Report of the March 2018 meeting of Wookey Hole WI
The snow deposited by the Arctic weather of last week was happily thawed by the time we met
for our March meeting. President Jill Deane welcomed our speaker, Mr Ian Caskie, a visitor
services volunteer for the SS Great Britain. His slide presentation covered the history of the ship,
‘From launch to re-launch’.
Although Isambard Kingdom Brunel had never built a ship before, his engineering experience
with the Great Western Railway led to his being contracted to build four wooden paddle steamers
for the British Steamship Company. The first ship Brunel built was a paddle steamer, the Great
Western, but her performance persuaded Brunel that the design and materials were
unsatisfactory for ocean use, so he completely rethought his ideas. The amount of wood required
to reinforce a ship for rough seas was, unexpectedly, very much heavier than a much thinner and
stronger iron hull. Also, an engine propelled by a screw was more efficient than paddles, which
lifted from the water in heavy seas.
In spite of initial doubts, the design worked well, but the ship was unfortunately caught up in a
series of unexpected adventures, that would not have been anticipated by Prince Albert who
attended her launch. Having started as a luxury passenger liner, an unfortunate grounding on a
beach in Ireland started her on a downward spiral, as salvaging her bankrupted the owners. For
some time she went back and forth to Australia transporting gold miners and other migrants in
less than luxurious conditions. She was also a troopship during the Crimean War. Use as a
cargo vessel with all her fittings stripped out, led to an eventual further grounding in the Falkland
Islands, where she was used as a warehouse before being scuttled and abandoned.
Since 1970, when she was rescued as a rusting shell and towed back to her original dock in
Bristol’s Floating Harbour she has been conserved, very expensively. Many innovative
techniques have been used to present her as a museum that illustrates all the phases of her
chequered life. Opening this month is a new addition on the quayside, a museum devoted to
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which will add even more interest to the tourist and educational
experience. Ian told us that part of his purpose in speaking to groups such as ours is to raise
funds for the continued maintenance, especially the gas bill for the dehydration plant in the base
of the ship.
Myrtle thanked him for his very enlightening and fascinating talk. Ian judged our competition,
which in honour of the SS Great Britain, was for nautical themed items. As befits an island nation,
members came up with an astonishing variety of memorabilia, including a Russian sailor’s cap.
The WI is always a surprise.
Rose Docherty

 

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Report of the February 2018 meeting of Wookey Hole WI

 

Jenny reported that the first meeting of the working party that is to make our banner has decided on a design, and that two members, Sue B. and Aileen will be sewing the vital pieces, the cave and the witch. The borders will incorporate the Suffragette colours of green and purple to commemorate the granting of limited voting rights to women in 1918. We plan to carry our banner in the Parade through Wells that is planned as part of the Somerset Federation of WIs Centenary celebrations. 

Vice President Sue Harding presided over the meeting, welcoming our speaker, Mr Alan Hale. He treated us to an entertaining account of his time, back in the last century, in the police force in Bristol. In the course of his career he encountered a wide variety of incidents and people, not to mention animals. Which included a goat that was tempted, with peppermints, into the back of the patrol car in order to pass the problem to the mounted section, which had suitable accommodation for it.

He started out as a cadet, in spite of failing the college exams that he was expected to pass. At that time patrols were on foot, and records of incidents and observations were kept in hand written books. Cadets were sometimes used as nuisance crowds, to train the horses of the mounted section.

He progressed through the bicycle without gears stage, to small panda cars, which were notoriously slow, to large and fast traffic patrol cars. Along the way were many training courses, including advanced motoring and horse riding. Although he managed the latter to the stage of jumping low obstacles without stirrups, saddle or reins, the theory was another matter. He didn’t ride for pleasure afterwards as his wife, being an A and E nurse, had seen too many results of riding accidents.

One of the most rewarding parts of his later career was liaison with schools, he once answered a 999 call, and found that the child who answered the door already knew him from his visit to her school, and was reassured by his presence.

Since his retirement he has been kept busy with council work and the Baptist Church magazine, which relieves him of the need to garden or do DIY. He was thanked by Elizabeth, who remembered the days when each district and each village had their own police officer.

 

 

Rose Docherty

 

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As Sue H said when she thanked Bob Musgrave for his talk on taking better photographs, we all learned something new at our November meeting, even those who have been keen photographers for years. Not the technical things about equipment that used to be a time consuming problem, digital cameras and phones make that easy. The best photos result from taking a bit of trouble setting up the shot to be appealing to the eye.

Bob told us that he has taken inspiration from the way the Dutch Master painters composed their pictures. One of the things that hadn’t occurred to us was that the most interesting pictures read from left to right, just as we have learned to read print. And it’s a good idea to have your point of interest slightly to the right of centre. He demonstrated this by showing one of his slides reversed, and we could see for ourselves what a difference it made.

He advocated that we might exercise patience in order to take the picture we wanted, not easy in a popular tourist honey pot. It pays to wait for people and cars to move away to give a clear shot at the scene you love. On the other hand, with fleeting opportunities it’s best to just take it and hope, indeed take as many shots as you can, from as many slightly different viewpoints as possible, with digital it’s then easy to choose the best of the bunch.

Bob also demonstrated the use of the zoom, with a series of shots of Glastonbury Tor getting progressively closer, cutting out the foreground to isolate it in all its splendour. The Tor was also the centre of a beautiful study of a rainbow, a combination of being prepared to be in the right place, and seizing the moment.

We presented Bob with a spread of action photos to judge in our competition, and he had no hesitation in awarding first place to Jill’s capture of her dog Mia’s joyful frolic in the waves. It filled the criteria of filling the frame with the subject, dog and sea, without distractions.

 

 

Rose Docherty 

President Jill Deane welcomed members and our WI advisor, Ann Preston from Chard, to our December meeting. She reminded us that 2018 was going to be a busy year, with the anniversary of the granting of the vote to women, and the Centenary of Somerset WI, as well as the anniversary of the ending of WWI. Jenny will be organising workshops in the New Year to make us a banner, designs have already been discussed. In the meantime we were able to relax and enjoy the Christmas season. But she did challenge us to sing, a cappella, Jerusalem, which we of course know well, but as we have no pianist or piano available, we usually let the opportunity pass. Sue H passed round mulled wine to soothe our throats afterwards.

Jill had provided the makings for Christmas cards, without demanding too much of our creativity, and Myrtle showed us how to make tree baubles using polystyrene balls and small pieces of fabric. Sue H. had brought a quiz to test our knowledge of the more obscure aspects of the festive season, and also some humorous readings to fill the breaks in the buzz of friendly conversation. The afternoon passed very pleasantly, rounded off with an extra special raffle and a buffet tea, prizes and goodies provided by the committee. Seasonal treats were also brought to donate to the Vineyard Church food bank, organised by Margaret. Merry Christmas to all.

 

Rose Docherty 

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President Jill Deane welcomed our speaker for October, local artist Phillipa Threlfall, who told us about her career in mosaic making. For more than fifty years Phillipa has been enhancing public spaces all over the country, and beyond, with her murals. Although we are familiar with the local ones that adorn our local Tesco stores, she also showed us pictures of more unfamiliar ones from elsewhere.

Her career came about more by accident than design, as her original speciality at college was illustration, but she had a second string in ceramics. Her work in standard teapot-like three dimensions not being as satisfactory as she and her tutor hoped, it was suggested that she try to work on the flat, and her subsequent commissions sprang from that.

She does a great deal of research for her designs, she incorporates as much as possible of the history of the place, buildings of note, local industry, distinguished people and maps, street plans and coats of arms.

 Her early work was very massively concrete, and needed a considerable amount of heavy lifting to install. But after her marriage her husband, Kennedy Collings, was able to help with techniques and new materials that he’d learned about while working for Clarks. So she was able to get up from the floor where she’d been doing a great deal of kneeling, and stand to assemble her pieces on a vertical support of polystyrene, and use various resins and fibreglass.

Some of her earlier work has been demolished or otherwise disappeared in the redevelopment of the buildings and streets on which they were displayed. Some have been rescued and moved, not always with happy results, the toads of Taunton were vandalised in their new home. One rescued piece from Bristol is still fragmented in her studio as a new home hasn’t yet been found for it.

We are all very familiar with her smaller work, the terracotta tiles sold at The Black Dog adorn many of our doors, the ‘Very fine cat’ is particularly popular. Although none of us aspire to her skill, four bravely artistic members entered our competition for a decorated ceramic tile, which Phillipa kindly judged for us.

Lesley R. thanked Phillipa for her fascinating and entertaining talk.

 

Rose Docherty 

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