Portland Probus Club

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Meeting Place - The Heights Hotel, Portland
Next Main Meeting
Thursday 1 August 2019
 Talk by In-House Speaker
Sarah Studley
Life on the Farm for 50 Years
commencing at 1130

why not arrive early for a coffee ?

Next Interim Event - please see Programme
website updated  8 July 2019 - Rob Coward

Latest News


Thursday 4 July 2019
Welcome to new member Jane
Talk by Mike Colbourne on Monkey World

It is always nice when the president opens the meeting by inducting a new member into our club. President Rob had that pleasure today with Jane Hall joining us. We look forward to seeing and getting to know Jane better at our meetings and events. We sincerely hope that she obtains much pleasure and enjoyment as a member.

Various committee members gave us updates about events, news of members suffering with medical ailments and sadly the passing of Vic. Wells.

How lucky we were that Mike Colbourne was able to step in as our speaker. We really could not have had such an enthusiastic, emotional, humorous and knowledgeable person to speak to us on Monkey World.

Mike has been working with primates for something in excess of 50 years with 6.5 years at Chester Zoo, 27.5 years at Bristol Zoo and then 20 years at Monkey World. He certainly used this vast experience to maximum effect with some wonderful examples and tales of things his work has involved.

Mike started by telling that Monkey World opened in 1987 with the aim of stopping and rescuing chimpanzees, on a 65 acre site near Wareham, from the horrific steps that went into obtaining chimpanzees in Spain for photographs with holiday makers.

There are now over 250 animals at Monkey World which have come from a variety of sources including closed zoos and discarded pets. Monkey World has also helped 27 governments stop the black market in monkeys. Mike had some photographs with him but, I do suggest looking at the Monkey World website where there are many more.

Monkey World is the largest rescue centre in the world. It is proud of being the only breeder of woolly monkeys, a critically endangered monkey.

All monkeys arriving at Monkey World undergo a health check.   They are lucky in having a Harley Street dentist to look at teeth.

Mike told us that an adjoining 151 acres have been purchased next door to the existing site with a property which can be used for weddings and as an educational centre.

To conclude what was a really excellent talk,  even for those not particularly interested in monkeys, Mike managed to get Rob to pretend to be newly arrived  chimpanzee (stop it!) with a view to demonstrating how a monkey can be trained. Mike does many talks and apparently Rob was first class at obeying commands given (I know unbelievable but, others as well as me can bear witness).

Mike thank you very much for entertaining as well as educating us so well. Apart from anything else the hour plus that you were speaking certainly flew past.

Mike Duthoit
4 July 2019


Thursday 20 June 2019
Motor Vessel (MV) Freedom Boat Trip out of Weymouth Harbour

We can count ourselves lucky that on the day, 20 members attending this event organised by Wendy had been blessed with weather conditions to enable our group to take to the sea on MV Freedom.

Unfortunately, the lunch arrangement at the Kings Arms had to be changed due to the venue closing without notification. At very short notice Wendy arranged lunch at the Library café and I think this proved to be successful given the size of the tea cakes!

I write this as an afternoon sailor but I’m sure the morning sailing was just as enjoyable. Before sailing, a safety brief was given by the crew and then we all struggled into our life jackets.
We set sail at 14:00 and headed out of Weymouth harbour into the bay before taking a starboard turn towards the north entrance to Portland harbour. At this point David Geary was at the helm, being closely supervised by the skipper.

MV Freedom made its way towards the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Wave Knight tied up alongside at Portland Port. We then made a heading in towards the Mulberry harbour structures left over from the D-Day landings 75 years ago. It was fascinating to be so close to these massive structures as we sailed around them noting the statue figures depicting British and American troops as well as dockyard workers atop placed there by the D-Day Museum in Castletown.

On our way out of the harbour we witnessed a pair of team GB yachts practicing turns with great athleticism around buoys placed 50 metres apart.

As we headed out into Weymouth bay eventually turning into a south westerly direction towards Weymouth harbour the wind picked up forcing some of us into the cabin although those hardy members remained seated at the stern.

Along side at her berth at 16:15, a great afternoon as I am sure the morning sailing will agree, so it is a big thank you to Wendy for organising this brilliant Portland Probus event.

Graham Gardiner
20 June 2019


Thursday 6 June 2019
Talk by Sue Hennessey on Antarctica 2017

Those of us who had heard all or some of the previous talks from Sue were really looking forward to this one as we filed into the meeting room on a sunny June morning.  We were not disappointed !

We learnt that Antarctica is the 5th largest continent (twice the size of Australia).   It is the coldest, driest, windiest and highest of all the continents.  98 percent is covered in ice, which is 2.5 miles thick.   90 percent to the world's fresh water is in the ice.   Were it to melt water levels would rise by 200 feet (a very sobering thought).

We then accompanied Sue on the voyage.  Hoping to land on Cape Horn but weather was against them so a circumnavigation of the Cape, which is a island.  Two days through Drake Straits (also known as Shaky Straits), then arrival at The Antarctic peninsula, which they explored, going ashore in Ribs and meeting penguins, seeing hump backed whales and skuas. The only plants were mosses and lichens and a small clump of grass.

They saw some of the research stations which are set in the remotest places. The conditions the scientists llive in are pretty basic. They actually visited a British station which is now a museum.

Sue also explained about the Antarctic Treaty of   1959 to which 52 countries are signatories.  The Treaty is to protect the unique Eco systems of the continent.  There are stringent conditions to which all visitors are subject.  Being hoovered down on arrival and each time they went ashore to prevent contamination being just one aspect.

A mixture of facts, anecdotes, vivid descriptions and wonderful photography, coupled with Sue's lively humour and her expression of the awe she felt at the surroundings, made this a special talk.  I think we all got a real feeling of what it was like to be there.  Thank you Sue.

Ann Ashworth
6 June 2019


Thursday 16 May 2019
Visit to Nothe Forte, Weymouth

The muster was at 10.15 and there we all were ready, if not for battle, then for coffee and a guided tour .

The fort had been built in the second half of the 19th century, primarily to keep the French out.  Now of course we welcome them and others, especially on cruise ships! The fort commands the whole sweep of Weymouth Bay & Portland Harbour and from the ramparts the view is stunning and without moving much more than one's eyes takes in the back of M&S, the Statue,  Pier bandstand and on to the White Horse and St Alban's Head and across Weymouth Bay to the whole of the north & west faces of Portland, along the beach road to Bincleaves and Newton's Cove.

Built in the 1860s in the twilight days of sail, the fort was finally decommissioned as a military base in the 1950s and seems to have what might be a unique distinction in that it never had to fire a shot in anger.  Its mere presence seems to have been an adequate deterrent during the Victorian era and throughout WW1 & WW2 to act as a protective shield for the many ships sheltering in Portland Harbour.

Our guides showed us all three levels in the fort. From the powder and munitions rooms deep in the bowels of the massive Portland stone clad walls(said to be 40/50 foot thick in places) to the gun deck with huge guns capable of firing 12.5 inch shells and up to the parade ground with its 2foot diameter mobile searchlight.And up on the ramparts, the anti aircraft guns.

There were various military displays giving a glimpse of warfare right back to Roman times.  From WW1 we saw the awfulness of the trenches and learnt some of the awe inspiring statistics - 36.3 million dead in four years ! And the enlistment of 1 million horses!  I doubt there are that many horses in existence today.

In one of the rooms was a quiet tribute to Jack Mantle awarded the Victoria Cross in 1940 defending his ship, HMS Foylebank, in Portland Harbour during which he lost his life.

And of course lots of pictures and superb models of the build up to D-Day and models too of the arrivals on the beaches of Normandy.

After the military decommissioned the fort in 1956, it was taken on by the local council who unsurprisingly didn't know quite what to do with it.  Neglect and vandalism soon took its toll and over the years it became derelict and indeed dangerous.

Weymouth Civic Society, then in its infancy, stepped in and offered to run it as a visitor centre and to maintain and preserve it - and what a magnificent job they have done over the last forty years.

From an absolute wreck, the Civic Society have restored it and made it the great attraction it is now. Visitor numbers are now counted in the tens of thousands, both local and tourists. All its volunteers are to be congratulated and indeed thanked for turning what was once a disgraceful blot on our local landscape into the attraction we can all be proud of.

Those members unable to go missed a real treat. Those who did go had a great morning and a lovely lunch for which we thank our trip organisers, Graham Gardiner and Lis Francis most sincerely.

Alan Newberry
17 May 2019


Thursday 2 May 2019
Talk by Ralph Jerram on The Pun is Mightier than the Sword

Although our Probus club has been in existence for over 10 years I am surprised that I can still regularly report ‘club firsts’. Today I think I am correct in reporting two new occurrences.

The first, first, (gosh I have not seen that in writing before), was caused by President Rob.  Why? Well Rob was wearing a suit – yes he was. I have been at many meetings with Rob for well over 20 years and although he is always smartly turned out I cannot remember the last time I saw Rob in a suit. Luckily Rob did not put out a decree that from now on male members must wear suits at meetings.

Rob timed to the second the announcements made by club members on various issues. This came to 6 minutes 29 seconds and as it happened ultimately resulted in us being able to go to lunch earlier!

The second first was Ralph our speaker. Ralph is a member of Gillingham Probus Club and whilst our own members address the club from time to time, I do not recall a member from another Probus club speaking to us.

Ralph now retired, who has had a triple heart by pass worked in Human Resources in the Oil and Gas industry and also London Transport Police.  Ralph had a fantastic collection of puns on a wide variety of subjects which came to us non-stop. At various points in his presentation he actually burst into song (does this constitute a third first?).

I suppose that many of us had heard the puns Ralph told us but nevertheless, the way he told them kept a lot of us laughing no-stop throughout the presentation. Ralph made several references to puns used by the likes of Shakespeare, Shelley, Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy.

As Ian Thom said in his vote of thanks to Ralph he cannot remember hearing a stand up comedian before mid-day. We certainly went into lunch in a happy frame of mind.

Thank you Ralph for the amusing presentation this morning and Rob S for making the arrangements.  

Can I thank in advance Alan N for covering the reporting of the Nothe Fort visit in my absence and similarly Ann A for doing the honours at our next meeting on June 6.

Mike Duthoit
2 May 2019


Thursday 18 April 2019
Visit to Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum

As I was arriving at the Shire Hall Museum at 10.15 a.m. the first group of 17 people were just about to start their museum tour, having had their refreshments.

The second group duly mustered in a room designated in 1956 as the Dorset County Council chamber for tea and coffee. Our volunteer museum guide this morning was none other than our own Ken who, I have to say bubbled over in his desire to give us as much information as possible during our visit.

Ken started off by telling us of the history of the buildings, one Georgian, built between 1795/7 for Assizes and Quarter Sessions. He also issued us with multimedia machines on which we would be able to follow one of four cases – Tolpuddle Martyrs, Elizah Upjohn, Daniel Upjohn or Martha Brown as we walked around.

Since my last visit some 10 years plus ago I was amazed at the transformation of this important historic attraction but, the £3m plus to convert it to its present condition has been well carried out and the blend of the use of modern technology with the reality of seeing rooms and cells as they were has been very tastefully done.

When we went in the small individual holding cells built in 1880 to replace communal cells, they were clean and hygienic but, back in the day they undoubtedly would have been cold, dark and smelly. We visited the cell where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were held, the Grand Jury room and the Court. Interestingly secondary glazing was fitted to the large windows in the Court room in 1880, no not to keep warmth in but, to keep noise out. Our secretary David donned Judges Raiment together with wig and dispensed a few words of wisdom.

The conclusion of the visit was to see the work of Jason Wilsher-Mills on the Tolpuddle Martyrs using IPADS – quite unusual but fascinating.

Ken comprehensively covered the social history of our country from King George 111 through to Queen Victoria in great detail and certainly made the whole visit interesting and informative. I just hope that the first group had a similar experience with their guide.

As you know on such visits I like to report quirky things. Today I was intrigued to learn that when Queen Victoria visited Dorset if her itinerary involved going through a village or river with Piddle in the name it was changed to Puddle! The Shire Hall had a nuclear bunker facility which Ken said would not have worked. ‘Pigtails’ were the chains used to open cells doors, just like those now used on our doors to see to see who is outside. Finally do you know what a Phrenologist studies? I do.

Ken said there is another tour ‘Behind the scenes’ which explores the history of the building. Thank you Ken, for organising this event and for carrying out guide duties. Super job.

Mike Duthoit
18 April 2019


Thursday 4 April 2019
Talk by Robin Cooke on
My Life and Times at Harrods

Staggering! It really does not seem that twelve months have passed since I was reporting the last first meeting, but yes he we are again, entering a new Portland Probus Club year and a new President.

As expected our new President, Rob Coward, ensured that his first meeting commenced more or less dot on 11.30 a.m. Rob welcomed a large number of members on what was a wet, windy and dreary day. Rob thanked Graham for organising a splendid interim visit to Yeovilton. He then made no apology for asking members to consider the possibility of joining the management committee.

Jim reminded the club that he is our club’s liaison officer. In this role he principally liaises with the hotel in respect of our meetings and deals with any issues such as meals and inadequate facilities. Jim requested that any complaints, concerns or compliments members have should be mentioned to him so that he takes the necessary action with the appropriate person in the hotel.

Rob then introduced our speaker Robin who spent the next hour giving us his talk on working in Harrods in the late 50s’ early 60s. When he asked “Has everybody present been into Harrods?” we all had. Robin finds when giving this talk often this is not the case.

Robin gave us some fascinating facts about Harrods that started life as a tea purchaser and grocer in the East End in 1834. The present property occupies 4.5 acres, has 1 million metres of selling space, can have over 100,000 potential customers in a day, uses 12000 light bulbs for outside illuminations and had 5000 employees.

In 1960 to compete with Carnaby Street Harrods opened “The Way In” boutique on the 4th floor opened by Tony Blackburn.  Harrods was the first store to introduce moving staircases in 1898.  

I am sure memories came flooding back to most of us of the way we used to shop in pre internet days. Robin who was in fact the youngest Buyer at 26 years old illustrated many of these including the strict staff dress code expected.

All in all it was a fascinating and enjoyable talk to listen to. Robin did say that there is a part 2 and I am sure that members would probably welcome this at a future meeting.  Thank you Robin for giving us today’s talk and for your personal insight in what working was like in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mike Duthoit
4 April 2019


Thursday 21 March 2019
Visit to Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS), Yeovilton, Somerset

Sixteen members and three guests arrived at the Fleet Air Arm Museum carpark at a very early 0900 and damp morning. Our group were greeted by Lt Cdr Duncan Dart who was our host for this visit. We all boarded the Military Transport (MT) bus, receiving the first of at least three safety briefs and headed the short distance to the Historic Flight (HF) Museum on base for the start of our tour.

The curator of the HF, Kate, gave a comprehensive and very enthusiastic talk on the Swordfish, Sea Fury, Wasp and Sea Vixen. She explained in great detail the roll these aircraft played, their construction and the ongoing work to keep these aircraft flying in the memory of those who did fly and maintain these aircraft in conflicts and in the protection of our Country. Kate explained that it will cost £2M to rebuild the only flyable Sea Vixen which unfortunately crash landed at Yeovilton on the 17th May 2017. Work cannot start in earnest until the funds have been raised through charitable donation. Our Club was able to go someway towards this by donating £105 plus a further £85 as those attending did not think that I charged enough for this event. Therefore, in total we were able to gift £190 which was well received by Kate.

After a short break and coffee, it was back onto the MT which took us to 845 Merlin Mk4 Squadron hanger where Duncan gave a talk on the roll of the Merlin MK4 and his experiences of flying this aircraft in conflict zones and in training. We were able to board the aircraft in small groups and see the flight deck and state of the art flight touch screen displays which Duncan was able to light up and talk us through their functions. One of our group noted the sheep skin seat covers for the pilot, Duncan explained you can be sat down for a very long time!

At mid-day we left the base on our MT and arrived back at the Fleet Air Arm Museum café for lunch and the normal catch up chat. A great day enjoyed by all.

Graham Gardiner
21 March 2019

PS by Webmaster - a particlar thanks to Graham & Pat for not only organising this great event but also doing the write-up.


Thursday 7 March 2019
Portland Portland Probus Club AGM
Forty six members attended the eleventh AGM of Portland Probus Club. As usual we all enjoyed a coffee and pre meeting chat.

Ken, our President, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone, especially new members.

Each committee member gave their annual report which helped members to reflect on the work done by the committee. This reminded us of all the excellent talks and interim events we have enjoyed during the year.

Ken then spoke about his year as President which he said he had found satisfying and very enjoyable. He then presented “The Egg” to Joyce Scott who had organised the very popular “Truth and Lies” event.

The new committee were duly elected and Rob, our new President presented Ken with his past Presidents pin and in return Ken presented Rob with his new elf outfit!

Rob then spoke of his hopes for the coming year and reiterated his encouragement to all members to consider how they might contribute to the activities of the club.

The old committee were thanked and now we all look forward to another enjoyable year as members of Portland Probus Club.

Carol Lambkin
8 March 2019


Thursday 7 February 2019
Portland Island Discs

Our compere / disc jockey for today’s reminiscences and music was Jim. Approximately 26 attendees came to what turned out a most enjoyable and revealing morning.

Five members of the club had volunteered to play a piece of music, giving us a short story surrounding the reason for their choice.   This morning there was no classical music and the choices played all came from the volunteers’ teenage years.

Graham started us off by giving us an amusing account of his earlier years when he was a ‘Mod’ dressed in the appropriate clothes. The pride of which was when he was able to buy a Burton’s mod style suit for £12.00. He also saved weekend earnings to buy a scooter which was soon after adorned with numerous mirrors and lights. Graham’s music choice was ‘Tin Soldier’ by Small Faces, with Steve Marriott as the front man i.e. prior to Rod Stewart taking over.

Joan related her early days working for TSB and then joining the Woman’s Royal Army Corps for more excitement and greater challenges.  One of the records playing on Juke boxes at the time was Elvis Presley singing ‘Suspicious Minds’ and this was Joan’s choice today.

New member David told of the frightening incident he was involved with when a policeman. This concerned attending with a colleague and bailiffs a 6th floor flat to evict a tenant. His colleague had an ear cut off with an axe and the building was set on fire during the eviction – the only time David was in a life threatening position during his career!  David chose ‘Amazing Grace’.

It was interesting hearing Madeleine talking about being brought up on a rural farm. In particular the hop picking time of year with all the casual labour who came and temporarily lived on the farm. We learnt of the travelling Madeleine did to get to school and then college and how she eventually came to live in Weymouth. She chose a real classic ‘Smile’ by Nat King Cole. By sheer coincidence when I got home this was the first tune played when I switched on the radio.

Lastly Paul gave us a brief resume of his career from trying to become a fisherman in Newlyn, working on repairing sea defences, becoming a Blacksmith’s apprentice and then joining the Royal Navy. He told us of his time in Hong Kong prior to joining HMS Berwick. Paul chose a timeless classic, ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’ by Tony Bennett.

There was sufficient time for Jim to play a bonus track. As he has told us previously this recording means a lot to Jim ‘All the time in the world’ by Louis Armstrong.

Jim expressed concern at the start of this event that it could be the last due to lack of volunteers. However, 6 volunteers came forward today. Mo, Richard and Trevor were 3 of the volunteers but I was too slow recording who the other 3 were so if you could advise Jim that would be super.

Jim thank you one again for putting on an entertaining and relaxing session of Portland Island Discs today and I for one look forward to the next such event.

Mike Duthoit
21 February 2019


Thursday 7 February 2019
President Ken welcomed three new members, Kate, Michael and Dianne

Talk by Charles Barter on The Watercress Company

President Ken started the meeting by inducting 3 more new members.  He formally welcomed Kate and Michael Wheller and Dianne Pilliaert.  This was of course Ken’s last full meeting as president of the club and a very pleasing way to start the meeting. I am sure our new members will derive pleasure from participating in our meetings and events as well as getting to know other club members, as we will them.

Today was the last day for nominations for next year’s management committee.  A proposed list of members willing to serve in various roles on next year’s committee is now available for examination and this will be formally put to the AGM at the March meeting.

As usual various committee members brought the meeting up to date regarding future events. Mike advised us that there will be no further 'Probes’. He also thanked those members who completed the feedback forms – these are so useful in assessing our future activities, as well as deciding the EGG winner!

I was looking forward to hearing today’s speaker, Charles Barter, addressing us on watercress, due to loving watercress and also having lived in Alresford, the home of watercress for 10 years. I was not disappointed.

Charles gave us a splendid talk not just on the company he inherited from his father but the developments which have occurred since in the demand for watercress and modern production methods used.

Although Charles told us watercress can be traced back to Roman times, the first commercial watercress grown in the UK was in Kent only 200 years ago. Most UK watercress is grown in Hampshire, Dorset and Herefordshire. As a result of pressure from supermarkets for watercress all the year round Charles had to open watercress farms in Spain and Florida.

What I like about this type of talk is the unusual facts I learn. Such facts today included:-

It is necessary to sow 5/6 thousand seeds per sq. metre to obtain 200 plants per sq.metre.
It takes 40 billion seeds to be sown to obtain 10 tons of watercress. This is not surprising when you see that one seed is smaller than a pin head.
Walking on watercress when it is growing does not bruise or damage it.
No pesticides are used in the growing process.
Automation is the reason for the changeover from buying watercress in packets as opposed to bunches.
Watercress has more Vitamin C than oranges.
The benefits that watercress has is being looked at on cancer prevention programmes and in particular bowel and breast cancers.

There is a watercress festival held in Alresford which started in 2002 and this year is on the 19th May 2019.

Thank you Charles giving us such an enlightening talk and for providing us all with samples of the company’s watercress.

Mike Duthoit
7 February 2019


Thursday 17 January 2019 - Portland Probus Club Quiz

It was a lovely day with bright and clear blue skies and sunshine. I am told that the view across Lyme Bay  was amazingly clear  and that from The Height’s hotel you could see Start Point in Devon.

Some 33 of the club’s top brains gathered for what it is often a regular early year gathering to pit their wits against one another, in the friendliest of ways (as you would expect of our members).

Today’s quiz master, oops! quiz mistress was Angela. The competitors were divided into four teams who during the course of the quiz had to answer 75 general knowledge questions.

It has to be recorded that there was a definite competitive spirit but, in a jokey way between the teams as evidenced when the scores were totted up at the end of the quiz. After all everybody knew that there was a box of Ferrero Rocher as a prize for the winners.

The winning team scored 50 with the runners up obtaining 47.5 (yes I know how did they get that ½ point). Even the other teams obtained respectable scores of 42 and 32 respectively. Interestingly wrong answers elicited cries of “Oh yes, of course” when the correct answers were read out for scoring.

As Angela tells me “We all seem to have trouble dredging up the things we have stored in our brains” Luckily today’s four teams shared some chocolate mini eggs to try to refuel their grey matter half way through the quiz.

This was a morning when all who attended seemed to have enjoyed the quiz even if they were in the team that finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

Thank you Angela, for organising this quiz, this was a good mental challenge for participating club members.

Mike Duthoit
21 January 2019


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