Welcome to the North Coast U3A page
Meetings are held each Friday at the Stirling Leisure Centre Hamersley, 20 Belvedere Road (off Beach Road Hamersley). We are an active group and welcome New Members.
U3A North Coast has an exciting programme of weekly group meetings and other activities. On those past occasions when COVID-19 Restriction prevented regular meetings, our Guest Speakers successfully maintained an uninterrupted programme of weekly Presentations by delivering their Talks online using ZOOM. Other COVID-19 Requirements, like the QR code and Social Distancing, are applied as necessary.
We meet weekly throughout the year except for a six week break over the Festive Season. A special event or outing is arranged when there is a fifth Friday in a month.
For more information, please click on the ‘Programme’ heading highlighted in blue immediately below or Contact Terry on 0401 358 026 or Don on 0419 040 813.
Feb – April Program
SUMMARIES of Some Recent Presentations:
Preventing Trips & Falls – 17 Mar,23
Our member Peter Merralls, a qualified volunteer speaker with the Stay on Your Feet WA program, assisted by Jeanette Herrington, spoke on one of the things we most dread as we age, falls and their after effects. Peter’s message was falls are preventable. Develop your own Action Plan to improve your balance and posture with exercises to strengthen muscles and bones (particularly legs), and overall fitness. Improve your health and well-being by keeping your mind active, get sufficient Vitamin D from being out-doors, and calcium from dairy products and vegetables, and check medicines for side effects. Seek out and remove hazards from home, have regular eyesight checks, and wear safe footwear. For information visit www.stayonyourfeet.com.au
Fossils From Australia – Presented by Niels Dahl (Swan Hills U3A)
Neils took us on the 4.6-billion-year evolutionary journey of animal life, viewed through fossilised remains or imprints found in Australia. Starting at Marble Bar with fossilised evidence of first life as the earth cooled, primitive cells able to live in an oxygen free atmosphere, and the more oxygen tolerant stromatolites, still living today in the Mid-West at Hamelin Bay. Over 1.5 to 2.5-billion-years ago Earth’s atmosphere slowly became oxygenated, and walled cell structures as we know developed. Fossils from Flinders Ranges, SA. and Canowindra, NSW. evidence an explosion in multi-cellular life that started in seawater 750 million-years-ago. Land-mass and climate change from volcanic activity in Siberia 225-million-years-ago led to the evolution of dinosaurs, evidenced by footprints at Broome, fossilised bones across Western Qld. and at Coober Pedy, SA. from a long disappeared inland sea, fossilised sea creatures up to 10 metres long. An asteroid strike 65-million-years-ago changed Earth’s climate, ended dinosaurs, and as the Australian continent separated and Antarctica froze, mega-fauna as we know evolved on land and in sea, then human life, evidenced by skeletal remains 20 to 40,000 years old found near Lake Mungo, NSW.
“Anyone for a Cuppa? The History of Tea.” Presented by Terry Harvey.
Terry traced the history of tea, a social and medicinal beverage in the Far East possibly for millennia, its introduction into Europe in the seventeenth century, at first affordable only by the rich, but soon adopted by the masses. The calmness sought in taking a tea break has given us tea etiquette, tea ceremonies, afternoon teas, and tea houses. Tea has played a role in events that shaped history and society; the Boston tea party, Chinese opium wars, supporting morale in two world wars, and the status of women, where tea houses became a rallying point for the suffragette movement. Terry concluded saying that tea is here to stay, despite human rights challenges with poor working conditions for its largely female workforce, mechanisation, climate change and consumer taste changes.
Hobby Writing: with Nigel Ridgway
Nigel is a solo ocean-crossing sailor who has published three books, with another to come. He told U3A North Coast members his fascinating ‘story about story-telling’, reminding us that everyone has a story to tell. If you ‘get the itch’, writer’s block is common. The important thing is to start anywhere and write something, then your story will begin to fall into place and take shape. Most people soon find that the chore becomes an enthusiastic pleasure. It may help to set a regular writing time each day and join a Writer’s Group of kindred spirits. Then edit, edit, edit! Publishing can be disappointing. Expect to be rejected by publishers so there may be no money in it for the majority of aspiring authors. Consequently, some become self-publishing Vanity Authors. Finding a Publisher is a slog but, if successful, they do the boring bits Then you need to promote your baby with a book launch and in bookshops, reviews in newspapers, magazines, radio interviews and with public talks where selling direct to the public is more lucrative. According to Nigel there is no such thing as an uninteresting life. Write your Life Story before it is too late. It will be something to keep forever which may be a better memorial than a tombstone.
C Y O’Connor – The Golden Pipeline with Bill Cutler
Bill is proudly descended from First Fleeter Convict Settlers and was born at the remote No.7 Pumping Station on the Kalgoorlie Pipeline. He was a career banker serving in Fiji, Hong Kong, Singapore and London, then he became a volunteer tour guide at No.1 Pumping Station at the base of Mundaring Weir. In fascinating detail, Bill told of the 1892 Coolgardie Gold Rush which resulted in a great inflow of miners – but there was no water in that arid location. Pack Camels were used initially until the railway was built but much more water was needed. WA State Premier John Forrest gave Irish Engineer C Y O’Connor the untried and seemingly impossible task of building a water pipeline ‘uphill’ to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, employing eight steam-powered pumping stations. Plate steel was imported from USA and Germany which was shaped into sections in factories at Maylands and transported by train to the progressively on-moving construction site. Other workers hand-dug deep trenches to shield the pipeline from weather and corrosion. O’Connor committed suicide before completion of the Golden Pipeline, due to being extremely hurt by a political campaign which raised unfounded claims of corruption. Contrary to those doubters, the world record pipeline is a great success and is an impressive monument to the foresight of John Forrest and the ground-breaking skills of CY O’Connor.
Mawson and Wilkins – Poles Apart with Peter Alcock
Australia has produced two of the world’s great heroic polar explorers who lived, worked and died at the same time but were as unlike as chalk and cheese.
Sir Douglas Mawson 1882-1958 had a degree in mining engineering whose interest in geology, petrology and mineralogy was sparked by evidence of glacial retreat in Australia. In 1907 he joined Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition and was in the first team to reach the South Magnetic Pole and climb Mount Erebus. Peter told how Mawson joined or led some later expeditions of exploration and scientific observations, gathering geological and biological samples. He was the sole survivor of one party which studied massive glaciers. His image has appeared on the Australian $100 banknote.
Sir (George) Hubert Wilkins 1888-1958 was a self-taught South Australian farm boy who was attracted to risk-taking adventures as photographer, war correspondent, soldier and pilot. He was wounded several times in WWI for which he was twice awarded the Military Cross for outstanding bravery. Peter said Wilkins joined several Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, surviving multiple flying mishaps and, in one case, walking 13 days back to safety. He also leased an old submarine to explore under the Arctic ice-cap and performed the first solo flight ‘over the top’ from Alaska to Spitzbergen. His ashes were scattered at the North Pole in 1959 by atomic-powered submarine USS 571 Skate.
William Dampier (1651 – 1715) with John Shepherd
John provided many fascinating details about a man who lived a full life of adventure in the hazardous days of buccaneers, discovery, and navigation under sail. As a Privateer, William Dampier plundered Spanish settlements and treasure ships. He circumnavigated the world three times and was a ‘patient observer’ who kept detailed maps and records of winds, tides, currents, weather, soils and natural history of new lands he visited, including Australia. John said Dampier was the first Englishman to set foot on Australian soil, which is commemorated in the town which bears his name. William Dampier’s books about his adventurous travels inspired famous novels by Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe. He was a member of the elite Royal Society and has been described as ‘a pirate with an exquisite mind’.
Catching a Cold Case Killer: with Professor Robert Mead
Bob Mead made a welcome return to U3A North Coast with a fascinating story about the role of DNA Genealogy in solving baffling crimes. He told of a young couple who disappeared on an overnight trip from Vancouver, Canada to Seattle, USA in November 1987. A week later their bodies were discovered 60 miles apart in Washington State USA. The man had been brutally bashed and asphyxiated. The young woman had been sexually assaulted and shot. No significant leads emerged and the case eventually went ‘cold’. In 2005, when DNA profiling techniques became more sensitive, a profile of the rapist-killer was fed into the national DNA database, but yielded no ‘hits’ meaning that the killer was not a known criminal. In 2014, the newer DNA-based phenomics technology predicted many physical characteristics which generated a possible ‘sketch’ of the killer as he may have looked in 1987. Bob Mead enthralled U3A North Coast members with his clear description of the remarkable ‘forensic genetic genealogy’ used in 2019 to build a family tree of the murderer and to catch the cold case killer 32 years after the crime.
The History of Sea Rescue: with Bob Jacobs
Ancient drawings and tomb relicts show that the Age of Sail dates back more than 5,000 years. Weather and ocean conditions could be unpredictable; navigation was often unreliable; and sailing ships may become uncontrollable severe conditions. There were hundreds of shipwrecks, often with 100% casualties because lifeboats, rafts or lifejackets were not provided and people thrown into the sea survived for a few hours, at best. Passengers and crew relied on prayers – “ O Hear Us when we Cry to Thee For Those in Peril on the Sea “. (Poem/Hymn 1860) “.
Bob Jacobs, Commander of Whitfords Marine Rescue, enthralled U3A North Coast members with some stories of the dangers of ocean travel in the past and the many modern developments making modern ocean travel safe. Early safety measures concentrated on saving the valuable ship and its cargo, with little concern for the passengers and crew. The Age of Steam was a huge advance since it made ships more controllable in severe weather and scheduling became possible.
Over the past two centuries very strict maritime safety standards have been introduced, notably following the sinking of the Titanic which could have avoided the iceberg if radar, satellites, etc had been available. Hundreds of lives would have been saved if there had been adequate modern safety equipment for passengers. Today, we have a vast array of modern technology to aid navigation, avoid shipwreck, and to provide effective rescues in mid-ocean. Coastal emergencies are well-managed by Marine Rescue volunteers.
Camels and Cameleers: with Terry Harvey
Before the introduction of rail and motor transport in Western Australia, much of the inland transport of goods had relied upon camels and their ‘Afghan’ (or Ghan) cameleers who were recruited from several states in the region of Afghanistan. Terry believes their importance has been understated and often overlooked in our history. Camels, or more correctly dromedaries, proved superior to horse and bullock as pack animals in the extremely harsh conditions of the undeveloped Australian interior. They displaced many Teamsters who obtained the backing of some editors and politicians in provoking prejudice against the use of camels and their Ghan cameleers. Some Afghans eventually became self-employed, continuing to provide an essential service as independent travelling storemen or operators of small Outback stores. Terry included many intriguing facts about the camel, its uses past and present, together with the substantial problems caused by about one million voracious feral camels which now roam our Outback.
Seven COVID-Free Days at Christmas Island: with Rod Owen
The Australian Territory of Christmas Island was an uninhabited isolated rocky coral outcrop in mid-Indian Ocean when discovered by Captain William Dampier in 1688. It is nearer to Indonesia than to Australia. Initially it provided timber for building the distant Cocos Islands settlement. There followed a workforce of 200 Chinese labourers with 8 European managers and five Sikh police officers to operate a phosphate mine. About 900 Japanese troops occupied Christmas Island 1942 – 1945. The mine closed in 1987 and two-thirds of the Island is now national park. Rod explained that passports are not required for Australian travellers, many of whom come to see the island’s many natural wonders including native birds and exotic marine species. The highlight is the massive annual migration of large red crabs which emerge from the forest and climb over special bridges, or swarm across roads, to breed in the ocean.
EDITH COWAN – Following in Her Footsteps
Edith Dircksey Cowan, nee Brown, 1861 -1932 was born at Glenngarry, Geraldton, WA, the granddaughter of early colonial families. Despite the duties of a wife and mother to five children, she rose above much adversity and prejudice of the time to become the first woman elected to an Australian Parliament in 1921. This was on the strength of her long commitment to the fight for social reforms which enhanced women’s dignity and responsibility, and which secured proper care for mothers and children. A diverse range of organisations recognise Edith Cowan as a founder. Hilary Silbert, is among those who believe Edith Cowan has been neglected in the history of Australia and has worked to raise her profile so that she may take her rightful place. Now the likeness of Edith Cowan adorns Australia’s $50 banknote; her portrait hangs at Parliament House, West Perth; the Edith Dircksey Cowan Memorial clocktower stands nearby at the entrance to King’s Park; and WA has the highly respected Edith Cowan University.
COCOS ISLANDS: With Peter Merralls
The Cocos Keeling Islands are a small low-lying beautiful coral archipelago in mid-Indian Ocean, 2750 kms north-west of Perth and administered by Western Australia. Peter gave a most interesting summary of the geological formation and extraordinary history of the islands since discovery by Captain William Keeling in 1609. In 1827 John Clunies-Ross took up residence, brought some Malay and Chinese workers from Indonesia and his family ruled in feudal style – until bankrupted by a long-standing legal dispute with Australia. From 1901, the islands provided a vital link in the undersea telegraph cable communications with passing ships, Australasia and the rest of the world. Their mid-Indian Ocean location ensures they remain of strategic importance – and provide an exotic holiday destination without Passport and Customs controls.
U3A North Coast WinterFest: With Live Music by the TAKE 2 Duo
When there is a Fifth Friday in a month, U3A North Coast puts on a special event for our members. Oh! What a happy time we had on the last Friday of July, as we welcomed the coming Spring with an in-house WinterFest. Our party started with BYO nibbles and drink to well-suited bouncy ‘Classic Hits of the 60s to 90s’ played so well by Rod and Bazz of the TAKE 2 Duo. After a finger-food lunch of warmed pies, tea, coffee and cakes, catered by our volunteer team, it was back to more great music and dancing for the many young at heart.
A Museum Guide in Kenya – The Cradle of Mankind: With Jane Bwye
The late paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey had stunned the world in the 1970s when his digs in Kenya greatly advanced our knowledge of human evolution and his claim that East Africa was ‘The Cradle of Mankind’. North Coast member, Jane Bwye, lived in Kenya for 55 years where she had been a decades-long volunteer guide and Council Member of the Kenya National Museums Society in Nairobi, where Leakey had made his momentous announcements. Jane has stayed at Richard Leakey’s ‘Camp of a Million Stars’ on the shores of Lake Turkana where Leakey’s momentous dig had found the bones i.6 million years old hominid Turkana boy. She was also a privileged guest of the curator of the Indian Oceanside Lamu Museum for several days which included visiting several significant paleontological, anthropological and archaeological sites.
Creating a Park from a Wilderness: With Judith Burn
Long before European settlers arrived in 1829, the Whadjuk people occupied the wilderness and wetlands area where Perth was built. Fortunately, 400 hectares of high ground, now known as Kings Park, were reserved although most of the Jarrah trees had already been logged. Judith has been a Kings Park Guide for 26 years and has conducted hundreds of walks where she shares her vast knowledge of the Park and how it’s preservation and design has been subjected to the conflicting views of strong personalities, including Sir John Forrest. Sensible compromises produced a beautiful, balanced mix of botanical gardens, lawns, wonderful lookouts, memorials, drives and walks with easy access to wilderness areas. There is so much to see and learn there.
CHAUCER – The Man and His Times: with Elton Brown
Geoffrey Chaucer was the son of a well-connected London wine merchant. His career progressed from Page, to Civil Servant, Diplomat and Courtier to Kings. Chaucer was recognised in his lifetime as a poet of serious works although he is now best known for his bawdy “Canterbury Tales” written in the vernacular Middle English. Elton gave us some interesting and humorous views of Chaucer with insights into the lives of ordinary people and their language, amusing us with his rendition of the almost unintelligible Middle English – much different from the more familiar English of Shakespeare 200 years later.
Space Observations: with Graham Ezzy
Graham explained that Optical telescopes have limitations since they cover only a small part of the light spectrum and images suffer from the pollution in Earth’s Atmosphere. The Hubble Space Telescope, located in Earth orbit, provided superior optical images which are now being greatly exceeded in clarity and reach by the wonderful new James Webb Space Telescope. Earth-based Radio telescopes, like the massive Square Kilometre Array, gather Gama- and X-rays from the deepest regions of space. We learned many amazing facts from Graham’s fascinating talk.
Music Appreciation: with the Kevin Fenner JazzFive – Live
Oh! What a magical morning we had listening to the best jazz music played Live by a top-rank professional band. Kevin Fenner gave us clear explanations of the evolution and structure of modern jazz from the Bebop of the 1940s through to Swing, Cool Jazz and beyond. We were enthralled as the band played a broad selection of works made famous by the greatest jazz musicians including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and several others. The band signed off by playing their own original composition – the ‘U3A Theme’ – just for us!
The Treachery of Images – with Geoffrey Kaye
Geoffrey is an Optometrist and ‘Illusionologist’ who is intrigued by how senses may deceive the mind. For ancient man the oldest illusion is the apparent huge size of a rising full moon. A common illusion in our modern environment is the way railway lines laid in parallel appear to merge in the distance. Now the biggest illusion appears to be the TV. We were intrigued, confused, misled and delighted as Geoff displayed and explained many other illusions, including some deliberately created by artists and architects. Strangely, not many were familiar with the world-famous Penrose (non-existent) Triangle statue in the centre of a roundabout in East Perth. Check it out!
Britain’s Greatest Maritime Disaster: with Jane Laws
Jane told a very moving story about the sinking of HMT Lancastria with an estimated loss of over 6,000 lives as stranded men, women and children attempted to return to Britain in 1940. Jane’s father, Sgt Arthur Snow, had been left behind in France as British forces hurriedly retreated ahead of the invading German army. He made his own way to the Atlantic coast and boarded the grossly over-loaded HMT Lancastria, which was sunk under intense German bombing. Arthur was among the few survivors of Britain’s greatest maritime disaster.
Accused and Convicted: with Emeritus Professor Robert Mead
Crime investigators may form an opinion based on early evidence, regarding it as an open and shut case and ignoring other evidence which does not support their theory. Bob led us through a brilliant re-investigation of a case where a young mother had been convicted of murdering her baby. He told a fascinating and detailed story of how forensic scientists diligently uncovered cognitive bias in the original investigation and had ignored the possibility of an unlikely alternative cause of death. DNA plus an exceedingly rare combination of events provided confirmation that the conviction had been based on incorrect evidence.
GOLD GOLD GOLD: with Peter Alcock.
Peter explained how gold has a special place in our language and culture where it may be used to define wealth, value, greed, love, achievement and so on – but what is it really? Pure Gold is a bright, orange-yellow, dense, soft, malleable, ductile metal which is culturally and spiritually significant. It is stable, does not rust or corrode, can be drawn out into exceedingly fine wire, or beaten into a sheet only 5 micros thick – or eaten!. Gold is 19.3 times heavier than water. Perth mint displays 1 one tonne gold coin with a Au$1 currency value or a much greater bullion value.
Read, Write Now: with Michelina Vinci
Many people suffer literacy gaps which cause them stress and embarrassment. Read, Write Now changes lives as it fulfils a keen need for literacy support. Free one-on-one tuition is provided by 550 volunteer tutors who assist students seeking to improve their reading, writing, spelling, maths and basic computer skills. Read, Write Now helps improve their employment prospects by enabling them to confidently complete applications forms, work reports, timesheets, invoices and participate in training courses – as well as assist their children to complete homework assignments.
Feisty Royal Women – When Cousins Disagree: with Dee Tartt
In the fourth part of her well-researched and most interesting series, Dee tells of the War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Jacquetta du St Pol, her beautiful daughter Elizabeth Woodville and Marguerite of Anjou all had notable influences on shaping England’s medieval history. How many of us knew that Jacquetta du St Pol was mother to a Queen of England, grandmother to a Queen, great-grandmother to Henry VIII and ancestor of our Royal Family?
Thomas Wills – An Incredible Story with Christine O’Brien
This remarkable sporting Australian was sent to the famous Rugby School in England where he played the early form of Rugby and became Captain of Cricket. Christine related how Thomas went on to Cambridge University, playing cricket for his College and County Cricket for Kent. On return home he captained Victoria at cricket and organised the first Aboriginal Cricket Tour to England. Thomas Wills also wrote the rules of the distinctly Australian style of football we now know and love as ‘Aussie Rules’.
Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers
Rita Hayworth and Charlie Chaplin came from Gypsie backgrounds rich in a culture of circuses, entertainers, fortune-tellers and travelling seasonal gig employment. Dark skin Gypsies originated from northern India about 1,500 years ago. They were a persecuted minority forced to move on, including by Henry VIII of England, the German Nazis and the French who transported them back to Romania. Travellers originated from Ireland 1,000 years and live a similar nomadic lifestyle based around horse-fairs and repairing roofs and driveways. DNA proves Travellers now differ from the Irish settled population and are not related to Gypsies.
MARIE CURIE – Mother of the Atomic Age
Marie Curie was probably the most influential scientist of her time, when few women studied science. Maria Skladowska left Poland to study physics in Paris where she married Pierre Curie, her Physicist collaborator. They did the filthy work needed to extract just one gramme of highly radioactive Radium from each 2 tonnes of pitchblend. Her ground-breaking discoveries were little recognised at first yet Marie Curie has the rare distinction of winning two Nobel Prizes. During WWI this amazing woman designed, built and operated mobile x-ray units which saved thousands of lives. Reported by Don Manning
HISTORY OF MONEY – BARTER TO BITCOIN
Peter Flanigan explained how the inconvenience of trade by barter-swap led to the need for a trusted, transportable coin of high value. Rare shells have served as coin in some cultures. One of the first manufactured coins was found in Crete – a copper ‘oxhide’ weighing 20kg dating from 1500BC. Smaller gold, silver and copper coins qualified as legal Currency since they were more transportable and offered consistent, trusted high value by weight. Digital inventions like Bitcoin are of uncertain and variable value. They are not tangible or trusted and do not qualify as legal Currency. Reported by Don Manning
Music Appreciation – THE SIXTIES AND ME
It was a time of great change as Baby Boomers exerted their influence on British popular music as young Groups and Teen Idols took over the Music Scene. Even America succumbed to the British Invasion, led by The Beatles. Many eyes glazed over and feet tapped away happily as Joan Samuel played a wide variety of memorable music tracks from the Swinging Sixties, adding some personal anecdotes on our nostalgic trip through The Streets of London from Rocking Chelsea, down Abbey Road to Penny Lane. Reported by Don Manning
Geoff Thomas, Aviation Editor WA Newspapers, gave fascinating insights into the crashes of flight MH370 and of two new Boeing 737 Max aircraft, as well as the major disruptions due to the COVID pandemic. Geoff explained how the search area for MH370 has been refined and why the search will be renewed. He also described the avoidable technical and training failures which led to the Boeing 737 Max crashes, and the changes made. He awaits information about the recent crash of a Boeing 737-800 in China. Air-travel may take time to recover from the impact of COVID. Reported by Don Manning
Tails of a Zen Dog
Anthropologist, published author, yoga teacher and Zen Buddhist, Rebecca Spyker, took us on a journey of self-discovery with reflections on Zen wisdom and the benefits of meditation. Becca related how her rescue dog ‘Bu’ repaid her love and changed her life as the rescued became the rescuer. Bu’s peculiar antics, endearing habits, strange encounters and misadventures illustrated the absurdities and joyful wonders of life, which he lived to the full, leaving loving and long- lasting impressions now contained in The Book of Bu. Reported by Don Manning
AFRICAN COLOSSUS and KING OF DIAMONDS
Those were two of the unofficial titles by which Cecil John Rhodes was sometimes known – also, the only Englishman to have a country name after him. Don Manning explained how Rhodes became one of the richest and most influential men of the late Victorian world, after he gained control of most of the world diamond trade. Rhodes was also a significant player in the gold trade, became Prime Minister of The Cape in southern Africa and aimed to extend the British Empire northwards all the way through ‘darkest Africa’ to Cairo. He remains a controversial figure 120 years after his death. Reported by Don Manning
Life as a Foreign Correspondent
Foreign Correspondents are those journalists who work overseas, often in hazardous situations. Graeme reminded us that, long before these modern times of instant world-wide communications, the first foreign correspondents delivered their reports by pigeon post which led to the establishment of Reuters, one of the world’s foremost international news agencies. Graeme Hunt, a journalist who has worked for Reuters and spent some time as a foreign correspondent, gave us a fascinating insight into his profession with particular focus on Neil Davis, a noted Australian war correspondent who insisted on being in the front line of any military action. Neil submitted stunning visual reports from the Vietnam war which were featured in news bulletins all over the world. Reported by Don Manning
1948 – The Year That Changed The World
Nigel Ridgway explored the huge questions of Why did Britain find it expedient to create a Jewish homeland there? How did the Jews reclaim their ancestral homeland after 2,000 years? Why is 1948 so significant in shaping modern history with consequences for the whole world to the present day? Nigel lived in the Middle East for some time and revealed many interesting facets of the recent history of one of the most troubled regions of the world, to which he added some fascinating personal perspectives. Reported by Don Manning
U3A North Coast welcomed a return visit by Elton Brown who presented his well-timed talk about St Valentine – patron saint of lovers, beekeepers, and those businesses which thrive when we celebrate St Valentine’s death 1,528 years ago!
Young men were required to serve a term in the Roman army before marriage. Valentine was a priest of the early Christian church who was executed for marrying young lovers in defiance of that decree.
Elton outlined many of the fascinating romantic legends and myths surrounding the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Reported by Don Manning
The Indian Ocean From Birth
Another fascinating presentation by Peter Alcock who tracked the dynamic processes still shaping the Indian Ocean. Peter explained what happens when tectonic plates collide (illustrated by the drifting of India and formation of the Himalayas) and the volcanic origins of island chains, the record-breaking Indonesian earthquake and tsunami of 2004.
The Indian Ocean is the newest, but the least studied, ocean. The disappearance of flight MH370 with the massive search for wreckage greatly increased our knowledge of the Ocean-bed coinciding with growing tensions over the strategic value of the Indian Ocean – just off Australia’s coast.
Sounds of the Sea
Dee Tartt presented another in her excellent Music Appreciation sessions. Each piece of music was introduced with some interesting background facts. Dee’s widely varied selection included, among others, some sea shanties like Aussie favourite South Australia; the Band of the Royal Marines playing A Life On The Ocean Wave; happy songs like I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside; then the evocative Skye Boat Song and Red Sails in the Sunset; a choir singing the heroic Shackleton; concluding with some modern pieces like Harbour Lights by The Platters and singalong Sailing by Rod Stewart.
Reported by Don Manning
U3A North Coast Christmas Lunch 2021
About 80 members attended the pre-Christmas Lunch. What a splendid Party it was!
Volunteers set up the decorated the tables. Professional caterers provided a delicious feast. Several members performed amusing comedy skits which set the merry atmosphere. Then, the fantastic ‘HAZE’ professional four-piece Jazz and Rock’n’Roll Band raised the merriment to a higher level as they played many well-loved tunes which soon had most members up dancing and joining conga-lines threading between tables.
Without doubt, the Merriest and Bestest Christmas Party!
The Body In The Bag – Forensic Anthropology:
When two young lads discovered a mummified human body in a bag discarded beside a road near Sheffield in Yorkshire, England, they set in train an amazing detective story trying to identify the deceased person who had been dead for several years.
Unlike Egyptian mummies, this body had a ‘soapy’ skin and flesh due to the cool and damp English climate. There was no ‘missing person’ report to help the search.
Who was he? Where had the body been kept for all that time? Was he murdered and, if so, who murdered him? The authorities turned to a team of forensic scientists to seek some clues which might answer those questions.
Emeritus Professor Bob Mead revealed in fascinating detail how the team concentrated on teeth and bones from which they successfully deciphered his height, age, build, diet, ethnicity, medical history, occupation and features – which led to identifying the dead man and bringing his killers to justice for murder.
U3A North Coast Day Trip to Rottnest Island
About 35 North Coast members enjoyed a group Day Outing to Rottnest under the guidance of three of our Committee members who are also Official Rottnest Guides.
The smooth ferry trip included a whale sighting. For the first hour ashore we had the option of a guided History Tour with Peter Merrall, or a ‘free hour’ for morning coffee and a stroll around the Settlement. Then we all boarded our own island tour bus which took us to various historic locations and beautiful viewpoints with commentary by our guides. The gun emplacement was built on Oliver Hill in WWII on Oliver Hill to defend the approaches to Fremantle Harbour. Some of us remember those days well!
Our three Guides each took a small group on different walking tours which included flora and fauna and photo opportunities with Quokkas, of course – followed by welcome refreshments before returning to Hillarys Boat Harbour after a fun day on ‘Rotto’.The gallery was not found!
Feisty Royal Women, the Plantagenets
Our own Dee Tartt presented the third of her fascinating, well-researched Talks about the important role played by Royal women over the ages.
The House of Plantagenet ruled England from King Henry II (1154) to the death of Richard II in 1399 in the turbulent Middle Ages which was a period of strong religion and some strong kings in dispute with the Pope.
Women lost many of the rights they had before the Catholic Church decreed them to be possessions of their fathers and husbands. Although their official status became less important they earned the love and respect of the common people as, behind the scenes, they exerted much influence over their Kings bringing more peace, stability and wealth which also improved the lot of common people.
Dee related details of succession disputes, the queens, illicit loves, why many towns include ‘Cross’ in their name and why London has a famous district called Elephant and Castle – which has no connection with animals or fortresses.
GRAVITY – A Serious Force
About 1590, Galileo is said to have dropped 2 spheres of different mass from the leaning Tower of Pisa to prove that both accelerated at the same rate irrespective of mass, disproving Aristotle’s theory that objects fall proportionately to their weight.
During the great plague 1665-1666 universities were closed and Isaac Newton famously pondered over a falling apple, concluding that there was a force which normally drew all falling things in a straight line towards the centre of Earth. Although the attraction is very small, it is sufficient to hold the moon in orbit around Earth, and Earth around the Sun.
Then Peter took us on a fascinating journey around the orbiting planets, the Galaxy and to the brink of a Black Hole in search of invisible Dark Matter which makes up 85% of the Mass of the Universe. Is there anybody out there?
Reported by Don Manning
Auslan and Me
After meeting a deaf lady about 10 years ago, Barbara Alcock went to TAFE and learnedAustralian Sign Language (Auslan) well enough to converse, but not to teach.
Barbara’s entertaining talk gave an insight into deaf culture and covered the basics of Auslan which is based on interpretation rather than translation, concentrating on key words to get to the point. Both hands are used, assisted by facial expressions and lipreading.
Loss of hearing occurs as we age. It is sad that so few people know Auslan which, like the telephone, needs an understanding user ‘on the other end’.
Blindness cuts us off from things. Deafness cuts us off from people – Helen Keller
Reported by Don Manning
Mexico, Mayan Ruins and Fleeing COVID 19
Bob and Carol Simpkins are passionate travelers who usually make their own way at their own pace on their various trips to SE Asia, Africa and S America. Bob told of how, early in 2020, they set off on a 4 months holiday starting in Cuba,on to Central America, then overland to Brazil and sailing down the Amazon, before flying home to Australia. Whilst they were in Mexico exploring ruins of the ancient Mayan empire dating from 2,600BC until 1539 AD, concerns were growing over COVID-19 but they were assured that there was ‘nothing to worry about’. That changed rapidly when some countries began closing their borders and some airline stopped flying. Bob and Carol experienced many problems and delays in their attempts to return home, barely keeping ahead of border closures. Reported by Don Manning
How many of us needed to research why a popular musical stage show is called ‘Hamilton’?
John Shepherd provided fascinating detail of Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father of USA, who stood very close to George Washington in shaping the new American nation at the end of the 18th century. His clear vision of a strong central government binding the newly independent colonies into a strong new nation without slavery led to conflict with other Founding Fathers.
Hamilton’s energetic high intellect combined with frankness, pride, impulsiveness and, sometimes, appalling sense of judgement, served as a flashpoint on matters of class, race, religion and ideology resulted in self-inflicted damage to his reputation and low visibility. Those issues appear as real in America’s recent politics as they were in Hamilton’s time.
OCEAN LINERS – Where To Now? The Years When Cruising Stopped.
Australia benefitted economically as Ocean Cruising reached great popularity in 2019. The expansion continued into early 2020 with an influx of ships carrying passengers anxious to escape the northern winters.
COVID-19 was diagnosed aboard some ships. Although infected passengers were quarantined in their cabins other passengers were allowed ashore in Australia. Then cruise ships were banned and all passengers were flown home.
About 300 large cruise ships were taken out of service around the world. Some were scrapped but most have been held at anchorage and manned by skeleton crews who have been upgraded to ‘tourist’ class.
It is hard to tell the future of cruising due to so many variables. Cruising may resume after modifying air-conditioning and requiring passengers to be double-vaccinated, with numbers limited to about 50% of capacity, provided there are no major outbreaks.
A Talk to U3A North Coast Members by Guest Speaker Paul Fisher on 3 September, 2021
We cannot comprehend the immense scale of the universe. All stars are Very Far Away. Astronomers are unable to examine samples. They can only look. Then they to do a great deal of thinking and speculation based on science.
Paul Fisher holds a Masters degree in both Engineering and Astronomy. He explained that most stars were formed a Long, Long Time ago and come in many kinds and sizes. Paul reminded us that the most brilliant stars are rated Magnitude 1 but are not necessarily the nearest and that Light Years measure Distance, not Time.
Observation begins at the level of optical telescopes. The Square Kilometre Array is at the other end of the scale. Paul said it is the largest and most expensive scientific instrument ever made.
Galaxies are massive groups of stars. Our closest Galaxy neighbour is Andromeda at a distance of 2.5 billion Light Years. Paul showed how the spectrum is used to identify the chemical composition of a star which reveals its age – with Great Difficulty! It also reveals their ‘Speed’ and Distance – with Some Difficulty.
Paul delivered his wonderful presentation with much enthusiasm and with some difficulty, considering that he had just discharged himself from hospital.
A Life in Kenya – Then and Now
Jane Bwye gave North Coast members very interesting insights into her several decades of living in Kenya which was a British colony until gaining full Independence in 1962. Early development in colonial days was rapid after completion of the ‘lunatic line’ railway from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi and on into Uganda. Following full Independence in 1962 ‘life goes on’ with development in the cities despite the growth of huge slums with open drains and a high crime rate. Jane remembers the resilient, smiling people, their happy greetings and infectious laughter. She described the amazing light, the large deserts in the north, the farming highlands, the Rift Valley and great grassy plains with elephants, rhinos and herds of other wildlife. Jane has two adult children living in Kenya and still supports a charity which enables village women to become self-supporting in small start- up grass roots businesses. Reported by Don Manning
Switzerland – Social, Defence, Education, Health
Now and then it’s good to have our ideas and concepts challenged. Isn’t U3A about helping us continue to learn in our third age? Well Ian Stamm’s talk at North Coast certainly filled the bill when he looked at the differences and similarities between Switzerland and Australia.
It was quite confronting for some of us to hear about a well-run and highly regulated country like Switzerland and its political, social and economic systems. Most of us think of the ‘Sound of Music’ when we consider the country but Ian made us aware that a lot of progressive thinking has gone into the making of this neutral country.
No-one likes to hear that Australia may not have all the answers and Ian’s views were challenged by some members – but most of us were left wanting to know more about this enigmatic society located in the heart of the EU whilst refusing to become a member. Reported by Nigel Ridgway
Dogs – Ancient and Modern
Tony said he is not a dog-trainer or animal behaviourist. He trains people to train their dogs. He also explained that the Grey Wolf Canus Lupus is an opportunistic scavenger and hunter which became familiar around human campsites about 15,000 years ago. In time those wolves assisted men to hunt and attack, gradually becoming the domesticated Canus Lupus Familiaris – the modern dog, ‘Man’s Best Friend’.
Man found many found specialised uses for dogs leading to the development of 354 distinctive breeds, some of which Tony described as having special skills ranging from aggressive ‘war dogs’ to passive ‘feet-warmers’, or the working sheep- and cattle-dogs, or the truffle- and mine-detection sniffer dogs, and many more described in interesting detail. The Dingo may be a feral dog brought by early migrants from Asia. Report by Don Manning
Rudyard Kipling – His Life, Times and Rhymes
Rudyard Kipling was born in India in 1865 and became one of the greatest English Writers of short stories, novels, poetry and children’s stories. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907.
Kipling began his career at age 16 in Lahore as a reporter and sub-editor. News stories took weeks to arrive from overseas so young Kipling composed some stories to fill gaps in the newspaper. He published a book containing some of those stories which brought him fame whilst still a teenager.
The Jungle Books have been made into films relating to the India of Mowgli, Baloo, and Shere Khan, although Kipling spent most of his life in England, as well as USA and South Africa. Don played recordings and recited from several of Kipling’s most popular poems including The Road To Mandalay, Gunga Din, Recessional (Lest We Forget), Norman and Saxon, The Reeds at Runnymede and explained the real meaning behind The White Man’s Burden, which is often misunderstood.
Kipling’s inspirational poem ‘IF’ has been voted Britain’s most popular poem and Don revealed how it was developed from an unpublished different political origin thirteen years earlier.
FIFTH FRIDAY FUN – Winter Beerfest
When there is the occasional Fifth Friday in a month, the U3A North Coast Committee arranges a special event like an Outing or Lunch or other informal activity to celebrate our own version of the rare blue moon.
So it was that on the Fifth Friday of July, which fell on 30th of July 2021, instead of the usual in-house schedule of Talks and discussions, we sat down to a catered hot lunch with a Bavarian Beer Fest theme provided by an entertaining and appropriately attired Oom-Pah-Pah Brass Band whose numbers were, unfortunately, reduced to three on this occasion. Most tunes were well-known Bavarian sing-along drinking songs. Despite some coaching in fractured German, member participation was more restrained than when swaying, singing and swinging a large stein in a Munich beerhall. Those were the days my friend!
Graham EzzY explained that sound is what we hear by waves of vibrations through a medium – gas, liquid or solid. By noting the time delay between seeing a lightning flash and hearing the thunder we learned that sound waves travel more slowly than light.
Our sense of sound helps us detect danger, communicate and navigate. Even when everything seems to be quiet, we are surrounded by sound. Noise is unwanted sound and people often complain about the noise other people make.
On the other hand, harmonic musical sound waves are pleasing to the ear but we each have different interpretations of what makes ‘good’ music. Life is difficult for people with impaired hearing, which can be aided by making eye contact and basic lip-reading.
Wheelchairs for Kids
Gordon and Peter arrived with the kit and quickly assembled a WA designed and made robust wheelchair, which wonderfully meets the needs of severely disabled children living in remote communities – but not in Australia due to our Government regulations.
Over 50,000 have been made in their purpose-built factory in Wangara, Perth and donated direct to selected needy children in many impoverished countries, mainly in Africa and Asia. The team are all volunteers and rely on donations to meet the cost of materials, construction, shipping – and a large mortgage on their factory.
A wheelchair can bring life-changing benefits to a disabled child who, otherwise, may be unable to attend school. ‘Wheelchairs For Kids’ have a never-ending demand for their special wheelchairs. They also have a list of potential volunteers waiting for a vacancy on the team. They just need a constant flow of donations to make a disabled child’s dream come true.
Oxygen and the Air we Breathe
Due to Covid restrictions, Peter Alcock kindly stepped in at short notice with a very interesting Zoom presentation about the complexities of Oxygen and the Air we breathe. He explained that Free oxygen began to be formed by stromatolites 3.4 billion years ago. The rich banded iron ore formations found in WA were deposited on ancient ocean floors in a natural process, releasing excess oxygen to the atmosphere which allowed a multitude of air-breathing lifeforms to emerge. Atmosphere protects earth from harmful ultra-violet radiation. Oxygen stabilised at the current level about 600 million years ago.
LIVING WITH A KETCH – Our 7 Years With a Leaky Boat
Nigel has great nostalgia for the Days of Sail and Exploration, and had ambitions to sail the deep ocean, so he and his wife Aileen bought a Western Australia-built wooden Ketch named Clare which was capable of sailing the open seas. With her two masts and four sails, she was larger than any vessel they had sailed before.
Clare was well-fitted out and relatively spacious inside with beautiful woodwork. They spent the next seven wonderful years living their dream and getting to know Clare when sailing on trips along the WA coast and over to Rottnest Island, gradually building up experience for their planned great adventure.
When the engine failed Nigel found that the Broker had misrepresented the age of Clare and who built her. Nigel researched Clare’s long history and discovered she had been hand-built from hand-picked WA Jarrah and named when launched in 1951.
Her variety of past owners had ranged between careful original owners to being a ‘party-boat’ owned by three bachelors and then a more conventional period with 2 doctors sailing her ‘round the top’ to Queensland and back to Bunbury. Later, Clare was sailed onto rocks and the salvaged wreck was sold for $1 to a man who lovingly repaired and restored her – although she will always bear that ‘wrecked’ stigma.
After two more owners Nigel bought Clare, unaware of her chequered history. The Magistrate’s Court awarded Nigel compensation which helped with the purchase of auto-pilot, VHS radio and weather-proofing the ‘dog-house’ (steering cockpit). Nigel also stripped down the hull to the bare wood and enlarged the rudder. The engine was repaired by prison inmates as work experience.
Nigel said that after all the hard work was done, there were lots of parties including the celebration of their daughter’s wedding on board Clare, and when they sailed escort to the ‘tall ships’ Endeavour and Duyfkin which were also WA-built.
Then it was time for adventure. Rations were purchased sufficient for 90 days at sea. The planned route would be north to Geraldton, Cocos Islands, Maldives, Mauritius, Reunion Island and back to Perth across the middle of the Indian Ocean.
After an emotional casting-off from Hillarys they set sail – into a strong north-westerly. Aileen wore a harness to hold her steady in the galley. They also had radio link-ups with their grandchildren and classmates at school who kept charts of their progress. Nigel was Captain, navigator, deckhand and dolphin-charmer when lazing on the bowsprit, whilst Aileen controlled the steering when not busy in the galley.
They arrived at Cocos after dark so Clare was hove-to but another late arrival, Spanish Eyes, sailed in and was wrecked on rocks. Cocos was also the end of their journey with Clare, due to the engine being sabotaged. Reluctantly, Clare was sold.
Clare is now 71 years of age and is based in Victoria. Nigel and Aileen agree that whilst Clare cost them lots – she also gave them lots and lots of pleasure and fond memories.
ATMOSPHERE – And How Your Pool Pump Works.
Duncan Robinson is a former Construction Engineer who has worked on major projects throughout Australia. He is still a University Lecturer in Construction Engineering.
He explained that the solid crust of earth is the Geosphere which surrounds earth’s molten core. The layers above the Geosphere include the Hydrosphere which is 97% saline water and only 3% fresh water and ice. The Biosphere is where we find all living matter.
The complex gaseous layers are known as Atmosphere, where the lower layer is called the Troposphere, with the Stratosphere commencing above 12 kms. The Ozone layer is found at about 30 kms above earth and the Ionosphere gives us the ‘Northern Lights.
Duncan said that air is 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen with small amounts of CO2 and other gases. Atmosphere makes life on earth possible. At sea level Atmospheric Pressure (‘AP’) is measured as the weight of a 760mm column of mercury, which is equivalent to 1014mm (about 10 metres) of water. We do not feel the weight since it exerts its ‘push’ evenly from every direction.
Weather charts on TV use the 1014 measure to show that AP varies slightly with gradient highs and lows over large areas. A layman’s guide is that AP below 1014 means rain whilst AP rising above 1025 indicates the weather should be fine for a couple of days and winds flow down to lower pressure areas.
AP varies with altitude making it necessary for pilots to adjust their altimeter gauge after take-off to reflect the different AP at their landing point. Low AP at the top of Everest causes water to boil at only 68oC compared with 100oC at sea level. Duncan amused us with simple demonstrations of the effects of creating a vacuum.
Finally, Duncan used diagrams to illustrate the workings of Rotodynamic, or Centrifugal, Pool Pumps which, he said, need to be installed low to, or even below, the level of water being pumped otherwise the drop in internal AP may cause the water to boil.
The Ice Age
Peter Flanagan commenced by explaining that we now live in the Holocene geological epoch which commenced about 11,700 years ago marking the start of a period of glacial retreat (warmer weather). The previous epoch was the Pleistocene period of glaciation which commenced 2.5 million years ago. Although permanent ice coverage is retreating, 25% of the northern hemisphere remains subject to permafrost.
Mean Global Temperatures are now 7C warmer resulting in melting of glaciers with meltwaters flowing into the oceans, raising mean sea-level by 120 metres, flooding coastal lowlands, affecting temperatures and currents by the opening of the shallow Bering Strait, the North Sea and other channels.
Looking back into the Pleistocene Epoch, Peter said the Ice Age was caused by a combination of effects including greenhouse gases, variations in Earth orbit and tilt, and Continental Drift with India crashing into Asia to form the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. Ocean currents have been deflected by Australia also heading north and the land bridge forming to join north and south America which cut the direct connection between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Deep ice cores tell the story of climate change through rings and trapped air bubbles which also show changes in methane and oxygen indicating temperatures at different times. Ice caps reflect sunlight which affects temperatures. Air vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas whilst only 2% of CO2 is found in the atmosphere with the rest absorbed in waters. The rate of climate change is variable as demonstrated by the Little Ice Age between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Peter said the tipping point for the end of the Ice Age came 11,200 years ago but there is no simple explanation which covers all causes. Significantly, the melting snow- and ice-fields of north America caused a deflection of the Gulf Stream due to the flow of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico increasing to 200 times the flow of the Amazon. The melting of a 4 km layer of ice removed a huge weight from the land which rebounded by rising 300 metres.
Peter suggests bigger is generally better for animals trying to survive cold temperatures. Ancient cave paintings include many examples of mammoth, mastodon, and woolly rhinoceros although the African elephant and rhinoceros are just as big. Humans survived the cold due to two inventions – the ability to make fire and to sew skins together with needle and animal sinew to make warm garments. Neanderthal Man is more ancient than Modern Man and had the same size brain – but it is a mystery why they died out.
Mt Flora Memories for North Coast
Air Attack on Broome and the Missing Diamonds Mystery
U3A North Coast doyen Terry Harvey enthralled Members with his skilful linking of two major events which occurred in WA’s tropic north near Broome in 1942.
Terry explained that Broome had been the centre of the lucrative trade in Pacific pearls and pearl shell worked by about 400 pearl luggers and 1,000 divers, who were mostly Japanese. In 1942 those numbers had dropped to about 80 luggers and 200 Japanese divers. The pearl fishing industry was devastated when their Japanese divers were interned for the duration of the war.
Japanese forces were moving rapidly down into southeast Asia and had reached Timor which brought their aircraft within striking range of northern Australia. Terry said the first attack on Australia came on 19 February 1942 when Japanese aircraft dropped more bombs on Darwin than they had dropped in their devastating attack on the US Pacific Fleet based in Pearl Harbour.
Broome was a refuelling stop for aircraft carrying thousands of Dutch refugees fleeing ahead of the Japanese advance. Some came on KLM civilian flying boats, stopping briefly in Broome’s Roebuck Bay. On 3 March 1942 a formation of KLM flying boats had landed just before Japanese aircraft attacked. There were no defences and all planes in Roebuck bay and at Broome airport were destroyed with the tragic loss of 80 to 100 civilian lives, including many women and children. Over 70,000 Dutch citizens who did not manage to escape Indonesia in time were interned by the Japanese for the next 3 years.
Terry told the intriguing mystery of 65 small parcels of cut diamonds, worth well over $20 million dollars today. A KLM pilot was entrusted to take the diamonds to safe keeping in Melbourne. His DC3 plane was attacked and crash-landed on a remote beach 150 kms north of Broome. The flames were extinguished by surf but the Japanese fighter continued the attack.
Four passengers and crew were killed and several others injured including the pilot. Terry told of their lack of medical supplies, water and food until they were found and rescued several day later. It seems the unmarked package containing the parcels of diamonds was overlooked and stayed in the wrecked plane.
Some days later, a beachcomber called Jack Palmer found the diamonds but seemed to have no idea of their real value – he swapped some for 2 tins of tobacco. The Crown Prosecutor investigated the disappearance of the packages and Jack handed in some loose diamonds he had in Salt and Pepper shakers, plus only 24 of the original 65 packages. The rest were never recovered.
Due to the remoteness and lack of reliable witnesses, ‘Diamond Jack’ was acquitted on charges of stealing since he claimed the diamonds were salvage and that he ‘received no benefit’. The truth about the missing diamonds may never be known but it is rumoured that beachcomber Diamond Jack had an unknown source of income and was relatively wealthy when he died 15 years later.
The Irish Famine
Elton said many Catholics in Ireland had sided with the Royalists of King Charles I in the English Civil War, which was won by the Protestants. Oliver Cromwell turned his attention to Ireland in 1649 intending to impose law and order – and crush the Catholic Church. Catholic supporters were evicted and their lands were given to Cromwell’s Protestant supporters. Evicted Catholics were sent to marginal lands in Connacht in the west where the population growth caused many to suffered famine and hunger.
The Irish staple food became single-crop potatoes which were economical and easy to grow. Men were under-employed and many sought work as navvies in England, labouring to build canals and coming home each winter. With the growth of the Industrial Revolution, canal building declined after 1840.
Elton told of the blight which spread throughout Europe, causing entire potato crops to rot in the ground. Starvation ensued especially in potato-dependent Ireland where there were no stores of other foods. The best land was being used to fund the extravagant lifestyle of the aristocratic absentee landlords and the barley crop was bought up by Arthur Guinness for his brewery or for export to England.
Starvation was at its worst in Connacht where there was a big fall in the population. Tenants who were unable to pay their rent were evicted and the roof of their cottage was removed to avoid tax. There was no welfare and the starving homeless people could only rely on family or parish charity
Many Irish landlords sat in the English Parliament which did almost nothing to assist the starving population of Ireland, partly due to Irish support for Napoleon in 1798. The Passenger Act of 1847 paid passages to US and Canada for some migrants and some landlords also paid passages to clear people off their lands. Elton said about 6,000 migrants died in disease-riddled ‘Coffin Ships’
Large numbers of Irish settled in England where many worked in the new cotton mills. Many Irish women came to Western Australia where men greatly outnumbered women.
The Planes which saved Britain in 1940
Committee Member Don Manning captivated Members of the U3A North Coast branch with his Presentation about the planes which saved Britain during the Battle of Britain in World War II. They were the famous Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane. Don compared flight characteristics of those two wonderful aircraft and also compared them to their formidable German opposition – the Messerschmidt Bf109. While the German fighter was slightly faster, the RAF planes were more manoeuverable in the dog-fights.
Don’s presentation covered the story of the brief but intense Battle of Britain where Germany attempted to destroy the RAF in the air and on the ground. When that failed, Hitler diverted German bombers to bomb London and other British cities, ports and railways in a new campaign known as The Blitz.
There was no rest for the RAF fighter pilots who were now committed to destroying German bombers and their escorting Messerschmidt fighters. Pilots from some European countries which had already been over-run by Germany, along with many pilots from Commonwealth countries, including Australia, flew with the Royal Air Force and also suffered heavy casualties.
Despite being grossly outnumbered, the RAF fighters defeated the German air force in the first military campaigns fought entirely in the skies. The courage, and sacrifices, of ‘The Few’ saved Britain from military invasion by Germany in 1940.
Although he was only age 4 at the time, Don has clear memories of some events. His personal anecdotes included being temporarily blinded by the blast from the bomb which destroyed his family home in north London. Those scars soon healed but emotional scars remain. Then, he told of being homeless, moving to a lonely farmhouse in the country, watching from a safe distance as London burned, the much-feared ‘casualty telegram’ and more…
At the conclusion of his Presentation, Don competently replied to a wide range of questions relating to both military and civilian matters of that time.
Reported By: Nigel Ridgway, Vice Chairman, U3A North Coast
Turbans and Trust
Talk to U3A North Coast Members by Guest Speaker HARJIT SINGH – 23 April 2021
Harjit is passionate about turbans and his faith. He hopes Australians may come to accept turbans as easily as the Akubra. Not many Australians realise that the puggaree (Hindu word for turban) hatband on the famous Aussie slouch hat has the same seven folds as the traditional Sikh turban of cool muslin cloth.
Many Sikhs were among the Afghan cameliers of the Australian Outback, where they became highly valued storekeepers. Although many Sikh men came to work here, their wives and families used to stay back in Punjab, the Sikh homeland in northern India. Harjit is a founder of the Australian Sikh Heritage Association which records the history of Australian Sikhs.
The British Army recruited large numbers of Sikhs among the 1.5 million Indian soldiers who fought in WWI. Many Indian words have entered the English language – bazaar, jungle, guru, yoga, khaki, pyjamas, loot, shampoo, verandah and so on. The Sikh religion was founded in the 1500s by the First Guru, Nanuk. Sikh means ‘learner’ and Guru means ‘darkness to light’ (enlightenment). Sikhs believe ‘we are all one, all equal’ – that means speaking up and standing out to fight for what is right. The Indian Caste system is a barrier to civil rights and equality. Harjit explained his passion for civil rights which is a principle of the Sikh religion. Sikh women enjoy equal rights.
According to Harjit, people tend to be afraid of differences in colour, language, beliefs and dress – until they gain a better understanding through interaction. He seeks to build understandings, respect, multi-culturalism and equality, without confrontation. Sikhs have suffered for their beliefs and traditionally carried swords to defend themselves. Practicing Sikh men take the name Singh and do not cut or shave their hair, which is held up in a man-bun under the turban. Sikhs do not actively recruit converts. They believe in doing good deeds throughout life but do not believe in an afterlife.
Harjit’s personal goal is to dispel misunderstandings and make Australia the most Sikh-aware country in the world.
Reported by Don Manning 0419 040 813 U3A North Coast
U3A North Coast regular activities were scheduled to recommence on 5 February 2021 with Dr Craig Challen, SC, OAM and joint Australian Of The Year 2019, to speak about the risks and problems encountered in performing the amazing Thai Cave Rescue which received world-wide publicity. Sadly Covid19 restrictions caused the postponement of Dr Challen’s Talk and the re-introduction of online Zoom meetings. Peter Flanigan’s fascinating Zoom Talk on ‘Viruses’ was both timely and informative. There are many types of virus which are incredibly minute and some are dangerous to humans. The current pandemic is caused by a novel coronavirus, named ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’, which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. That illness has been renamed ‘COVID-19’ for coronavirus disease 2019. This illustration reveals the structure of a coronavirus when viewed through an electron microscope.
In a separate Zoom session, U3A North Coast members were encouraged to wear a Silly Hat and speak for 5 minutes on any subject of their choice – including telling jokes. It was an entertaining session. With the lifting of restrictions, group meetings in the hall will recommence from 19 February with ‘Overcoming Stuttering’ by Geoff Martin to be followed, on 26 February, by Ian Stann’s presentation of ‘What If Switzerland Ran Australia?’
Denise Beer Visits North Coast
North Coast recently rolled out the red carpet for visiting U3A President Denise Beer – with a sumptuous afternoon tea following three special presentations. North Coast Chair Dee Tartt took her audience on a musical journey through the ages, while Nigel Ridgway reminisced about his childhood in Jordan, with a keen insight into the turbulent history of Israel and the Middle East. A surprise addition to the program was a presentation by young musician Michelle Ezzy who enthused about her latest project, working with young performers producing filmed stage productions.
Sharing Pam’s Prehistoric Treasures
Dr Pam Lynch is an archaeologist, passionate about her subject. Picture shows North Coast’s Don Manning congratulating Pam on her presentation, “walking through history” which has also been enjoyed by Joondalup Region. Pam’s talk focusses on the Orkneys, a tiny cluster of islands just 16 kilometres off NE Scotland – site of one of the world’s best preserved and enlightening examples of prehistoric (Neolithic) architecture.
Sails and Wheels
Sails and wheels….North Coast yachting personality Nigel Ridgway (right) compares notes with Alan Naber, who rhapsodised about bicycles when presenting “A Social History of Cycling”. He posed a number of tantalising questions, including:
- did cycling change the world?
- was cycling involved in the emancipation of women?
- and how did cycling affect the development of the WA Goldfields?
Smartly attired in cycling gear from a bygone era, Alan highlighted the development of cycling from 1817 to the 1920s and its profound influence on society.
Dulcet Tones of the Dulcimer
Peter Alcock intrigued and entertained North Coast (Hamersley) colleagues with the history and musical quality of a little known string instrument, the dulcimer. He was accompanied by dulcimer exponent, Christine Hogan from Mad Tatters, pictured instructing Peter Flanigan to have a go at making music with the tiny hammers used on the strings.
Dick Whittington: fact and fiction
Elton Brown is a former engineer who has devoted his retirement years to the study of medieval history – which he enjoys sharing with the U3A Regions. His repertoire ranges from a Chaucer rogues’ gallery to European monarchy and folklore stories for children. His North Coast (Hamersley) audience were invited to revisit the traditional nursery story of Dick Whittington and his cat and discovered that:
- Dick Whittington and his cat really existed — in the 14th Century;
- He did become Lord Mayor of London three times;
- Dying without heirs, Dick (or Sir Richard) Whittington left a megafortune to finance public works to benefit London’s poorer citizens….including the first public lavatories:
- His legacy included the Whittington Hospital – still existing today, thanks to the Whittington fortune which has survived (in part) for almost six centuries.
Star Gazing Made Easy
Talks Coordinator Terry Harvey (who is himself a popular presenter with U3A Regions) said he was thrilled to find an exciting new talent among North Coast’s recent surge of new members. He was referring to Paul Fisher (pictured at right with Elizabeth Brennan) who gave a stellar performance unlocking the mysteries and complexities of astrophysics.
A retired engineer responsible for the design and planning of Perth’s major highways as well as the northern railway, Paul spoke with authority and humour, describing the different types of stars, and how each goes through its life cycle; how some stars end their life with a whimper and some with a bang and how the death of stars gives new life to the universe.
Richard Offen talks about Perth’s Theatres
One of U3A’s most popular speakers, Richard Offen, treated North Coasters to two versions of his presentation, “The History of Perth Theatres and Cinemas” — the first on Zoom during the Covid closure; the second to an enthusiastic Hamersley audience of around 70 members and visitors. The presentation followed the rise and decline of Perth’s favourite entertainment venues, from 1853, when a travelling salesman gave a magic lantern show in a tent. Much loved but almost forgotten Colonial theatre sites included:
- The old Courthouse, scene from 1876, of many a world-class musical recital;
- The Theatre Royal, opened near London Court in 1897;
- The purpose-built Melrose Theatre, opened in 1911 to support the new wonder of the age: the picture show….
- and modern performing arts favourite, the Playhouse, built in the 1950s, demolished in 1912 as part of a redevelopment program.
Richard well known as a historian, author and broadcaster, brought many of those old favourites back to life. As a connoisseur of international theatre, he also paid homage to two of his personal favourites: Perth’s irrepressible His Majesty’s and the unique Quarry Amphitheatre in our Western suburbs.
Exploring the Great Southern
Ric Foster recently took fellow North Coasters on a historical armchair journey through WA’s Great Southern…..home of his pioneering family. He described the rapid growth in the late 19th Century of the rail network linking Albany to the existing rail system at Perth and Fremantle. As surveyor general, the renowned visionary, explorer and statesman, John Forrest, oversaw a land grant scheme which financed railway infrastructure and opened up the region to agriculture.
Musical Appreciation – Edith Piaf
North Coast held its first post-lockdown Music Appreciation session with a musical journey through the tempestuous life of Edith Piaf. Pauline Yarwood traced the French singer’s rags to riches story, from her abandonment at birth and early childhood in her grand mother’s brothel, to her meteoric rise as a teenager, from street singer to international cabaret star. During her short life, impacted by two world wars, multiple lovers and espionage, Piaf produced a repertoire which included numerous classics still popular today……among them her signature song La Vie En Rose, The Poor People of Paris and the timeless Milord.
Aboriginal History – A Passion Shared
Graham Ezzy is North Coast’s fourth current member to train as an official Rottnest Island Guide, joining Peter Alcock, Nigel Ridgway and Peter Merrells. Graham recently shared his passion for Rottnest Aboriginal history with a presentation titled “When Worlds Collide –Rottnest Island:1829 to 1931.” His presentation examined the many “difficulties” between white settlers and Aborigines that were evident from the beginnings of the Swan River Colony. Many Aborigines were apprehended for infringements of imposed British laws, having difficulty understanding these laws and the reasons for their imprisonment.
Former Premier Burke tells all
Looking back on a sensational career in politics, former Premier Brian Burke was happy to share his recollections – both good and bad – with members of North Coast U3A. From his electoral win to the Premiership at the age of 35 to his year in year in jail (for travel allowance irregularities) he told it all – with the warmth, humour and candour reminiscent of his time at the top in the 1980s. What would he have done differently in his political career? “Everything,” he replied. However, there were many solid achievements during his five years as premier. The one he was most proud of? “Undoubtedly, the abolition of capital punishment.” After a career as a journalist, Brian Burke, entered politics in 1973 as a 26 year old. Six years later he became leader of the opposition and in 1983 he lead the Labor Party to victory and became premier. It was an exciting time in WA with a mining boom taking place and the local economy growing at twice the rate of the rest of the nation. He had promised his wife, Sue, that he would spend only five years in the top job, therefore, on his 41st birthday, he announced his resignation. Sue, his wife of 55 years, accompanied the former Premier to North Coast’s Hamersley venue. The couple have raised six children and now take pride in 25 grandchildren.
David Hounsome presents on Aboriginal Art
David Hounsome, popular around U3A regions for his presentations on modern art, is now focusing on another of his passions: indigenous art. North Coast Hamersley U3A were treated to his debut presentation of Aboriginal Art from Cave to Canvas with a wealth of art images depicted on rocks, sand and bark to blank doors, blank walls and canvas. The images are mainly from the Art Gallery of WA and from David’s own photographic expeditions to the Kimberley. He showed how Aboriginal art has evolved from cultural practice, varying widely among the different indigenous nations and language groups, to modern artists’ cooperatives springing up and flourishing throughout remote Australia. Charting progress from prehistoric cave paintings to modern canvases hanging in the world’s leading art galleries, David detailed the impact of history, especially colonial settlement, on indigenous art. He cited the discovery of artistic talent among stolen generations (as at Carrolup, near Katanning) and displaced indigenous persons at institutions like Pupanya (Northern Territory) which produced Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri who were Australia’s most internationally acclaimed indigenous artists. North Coasters were reminded of the tragic lives which overshadowed many successful indigenous artists……foremost among them Albert Namatjira, internationally recognised, presented to the Queen, but dying an untimely death following discriminatory imprisonment in the 1950s. This irony is vibrantly depicted by Perth artist Sally Morgan in her picture, Greetings from Rottnest, ……a reminder that the island seen by most as the ultimate pleasure destination was a source of misery and despair for the thousands of Aboriginal men and boys incarcerated there in previous centuries.