2024 Autumn Meeting at the Army and Navy Club when our guest speaker will be Chris Hunwick, Archivist at Alnwick Castle.
4 December 2024 Christmas event at the Army and Navy Club
The Club met in the Library of the Army & Navy Club on Wednesday 13.12.23. Ian Grainger was in the chair. The meeting was both the traditional Christmas meeting and an occasion to mark the fact that 2023 was the 50th anniversary of the Northumbria Club. There were 20 members present and 13 distinguished guests. Among the latter were Her Honour Judge Penny Moreland (from Newcastle Crown Court) and Lt. Col. Rodney Buckton, President of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers All Ranks Club. The Chairman extended a warm welcome to all present.
By way of “Parish Notices”, the Chairman said that the Club’s next event would be on 13.3.24: the 2024 Guest Nightwhen there would be an illustrated after-dinner talk by Dr Lesley Milner on “The After-life of St Cuthbert”. He explained that it had been decided that the 2024 AGM would be in London as usual (precise venue to be announced in due course) and would be, as previously advertised, on 22.5.24. Finally, he said that it was still under discussion whether there would be an event in Durham in early June. So far, only 7 members and their partners had expressed an interest, which with him would make 15 people. Others were not interested. The Chairman said that if any other member was interested in taking part in such an event, could he/she please let Michael Robson know by 31.12.23 at the latest, after which a final decision would have to be taken by the officers on whether or not there would be a Durham event.
After a very good dinner, the Club heard brief but entertaining remarks from some of its former Chairmen about the Club’s affairs in their time. In chronological order, we heard from Michael Robson (our current Secretary but Chair from 1998-2000); from Chris Dean (Chair 2000-2003); from Ian Johnson (Chair 2008-10 and 2012-13); and from HH Judge Ian Graham (Chair 2013-2023). Ian Johnson’s remarks included his own amusing version of the lyrics of a Christmas carol with adaptations appropriate to the present political and economic situation, including references to our (current) Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.
Also on a seasonal note and interspersed with the ex-Chairmen’s remarks, we had performances from various members. Ian Graham read a highly amusing poem in Geordie which assumed that the events of Mary and Joseph’s life had happened on Tyneside rather than in the Holy Land: “The Bethlehem Charabanc Trip” by Gary Hogg. Edith Robson whisked us off to Orkney with her beautiful reading of a Yuletide story by George Mackay Brown, The Feast of the Strangers. Finally, Simon Sefton sent a chill down our spines with the ghost story that always steals the show at Christmas. He read “The Marble Hands”, a very brief but very eerie short-story by Bernard Capes. Anyone interested can find it online at http://public-library.uk/ebooks/60/73.pdf You may be able to survive the description of the marble hands “sprouting like white celery from the ground” but it is unlikely that you will be prepared for what happens next!