Archived Talks: 2023

(Most recent first. Click on the titles for fuller descriptions).

7th March 2023


With so large proportion of the club’s membership being local to the Bakewell area, it may be assumed that most of them possess a reasonably comprehensive knowledge of the town’s history and places of interest. However, as demonstrated by the guest speaker Michael Hillam at this meeting, there are features about Bakewell that, even to some long-term residents, are not well known.


Michael, who is one of a small team of guides from Bakewell’s Old House Museum, highlighted a range of what he called ‘curiosities’ and he illustrated these with a series of slides, starting with a description of the former railway station which, unfortunately and most inconveniently, had had to be sited at the top of a long steep hill out of the centre of the town.


In earlier times, the rivers Humber, Trent and Derwent had enabled access for invaders to the district, while the tiny River Wye provided power for corn, cotton, marble and saw mills. Other features pointed out by the speaker included the motte and bailey castle, an unusual cycle wheel on the chimney of one of the town’s pubs, the sole remaining bank, and the prominent repair to the old market hall (whose original arcades are now only visible from inside). Attention was drawn to Old Paul, the elephant, among the cattle shown on the mosaic feature of the Co-op supermarket, the competing Bakewell pudding shops and two of the town’s highest achieving sons, Thomas Denman and White Watson. Turning to the parish church of All Saints, Michael commented that this ancient building contains sufficient curiosities of its own to fill an entire presentation.


He concluded today’s talk by describing how the local council’s proposal in 1954 to demolish two historic dwellings (dating from 1534 and 1601) was rejected, with the happy result that they were saved to become the excellent Old House Museum and Visitor Centre.


Michael Hillam and Stefan Andrejczuk

21st February 2023


New Zealand is justifiably celebrated for its spectacular scenery and abundance of natural wonders. However, it was a man-made wonder, the Driving Creek Railway, that was the subject of this talk by club member, Ray Smith. Situated in the stunningly beautiful Coromandel Peninsula of The North Island this remarkable railway was the invention of one man, a potter whose original purpose for building it was to transport the clay needed for his pottery business. Saving his description of the railway itself for a subsequent occasion, Ray used this initial talk to give the background story of the man, the late Barry Brickell, its creator.


Brickell was born in New Plymouth (New Zealand) in 1935 but the family later moved to Auckland where, at the age of 13, he was introduced to a well-known local potter. The effect of this encounter was to instil in him an obsession for making pottery including the construction of the associated kilns. He continued his academic education as far as gaining a science degree, and then became involved in the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society. This was a band of railway enthusiasts who undertook excursions to unusual branch lines and other minor railways, one of which, the Ongarue tramway gave Barry the inspiration for building something similar himself. Following this particular trip he set his heart on a career combining pottery-making and trains, together with his other main interests, conservation, art and engineering.


On the strength of his degree, he took up a teaching appointment at Coromandel District High School but soon became disillusioned with the job and resigned, reverting to his old hobby of making pottery. He bought an old house with a small plot of land at Driving Creek and became a full-time handicraft potter. Needing to provide a means of transporting fuel for his kilns and the raw materials for his pottery from a nearby road to his workshop, he decided to build a miniature railway for the purpose. With his pottery business still in its infancy, Barry could not afford to spend much on the equipment for his railway but, at the time (1975), there happened to be a source of second-hand materials readily available, and these formed the basis of his enterprise. Subsequently, by acquiring more land, he was able to extend the railway by means of a series of zig-zags and spirals ‘toward the sky’ up the steep hillside adjacent to his pottery. Opening it to the public, he made it into the amazing tourist attraction that it now is.


The speaker, Ray, visited the railway in 2019 and will devote his next talk to a description of the line itself.


Stefan Andrejczuk and Ray Smith

7th February 2023


With the increasing popularity and availability of electric (and hybrid) cars in recent years it would be easy to believe that they are a new form of transport. However, at this meeting, member Phil Spillane explained that electrically powered road vehicles were first produced over a century ago.


As Phil pointed out, horse-drawn traffic in towns and cities had reached such levels towards the end of the nineteenth century that there was an incentive to develop other forms of road transport. Experiments with steam-driven vehicles had met with limited success but, although ideal as a source of power for railways and ships, steam engines were generally too cumbersome and heavy for the existing road system. However, at the same time, electricity was seen as a possible power source because of the invention, earlier in the century, of the electrochemical cell (battery) which, to this day, remains the most important component of a self-contained electric vehicle.


In Britain, the development of self-propelled road vehicles had been stifled by the notorious ‘Red Flag Act’ of 1865 which stipulated that a steam driven vehicle should be preceded by a man with a red flag as a warning to other road users. The Act also imposed a maximum speed of 2mph in towns and 4mph elsewhere. Eventually, in 1896 this Act was repealed and, hence, the way was open for the subsequent growth of all forms of road transport propulsion, including electric vehicles. Several such electric cars were built for European royalty and heads of state in the final decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth.


The speaker described how the balance between electric and internal-combustion propulsion was then completely altered by Henry Ford’s introduction (in 1908) of his famous ‘Model T’ car. By employing assembly line methods of manufacture, Ford was able to cut the cost of these cars to a level that was affordable to the American middle classes. With this huge advantage, the petrol driven car became dominant, and remained so until more recent times when the negative effects on the environment and climate change have shifted the focus to less polluting vehicles, with the result that electric cars are rapidly increasing in popularity.


At the conclusion of Phil’s talk, there was much discussion among his audience, some of whom described their own experiences as owners of electric cars. These were often not very complimentary. The shortage of sufficient charging points was a common criticism but there were also reports of faults with the cars themselves. It was concluded that, no doubt given sufficient time, these drawbacks will be overcome but, as a society, we are not yet ready for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.


Phil Spillane and Stephan Andrejczuk

17th January 2023


The yellow boxes affixed to buildings and other places, such as in redundant telephone boxes, are now a familiar sight in our towns and villages, and most people know that they contain defibrillators, but how many of us would know how to use one of these devices or would have the courage to face up to a situation in which one was urgently needed? It was to overcome this lack of knowledge and hesitancy that this meeting was devoted to a training session held by club member, John Gibson, assisted by his wife Jan, both of whom had been anaesthetists in their working lives.


John opened their presentation by quoting a number of sobering facts. A person experiencing a cardiac arrest when not in a hospital has a less than ten percent chance of surviving it if not treated promptly. And, of this number, 80% of incidents occur in the victim’s home, with only 20% in public places. Thus, it is advisable for all of us to be aware of the location of defibrillators, particularly those near to our homes because the use of this equipment can hugely increase the victim’s chances of survival. In addition, speed is of the essence – if deployed within the first minute a defibrillator can result in a 90% survival rate, but every minute’s delay thereafter will reduce this figure by 10%.


Clearly, in most situations, vital time would be lost before defibrillation could be started. The first  course of action is to call 999 (or 112) for professional emergency help, with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) administered to the victim immediately, and continuously, until help arrives. With the aid of artificial dummies, the speaker demonstrated how to carry out CPR and gave individual ‘hands-on’ training to each member of his audience. He also recommended the on-line guidance to be found at


In order to explain, in detail, the procedure for using a defibrillator John handed over to Jan who had brought to the meeting a couple of the devices. As she pointed out, no medical training is needed for their use; only an ability to follow the simple step-by-step instructions given over the phone by the (999) emergency operator and, once deployed, within the equipment itself.


This was an extremely interesting and helpful meeting which left the audience with much useful knowledge of how to cope in an emergency of this type.


The Defibrillator at the Cavendish Club

3rd January 2023


In a faraway country about which most of us used to know little or nothing, an event occurred which was to have profound consequences for the inhabitants of much of Europe. The date was 26th April 1986 and the event was a nuclear accident at the No. 4 reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. At the time, Ukraine was an integral part of the Soviet Union, dominated by its much larger neighbour, Russia, as were the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The after-effects of this disaster and the subsequent ‘clean-up’ operation were the subject of this talk by Club member Kim Rainsford.


As the speaker described, following the accident the response by the Soviet authorities was to inundate the site of the reactor with huge quantities of lead in an attempt to contain the radiation leak. They also sought to recruit volunteers from, in particular, Latvia to work alongside regular army units involved in attempting to make safe the remaining parts of the power station. Unsurprisingly, this workforce (amounting to some 16,000 men) was exposed both to high levels of radiation and to heavy metal poisoning from the lead-based ‘shield’ around and above the destroyed reactor. At the end of their work in Ukraine, these men returned home where they then faced having to live the rest of their lives suffering ill-health resulting from their experiences.


With his international reputation as an expert in in the field of biomedical sciences, Kim was approached in the mid-1990s to lend support to the Latvian scientists studying these health consequences on the former workers at Chernobyl. By this time, the Soviet Union had collapsed and Latvia had gained its independence. Its government had established a system of monitoring the health of the workers and a purpose built clinic and research unit was set up at the Riga Stradins Hospital. From the detailed studies obtained from this research, a valuable insight was gained into the long-term effects of radiation contamination and the treatment thereof. Several scientific papers and books have been written by a number of authors including by Kim himself.

Stefan Andrejczuk and Kim Rainsford