March 2017

Club News

In February there were 34 members present. Both guests from January, Chris Starkowski and Bob Witham (Bob’s father was Chariman of Coulsdon Probus in 1984) have joined as new members. Tony Simpson was welcomed back, however, Ron Furniss, Alan Bird and Phil Munson were not well. Norman Pollard and Roger Brunton’s wives are not well. The charity collection raised £36.50 and the raffle £33.

Please advise news of members to almoner,, tel: 01737 202243. Attendance: please notify Andrew Kellard, tel: 01737 554055.

Alan Green has agreed to step up to the post of Speaker Secretary (from Phil Munson) and was duly thanked by members. A sub-committee comprising Dennis Evans, Jim Mulvey and Ian Payne has been established for celebrating Coulsdon Probus’ 50th anniversary in April 2018. We need a further volunteer – how about you? Hugh Roberts is trying to form a chess group – any volunteers. Reg Baker is producing a new membership list for April. Please let him know of any changes.

Outings and Events

Half a Sixpence: We have best seats for the matinée at the Noel Coward Theatre on Wednesday 19th April 2017 (Tudor Rose 12 noon). ChathamDockyard:Wed17thMay,£37,09:30OnslowGdns, Sanderstead. Old Coulsdon Fair: Saturday 1st July. Help to run our stall is needed.

Jim is working on further outings including a Thames cruise.
Contact: Please phone Jim on 01737 555974 or email


Today: Chairman’s Chairty
April 6th: Andrew Banfield: Four years with the French May 4th: Gwyneth Fookes B.E.M.: Notable Ladies June 1st: Jim Mulvey: Postcards from Coulsdon

Gerrard Thompson: Wots in a name?

Gerry’s talk in February was about surnames and the stories behind them with anecdotes from Gerry’s own family research. History is in the name we were told and, of course, we all knew the Latin nosce te ipsum, know thyself. Surnames were introduced by the Normans to help better distinguish between one Gerry and another. These were based on occupation

(Carpenter, Taylor, Fletcher, Baker), location (Banfield, Fosdike, Bergs, Downton), Patronymic (Munson, Simpson, Wilson, Gregson) or nickname/appearance (Lightbody, Cruikshank, Gourd).

Gerry set about tracing his ancestors using birth certificates which only started in 1837 and census records which started in 1841. For records before these, he used ‘bishop’s transcripts’, ‘parish registers’, ‘wills and probate’. Gerry’s father came from Bridlington of farming stock. A telephone directory and two phone calls was all it took to find a relative who turned out to have a lot of old papers in his back room. They traced a great great grandfather David. An example of a will was of Benjamin Thompson who died on 12th January 1874 less than two months after the death of his beloved wife Sarah.

“This is the last Will and Testament of me Benjamin Thompson of Fraisthorpe in the County of York, Farmer . . . I give and bequeath all my household goods and furniture plate linen and china unto my son Decimus and my daughter Sarah Jane in equal shares . . . etc.

Gerry’s research uncovered many family names with interesting and anecdotal stories. Capell (maternal grandmother), a tenant of Earl Spencer (Princess Diana); Gerrard, lace making Huguenots from Flanders; Oldham, derived from the Saxon ‘ham’ meaning village. Francis King Oldham died in Rio de Janeiro of yellow fever. And, of course, Thompson, family motto ‘Te Ipsum’. Gerry had researched many Thompson’s – I’m not sure that he knew if they were related. William Hale Thompson born Boston 1869 was Mayor of Chicago and David Thompson born Westminster 1770 became a famous Canadian explorer and map maker – highways, rivers, counties etc. in British Columbia are named after him.

DNA tests are all the rage and Gerry couldn’t resist. He turns out to be 87% Great Britain, 4% Ireland, 3% Scandinavia, 2% Europe West, 2% Iberian Peninsular and 1% each of Europe East and Finland/North West Russia. Gerry proudly held aloft a large volume of all the histories he had researched. “The stories behind the names is much more than a family tree” he told us.

Editorial – Ian Payne

Annual General Meeting

This month is our AGM. All our officers will stand down and all posts are open for nomination. New faces on the Committee are welcome. Outgoing Chairman Adrian Lasrado will present a cheque to his charity, The WI, Education section.

What’s our average age?

At our Committee meeting last month, we discussed our average age. Discounting our Companion Members who do not attend meetings, the average (mean or strictly arithmetic mean) age is 80.3. A discussion followed that suggested that a few older members might be pulling the average up. But if you look at the ages of our 46 members it’s a fairly smooth progression from 63 to 91.

So I thought I’d look at some other measures of average. The median is the halfway age – that’s 81 with equal numbers of members below and above. The mode is the value which occurs most frequently – that’s 88 (occurs five times) but that’s more a fluke of the data than a real hump because there is no real hump. So we can use Pearson’s approximation: mode = 3 x median – 2 x mean which gives 82.4 The geometric mean (the Nth root of the product of the N ages) is 80.0 The quadratic mean (the square root of the average squared age) is 80.6 The harmonic mean (the reciprocal of the average reciprocal age) is 79.7 Conclusion – there’s no excuse, we’re all just getting older.

For those of you who want to check my calculations, the formulae are:1 arithmetic 1 nN geometric nN quadratic 1 nN harmonic 1 nN n Nx2x2mean x mean n mean n mean N n1 n1 N n1 N n1 xn

‘ R A T I O N I N G ’ by Reg Baker
Part 2(i) – “Overcoming the Challenges of World War Two”

As discussed in part one of this series, ration books for the entire civilian population of Britain had been printed and ready for issue during 1938. Shortly after the outbreak of war the housewife’s life and of others started to revolve around the ration book and, in January 1940, rationing of basic foodstuffs swung into being, along with SPAM (Specially Prepared American Meat) and dried egg. (As the war progressed, rationing was extended to virtually all commodities including clothes, soap and petrol.) Each ration book was coloured to reflect the consumer’s status in society, age, physical condition, expectant mothers, occupation (manual workers were allowed extra rations), or temporary arrangements for members of the mobile population – mainly service personnel on leave and commercial travellers. Each book contained coupons which could only be redeemed by the grocer and or butcher with whom the consumer was registered – a legal requirement. This was a constraint which prevented the consumer from having the flexibility of shopping around. In addition, because of paper rationing, retailers were not allowed to wrap purchases, consumers having to provide their own containment, or accepting them unwrapped, unless they were delivered. One day a week! This was probably the beginning of the of the housewife’s daily shopping basket. In addition, shops closed earlier during winter months to save energy and to comply with blackout regulations.

Ration allocations of basic foodstuffs were not lavish, almost unbelievably small, compared with current consumption and availability. However, consumers were assured, by the Ministry of Supply, that the total nutrient value of allocations of rationed basic foodstuffs was at least equal to that of the average housewife’s basket before the war. Thus the consumer’s diet was made up of two parts: nutrition from ration allocations together with food off ration acting as stomach fillers or comfort foods – mainly bread, potatoes and other vegetables (all off-ration). This gave rise to a recipe devised by the then Minister of Food, Lord Woolton, of Woolton pie, a wartime vegetable pie made up of cauliflower, root vegetables and oatmeal baked under a potato crust – and crème brûlée made with dried egg custard; also the motto “dig for victory”, where every patch of ground was given over to growing all varieties of vegetables.

At first restrictions were not particularly irksome, especially for those with enough money to get around them, but in 1942, as shipping losses mounted, it became clear that some belt tightening was required, and initial allocations were reduced. During 1942, a typical consumer’s allocation was a mere 8oz sugar every four weeks, the same amount of cooking fat – of which only 2oz could be taken as butter. The weekly ration of tea was 2oz (loose leaf of course), and that of bacon 4oz. (1oz avoirdupois is equivalent to 28.35 gms SI metric). Aside from bacon, other meat was rationed by price: 1s 2d per head, of which 2d had to be spent on corned beef! The “egg-in-shell” virtually disappeared to be replaced by dried egg from America. Each consumer was allowed one “egg-in-shell” per month. The latter gave rise to a number of cartoons, one of which showed a housewife, carefully shielding an egg-in-shell, asking her husband ‘How would you like your egg this month, dear?’ With regard to dried eggs the allowance was one 12 egg packet per 4 weeks (equivalent to three fine fresh eggs per week), but later became a valued asset to the housewife during baking and so forth.

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