Category Archives: General News/Events

General news from Hucknall U3A including announcements and events

Personal Research by Albert Briggs

Some personal research prompted by memories of a childhood visit to RAF Scampton, Licolnshire. In the late 1950’s my dad took me to RAF Scampton, just outside Lincoln. Him being from Lincoln with five brothers and a sister. He was drafted into the RAF into what he always called “The Last Lot”.

There were two large hangers just inside the main gate; (This being the home of 617 Squadron {The Dambusters} that used Barnes Wallace’s Bouncing Bomb). The hangers were named: LEAROYD and HANNAH. He said their titles were:
Wing Commander Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd VC. And W/O Sgt. John Hannah VC. I have always remembered this and recently decided to do a little ‘lockdown’ research about these two men.

The RAF’s Youngest VC John Hannah (18 Glasgow’s first VC for Aerial Operations). Many men and women were awarded honours and medals for heroic acts during WW11. A name that was synonymous with the word courageous was that of Sergeant John Hannah. This honour was for his part in a raid on enemy shipping at Antwerp in 1940. He was attached to 83 Squadron (Hampden bombers) as a wireless operator and gunner. With the Battle of Britain spitfires continuing to maintain their vigil in the skies over Britain, the Fighter Command was stretched to the limit.
On the night of the 15th September 1940, 83 Squadron left their base with a force of 15 Hampden Bombers, heading for a concentration of German barges at the Port of Antwerp as part of an armada to invade Britain. As the bombers approached their objective, they were caught in the piercing beams of light from the searchlights, followed with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire.

Shortly after Hannah’s plane had released its bombs; it was hit with shrapnel and bullets and the rear fuselage exploded into a blazing furnace of fire and searing heat which quickly spread. The rear gunner had no option but to bale out, as the floor of the gunner’s cockpit melted beneath his feet. Hannah should have followed him out but stayed and fought the fire with two fire extinguishers. He rapidly discharged their contents, then continued to beat out the flames with his log book. Finally having brought the fire under control he joined the pilot to help him navigate back to Scampton. The pilot, Officer C. A. Conner, was shocked to see the extent of his burns to his face and hands. On arriving back he was quickly transferred to a Service Hospital in Lincolnshire.
At Buckingham Palace on the 10th October 1940, John Hannah attended the investiture for his award of the Victoria Cross at age of 18, the youngest recipient for aerial operations.

Acting Flight Lieutenant Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd VC. As first pilot of a Hampden aircraft, he had repeatedly shown the highest conception of his duty and complete indifference to personal danger in making attacks at the lowest altitudes regardless of opposition.

On the night of August 12th, 1940, he was detailed to attack a special objective on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. He had attacked this objective on a previous occasion and was well aware of the risks entailed. To achieve success it was necessary to approach from a direction well known to the enemy, through a lane of especially disposed anti-aircraft defences, and in the face of the most intense point blank fire from guns of all calibres. The reception of the preceding aircraft might well have deterred the stoutest heart, all being hit and two lost. Flight Lieutenant Learoyd nevertheless made his attack at 150 feet, his aircraft being repeatedly hit and large pieces of the main plane torn away. He was almost blinded by the glare of many searchlights at close range but pressed home this attack with the greatest resolution and skill. He subsequently brought his wrecked aircraft home and, as the landing flaps were inoperative and the undercarriage indicators out of action, waited for dawn in the vicinity of his aerodrome without causing injury to his crew or further damage to his aircraft. His citation included this comment: The high courage, skill and determination which he invariably displayed on many occasion in the face of the enemy, sets an example which is unsurpassed.

Albert Briggs


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And, Finally ….

A piece I found on Facebook which I thought was interesting.

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery…….if you had to do this to survive you were “Piss poor”. But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot……they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s: Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell…… brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

Houses had thatched roofs – thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof… hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs. There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old”. Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat”.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and re-use the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So, they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a “dead ringer”.
And that’s the truth…. now, whoever said History was boring?

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Some Current Activities supporting the NHS

Some current activities supporting the and Carers by Hucknall and District U3A members.

We have all been keeping a low profile for several weeks now and during that time some members and families have been busy making PPE equipment for the NHS and local care homes.

Jane, Roy, Sharon, Pete, Mary and David

Setting out the pattern

Then Roy and Jane modelling the outfits

A finished face mask




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Two Women Scientists with links to Hucknall

Jennifer Alice Clack, FRS (née Agnew; 3 November 1947 – 26 March 2020)

My late sister-in-law, Professor Jennifer Clack, FRS, FLS, was an eminent woman scientist. She was a palaeontologist who described how vertebrates moved from water to land. She devoted her academic life at Cambridge University to the study of tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates).
She established that the earliest ones in the Upper Devonian (383 – 372 million years ago) lived in water. Their limbs ended with 6 – 8 digits and could not have supported the body on land. By the earliest Carboniferous (359 -347 mya) the tetrapods were on land. Their limbs ended in 5 digits.

In her last expedition on the English/Scottish border, she described 6 new tetrapods, with more to be identified. She wrote a summary of her work in Gaining Ground (2002, 2012). She has an entry in Wikipedia and a website (Google Jennifer Clack).

Obituaries: and Nature 580, 587 (22 October 2020). This is an introduction to her obituary from the Daily Telegraph:

“Professor Jenny Clack, who has died aged 72, was a palaeontologist who solved one of the greatest mysteries in the history of life on Earth: how vertebrates made the transition from sea to land, from animals with fins to animals with legs; in 2012 her career was the subject of a BBC documentary, Beautiful Minds.”

Peter Clack

***** ***** *****

Ada Lovelace: a mathematician, a computer scientist and a visionary

One of the most important women in science history is Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) widely recognised as the first computer scientist. She was a truly remarkable woman; unquestionably one of the most important women in science history.

She was born in 1815, the daughter to Lord Byron and Lady Byron, who were married for just a year – when Ada only five weeks old Lady Byron left her lord and never saw him again. They eventually separated and Byron died in 1824 aged 36.

When Ada was born her parents were extremely poor; one of the reasons for the separation was that Lady Byron could no longer stand the stress of bailiffs regularly knocking on the door and in some cases camping out in the front room. But, curiously enough, Byron was poverty-stricken by choice; he had a strange, almost neurotic belief, that he shouldn’t make money from his poetry even though he was highly successful at it and his poems were all best-sellers.

When Ada was a girl, her mother inherited a substantial fortune and for the rest of Lady Byron’s life she was one of the wealthiest women in Britain, owning, for example, numerous coal mines in the north of England.

Lady Byron was herself obsessed with the idea that if she didn’t educate Ada properly, Ada’s mind might, as Lady Byron perceived it, go to ruin like Lord Byron’s had. Lady Byron believed that if she could tame Ada’s imagination, this would prevent Ada from going down the line of imaginative self-indulgence that Byron himself had, as she saw it, gone down.

Lady Byron set out to use mathematics as the method of taming Ada’s imagination, figuring that if she could arrange for Ada to be educated in mathematics above all, the taming of the girl’s imagination would be successful. She was initially educated by those governesses and tutors who regularly changed because Lady Byron tended to fall out with them as with most other people.

Then when Ada was only 17 years old, and on the evening of 5 June 1833, she met Charles Babbage a man who would become arguably her most important friend. He was 24 years older than her, and she very quickly became fascinated with his plans for building a calculating machine called a ‘Difference Engine’. The purpose of this was to calculate mathematical tables automatically without error.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace’s life was unfortunately short: she was born on 10 December 1815 and passed away on 27 November 1852 from an unfortunately and tragically very painful uterine cancer, at a time when the only palliative available to lessen her pain was laudanum, a mixture of brandy and morphine, which had only limited effect as it was taken orally and much of it was broken down by stomach acid: the hypodermic syringe would be invented in 1853, a year after her death.

Ada packed a great deal into those 36 years and is buried in our local church of St Mary Magdalene Hucknall.

David Rose

***** ***** *****

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January Sale – Calendars and Mugs

January Sale

Hucknall and District U3A calendars and mugs

These coveted items will be on sale at the January meeting with the calendars now reduced by 25% to £3.00.

As you can see below Janet and Stephen Archer from ‘Specsavers’ who came to talk to Science 2 on Friday, 21st December, 2018 were ecstatic to receive a calendar each.

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