A SECRET SOCIETY? NO WAY
As a male-only Club, our Probus Club would be exceptional if it didn’t include a number of members who are also Freemasons and it is true, a handful of us, including your Editor, are members of both. I have been a brother in Freemasonry for nearly forty years and can honestly say that there is nothing involved that goes against the grain.
I wouldn’t have been writing this a generation ago, for in those days, as my father would have told you, it was indeed a secret society, the details of which were never to be told to those outside. But nowadays we are happy to spread the word, for what we do is to the benefit of mankind, looking after our members, of course, and their families (of both sexes), but the millions of £s we give each year to charities outside our Order help hundred of thousands of people across the world.
So is it costly to be a Brother? Well it costs, yes, but compared with, say being a member of the local Rotary, or golf clubs, there is a nought knocked off the cost and that includes average charitable gifts. Likewise, so far as time spent is concerned, the average number of meetings is four or five a year, though more time can be spent learning the wording of our rituals.
Rituals? Yes: Freemasonry has been going for around three centuries in England and these have developed over times that simply did not trust organisations such as us, so we have our ways of recognising fellow members, by such as the way we shake hands and the odd words associated with three degrees of membership, which can be considered the steps of birth, life and death that everyone has to go through as time passes.
What do you need to be a Freemason? A belief in a Supreme Being, be He God, Christ, Allah, you name him, for without this the rituals would mean nothing.
The result of joining? Making wonderful friends worldwide, and doing good for the rest of humanity
Another bit of history preceding page 4 of this Newsletter awaited us when we welcomed Bob Ogley as our speaker in August, telling us, or reminding us depending on our age, of the Doodlebugs and the V2 rockets launched against London and the South East in the latter part of World War II. Bob has written books about WWII and other disasters and is just old enough to recall the V1s over Sevenoaks, when, from the sound they made, they were known as “Hitler on his motorbike.” They were also known as ‘the flying witches’, but the American ‘Doodle’ became the one that has come down in history.
Bob’s book on the Doodlebugs took him two years to complete, during which he was greatly assisted by Prof. R B Jones who had been warned by spies in France and Poland of development at Peenamunden which was heavily bombed as a result.
Lying directly in the path of the V1 Doodlebugs on their way from France to London, Croydon was devastated by 141 of them; even Coulsdon suffered from 54 that landed here, all falling short of their central London target.
So how could we fight these monsters? Their take-off points in France were quick and easy to build and were small, so bombing had a limited effect; once they were over our coast the ack-ack guns had an easier target than manned bombers since they flew in a direct line, unable to swerve; we also had the Tempest fighter – along with the Mosquito – that was fast enough to shoot them down and the latest Spitfire pilots learned how to tip them over, upsetting their mechanical piloting; a dodgy trick by our pilots, but effective and safer than shooting them down when such as the Tempest flew into the bits. It is estimated that some 1,400 were destroyed; only four out of ten Doodlebugs launched reached London targets.
The V2s that followed in September 1944 were frankly impossible to kill before exploding, in that they flew at 3,000 mph, so no sound preceded them; indeed the authorities thought at first that they were gas explosions. They were the first of the ICBMs that are the current worst bomb carriers and it is interesting to note that Werner von Braun, who developed the V2, was taken by the Americans and developed the rockets that took us to the Moon.
An excellent talk that brought our memories flooding back.
Today: Glenda Law tells us of the Florida Everglades.
October 4th: ‘From ship to shore’: Peter Jones of the National Trust.
November 1st: John Hyde tells us about Jigsaws
December 6th: The welcome visit of Rev Malcolm Newmanmarking the arrival of the Christmas
It’s only a couple of weeks since the last Newsletter, so we are glad that we have no known reasons for absence for sickness to add, but
We welcomed Vincent Fosdike last month as a new member, reminding us all that we are one of a very few Probus Clubs that doesn’t have a waiting list of would-be Probeans, so invite you retired neighbours to lunch and let them try us out. We had 36 members plus two visitors lunching last month, out of some fifty on the membership roll. We can do better than that, surely, even in the holiday season.
Our stand the Old Coulsdon Fair brought £175 in for our charity, so we are doing something right!
We were delighted to learn that Phil Munson has resigned from his other Probus Club – in Sussex where he lives – and is keeping his membership with us despite the increasing cost of travelling here each month. Another increasing cost, Phil told us, is that of hiring speakers, something we could avoid if more of our own members were prepared to do this honourable job. In return, he reminded us, the Club speaker gets a free lunch!
Graham Fox asked for more drivers to take elderly folk to their luncheon club in Livingstone Road in Purley. Just one or possibly two days a month is all, taking them there at noon and picking them up again at 3.30 or so to take them home. They love it, for they, being old, would be unable to get there without us. Your Editor did ir for years until he went down with his cancer a couple of years ago and can assure you that you meet delightful people.
If you intend to come to the Ladies Luncheon on October 18th, please let Jim Mulvey (telephone 01737 555974) know today or very soon afterwards. You will have received the menu and such, so fill it in, choosing your food and include your cheque and give it to Jim. If you have lost the menu, Jim has more about his person They are excellent fun
Dennis Evans is running an excellent Quiz on November 15th. He will be publishing the details today.
Some of you will have seen this via e-mail, but it fills a gap:
A sign, posted at a golf club in Scotland:
1. Back Straight, knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart
2. Form a loose grip.
3 Keep your head down!
4. Stay out of the water.
5. Try not to hit anyone.
6. If you are taking too long, let others go ahead of you.
7. Don’t stand directly in front of others.
8. Quiet please… while others are preparing.
9. Don’t take extra strokes.
10. Well done; now flush the urinal, go outside and tee off.
Teach us to work!
Day after day we read in the papers or see on TV news the sad facts that tell us about the lack of work for youngsters leaving school, whether it be at sixteen with GCSE results – good or bad, for it doesn’t seem to make a difference – or with A-level results and an economic inability to spend tens of thousands of pounds studying at university. Or perhaps, like your Editor, a flood of A-levels but lack of a certificate of competence in Latin needed to read Engineering at Uni!
The Government recognises this problem and has taken a few steps towards encouraging formal apprenticeships and it is about this alternative tertiary education that I write.
When we were lads of that age, Britain had a massive engineering industry that needed apprentices by the thousand and it was towards various parts of that industry that we would find ourselves work. A similar system of Articles was (and still is) available to those wishing to advance in such as the Legal profession, to name but one.
Whichever applied, one started at the bottom in the factory or office, acting as sweeper-up or tea boy; what is more, one’s income reflected our lowly position, taking home – after income tax! – less than £1 per week for up to forty-seven hours work. I remember it well: 5.29 old pennies per hour, including Saturday mornings work. That we got there on time and didn’t leave early was attended to in that we all had to clock in and out; five minutes late meant the loss of thirty minutes pay.
One’s articles of apprenticeship lasted four or five years and while one’s income did rise at the end of each year, I personally ended my fourth year on about £4 per week. This rose thereafter to the giddying height of £6 when one joined the engineering staff of the Company.
Time away from work? In my case I had one day a week away from the factory or drawing office, spent at Croydon Poly, which was like going back to school, starting each day at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. and finishing at 5 p.m., half an hour earlier. At the Poly we studied for our Ordinary National Certificate and then the Higher NC, success in which followed one’s career just like a BSc. Other time off was a whole working week each year as paid holiday.
Was it worth it? Well, yes it was. Certainly my lack of a University degree never meant that I failed to gain the employment I wished, from learning about the design and development of telecommunications equipment, then teaching Africans about it for ten years in Nigeria, followed by being Chief Engineer to an international news agency in Fleet Street, then setting up and running a company and its factory and finally running my very own engineering company.
So tell your grandchildren: an Apprenticeship is a worth while start.