Category Archives: Speakers – Monthly meeting

Articles about speakers and their topics presented at the monthly meetings

October Meeting: “Through the years, a full life” Frank Harries BEM

The speaker was Frank Harries BEM whose talk was entitled “Through the years, a full life” and what a full life he led.  His father began his working life as a wheelwright in Pembroke Dock. He subsequently joining the army and taking his family to Gibraltar. Whilst on holiday in the Spanish City of Seville the Spanish Civil War broke out and Frank watched as bombs fell from the sky finding the experience exciting, but not realising how many people were being maimed and killed. Frank showed photographs of his family, Ration Books and Identity Cards issued at the beginning of the Second World War.  Living in Pembroke Dock at this time he became an Altar boy and remembered the American Soldiers billeted in the area.  Joining the army at the age of 18 Frank found himself in the Malayan Jungle searching out communists.  It appears our hero was something of a footballer and played as goal keeper for Llanelli but in the days when footballers had a “day job” this proved too much for him.  In his later days Frank became a referee and in retirement he joined the Rotary and became something of a fundraiser in fact he raised the staggering sum of £200,000.00.  Indeed a very full life and still going at the ripe age of 90 it could make one’s own life seem somewhat dull!

Penny Thomas  3rd October 2019

September Monthly Meeting: The Royal Voluntary Service

Eleanor Parker gave a most interesting and enlightening insight into the work carried out by the Royal Voluntary Service.  It is difficult to move away from wishing to refer to the Service as the WRVS, perhaps because that was how it was known until 2013 when it was decided, because of the number of male volunteers, it should simply be known as the Royal Voluntary Service.

Founded in 1938 by Lady Stella Reading, and then known as the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions, it is now the largest volunteering organisation in British history.  The Queen granted the organisation Royal status in 1966 in recognition of the work undertaken by the Service.  There was a time when each Hospital had a WRVS tea bar sadly now replaced by Costa!

Eleanor spoke in the main on the subject of befriending. The Service has become a leading organisation in the field of social care, and has around 20,000 volunteers who give of their time to help make communities stronger particularly providing support for older people to remain active.

A very interesting and thought provoking talk  

Penny Thomas  5th September2019


June Monthly Meeting: Withybush hospital to Saudi Arabia

Barry Vaughan was brought up on a farm near Clarbeston Road and attended Haverfordwest Grammar School so he is a familiar figure with many of our members.

Barry was employed as general manager at Withybush Hospital and when this job folded he found work in a very large, modern, high-tech hospital in the Royal Commission hospital Jubail, Saudi Arabia.  There are two directorates of the Royal Commission, Jubail is on the east coast near Kuwait and Bahrain and Yanbu, is on the west coast near Jeddah and the Holy City of Mecca.

There are very distinct rules which foreigners have to follow when living in Saudi Arabia.  Because he was in overall charge of the hospital he was the person who had to mediate with the authorities when a member of his staff knowingly or more often or not unknowingly broke one of these rules.  Some of the problems that he encountered had the audience in fits of laughter but the way he dealt with the problems was imaginative and could have had serious consequences if he hadn’t been so diplomatic.
He was in post during the first Gulf War and he vividly described the terror when the oil tanks at Kuwait were set alight, apparently the smoke was so dense that day was turned to night and the once prestine white hospital was turned black.

A big thank you is in order because Barry came to talk to us at very short notice, nevertheless, he gave us a fascinating insight into living and working in a country with such a different culture.

Jan Manning 

May Monthly Meeting: A walk around Haverfordwest

A talk by Robin Sheldrake

Robin Sheldrake is a well known authority on the history of Haverfordwest, having been the Chairman of the Civic Society.  With the assistance of photographs he had taken he took us along the Heritage Trail of Haverfordwest.

The trail commenced with a photograph of the Cleddau looking down stream and then turning back towards the weir, the large warehouse on the new quay, with a view of The Bristol Trader and the new Council Offices.  It is difficult to believe the quay saw sea going ships coming in on the tide, leaving their cargo at the warehouse and picking goods for transportation around the Country and beyond. 

It was delightful to be reminded of the old Haverfordwest, Foley House the substantial property in Goat Street designed by the famous architect John Nash, now standing empty with signs of decay visible.  The substantial properties in many parts of the town provided town houses for the landed gentry who, having visited the town, needed a residence in which to spend the night.  The Palace Cinema formerly the Corn Market, Temperance House, Hermon’s Hill House and others what a fascinating past the properties enjoyed.  Then the sadder part of our history, Union Hill so called because it led to the Union Workhouse.  A most interesting talk given by a gentleman who certainly knows his subject.

Penny Thomas 2nd May 2019

March Monthly Meeting – Pembroke Castle

A thousand years of history...

We are all very familiar with Pembroke Castle, a place where many of us have taken visitors.  Our Speaker for the month of March was Jon Williams General Manager of the Castle.  One thinks of historic buildings as having a curator rather than a General Manager but it became apparent that the Castle doesn’t function from simply being a well know Castle.  Jon, a local lad from Saundersfoot, explained he was a frequent visitor, with his parents, never dreaming for one moment that, in 2007, his career would take him to a managerial post.  It is a position which he clearly loves but uppermost in his mind is always ways to generate income to enable improvements and repairs to be carried out. 

To begin his talk we were show a short film documenting the history of the Castle narrated by none other than Eddie Butler who has a deep interest in Welsh History. 

Each year there are between 110,/120,000 visitors and Jon has some very inventive ideas for entertaining both adults and children.  The Castle is now providing a venue for outdoor concerts, weddings and of course, The Antiques Road Show. 

Penny Thomas 7th March 2019

February Monthly Meeting – National Trust Volunteering in Pembrokeshire

Ian Hextall – National Trust Volunteer

Ian Hextall gave a most interesting and sometimes humorous talk about his work as a National Trust Volunteer.  The National Trust owns some 7770 acres in North Pembrokeshire alone with very few fully employed Rangers   overseeing its’ management thus volunteers are a very important labour source.  The Southwood Estate is one of Ian’s favourite Trust properties he gives guided tours of the farmhouse and works alongside others on the land to include weeding the farmyard by hand, no herbicides are permitted!  With reference to an old Ordnance Survey Map it could be seen hedgerows had been removed leaving a large open field the Trust decided to reinstate the hedges, the work of planting many hundreds of trees fell to the Volunteers, the time of year chosen November, Ian showed a photograph of said Volunteers looking decidedly like mud larks!

 The National Trust helps to maintain and reinstate important historical sites for future generations to enjoy but it became apparent during Ian’s talk the Trust would struggle without the help of its’ many Volunteers.

Penny Thomas 7th February 2019

January 2019 Monthly Meeting – Pembrokeshire Shipwrecks

The speaker at the January Meeting was Mr James Hedley-Phillips who gave an animated and most informative talk about shipwrecks off the coast of Pembrokeshire.  Surprisingly there are some 1000 wrecks.

However, he spoke, in the main, about the schooner Frederick constructed in 1833 for Sir John Tobin who, like some of the period, made his fortune from the slave trade.    The Frederick sailed from Liverpool bound for West Africa loaded with trinkets and muskets for trade, onward to America’s Southern States where the slaves where offloaded after which the schooner would return with cotton and other commodities.  The schooner sunk off the coast of Pembrokeshire having been caught in a gale. 

Schooners were replaced by steam ships, the next element of the talk concerned the ship “Nimrod”, constructed in 1843 just ten years after the Frederick but now with the benefit of steam propulsion with additional sails.  The Frederick too was to founder just off the coast near St David’s Head breaking in to three parts. 

James showed photographs of items recovered from the stern where the first class berths were to be found and the dining room, rows of silver spoons, serving utensils and forks but no knives! 

It is amazing to think what lies on the sea bed not far from where we paddle and to be told there are some 300/400 wrecks alone in the locality of Ramsey Sound, a really entertaining and interesting talk.

Penny Thomas 3rd January 2019

November Monthly Meeting – Redundant Churches by Joe Rielly

Our Speaker for the November monthly meeting was our own Joe Rielly who is the leader of the Architecture and Design Group. The talk was entitled Redundant Churches – Who Cares.  Joe cares deeply, although a humanist, he is concerned that many of the disused Churches are falling into disrepair and will be lost to future generations.  The Church was once the hub of every village, in fact, yesterday’s Community Hub a place to meet your neighbours, marry, take your children for baptism and finally where you would be laid to rest in its’ cemetery.

Joe first gave this talk to Narberth U3A and has repeated it no fewer than seven times to include Swansea and it was not difficult to understand why.  Joe and is Wife Margaret had visited many redundant Churches in Pembrokeshire and Cardigan.  I am sure many of us will remember the explosion at the Texaco Oil Refinery many years ago following which it was deemed the village of Rhoscrowther was an unsafe place in which to live and in consequence the inhabitants relocated leaving the Church of St Decuman, which is Grade 1 listed, being left without a congregation but now in the care of Friends of Friendless Churches, what an apt title.

A most interesting and thought provoking talk which left you feeling you wanted to visit the Churches for yourself, in fact, Joe had prepared an information sheet with directions and post codes he must have known we would be inspired to do so!

Penny Thomas  1st November 2018



Parking at Bayvil, Hodgeston and Manordeifi is very limited. Flimston is not accessible when the firing range at Castlemartin is active. Access is generally possible at weekends and bank holidays. Check this range number before setting out 01646 662367 or search on Google for Castlemartin Firing Range times.    The post codes are very approximate. The grid references are Ordinance Survey. The map numbers are Explorer or Landranger


BAYVIL.      SA41 3XN    o/s ref 101 406     map OL35 Exp or  Lan 145
Located off the Newport to Cardigan A487 road. Take the B4582 to Nevern, continue on this road past Nevern church for about 11/4 miles. Look out for the very small sign for Bayvil Farm on the left. Go up the lane to the farm and turn left at a bungalow on the corner.

HODGESTON       SA71 5JU   o/s ref   029 995   map OL36 Exp or Lan 158
Located on the A4139 that links Pembroke and Tenby


LLANDELOY    SA62 6LJ    o/s ref 856 266  map OL35 Exp or Lan 145
Located off the A487 Haverfordwest to St Davids road. At Penycwm take the minor roads signposted to Llandeloy.


MANORDEIFI     SA43 2QN    o/s ref 229 432    map OL35 Exp or Lan 145 
Located on the A484 Cardigan to Newcastle Emlyn Road. At Llechryd, coming from Cardigan direction, at the cross roads, turn right over the Teifi- river- bridge by the Castle Malgwyn Hotel. Then Immediately left, up the very narrow lane opposite the Hotel gates, to Manordeifi.


RHOSCROWTHER       SA71 5EB  o/s ref  904 022    map OL36 Exp or  Lan158
Located on the B4320 Pembroke to Angle road. Take the minor road on the right to Roscrowther, pass the refinery and continue down the hill where the church is located in the valley.


FLIMSTON     SA71 5EB  o/s ref  925 956   map OL36 Exp or Lan 158
Located on the range military road to Stack Rocks, at a T junction on the B4319 Castlemartin to Merrion-Camp road.

Most buildings are normally open during daylight hours.

For further information contact Telephone 020 7236 3934

Please leave a donation when visiting or join the Friends to support their work in maintaining these churches. Please report any damage or problems you see.

Joe Rielly January 2018


Mike Green, popular U3A Member and Ex-navy Diver

Mike passed away on Friday 2nd November. 

He was a popular and long standing member of Pembrokeshire U3A, who, members may recall gave a fascinating talk in June of 2014 about his life and adventures as a navy diver. 

We have been given details of his funeral arrangements and they are set out below. 


The funeral will take place at:- Parc Gwyn Crematorium,  Narberth, SA67 8UD.

Date – Monday 19th November Time 12.15

Dress code – For non ACA members Informal strictly no black ties.  (ACA is the Association that Mike set up in the services)

The coffin will leave from his house:- 106 Cambrian road, Neyland, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, SA73 1ST.  Time  11.30 Feel free to leave from 106 Cambrian or meet at Parc Gwyn.  We will then return to “The Bar” Brunel Quay, Neyland, Milford Haven, SA73 1PY.

The family would prefer that flowers should not be sent but money should be donated to  Macmillan cancer support 

 Any cards of condolence should be sent to 106 Cambrian Road.

Please RSVP to and advise if you are attending the Funeral and or the Wake. 

Monthly Talk: “Living on an Island”

The speaker for October was Janet Gibbs, a member of the Canasta Group, who talked to the membership about her time living on the Island of Guernsey.

Photo: GW

Janet lived on the Island for six years, working for a private bank at the time when off shore accounts received tax benefits.  Her husband,was a policeman.  Guernsey to some conjures up Guernsey cows and the German occupation, but Janet told us so much more.  The second largest of the Channel Islands and once the home of Victor Hugo, whose home can be seen today and is, as you would expect, very much decorated ornately in the French style.  With a speed limit of just 35 miles per hour it is strange the racing driver Jensen Button should be a resident! 

In addition to its’ dairy industry, Guernsey was a grower of tomatoes but sadly in the 1987 gales many of the greenhouses were destroyed and remain today mounds of debris because of the difficulty and cost of removal and disposal.  Janet brought with her some very stylish jewellery designed by Catherine Best who has a workshop on the Island of much interest to the ladies!

The talk was both informative and interesting it is always great to hear from a member.

Penny Thomas 4th October 2018