Coronavirus Update 1 December 2020

Realising that the end of government restrictions on gatherings is still along way off, Wokingham Probus committee decided this autumn to try offering talks and member “gatherings“ via Zoom.

This has gone down well with members starting with an informal general meeting in October and a talk from Jenny Mallin on her Anglo-Indian heritage in November.

December 2nd will see our Christmas get-together on line, giving opportunities for seasonal greetings face to face, or more accurately, virtual face to virtual face.

We will continue with invited speaker talks on Zoom through into 2021.

In January  (Wed 6th) we have Nick Dobson with his virtual  Underground tour of Edwardian London.

In February (Wed 3rd) we will hear Brad Ashton, BBC  comedy script writer, with  his “Job of a Laughtime”

In March (Wed 3rd) sticking with the BBC theme, Jeff Evans will take us behind the TV music show scenes with “Pop on the Box”

Earlier events – before Coronavirus restrictions

Club Meeting 4th March 2020

A look into Victorian England was the experience at Wokingham Probus Club on Wednesday 4th March at the Coppid Beech Hotel, Bracknell. Entitled “If Dickens had a Camera”, Probus club member Tony King’s presentation showed examples of early photography which were contemporary with Dickens’ life and times. Photography was born, and became widespread, during the time that Dickens was writing. Whilst we are used to a few artists’ impressions often included in his books, Tony’s extensive collection of old photographs, painstakingly researched, certainly brought the era more realistically to life.

The pictures of mainly now long gone buildings and people in London and South East England, particularly those showing deprivation in urban life, all bore witness to the scenes and situations vividly described in the novelist’s works. Tony showed views of locations of Dickens’s upbringing and early employment and described how accurate descriptions of these places were woven into the experiences of characters in the great novels. The talk culminated in examples of how the films of legendary producer, David Lean, recreated these scenes in his films of “Great Expectations” and “Oliver Twist” with great realism.

Our picture shows PROBUS Chairman Cec Williams, left, thanking Tony King for his most entertaining and informative talk which was much appreciated.

Club Meeting 5th February 2020 

Andrew Harper, participant in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, described his exciting experiences in a presentation to Wokingham Probus Club on Wednesday 5th February at the Coppid Beech Hotel, Bracknell.

Andrew competed in two legs of a race which had suffered record breaking weather at both extremes of the spectrum from being becalmed in the Doldrums for exceptionally long periods to winds of 100mph plus in the Southern Ocean.

Some excellent video clips showed the yacht battling enormous seas. Such was the battering that the boat took that the crew had to constantly repair the huge sails, some bigger in area than a tennis court! But at other times they even had time relaxing in calmer weather.

The race founded by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, is set up to give sailing opportunities to a mix of people from all walks of life with perhaps little or no previous sailing experience other than basic pre-race training. Crew take part in as many of the 8 legs of the race as their time and budget permit.

This event is described as the toughest challenge to the natural world and an endurance test like no other. PROBUS members were intrigued with the cramped and uncomfortable living arrangements and the sheer hard work of sail management under the atrocious conditions. The successful recovery of a man overboard vividly shown on film illustrated the risks always present. On this occasion a happy conclusion, but not always so, as fatalities have occurred on this race which takes place every two years.

Andrew’s team achieved 7th place overall (of 12) but battling against the forces of nature rather than other competitors was the overall challenge.

Our picture shows former PROBUS Chairman Geoff Heron, left, thanking Andrew for his most entertaining and informative talk which was much appreciated by those present.




Club Meeting 6th November 2019

Mushrooms and a Marathon” was the title of Tony Weston’s presentation to Wokingham Probus Club on Wednesday 6th November at the Coppid Beech Hotel, Bracknell.

Nothing to do with the cultivation of fungi, nor about a usual location for athletic events, the sub title of the presentation was the “Story of the Royal Albert Hall”.

Club member Tony, who is well known on the local speaking circuits, gave a fascinating history of this national treasure. Its existence stems directly from the immense success of the 1851 Great Exhibition on Hyde Park. Profits from that event, which was spearheaded by Prince Albert, enabled land purchases to be made in South Kensington for a great cultural centre named “Albertopolis” which now comprises not only the concert hall but the world famous museums and Imperial College.

An enterprising scheme to sell off seats in the Hall on 999 year leases provided funds for the building itself which was entrusted to two Royal Engineers officers as the Prince, like his great great great grandson, the current Prince of Wales was not entirely happy with the contemporary architectural profession.

Named The Royal Albert Hall on its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871 in memory of her husband after his premature death, the hall went on to become a central place in British cultural life at every level, from pop to highbrow. Particularly well known for the “Proms” and the annual Festival of Remembrance, it even hosted a Marathon race in 1909, albeit for 2 competitors only. The Mushrooms in the talk’s title allude to the circular objects suspended from the ceiling in 1967, eventually solving the problem of the infamous echo from the elliptical building, now making its acoustics superb for world class events.

Our picture shows PROBUS Chairman Cec Williams, left, thanking Tony for his most entertaining and informative talk which was much appreciated by those present.

Club Meeting on 4th September 2019

Stewart Linford, master craftsman furniture maker was our guest speaker at Wokingham Probus Club at our meeting at Coppid Beech Hotel, Bracknell on Wednesday 4th September.

Stewart was one the few remaining independent furniture makers in High Wycombe. He gave a most entertaining and informative talk entitled “The History of Our National Chair: The Windsor”

The Windsor chair with its hard seat and rounded back is familiar to us all. It’s found everywhere from country cottage kitchens to “Olde Worlde” teashops, and looks very simple. Actually it is a sophisticated mix of elm, beech and ash woods each placed where each individual wood’s particular properties give the chair great strength and durability. High Wycombe is a place where all these timbers grow naturally on the Chiltern Hills and plentiful chalk streams gave industrial power. Proximity to London assured easy access to mass markets. Thus Wycombe became the centre of the furniture trade. Stewart recounted his training in the industry and his firm’s development from simple beginnings, literally an unconverted pigsty to an award winning company making the most high quality items.

Hilarious anecdotes concerning brushes with Royalty and the roles of the traditional basic trades of bodger and bottomer were recounted in detail.

Best of all, some of Stewart’s amazing quality chairs, all on the Windsor theme, were shown for members to touch and sit in. These included limited edition chairs to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the Millennium and the Winston Churchill chair which includes a cigar drawer under the seat!

The climax of the talk was Stewart in his black jacket, bow tie and Homburg hat, plus of course a cigar, sitting in the Churchill chair and reciting an extract of Winston’s “fighting on the beaches” speech. A splendid climax to a most entertaining presentation.

Our picture shows Club Chairman, Cec Williams, left, and Stewart Linford in the guise of Winston Churchill in the Churchill Chair.




 Clubmeeting Wednesday 3rd July 2019

The Museum of English Rural Life, MERL, was the subject of a talk to Wokingham PROBUS Club members at Coppid Beech Hotel, Bracknell on Wednesday 3rd July.

MERL, part of the University of Reading, is located in Redlands Road, Reading, by the side of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and is based on the Victorian home of Alfred Palmer of biscuit family fame.

Our speaker was Kaye Gough, a volunteer with the museum, who recounted the history of the temporary establishment of the museum on the Whiteknights campus in 1951, the year in which the “Archers” were first heard on BBC radio. After 50 years “temporary” existence the museum relocated to Redlands Road in 2006 where it has been subsequently improved and expanded, reopening in 2014

The museum aims to show how the skills and experiences of farmers and craftspeople, past and present, can help shape our lives now and into the future. They work alongside rural people, local communities and specialist researchers to create displays and activities that engage with important debates about the future of food and the ongoing relevance of the countryside to all our lives, particularly looking at issues such as Climate Change.

Kaye described the various galleries in the museum, and some of the vast collections of artefacts and documents all of which are a  poignant reminder of how we have always depended on the land and how much of our culture, customs and language are rooted in our rural past.  

Not only the equipment and agricultural practices were covered but also historical social commentary, including fascinating stories of six outstanding women.

All in all an excellent talk, informative and entertaining which will encourage our members to visit or revisit MERL with friends and younger family members.

Our picture shows Club Chairman, Cec Williams, left, and MERL volunteer, Kaye Gough.




Andrew McLusky

Wokingham Probus members were saddened by the death of their colleague Andrew McLusky in July 2019.

Before relocation to Wokingham, Andrew had  long and distinguished service in roads and transportation in Yorkshire.  

The  following tribute appeared in the Journal of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation. It is reproduced by kind permission of the editor.

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A memorial service was held for Andrew in Wokingham in September 2019.

Our sympathy is with his wife, Margaret, and their family.