Following a brief, efficiently dispatched AGM on Monday, October 22, members were treated to an interesting, highly informative talk illustrated with slides given by Dr Keith Jones on Markenfield Hall. The topic was apt for this audience since the ladies had visited Markenfield a few years ago – the talk brought back happy memories. An enthusiastic supporter, (he is a friend of Markenfield) and an erudite historian, Dr Jones traced the history of the house and its various owners from the first mention of the hall in Domesday to the present day. Situated three miles south of Ripon along a secluded farm track, the earliest part of the present hall was built in 1230, the whole building being much smaller than the present one. The story of the hall was uneventful until the year 1569 when the family’s involvement in the Rising of the North in support of Mary Stuart incurred the wrath of Elizabeth the first, resulting in the flight of the head of the family into exile in Europe. The hall became abandoned and ruinous but later private owners, helped most generously by English Heritage, restored the hall to its present glorious state so now visitors are able to see this beautiful medieval building and appreciate its original magnificence. It is well worth a visit. Next meeting on Monday, November 26 at 7.30pm in the Memorial Hall, when we hear Kevin Mitchell on The work of Help for Heroes. Further information on the Collingham Ladies Forum from Elizabeth Blamires, telephone 01937 572642.


Duncan Verity introduced the members to a high achieving lady in the person of Veronica Bird OBE. Veronica spent a long career in the Prison Service serving in many of the country’s well-known institutions, finally as the Governor of New Hall Prison near Wakefield. Towards the end of her career she visited Russia at the request of the Council of Europe to assess its prison system; hence the name of her talk - The Russian Job.

She started her talk with a short resume of her career describing famous prisoners she encountered including Myra Hindley and England’s most dangerous prisoner Charlie Bronson. We then listened with mounting horror as she described what she saw in Russia. The crowding, filth cruelty and disease were very difficult for us to imagine. A little light relief was added when Peter Haddlesey modelled a Russian female governor’s uniform that Veronica had brought with her. After her visit to Russia Veronica entertained a Russian delegation to England and she described the culture shock experienced by them. After a lively discussion about present day prison conditions Ron Matthews proposed a vote of thanks and the members responded with warm applause. Veronica will donate her speaker’s fee to the Dickie Bird Foundation.


The tile of this year’s Christmas flower demonstration is All Things Bright and Beautiful and will be given by Bob Forbes on Thursday, November 22 commencing at 7pm in East Keswick Village Hall. Non-flower club members are welcome to come along but tickets, £9 to include wine and cake, need to be purchased in advance from Pat Dickinson 01937 573378. As well as the usual raffle there will be a tombola and a small number of stalls.