Sunday, 9 April 2017
Old Flames and Steamy Memories
with speaker Granville Dobson
Granville Dobson was U3A Todmorden’s Guest Speaker at our March meeting, standing in at short notice for the indisposed Alan Hemsworth whom we had hoped would reveal ‘The Riddle of Humpty Dumpty’. It’s always a bit of a tall order to step in at the last minute, and Granville did us proud.
If the title of his talk, ‘Old Flames’, had led us to expect a naughty excursion through the love-life of his youth, Granville soon disabused us of that misconception. The old flames he had in mind were the steam locomotives he serviced as boy and man, during his time as a fireman on the footplate.
41 years with British Rail
Granville was 41 years with British Rail and gave us a quick resumé of the development of the railways in Yorkshire and Lancashire. He was an expert on the Low Moor Shed in Bradford. He gave us a specialist run down on the achievements of railway engineer Sir William Stanier, whose engine designs brought LMS out of the doldrums and who restored the Low Moor Shed.
Nationalisation and Beeching
He also reminded us of a few key railway dates: 1948 nationalisation; 1958 Low Moor shut to steam engines; 1959-1964 dieselisation at Low Moor; 1963 and 1965 The Beeching Reports; 1966 closure of branch lines all over Yorkshire; and 1967 – the closure of Low Moor Shed.
Granville had a lot to say about the bitterness between ASLEF and the NUR, and even more about Ernest Marples, then Minister of Transport, whose road-building interests just happened to coincide with Dr. Beeching’s recommendations for closing rail lines. Unsurprisingly, Mr Marples ended up living abroad.
But Granville’s personal recollections were given equal weight in his talk. He described his affair with rail as ‘hot, dirty, uncomfortable, dangerous and wildly exciting’, especially as a fireman with one foot on the loco and one on the tender.
A career in rail
In 1946 as a boy on a visit to London, he was invited into the cab of a Stanier Pacific locomotive called ‘City of St Alban’s’ and consequently, when he left grammar school, he felt called by the romance of rail rather than a white collar job.
As a beginner he was on £5-17-00 a week. That earned him the privilege of cleaning out the fireboxes, chipping out razor-sharp ‘cabbages’ of clinker. He used a spanner as a hammer and at the end of the day he went home covered in red dust. There were no washing facilities at work.
When he was able to, he applied to be a fireman, was accepted, and worked his way up to mainline operations. He operated under many different drivers.
One, Jack Crampton, had the reputation of burning more coal than any other driver in the region, but though incompetent was generous.
Harold Leroy had an explosive temper and disliked graduate managers. Another colleague, who was a maniac when trying to make up lost time, once refashioned his false teeth by the heat of the firebox because they fitted badly, only to discover that they were his wife’s.
Health and safety was different then, too. A badly bleeding finger was something to wrap up and put up with as you shovelled coal – no fun if you were on a line with 43 stops and the engine needed a constant supply of fresh steam.
This was an immensely enjoyable talk, and our appreciation was shown by Granville (who never had time to cook bacon and eggs on a shovel) selling all the copies of his book he had brought in case of interest from our members.
Monthly Group Showcase - Jazz
A new feature for our U3A groups, this month it was the turn of Jazz Joy, and group convenor David Greenhough spoke about Jazz, the love of his life.
David owns 20,000 vinyl jazz records, all a consequence of hearing Big Bill Broonzy at an impressionable age. For £2 a session, to cover room costs at the Fielden Centre, members can enjoy a couple of hours of unadulterated pleasure in the company of both jazz and the intensity of David’s measured, knowledgeable and humorous enthusiasm.
Our next meeting will be held on Thursday, 20th April in the Central Methodist Church in Todmorden at 1.45 when our speaker will be Professor Derek Scott whose subject will be ‘Eurovision Song Contest’.
Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb
HebWeb News: Titus Salt – Philanthropic Paternalist or Capitalist Villain? With speaker Maria Glot (2 March 2017)
HebWeb News: Shaking Hitler's Hand (by proxy) - with speaker Alun Pugh (12 Feb 2017)
HebWeb News: Masterclass on Gilbert and Sullivan at U3A Todmorden - with speaker Bernard Lockett (28 Oct 2016)
HebWeb News: Moses Holden, Autodidact of Preston - with speaker Steve Halliwell (7 Oct 2016)
HebWeb News: Volunteering in Palestine and Guatemala - with speaker David Gilman (9 Aug 2016)
HebWeb News: Snow, Permafrost, Insects, Iron - with speaker Dr Frank Nicholson (7 July 2016)
HebWeb News:Stranger in a Strange Land - with speaker Gill Russell (7 May 2016)
HebWeb News:Life with polio and a career as a TV and Radio presenter. with speaker Jane Shepherd (12 June 2016)
HebWeb News:Small in a Tall Person's World with speakers Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE (31 March 2016)
HebWeb News:In the Footsteps of Norbert Carteret (22 February 2016)
HebWeb News:Gallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End (30 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Magna Carta - A (Mostly) Light-hearted look at 800 Years of History (1 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Summat a' Nowt - talk by Steve Murty (28 April 2015)
HebWeb News: My Convict Ancestors (12 April 2015)
HebWeb News: Aquaponics Lab - A Radical Solution (16 January 2015)
HebWeb News: British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France (11 December 2014)
HebWeb News: Life in La Serenissima, Venice - Kathryn Ogden (9 July 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: The Machine that Changed the World (25 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Music and the Deaf (12 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Psychology and You - Part Two David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A (26 October 2013)
HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, A Short History was recounted by Ray Riches to the University of the Third Age. (28 Aug 2013)
HebWeb News: John Sheard, retired land agent to the Duke of Devonshire, gave his third talk to members of the U3A, this time on Sir Joseph Paxton, Knighted Gardener (26 July 2013)
HebWeb News: Off Stage Choices: Andrew Rawlinson recounts his theatre experience from Tod Operatic to General Manager of a leading Theatre Group. (18 July 2013)
HebWeb News: The Story of the Hebden Bridge Calendar (April 2013)
HebWeb News: Changing Times in the Press (March 2013)
HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)
HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)
HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)
HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)
HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)
HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)
HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)
HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail
HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey
HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant
HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance
HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century