October 2011



shapeimage_1-1What do we call the place?  I mean when we speak the name of our lovely village

tucked on and under the Surrey North Downs.  A village still?  Part of the Borough of Croydon in Greater London?  Certainly not the latter if we can possibly avoid it.

No, I mean how should we pronounce it?  Not an easy question to answer if pronunciation of the spelling of English words is anything to go on.

It all seems easy at first glance:  Coulsdon:  like shOUld, wOUld, cOUld, so we should say Coolsdon.

But then consider bOUlder, shOUlder and the like, so it should be pronounced Coalsdon, or Colesdon.

shapeimage_2-1So what does local history have to say on the subject?  There have been some forty different ways of spelling the name over the last thousand years or so, most of the early ones being an attempt at transliterating the sound of it in the mind of the writer.  In all this time it has moved from Cuthredsdune – named after Cuthred the son of the king of Kent who was given the land by his father, to the present Coulsdon.  I recall that some fifteen years ago when I was doing the Bourne Society History of Coulsdon book, the long-established inhabitants almost without exception called it Colesdon, so that is what it should be in my opinion; now we just have to convince Southern Rail when they announce trains to Coulsdon South.

shapeimage_3-1All of which could form the subject of a formal debate and the best place for such a meeting would be at the Coulsdon & Purley Debating Society which holds its debates every first Monday of the month at the Old Coulsdon Centre, starting at 8pm.  Our debating Society is one of just three in the whole of the South-east of England, the other two being in Brighton and Kingston.

We have some excellent members who can argue their points intelligently and sometimes it seems that Parliament or even the local Council is listening in, since the subjects of our debates almost immediately become subjects of national importance a few days later; not always, but it has been noticed over the one-hundred-and-two years of our existence.

Come as a guest on November 7th, when the subject to be debated is ‘Religion does more harm than good.’  You can join in, both verbally and by voting, then if you want to, you can become a member for subsequent debates putting the world to rights.  Bring you wife, too: she’ll know what is right.


Well, one hears about story tellers and we certainly had the pleasure of listening to one last month, when Barbara Stevens came to tell us more about Downe village, more, that is, than the fact that Charles Darwin made it famous worldwide in the 19th century with his Origin of the Species book that went against everything humanity and the Church had believed forever.

I think I can safely say that Barbara is a good-looking lass, but to learn that she is a great-grandmother seemed almost beyond belief; and yet her life wasn’t all looking after generations of her own family, for she spent time as a journalist for a local newspaper with a weekly column which enabled her to meet many interesting people, a job that lasted into her sixties (she doesn’t look old enough for that).  Now she is the President of the local Women’s Institution and they are responsible for producing a Downe calendar that sells thousands of copies annually, raising money for Macmillan Nurses.

Barbara’s father was a Chief Superintendent in the police, just as clever as his daughter.  He bought an ancient Austin 7 car many years ago for £35; now it is worth £8,000.

One of the interesting people she interviewed was a retired Wing Commander who flew Hurricanes and Spitfires, earning himself a DFC and Bar in the six years of World War II he survived, not the average three weeks of fighter pilots then.  Then he set out to do two round the world flights, one East West and the other North South, all within a year; yet she described him as a modest, humble man.

Barbara takes a great interest in badgers, too, so we learned some interesting things about their lives in Downe.  A protected species (despite their spreading TB in cattle, say some), they have a smelling capacity 600 times that of humans – but who worked that out?  They get pregnant in the Autumn and when the kids arrive in her small sett she throws the male out.  (A grunt of “Huh!” could be heard round our tables).

We learned about the ghost that lives in the Queen’s Head pub in Downe, that of a 17th century man known as Gentleman Jack.

So much more she told us, a great and interesting talker.

Today: Bob Basto on Renewable Energy – a vital advance.

November 3rd           Alan Barwick On the craft of Speedway         .


December 1st:The Rev. Malcolm Newman starting our Christmas

           Season early, and very welcome as always.

January 5th:           Mary Moore telling us about Hidden London.

February 2nd:Frank Paine on The history of Shirley windmill.

Club News

Peter Barber has had to return to hospital after three weeks at home under the constant care of his wife Chris.  We send them both our best wishes.

Peter Babler made a mess of his face when he fell on it.  He was in hospital for a couple of days but they found no deep problems and he is now home.

Here we are nearly half a year after our AGM and we have only now finally found a volunteer to be our Vice Chairman:  Tony Simpson accepted the challenge which of course includes becoming Chairman next year.  Better than that, Ian Payne has agreed to follow Tony down the same line, so we are set for the next couple of years.

Could the problem be in the naming of ‘Vice Chairman’ for the appointment?  We all know he is not the Chairman of Vice because we are all good guys, so perhaps we should call the position ‘Deputy Chairman’ instead.  Sounds nicer.

Graham Fox reports that he attended a tea party at the PACE centre in Purley last month, arranged to thank the volunteers who provide the services that keep everything going at minimal cost.  PACE was threatened with closure by Croydon Neighbourhood Care as one of their attempts to reduce Council costs, a decision that has now been reversed, at least for the present.

Amongst the volunteers, of course, are our fellow Probeans who supply drivers for PACE members to attend their weekly luncheons and we were thanked for this service at the tea party.  Graham was given a special tea mug to take home.  He says he could do with a few more drivers, even if just for occasional call-outs due to illness or whatever, so if you can, give him a ring on 01737 556092.

shapeimage_4-1Who ever said Croydon didn’t have a soul?  We had a wonderful evening out when we and our guests were taken by bus to the Fairfield Halls for the Last Night of the (Croydon) Proms.  The Croydon Symphony Orchestra led a programme of superbly played classical music under their conductor Darrell Davison; a chorus of seventy voices from the Croydon Philharmonic Choir and the Festival Singers were wonderful; and two internationally known soloists – one on piano and the other a tenor – led us to an ending of our own singing of Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.  Hugh Roberts was responsible for our trip and he is to be thanked for his efforts.  He tells me that next year he could do with more of us and our guests to give it a try.  It’s a great night out.

October 20th is our annual Ladies Luncheon at Coulsdon Manor Hotel, to be there 12.30 for 1.00.  Again, you should have booked your place by now but I am sure Jim Mulvey will find room for late-bookers, even if you don’t have a lady to take along.

Just a filler:  Our ‘Indian Summer’ has given us some superb late sunshine, but should we not call it our ‘Native American Summer’, to be politically correct and especially since we now know that America and India are different places?

                                 It pays to grovel

                               By Tony Simpson

During the latter part of my time as a further education lecturer, the Department of Education sent out a circular aimed at people like myself.  The gist of the message was that teaching staff aged 55 or over could be offered early retirement with a pension enhanced to 65.  One proviso was that the College Principal was required to support any application on the basis that it would be in the best interests of the education service, the barely hidden message being that this was to get rid of senior expensive staff and replace them with young inexpensive ones.

I applied for this offer, only to be told by the Principal that he did not want to lose valuable such as myself because of the shortage of mathematicians and engineers.  He did not respond happily to my suggestion that it was regrettable my value had not been acknowledged some years previously.

However, he reluctantly forwarded the application to the D E S and I was duly granted early retirement with a pension enhanced to service up to 65, the enhancement part being paid by the Borough.  Not surprisingly the Borough contested the enhancement on the grounds that I had applied for early retirement on my own initiative.  I therefore took the matter to an industrial tribunal and conducted my own case.

The tribunal took place in the Quakers’ meeting house in Park Lane in Croydon.  I was carrying a golfing umbrella and as I entered the room the Chairman quipped “I hope that is not an offensive weapon, Mr. Simpson.”  I replied “Mr. Chairman, I come to you as a mane of peace: the very idea of this being an offensive weapon is anathema to me.  Indeed, if I can avoid treading upon an insect I very carefully do so.”

At this I caught the faintest glimmer of a smile across the Chairman’s face and from that moment I knew I had his sympathy and so my case was listened to with attention by all three members of the tribunal.  I did indeed win my appeal and the Borough paid my additional pension, though ironically the addition precisely equals my Croydon Council tax, so I don’t get even a sniff of it!

[At least the Council pays Tony the cost of his tax.  One of my pensions

just about pays for the annual cost for my alcohol and tobacco – Ed.]

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