April 2005


shapeimage_1-14Never thought we would make it; indeed, never thought about it at all until this passing milestone was mentioned at our last meeting. What is so special about achieving a hundred of anything anyway?

It’s a passing thought that, had humans been born with six digits on each hand instead of five, there would be twelve dozens to reach one hundred, possibly the additional twelves’ being named ‘ellefta’ and ‘twehf, they being the Anglo-Saxon words for the cardinals ‘one left over’ and ‘two left over’. I heard once that shepherds count their sheep like that, if it helps… Whatever they might named, we wouldn’t have reached the round number yet.

So what has the Newsletter achieved since the first (quarterly in those days) edition in February 1995? Visually, not a lot; indeed, no changes at all which is due to the use of the same old pc throughout the intervening ten years. (Your editor has promised himself a new one with lots of capability, though knowing him, none will be used, or at least very carefully at first.) Verbally, well, some I suppose, with attempts to improve the vocabulary and grammar, or at least experiments in punctuation, after reading Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

I’m told that we have endangered some marriages, members being threatened with exclusion from the home if they come back to their wives without their Newsletter, but that may just be hearsay. Not an achievement, anyway.

What we have attempted is to record the times and events of our Club and its members, m a group of chaps officially past a productive life it is inevitable that we have lost some to The Great Reaper, though surprisingly few. All of them were friends and several of them assured the continuation of the Newsletter by sending in their contributions for the back page, as well as telling the editor of happenings to be reported on page 3. Thankfully, current members are just as good at contributing; thank you and long may it last.

“Officially past productive life” we may all be, but who cares about officialdom? One of the excellent things about Probus is its ability to encourage the retired to carry on with life, introducing new ideas and hobbies learned from other members, adding pleasure to the lives of others outside our membership, such as by giving lifts to their clubs for those who need them, contributing to local charities and of course easing our wives need to prepare a meal once a month, when they can go shopping.

We have had our own education continued, too:

The ability of our Speaker Secretary to come up with interesting visitors every month continues to amaze; not only visitors, but members, who have told us about experiences of their own, when they were working or when, as my 4-year-old grandson once put it, “what did you do, grandpa, when you were alive?” We have learned of holidays in strange parts and connections in their past lives with newsworthy events;

Our ‘Outings’ organisers (let’s call him our Social Secretary; sounds better) who over the years have produced splendid visits to fascinating places and they deserve more support than they sometimes get.

Someone organises our golf matches with other Probeans, though sadly that is the only sport left to us as a Club, the bowls section having gone the way of all flesh.

Most recently, we have been able to spread our news across the world via our Internet site, reaching the most distant parts. Without a splendid Webmaster we wouldn’t have an additional four thousand folk each year who know of our doings.

For almost all of my years as a member, there has remained one steady, valuable name on the committee list and that is, of course, Reg Baker. He is uniquely named here because he has survived in the job of Luncheon Secretary for eight years and without an efficient organiser of food for the masses, our Probus Club would have no basic need for its monthly meetings. It is our raison d’etre.

All this, all the changes and occasions have been recorded in the Newsletter to the best of your editor’s knowledge and ability. It has been a pleasure to offer it as a service to the Club and, while I do stare at a huge blank page sometimes, wondering what on earth to fill it with, something always comes up. It has kept me off the streets and out of mischief for many hours over the years. With luck and a continuing editorial brain, it will do so for a while yet.


Alan Thomas has lived in, studied and worked in, at and for New York, New York. A lively, experienced speaker on a subject close to his heart.

May 5th:

More from Sussex! Andy Thomas is coming up from Lewes to tell us of Crop Circles. Now, keep a straight face; he believes.

June 2nd:

Sir Bernard Ingham, a real catch for us. Details later, but he is a splendid speaker, no matter what subject he chooses.

Club News

We all received a letter in February from our (now Immediate Past) Chairman Bill Brinkley on the matter of attracting more Club membership. He has a very important point and it is something we ignore to the peril of our Club. In it, he suggests a number of possible additional activities that might attract our neighbours to join us: bring back bowls, introduce darts, reinvigorate our golf and, most originally, have us form groups for interests and activities we share with others.

There are so many that spring to mind: Art (painting, sculpture), photography, wine tasting, walking, visiting interesting pubs, music appreciation, acting, theatre visiting, you name it. Give me a list of what you would like to share, we can list members who want to go further on me subject and have Group meetings at our homes or other suitable premises.

Your editor has been thinking of his own interests not covered in Bill’s list and would gladly share the fun of investigating local history – having the results published through The Bourne Society – and, a fascination of several decades standing, model railways; other modelling, too, such as ships, yachts. I’ll bet we have several members who have dabbled in the past and it’s a great way of keeping the grandsons busy when they visit. (Two things a grandfather loves to hear from his wife: “Darling, the grandchildren are herei”. And: “Darling, the grandchildren are just leaving.”)

It would attract more members to our Club, too; the main point of the exercise.

Our newly-installed Chairman Jim Mulvey reminds me that his (our) charity this year is the Old Coulsdon Centre for the Retired. They offer a tremendous service to their clients and it all costs money to run, so give in your usual generous way.

Jim also tells us that he has had to cancel the coach trip to the Royal Dockyards at Chatham since only four members expressed interest. We could always have this and other trips without benefit of coach-hiring, by sharing cars. This has the advantage of being more flexible in start- and leaving-times and can be a lot more comfortable, too. Even door-to-door collection and delivery, if you’re nice.

Dave Darlington is absent today, able to walk but unable to sit or, to his fury, play golf. A nerve that does the pain control for his foot has been damaged, causing continuous discomfort until he can get his doctor’s recommendation. He has had the problem for some time, he tells me, but not like this, ever. Therapy didn’t work. It’s all a bit infuriating.

Harry Stockbridge, now 98 and a half will be visited next week by a (very) small group of fellow Freemasons when he will be presented with a certificate marking his sixty years in the craft. He doesn’t know about it yet and I just hope he will be up to it. He gets confused with too many people around to talk to, but keeps cheerful despite having lost most of his vision, hearing and balance.

So, that’s it for the hundredth time. Far too much from me and not nearly enough from the rest of you, so tell me your news; good or bad, the Newsletter will report it.

Any Old Iron?
by Tony Simpson

One dark, stormy night in February 1954 our Bromborough Dock workshops received radio call. It was from one of the large dredgers working the main Mersey channel, to say that their dredge pump had jammed. Fortunately the ship was able to return under its own power and was alongside inside an hour. This was a relief, since having to go out to a ship and effect repairs could be nightmare.

Clearly, something had jammed the pump, because the shear pins had failed, the pump diesel had tripped out and the system had “failed safe.” To give you some idea of the installation, the main suction pipe was 48″ diameter which went down to a depth of fifty feet. The dredge pump was of involute design with a four-bladed impeller driven by a 4000 horsepower geared diesel. The installation was quite capable of lifting material up to individual rocks of several hundredweight and required consummate skill in navigating and operation.

As far as the repair gang were concerned, this being an overnight job was fine, since it paid double time. This particular bunch of rascals were a remarkable group; all were pretty fearsome until you got to know them and developed mutual respect, there being no doubt that at their particular trades of welding, burning, steelwork, fitting, electrical, hydraulics, shipwright and general odd job men, they were first class. They had to be, because in the dredging business time really was big money.

The repair gang boarded the ship as soon as she berthed and quickly isolated the pump, it being below the waterline. Water then had to be drained from it before it could be opened up. This process was laborious and heavy work, there being several dozen one inch stud nuts to remove. The spanners used were several feet long and needed two men on each. Once the nuts had been removed, the casing was carefully lifted off using the engine room overhead crane.

The sight which met our eyes guaranteed a full night’s hard work. Why? Because of a tangled mass which had once been an old bedstead, wrapped in the pump impeller inside its casing. Bent and torn rather than ripped to pieces, it had to be removed by being cut up with oxyacetylene torches – a dangerous operation even in the open air, never mind tucked into the bowels of a ship.

I often wondered about the life of that old bedstead: where was it made, which retailer sold it, whose proud possession had it been – was it a wedding present? – what children were conceived in it or maybe even born in it, perhaps who died on its unforgiving mattress and was that the reason it was thrown away?

But mostly, how the blazes did it end up at the bottom of the River Mersey in the middle of the main shipping channel?

Produced and edited monthly by Ian Scales (01737 553704)
for The Coulsdon Probus Club.
Edition No 100.

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