In Eng­land — NOW! Prob­ing Probus Clubs

Cel­e­brat­ing English achieve­ment, en­ter­prise and cre­ativ­ity in the 21st cen­tury

This England - - Centenary Of The First World War - By

Cen­te­nar­ian, Joe Rawl­ings, had a nar­row es­cape 75 years ago. Liv­ing at As­pa­tria, in the north of the Lake District, he had just qual­i­fied as a school­mas­ter when he was called up. Opt­ing for a large ship in the Royal Navy he was sum­moned to Portsmouth so un­der­took a 400-mile train jour­ney. War­time travel was slow, how­ever, and he ar­rived just in time to see his bat­tle cruiser, HMS Hood, steam out of port. He was dis­traught, but only a few weeks later just three of her crew of 1,000 sur­vived the sink­ing by the Ger­man bat­tle­ship Bis­marck.

Joe later be­came an of­fi­cer on the Arc­tic Con­voys and af­ter hos­til­i­ties ceased went back to teach­ing, re­tir­ing dur­ing the Sev­en­ties as a head­mas­ter in Carlisle. In 1980 he be­came a founder mem­ber of the Bor­der City Probus Club there, say­ing he liked the small num­ber of rules and the op­por­tu­nity to meet new peo­ple in a re­laxed at­mos­phere. “Ev­ery­body talks to one an­other and you’re made to feel wel­come.”

The na­tional Probus mag­a­zine re­cently chal­lenged any club to find an ac­tive mem­ber older than 103 but they strug­gled.

Ini­tially linked closely to Ro­tary Clubs, Probus takes its name from Pro­fes­sional and Busi­ness with the Latin word “probus” mean­ing hon­est or vir­tu­ous, from which the English word “pro­bity” is de­rived. Pro­vid­ing fel­low­ship for re­tired pro­fes­sional and busi­ness­men, clubs meet monthly to fos­ter friend­ship. The first use of the name is cred­ited to Harold Blan­chard in the mid-six­ties at Cater­ham in Sur­rey, although a sim­i­lar off­shoot from Ro­tary called the Cam­pus Club had been formed a lit­tle ear­lier in Wel­wyn Gar­den City in Hert­ford­shire. Within five years there were 150 Probus Clubs spread across the coun­try and the idea was quickly ex­ported to much of the English-speak­ing world.

In those days Ro­tary was thriv­ing be­cause men could eas­ily take a long lunch hour, but in­creased pres­sure at work has since made re­cruit­ment more dif­fi­cult. As a re­sult Ro­tar­i­ans have been al­lowed to re­tain their mem­ber­ship af­ter re­tire­ment. In con­se­quence there is no longer a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from Ro­tary to Probus which now has to ac­tively hunt for new re­cruits.

Re­cent re­search by the Univer­sity of Queens­land shows that be­ing a reg­u­lar mem­ber of a so­cial group af­ter re­tire­ment helps peo­ple feel bet­ter and live longer. The re­sults in­di­cate this is com­pa­ra­ble to the ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects of

phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, and Anna Dixon, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cen­tre for Age­ing Bet­ter, said: “So­cial con­nec­tions are just as im­por­tant as money and health to a good later life. They help some peo­ple to over­come dis­ad­van­tages.”

The main aim dur­ing my year as Pres­i­dent of the Bor­der City Probus Club was to lower the age pro­file and with a com­bi­na­tion of news­pa­per ar­ti­cles, colour leaflets and BBC Lo­cal Ra­dio, mem­ber­ship in­creased by 40 per cent. We now in­clude a sub­mariner, aca­demic econ­o­mist, archdea­con and some­one who claimed to have been the most pop­u­lar rail­way­man in the coun­try for a few weeks each year be­cause, as sta­tion­mas­ter at As­cot, he was given a batch of tick­ets to the Royal En­clo­sure.

Probus clubs are au­tonomous but many de­velop links within the net­work, shar­ing ideas for speak­ers and in­ter­est­ing out­ings. We also wel­come those who have been mem­bers of other Probus Clubs, like 85-year-old Bob Bell­mont, who has been all round the coun­try and com­mented “I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the out­ings to lo­cal places of in­ter­est and I’m glad one has the free­dom to at­tend as of­ten or as lit­tle as one wishes, all with no sense of obli­ga­tion.”

There is a Cor­nish vil­lage called Probus, fa­mous for hav­ing the tallest church tower in the county, ded­i­cated to St. Probus and St. Grace. Nat­u­rally it boasts the Probus Club of Probus, and the two lo­cal saints would be de­lighted to know there is also a Probus Club grace:

Happy the man who meets each month With friends from near and far. Happy the man who friend­ship seals Be­side a friendly bar.

Happy the man who shares his food Amongst old Probus mates, Happy the man who to kind ears, Sor­rows and joys re­lates.

There are now in ex­cess of 2,000 Probus clubs in the UK and a fur­ther 2,000 abroad, with a to­tal mem­ber­ship ex­ceed­ing 300,000.

Fur­ther In­for­ma­tion: Most Probus Clubs ad­mit only men to mem­ber­ship but some also in­clude women. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.probu­son­

The Man who Lit Up the World

The­light bulb was, quite lit­er­ally, a bril­liant idea — and the fa­mil­iar glass bulb with its daz­zling fil­a­ment, con­ve­niently il­lu­mi­nated at the flick of a switch, has be­come a pop­u­lar icon for creative thought and in­no­va­tion.

Ge­ordies — and I’m proud to be one — tend to claim its cre­ator Joseph Swan as a New­cas­tle man and place him in a Tyneside pan­theon of ge­niuses whose var­i­ous in­ven­tions shaped the mod­ern world. How­ever, while Swan fa­mously ex­hib­ited the bulb in our great city of en­gi­neers, he was ac­tu­ally born in that ri­val hub of in­dus­try Sun­der­land in 1828. Fas­ci­nated from boy­hood by science and tech­nol­ogy, at the age of 14 he be­came an ap­pren­tice in a phar­macy. He later be­came a part­ner in a chem­i­cals firm owned by his brother-in-law John Maw­son; it was here that his in­ter­est in chem­istry led him to de­velop a “dry plate” pho­to­graphic process that would su­per­sede the “wet plate” process for which their com­pany was al­ready pro­duc­ing col­lo­dion.

By the 1870s Swan was liv­ing in Gateshead. Now more con­cerned with cre­at­ing light than cap­tur­ing its ef­fects pho­to­graph­i­cally, he worked on var­i­ous ex­per­i­ments to il­lu­mi­nate a fil­a­ment by elec­tric­ity.

The prin­ci­ple was sim­ple enough: to pass an elec­tric cur­rent through some­thing that would heat up and shed light, but the prac­ti­cal­i­ties were fiendish. The “some­thing” had to be able to sur­vive a cur­rent that would pro­duce more than the or­ange glow of a hot wire, it had to be con­tained and sup­ported and pro­tected from its sur­round­ings and the at­mos­phere, and the re­sult­ing light had to be bright enough to be use­ful.

Swan knew the an­swer was to en­close the fil­a­ment in a globe and ideally in a vac­uum, but it took a decade of per­sis­tent work and im­prove­ments in air-pump and glass-mak­ing tech­nol­ogy be­fore he could present a bulb that would pro­duce strong and sus­tained il­lu­mi­na­tion. This he did on 20th Oc­to­ber 1880 at a lec­ture held in the Lit­er­ary and Philo­soph­i­cal So­ci­ety of New­cas­tle upon Tyne. The “Lit & Phil” li­brary thus be­came the first pub­lic room in the world to be lit by elec­tric­ity. Swan’s own house in Kell’s Lane, Gateshead, be­came the first do­mes­tic build­ing in the world to be wired for elec­tric light, and fel­low in­ven­tor Sir

Th­eschool­room where Wil­liam Shake­speare was ed­u­cated and the Guild­hall where he first ex­pe­ri­enced live theatre of­fi­cially opened to the pub­lic on 23rd April, the 400th an­niver­sary of the Bard’s death.

Thanks to a £1.8mil­lion restora­tion, the Grade-i listed 15th-cen­tury build­ing in Church Street, Strat­ford-upon-avon, has been trans­formed into an in­ter­na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant vis­i­tor at­trac­tion.

Vis­i­tors will be able to gain a valu­able in­sight into a hith­erto un­told chap­ter of Shake­speare’s life fo­cus­ing on his for­ma­tive years as a school­boy and show­ing how his school­ing, cou­pled with the op­por­tu­nity to see the coun­try’s finest ac­tors per­form­ing in the Guild­hall, in­spired him to be­come a playwright.

De­tails of open­ing hours and ad­mis­sion prices are avail­able at: www. shake­spea­r­ess­chool­ .

Bri­tish Church Col­lec­tion in Amer­ica

An­in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of more than 10,000 par­ish church guides is in­tro­duc­ing Amer­i­cans to Bri­tain’s his­toric ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal trea­sures. Housed in the Pitts The­ol­ogy Li­brary, Emory Univer­sity, Atlanta, the guides were col­lected by Pro­fes­sor Chan­ning Jeschke, a for­mer di­rec­tor of the li­brary and church his­to­rian.


novice and ex­pe­ri­enced dog own­ers will wel­come this user friendly book which is crammed full of easy to fol­low hints about every form of ca­nine be­hav­iour. Par­tic­u­larly use­ful are the il­lus­tra­tions and pho­to­graphs, many of which are help­fully amus­ing.

There are bound to be as­pects of eti­quette, con­duct and com­port­ment which have never crossed your mind so this is a most wel­come book.

(272pp, hard­back)


in con­junc­tion with the Eden Pro­ject, this is a diary of ma­rine dis­cov­ery around Corn­wall and the south coast. Each month is il­lus­trated with di­a­grams and pho­tos of what turned up on the shore­line and is a suit­able tem­plate for all fam­i­lies to go out and copy.

(168pp, pa­per­back)


awaits but sum­mer mem­o­ries linger on and in this de­light­ful book you can en­joy splen­did colour pho­to­graphs of all types of wildlife — birds, an­i­mals, in­sects, flow­ers etc. There is also a use­ful in­dex plus a list of more de­tailed books on spe­cific sub­jects, and a cat­a­logue of what to look for and where to find it.

(256pp, pa­per­back)

A Sum­mer of Bri­tish Wildlife is avail­able by post from This Eng­land. For fur­ther de­tails see page 93.

What a Thing to Say to the Queen by Thomas Blaikie is an en­ter­tain­ing col­lec­tion of royal anec­dotes. She once drove the Crown Prince of Saudi Ara­bia (women are not al­lowed to drive in his coun­try), so fast around the Bal­moral es­tate that he begged her to slow down! (Au­rum, 184pp, hard­back, £9.99)

ISBN 9781-7813-14814

What a Thing to Say to the Queen is avail­able by post from This Eng­land. For fur­ther de­tails see page 93.

In The Lon­don Trea­sury Lucinda Hawk­sley brings to­gether a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal in­sights into a great city. Each of the 22 chap­ters is packed with in­for­ma­tion which makes great bed­time read­ing. (An­dre Deutsch, 160pp, hard­back, £9.99)

ISBN 9780-2230-04822

LBW stands for leg be­fore wicket but in 1961 the Glouces­ter­shire skip­per, Charles Pugh, ducked so low that he was hit on the head and given out LBW — or should that have been HBW? He also suf­fered a bro­ken jaw!

This and more un­be­liev­able in­ci­dents are de­scribed in The Ran­dom His­tory of Cricket by Justyn Barnes and Aubrey Day. Em­i­nently suit­able for all, sports­men or oth­er­wise. Other ti­tles in this en­ter­tain­ing se­ries in­clude Foot­ball, Golf and Rugby. (Prion, 128pp, hard­back, £7.99).

ISBN 9781-8537-59406

Mary Ar­den (a pseu­do­nym) had a priv­i­leged up­bring­ing but af­ter en­list­ing firstly as Red Cross Nurse, be­fore join­ing the WRNS, she ex­pe­ri­enced lifechang­ing war­time sit­u­a­tions, fully de­scribed in Brave Faces. Some of the con­tent is quite in­ti­mate but ex­tremely well writ­ten, in­of­fen­sive and eth­i­cal. Her hus­band was badly in­jured in the RAF and the last chap­ter of the book brings home the re­al­ity of war. (Troubador, 452pp, pa­per­back, £12.99)

ISBN 9781-7846-23388

Airey Neave was killed by an IRA bomb at the House of Com­mons in 1979. Many years ear­lier, based on his war­time ex­pe­ri­ence as an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer with MI9, he wrote Lit­tle Cy­clone about a young Bel­gian woman who saved more than 800 air­men and sol­diers by estab­lish­ing an es­cape route across the Pyre­nees into Spain. The risks were un­speak­ably high and roy­al­ties from this wel­come reis­sue go to the Airey Neave Trust. (Bite­back, 190pp, pa­per­back, £8.99)

ISBN 9781-8495-49608

Most of us are fa­mil­iar with cer­tain terms used by or about vil­lains, such as ”tealeaf” and “spill the beans” but what about “scrag squeezer” or “Chicago type­writer”? You can find the an­swers in Crooked Talk, 500 Years of the Lan­guage of Crime Jonathon Green. (Ar­row, 394pp, hard­back, £9.99)

ISBN 9780-0995-49994

Un­til it was sunk in 1941, HMS Hood was the pride of the Bri­tish Navy. To­day’s old­est mem­ber of the Probus or­gan­i­sa­tion should have been on board but his train ar­rived just too late for him to em­bark at Portsmouth.

At 129 feet, the tallest church tower in Corn­wall is St. Probus and St. Grace in the vil­lage of Probus mid­way be­tween Truro and St. Austell.

Mem­bers of East­wood Probus Club in Not­ting­hamshire. A Bor­der City Probus Club out­ing to the tele­vi­sion trans­mit­ter near the vil­lage of Cald­beck in Cum­ber­land. At 1,100 feet, the mast is the third high­est struc­ture in the coun­try.

Many men were trainspot­ters in their younger days and here is a Probus group en­joy­ing them­selves at Carlisle Citadel sta­tion. The lo­co­mo­tive is pre­served for­mer LMS Ju­bilee ex­press 45699 Galatea, painted in its orig­i­nal ma­roon liv­ery.

First World War am­bu­lance trains are the sub­ject of a new ex­hi­bi­tion at the Na­tional Rail­way Mu­seum in York. WIL­LIS FAM­ILY COL­LEC­TION

Peters­field Physic Gar­den: a peace­ful oa­sis in a Hamp­shire town.

Although he died in 1783, the su­perb land­scapes of Lancelot ”Ca­pa­bil­ity” Brown, de­scribed as the “Shake­speare of English gar­den­ing”, still bring plea­sure to mil­lions (see Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown).

What is it? A dog­fish egg case with yolk (see Sea Jour­nal).

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