Category Archives: Speakers – Monthly meeting

Articles about speakers and their topics presented at the monthly meetings

The Great Pembroke Dock Fire

Derek Church - Speaker May 2016

Derek Church – Speaker May 2016

Monthly Meeting – May

An excellent talk was given by Derek Church, one of our members, on the subject “The Great Pembroke Dock Fire”. Without reference to any notes Derek, spoke for forty five minutes, explaining Pembroke Dock was, primarily, a ship-building dock with storage facilities for oil, there being several large tanks in the locality for that purpose.
Whilst the fighter airplanes of the RAF were engaged in the Battle of Britain and our army was in retreat at Dunkirk, a bomber from the German Luftwaffe, protected by two fighter planes, dropped a bomb on one the oil storage tanks.
A sewing machine Salesman from Neyland, Arthur Morris, who also happened to be a retained fire fighter made his way to the fire crossing the estuary by way of the ferry, taking charge of the situation with help from six hundred and fifty fire-fighters from as far away as Birmingham, Newport, Cardiff, Devon and Somerset. The fire raged for twenty one days unlike the great fire of London which burnt for three. Arthur Morris toiled for seventeen days without sleep, five Cardiff firemen were killed and there were thirty eight seriously injured men.
The fire must have been a most terrifying sight to see and experience, thank goodness we now live in relatively peaceful times.

Penny Thomas
5th May 2016

Derek gave a Masterclass in public speaking/story telling. He delivered an excellent talk with no notes, visual aids, ums & errs, hesitation or repetition which certainly left me with a brilliant mental picture of the events from Monday 19 August 1940.

Mike Wort

SSAFA – Monthly Meeting – April 2016

Valerie Griggs


The Speaker at the meeting on 7th April 2016 was Valerie Griggs who spoke of the work undertaken by SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors & Airmen Families Association).

Valerie, the wife of a retired Naval Officer, came to Pembrokeshire when her husband was appointed as the Royal Naval liaison officer working with the American Navy at Brawdy. When he retired they settled in here where they had grown to feel at home.

When the British Army first fought overseas soldiers were given their pay direct leaving their wives and dependants without any means of financial support resulting in many living in a state of destitution. At the time of the First World War an association was formed to take care of dependants of those soldiers serving overseas thus saw the beginning of SSAFA. In later years the Navy and Air Force joined, forming the Association as it is today. Valerie explained the levels of the lifelong support, covering both material and emotional needs.

Whilst Valerie’s interesting talk was locally based and drawn from personal experience, a short DVD of the work undertaken really emphasised the importance of the Association as it is today. The talk was informative and brought to our attention the various needs of our veteran and serving forces.

Penny Thomas

7th April, 2016


September Monthly Meeting – Judith Barrow

The attendance at our September meeting of 72 people reflected the interest in the speaker that morning – Judith Barrow, writer, teacher, author.

Judith Barrow
Judith began by telling us a little about her background – she left school after her G.C.E.s, worked in the Civil Service, moved to Wales 38 years ago to live in a house they were building in the middle of a field whilst bringing up their twins!

20 years ago, after contracting breast cancer she completed a degree course with the Open University & then went on to obtain a Masters degree at Trinity College. After this she wrote plays, poems & short stories but Judith went back to her roots in Oldham to do the research for the first book in her trilogy – Pattern of Shadows. The Glen Mill had been converted into a Prisoner of War Camp in 1939 and going there had brought back memories to Judith of how she used to go & meet her Mother at the mill where she worked, after school. The main character, Mary Howarth goes on to feature in the other two books – Changing Shadows & Living in The Shadows.

Judith leads creative writing groups in Narberth, Tenby & Pembroke Dock and many people showed an interest in the possibility of a creative writing group for Pembrokeshire U3A.
This was a lively, interesting talk given by a remarkable & inspiring lady.


U3A Speaker for September’s Meeting at NAC

“Inspiration for a Wartime Saga”

A talk by author Judith Barrow

Our speaker for this meeting is the author, Judith Barrow.   Judith grew up in the Pennines, but has lived in Pembrokeshire for the last 30 years.   “Living in the Shadows” is the final book in her “Pattern of Shadows” trilogy, set in Wales and Lancashire.

Judith has also published poetry and short fiction, as well as three children’s books and a play which was performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre.   In spite of her busy writing career, Judith finds time to teach creative writing classes in Tenby, Narberth and Pembroke Dock.

Her talk for us is entitled “Inspiration for a Wartime Saga” which will no doubt stimulate interesting memories in some of us!

Monthly Meeting 2nd July 2015 LA VOLTA Pembrokeshire’s Early Music Group

What a different monthly meeting took place today.  No speaker, but members from La Volta, a group of musicians who entertained us with their medieval musical instruments.  Namely, a viol, fiddler, shawn, cittern, crumhorn and various sized recorders to name but a few.

Marion, Tom, Lyn and Basil transported us, through their music, to the Court of King Henry VIII playing a piece of music he composed.  My word how far the world of music has come since those days!  Each piece of music was announced but “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” needed no such introduction.  Some of the lady members were amused by the words of a song which instructed a lass as to how she could dispose of her unwanted husband.  Firstly by giving him boiled marrow bones, for which purpose she purchased sixty.   The effect of which would be to render him blind thus enabling her to carry on with potential husband No 2.  However, the scheme failed when, on a walk along the river bank, she fell in.  Her cries for help were met with a response from her husband advising her he was blind and couldn’t see to assist her, not such a good scheme.  What lyrics they devised in medieval times.  There was some audience participation when we were required to mimic the sounds of a hen, cockerel, duck, and lamb which we did with gusto.  But I don’t think we should rush to audition for Britain’s Got Talent. The Meeting was quite a departure from the usual format but certainly well received by those in attendance.


La Volta will performing next at Manorbier Castle on 28th July.                                                                                   Penny Thomas

June Monthly Meeting – Facing up to Alzheimers!

The talk at today’s monthly meeting was given by Maxine Ford of the Alzheimer’s Society.  The number of members attending was somewhat less than usual, possibly because the subject matter is not one with which we feel comfortable.

Maxine explained Alzheimer’s disease is, in simple terms, a form of Dementia.  She brought with her a small booklet entitled “5 things you should know about Dementia”.   Perhaps not a booklet we would rush to acquire, but when one reads point 5 “There’s more to a person than the dementia”, it certainly goes a long way to explaining those frightening words “ Alzheimer’s Disease”


We were introduced to Tony and his wife and carer Iona. Tony suffers with Alzheimer’s, and he sat and quietly explaining, with honest good humour and confidence how he came to recognise all was not well and the steps he took to obtain the diagnosis.  It became obvious that between them Tony and Iona have done all they can to deal with a condition which, sadly, will not improve.   The meeting clearly appreciated how brave it was for the two of them to come and talk to a room full of strangers about their experiences.

Although quite different from the usual monthly topic it was one well received by those who attended the meeting.

Useful Link:

Penny Thomas. 4 June 2015

April 2015 Monthly Meeting

Angela Jones – “The Tudor Merchant’s House in Tenby”

As I sat greeting members arriving for the monthly meeting I glanced up and for a few seconds became a time traveller, walking towards me was a Tudor maid, actually it was Angela Jones of the National Trust arriving to deliver a talk about the Tudor Merchant’s house in Tenby.
Using the heading “Survivor in Time” Angela gave a brief history of the property through its various stages of dereliction to the present day. The house is the oldest unaltered property in Tenby.

We were invited on a walk, figuratively speaking, and with the aid of modern technology through the dwelling. Firstly, into a display area, rather than a shop, here the merchant laid out his wares, small wooden bowls filled with spices the most valuable at the time being nutmeg. It was a sign of great wealth to extract from your pocket this small brown nut, so bear that in mind when next freely grating this over your rice pudding. Wooden casks containing various types of liquid beautifully fashion and capable of recycling at the end of their working days into quite comfortable looking chairs!

There are two upper floors, again these, through their decoration, reflecting this Tudor merchant was indeed a very rich gentleman. I found fascinating the sleeping arrangements, a beautiful four poster bed, however, overnight visitors also shared the bed not lying down but sitting up!

Angela gave a fascinating talk about the house and also explained her costume, under garments made of fine linen with a blue woollen dress. Whilst the under garments were periodically washed the dress, having been dyed using a vegetable dye, woad to treat this in the same way would have caused the dye to “wash out” and therefore there was need for an apron. However, the bodies they adorned did not undergo the same treatment, small wonder the original garden to the property incorporated a large herb growing area I suspect one use of these was to provide a bouquet to disguise a rather unsavoury smell about one’s person.

Penny Thomas
2 April 2015

March 2015 Monthly Meeting

“Wildlife along the Seashore”

Julian Cremona retired Head of Centre, Dale Fort Field Centre, Pembrokeshire gives a talk about the wildlife around the seashore.

The monthly meeting for March was very well attended in anticipation of the talk to be given by Julian Cremona who, before, retirement, was Head of the Dale Fort Field Centre.

The members were certainly not disappointed.  Julian’s enthusiasm for his subject – marine biology, was most infectious, as he took us, with the aid of photographs, along the Pembrokeshire Coast line. Explaining how the different types of foreshore, rocky and dramatic headlands or shallow sandy beaches impacted upon the wildlife that inhabits the areas.

It was fascinating to learn that some of our most useful aids to modern life have their origins in marine life.  For instance, superglue. Who would have guessed the lowly barnacle brought this to our attention as it clings steadfastly to rocks unmoved even by the most ferocious waves.  How is it that gannets, who dive into the ocean at tremendous speeds, survive the impact, simple, it’s the bags of air which expand inside their bodies, sound familiar – motorists?

We saw a marvellous array of photographs of variety of seaweeds, which, strangely, is not the diet of marine life. Only we humans consume this, what a strange race we are.

From seaweeds we were introduced to crustaceans, going about their business, as well as limpets, barnacles and periwinkles, some with teeth that looked truly terrifying but perfect for extracting food from beneath the rocky surfaces.

This talk was delivered with such enthusiasm it made one feel.  How fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful and diverse county, but I shall keep out of the sea when its inhabitants embark upon reproduction!.

Penny Thomas

Julian’s latest book:

February 2015 Monthly Meeting

Paul Woozley – Institute of Advanced Motorists


The first talk of the New Year was given by Paul Woozley, the Membership Secretary of the Institute of Advance Motorists (IAM).  This proved to be most thought provoking and was particularly aimed at the more mature driver.  Many of those present had held their driving licences for 50 years plus,  a period during which cars have become almost like computers on wheels. In fact we keep up to date with changes in our computer systems but have we kept up to date with changes in our driving techniques?  Possibly not.  Could we, for instance, identify some of the new road signs?

The Institute offers a Mature Driver’s Assessment which may be undertaken in your own vehicles for a nominal charge.   It was interesting to learn that, of those who undertook this assessment, some 90% were deemed adequate drivers whilst the other 10% were offered courses to improve matters.  Many of those in attendance asked a variety of questions from “should a car be left in gear when stationary” to “how to turn on the lights of my courtesy car?”.   I feel sure many will have driven home with Paul’s words ringing in their ears.   In short it was an enlightening and interesting talk but who will be brave enough to undertake the Assessment?  Not me.   I struggle to parallel park my car!

Penny Thomas

IAM Website –

Joffre Swales and the Swales Music Shop

Monthly Meeting 2nd October – Pat and Freda Swales

There cannot be many residents of Pembrokeshire and in particular Haverfordwest who have not, at some time, had occasion to visit Swales Music Shop to buy a record or two, purchase sheet music or pay the rental on our child’s musical instrument; today Pat Swales Barker and her sister Freda delivered a potted history of the Shop founded by their late father Robert Joffre Swales known as “Joffre”.   How sad it is that with the coming of discount stores and online sales the iconic yellow building at the top of the High Street was forced to close its doors. The talk was entertaining and served to remind us of the musical contribution made by Joffre Swales to Pembrokeshire.